Monday, March 10, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Daffodil Cake

Flour was a staple in pioneer homes, and so was the flour sack. As soon as a frugal homemaker had emptied a 50 or 100 pound bag of flour, she turned the soft cotton material into tea towels, curtains, pillow cases and even underwear.

In the 1920s and 30s, many youngsters went to school in a shirt or dress made from a flour sack, and many dolls were dressed in clothes made from the scraps. Evenings were spent by the lantern adding touches of embroidery or a crochet edge to make a pretty apron, throw pillow or tablecloth. The flour sack was also used for picking berries, making down pillows and carting plates and cutlery to the field at harvest time.

Other foods were also sold in cotton sacks such as sugar, oatmeal and chicken feed, inspiring the colloquial term "chicken linen" for the versatile fabric. A good deal of effort was expended trying to bleach out the logos. Before long, food companies switched to washable ink or paper labels.

Next, they added colourful patterns to the fabric. From that point on, the seamstress picked out the chicken feed for the design she (or her children) wanted to wear. The scraps became rag rugs and patchwork quilts. In the 1950s, flour companies switched to paper bags and the era of "chicken linen" was over, to the relief of many school children, I'm sure.

Daffodil cake was frequently included in old time cookbooks, just one delicious way to get to the bottom of another flour sack.

Daffodil Cake
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1 cup flour, sifted
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 heaping tsp lemon zest

Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Add cream of tartar and vanilla. Beat to stiff peaks while adding 1 cup sugar 1 tbsp at a time. Sift flour and 2 tbsp sugar overtop and fold in, trying not to deflate whites. Beat egg yolks until thick, adding lemon juice and zest. Add one-third of the whites to the yolks and fold together. Spoon whites and yolks into an ungreased tube pan. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes, until top of cake springs back when pressed.

If you wish, make a light glaze by mixing 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, pinch of lemon zest and water, a drop at a time, until smooth. Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow me at

(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)


Kate Kading said...

I find your blog absolutely fascinating. Thank-you so much for helping me continue my quest to eat great local food!

Amy Jo Ehman said...

Thanks, Kate. Glad to help!