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Old-fashioned Yummies, Vintage Recipes, Burnt Sugar Cake

Updated on December 3, 2014
Example of a hope chest
Example of a hope chest

My Mother's Recipes

My mother was born in 1895 and married at 22, so you can understand that her 'bride's chest' recipes would be described as vintage, borderline antique, or just plain old. Some of these recipes had no directions. Everybody knew that the butter and sugar were creamed together, that the dry ingredients for most things were sifted together, that cakes were baked in a medium-hot oven until a toothpick came out clean. So ... who could possibly need written directions.

Cottolean ad

This ad appeared in The Original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Merrit Farmer (A facsimile of the first edition)
This ad appeared in The Original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Merrit Farmer (A facsimile of the first edition) | Source

Memories of Foods and Products Used

I decided to go through some old papers to organize them and dispose of any that needed to be but then noticed a packet of my mother's recipes on an adjacent shelf. I hadn't seen them for a few years and later mentioned the recipes to our son, Raven (not his real name), who had become interested in vintage recipe books. He was helping me organize lots of the old cookbooks I had collected over many years.

We both were intrigued by how old recipe books were written and many contained brand-name ingredients. Raven had not heard of a number of companies and several were completely unknown to me too. For example, a recipe called for Cottolene which was a brand of shortening produced from beef tallow and cottonseed oil. Cottolene was made in this country from 1868 until the mid-20th century. I remember my mother used Spry shortening (Raven has not heard of that product either and I've not seen it for years). Of course, we both have used Crisco. Is Fluffo still available? A sister-in-law made piecrust with it ... delicious!

Burnt Sugar Cake

"Burning" the sugar
"Burning" the sugar
Iced cake
Iced cake

Products that are no Longer Available


My Mother's Burnt Sugar Cake

1-1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup burnt sugar liquid

2/3 cup butter

3 eggs

3 cups cake flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla

To make the burnt sugar liquid, melt 1 cup sugar by itself over hot fire. When dark brown, add 1 cup boiling water and boil hard 5 minutes.

Cream butter well, add sugar gradually, then add 1/2 cup burnt sugar liquid. Beat eggs well, yolks and whites together, and add to butter and beat well. Sift baking powder with flour and add water alternately with flour to batter, add flavoring.

My notes: There were no baking instructions so Raven checked modern recipes for an approximate time but just set the oven at 350. Important note: Be extremely careful when making the burnt sugar. I've made it dozens of times but this time ended up with burns. Raven's sister asked if I had taken pictures of the burns to demonstrate what could happen. I was too busy reading about what to do when burned!!! Anyway, please do be careful.

My Mother's Burnt Sugar Icing

Melt 1/2 cup sugar in heavy skillet. Remove from heat; add 1/4 cup boiling water slowly. Stir over low heat until dissolved.

Melt in pan 1/2 cup high grade shortening (part butter for flavor); remove from heat. Blend in 2-1/2 tablespoons soft as silk (this was General Mills brand of cake flour); 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir slowly the caramel water. Boil one minute. It may curdle, it's okay. Remove from heat. Beat in alternately 3 cups confectioners sugar and 3 tablespoons water. Beat until thick enough to spread. Add a little water if it becomes thick.

Enjoy this cake ... it is unusual

If you make this cake, Raven and I hope you enjoy it. People it was shared with certainly did. Remember that the darker the burnt sugar, the stronger the flavor.

More vintage recipes will be on my hubs. I'll also have more 'trivia' about recipes, brands, and products. Thanks for reading my hubs!


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    • wabash annie profile imageAUTHOR

      wabash annie 

      23 months ago from Colorado Front Range

      Yes, we do have favorites. My sister-in-law would not use anything but the golden Crisco for pie crust and her pies were loved by all. Thanks for your comments and my apologies in taking so long to respond.

    • wabash annie profile imageAUTHOR

      wabash annie 

      23 months ago from Colorado Front Range

      Appreciate your comment and apologize for taking so long to reply.

    • profile image

      Kris Weaver 

      3 years ago

      I'm 64 years old living in New Engladn. We used Crisco but Spry was an alternative shortening on the store shelf. Every cook had her favorites.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      An inneglilett point of view, well expressed! Thanks!

    • wabash annie profile imageAUTHOR

      wabash annie 

      4 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      I'm happy you found this recipe ... burnt sugar does taste slightly different from caramel. It is hard to explain the difference to those who have not had burnt sugar. Thanks, Dwan Buddin!

    • profile image

      Dwan Buddin 

      4 years ago

      This is my dad's favorite cake. I often order a caramel cake from a great baker where I live since no one seems to know about this cake! Now I will do my best to try to recreate this recipe for my dad!!!

    • wabash annie profile imageAUTHOR

      wabash annie 

      5 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      Happy that it appeals to you! My mother used burnt sugar in other recipes too. I remember a candy that was called 'patience' and will look for her recipe. Thanks so much, StoneCircle!

    • StoneCircle profile image

      Susan McLeish 

      5 years ago from Rindge, NH

      I have not heard of this type of cake and will be quizzing my grandmother about it. Sounds yummy and will be trying it out. Will be purchasing the ingredients this time shopping!

      thumbs up interesting

    • wabash annie profile imageAUTHOR

      wabash annie 

      6 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      I am sure you will enjoy it ... just watch out for the burnt sugar, it can be dangerously delicious.

    • wabash annie profile imageAUTHOR

      wabash annie 

      6 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      I really hope you enjoy the burnt sugar taste! It is different but tasty.

    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      Somewhere in the depths of my memory I remember hearing about burnt sugar cake. What a delightful addition this would be to holiday tables!

    • Trish303 profile image


      6 years ago from Springfield, MO

      I love burnt sugar cake. I'm looking forward to trying your mom's recipe.


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