Keturah's Cake and My 5th Grade Science Fair

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be packing for Haiti, taking a bath in deet or something like that. Instead I’m baking cake. What? I was hungry, and a bit stressed, and nothing cheers me up like a little nerdy recipe testing cake. 

It was like my 5th grade science fair. You know the kind - with those 3-fold cardboard things and the colorful construction paper haphazardly glued all over. The kind where where you secretly want to win real bad, even though you know winning will pretty much make you the ultimate science geek of your entire 5th grade. (It didn’t help that you made the unfortunate choice of permed hair.) Doh.

I chose baking bread for my project that year.
The experiment: Bake a loaf with yeast. And one without. (My mother helped on this one.)
My hypothesis: The one without yeast wouldn’t rise. My results: Success!
Guess what? I won the science fair! And heck yes that was me with the perm. What? It was circa 1991. 

So today when I should have been packing for Haiti I channeled my permed self and went to Keturah’s collection… This fuscia card grabbed me. The purple pen and stick of butter sealed the deal.

The 1 cup of ice water had me puzzled though. I would have thought milk… I mean they did live on a dairy farm after all. That just seems too cheap economical.  
So clearly I needed to take what I know of cake and make not one, but two cakes. Clearly.
One with ice water.  One with room temperature milk. What's nice is that either way - I win! And don't have to suffer permed hair photo memories for it. 

The results:  Milk. All the way - Milk. Maybe it's just preference, but I found it had better consistency, color, and flavor. To be fair, milk baked second round and thus had the advantage of taste adjustments – up the vanilla, up the lemon zest, decrease the oven temp. I opted for a rhubarb jam topping and found the citrus and sweet rhubarb married wonderfully. 

I’ll do the ice water again soon and tweak a couple things… and of course I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime... 

Keturah’s White Cake

½ cup butter (softened)
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk (at room temp)
4 eggs
2 ½ cups cake flour, sifted
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
lemon zest from 2 lemons

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a round cake pan and set aside.

2. In medium bowl whisk together flour and baking powder. Set aside.

3. With either a hand mixer or kitchenaid type mixer (using the paddle attachment), cream together butter and sugar till homogenous, about 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Slowly add the milk and mix at medium speed till combined. Then add the dry ingredients in thirds, allowing each addition to mix in. Scrape the bowl between each addition.

5. When all the flour is just combine, add the vanilla and lemon zest and mix for about 30 more seconds. You don’t want to overmix. Note: You can also fold the flour in by hand. Or alternatively fold the wet ingredients into the flour. Just make sure to do it gradually to prevent lumps of flour. 

6. Pour the batter into the buttered cake pan and place on a baking sheet. Put this in the preheated oven on middle oven rack. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it is golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out dry when inserted in the middle. Rotate the cake halfway through the baking to ensure even browning.

7. When done, place on baking rack and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then gently run a knife around the edge of the pan, and unmold onto serving platter.

I opted for rhubarb jam as a topping. The citrus and sweet were a perfect union. 

Variations on the topping theme... 
- While the cake is baking, make a simple syrup with 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water. After you've removed the cake from the oven, poke 3/4 inch holes all over cake and gradually pour the syrup all over, allowing it to absorb. This will make for an amazingly moist cake!
- I'm not a huge fan of icing myself (hence the jam), but if you're into that sort of thing you could do this from Keturah's collection... 

Ok, now I'm packing. 


  1. This is so weird--finding this. Just this week I've been experimenting with white poke cake. Also, the icing recipe here might be preferable to the one I tried this morning with Crisco of all horrible things. Crisco because my younger son's girlfriend must avoid milk products in non-baked goods.

    I don't understand, though, how a cake with egg yolks in it would turn out a stellar white like in the photograph. They're probably store eggs, not farm ones with marigold middles, but still.

    I have another question, too, but I'd better click over to the proper page and ask there. Thanks for the icing idea!

  2. Oops, I couldn't comment over at "Keturah's Credits." So I'll ask here: Was Keturah acquainted with Elizabeth Y. in Allensville or did any descendents have Elizabeth Y. for their kindergarten teacher at BMS?

  3. Good morning again! Sorry I'm slow on the response... I've had a sis in town and a computer off my lap. :) Haha.. Crisco is an odd thing for sure!
    The eggs were farm eggs, but when beaten with that much milk and flour, they're color is pretty well tempered. Have you ever watched sugar and eggs beaten till they're super pale... something of that dynamic.
    You are quite welcome for the icing! Let me know how it turns out!
    I LOVE the Keturah question... I really love all things Keturah. :) Not sure on the Elizabeth Y question, but I can do some digging and let you know.
    Thanks Shirley! Have a great day!

  4. Hi Shirley! I'm often guided by the principle: Better Late Than Never. :)
    I've not been able to come up with any Elizabeth Y connections. I have Keturah's old address book and nothing listed there. I'll keep asking around though.
    How are your pies these days?
    I've unpacked my pans so I'm pretty much ready to hit the oven quite soon. :)

  5. now i have one Question if you bake cake and leave one ingredient would that be considered a scince fair project?