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Old fashioned yeast cake



Passover is finished and I can finally break open that 1 pound package of yeast I got in the mail. I had planned to bake a no knead bread but that would not be ready until tomorrow so I opted to treat us all to some cake instead.


This cake, and something called Dutch apple cake were the only cakes I remember my mother baking. She was also adept at pies and rugelach but that was the sum total of her baking repertoire. In high school I would delight in making every possible flavor of Duncan Hines cakes and never got any of her recipes. I loved this "yeast cake" as we called it and it took a fair amount of sleuthing to find the recipe in her 1929 (the year she was married) Settlement House cookbook. Once I found the recipe I had to translate it into something I could understand. I use a kitchenaid stand mixer but I don't recall her having one. I think she probably used a hand held mixer.


I have figured out from the internet that 1/2 ounce of cake yeast, mentioned in the above recipe is approximately 2 teaspoons of powdered yeast. Before the invention of powdered yeast, it was sold in little solid squares. I have no idea if and where it is available today. My guess is that some professional bakers still use it.


I mix the powdered yeast with a cup of flour and some tepid milk and let it sit. I have read that modern powdered yeast doesn't have to sit but I am not short on time and decided not to take the chance. While it is sitting it is a good time to take out a stick of butter and 4 eggs so they can get to room temperature.


Beat (cream) the butter until it loses its shape and beat in a cup of sugar. If you want to use less sugar, 3//4 cups will work as well. When they are thoroughly blended, beat in the eggs, one at a time. The recipe calls for adding some nutmeg and lemon rind but I never add the lemon.


When it is all mixed together you can fold in the yeast mixture you made earlier.


Now fold in two cups of flour, one at a time. Mix thoroughly and pour into a well buttered tube pan to let rise. My mother always used a straight sided tube pan, though since this says "Bundt Kuchen" I guess you could use a bundt pan.


Warning: I recently read that raw dough should not be tasted, not so much because of the uncooked eggs, but because of the flour which can contain unhealthy microorganism's . More importantly don't let your dog taste the raw dough. Yeast doughs can expand in their digestive tracts and cause major problems.


Now "let rise very light" in a warm place. I believe this means let it rise a lot, till it is very airy. So I let it rise until it is about double in size, probably about 2 hours.


A kuchen to my taste has to have a crumb topping so, in a small bowl, I mix

1/2 stick cold butter cut into pieces

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

I mush it all together with my hands till it forms crumbs and sprinkle it on the cake before putting it in the oven.


I bake at a "medium hot" oven, 375 for 45 minutes. The most difficult part is waiting for it to cool enough to take a small slice.

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