Juneteenth Recipe Suggestion: Queen’s Party Cake from Mrs. Malinda Russell’s 1866 cookbook

Queen’s Party Cake, page 7 in A Domestic Cook Book
Adapted by Genevieve Bardwell

Queen’s Party Cake with buttercream frosting; this is the modern version, using more eggs for lightness. —Photo by G.B.

Queen’s Party Cake is rich with butter and sour cream, aromatic with spices, and packed with dried fruit. This is the first of several spiced, fruit filled cakes in the book; perhaps it was Mrs. Russell’s favorite. The quantities in the original recipe will serve a very large party indeed, and would have been baked as small cakes, allowing for an elegant hand-held treat. Because the original recipe yields more cakes than would be needed for most occasions, the recipe has been reduced to one-eighth quantity. We suspect that the typesetter made an error setting Mrs. Russell’s copy, and that the recipe should include larger quantities of cream of tartar and baking soda.

For lighter, more modern results, use double the number of eggs.

The quantities here will yield 24 standard-sized cupcakes, up to 48 if you increase the eggs.

Ingredients:

  • Flour, unbleached pastry or all-purpose, 2-3/4 to 3 cups (330 grams), divided
  • Raisins, 1 ¾ cups (283 grams)
  • Currants, 1 ¾ cups (283 grams)
  • Figs, chopped, ¼ cup (85 grams)
  • Cloves, 2 teaspoons (4 grams)
  • Cinnamon, 2 teaspoons (4 grams)
  • Nutmeg, ½ teaspoon (1 gram)
  • Baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml)
  • Cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon (5 ml)
  • Butter, 12 ounces, 1 ½ cups (340 grams)
  • Sugar, 12 ounces, generous 1 ½ cups (340 grams)
  • Egg yolks, 1 large [2-4 for a modern, lighter version]
  • Lemon or vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons (10 ml)
  • Sour cream, ½ cup (118 grams)
  • Egg whites, 2 large [4 for a modern, lighter version]

Method:

Measure and bring all ingredients to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Grease 24 standard cupcake tins (48 if you have added additional eggs), or line with cupcake papers.

Take 3 tablespoons (50g) of the flour and rub this well into the chopped fruit, being sure that all of the pieces are separate and coated in flour. This will prevent the fruit from sinking to the bottom while the cakes are baking.

Sift remaining flour with spices, cream of tartar, and baking soda. Set aside.

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Make sure the butter is very soft and add the sugar. Cream the butter and sugar until smooth and light. Add egg yolk, mixing until blended. Add the vanilla or lemon extract and mix until blended.

Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternately with the sour cream, mixing after each addition just until the flour is blended in, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The batter will be quite stiff.

In another bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks, and gently fold this into the batter just until most of the whites have disappeared.

Lastly, add the fruit and gently fold in just until evenly distributed.

Fill greased cupcake tins ¾ full.

Bake in the preheated oven until browned around the edges and cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

Serving Suggestions: Mrs. Russell would have iced these cakes with a sugar and egg white “iceing.” For modern tastes, add a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream on top of each cupcake.

Queen’s Party Cakes, original recipe, with Cold Iceing. Test and photo by K.P.W.

Bonus Recipe: Cold Iceing, page 12 in A Domestic Cook Book
Adapted by Kimberly Palmer Wright

Use the recipe only if you trust your egg source, or use pasteurized egg whites, as the eggs are not cooked. Four large modern eggs are equivalent to 5 medium eggs. One-half recipe (1/2 lb sugar, 2 large egg whites, juice of 1/2 lemon) will yield plenty of icing for 24 cupcakes. “Pulverized sugar” would have been made by pounding the sugar in a mortar and pestle until very fine. In our modern kitchens, we recommend whirling granulated sugar in a food processor until reduced to a powder.

Mix sugar, egg whites, and lemon juice, and whip until thick and opaque, like a soft meringue. Coat the cooled cakes with a thin layer of the icing and allow to dry until no longer sticky. Apply a second coat and allow to dry until hard. Cakes containing high proportions of butter and fruit will keep for a long time when iced this way.

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