Several years ago I helped test recipes for a cookbook called Gather Round the Amish Table—similar to the name for a fun new feature, Gather ‘Round, here at Amish Wisdom, I noticed. The name is perhaps an inviting metaphor for the fellowship and great family times which can happen when gathered around a hearth or table.
Many Amish families tend to be on the large size with 8, 10 and even 12 children. Therefore many recipes in Amish cookbooks tend to be on the large size as well.
Amish recipes also often lean toward being a little vague on directions, because the compilers assume a certain amount of kitchen know-how. The project editor for Gather Round the Amish Table had several questions she needed answered. She could not reach out to the recipe submitters because they did not submit last names with their recipes in an earlier version of the cookbook, Countryside Cooking and Chatting: Traditional Recipes and Wisdom from Amish & Mennonites (compiled by Lucy Leid)—out of modesty and their particular community’s tradition.
I chose to test a chocolate cake. This recipe is extra moist and especially delicious with penuche frosting (pronounced pa-new-chi, a rich brown sugar/butter frosting). So the questions I needed to test were: Cooking time and what size of pan to use? The way it was written sounded like it was for one pan, but the recipe called for 6 cups of flour and 4 cups of sugar, enough for two normal cakes!
Indeed it was a huge amount of batter, needing a large mixing bowl, my quart-sized measuring cup and an 11 x 15-inch baking pan. When I asked my friends whether anyone had an 11 x 15-inch pan, no one did. So I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and got a huge lasagna pan because I could imagine several uses for the pan in the future. So, uncharacteristically for me, I bought it. (I’m slow to purchase new kitchen items for myself and put things like spatulas and potholders on my Christmas list.)
Two key differences in this recipe is that it calls for no eggs, and lard. Of course other shortening can be substituted.
We all run out of eggs from time to time. Amish cooks who often have their own laying hens know why there is a definite need for recipes without eggs: chickens, go through a hormone change resulting in a molting period (where they get a break from laying eggs) maybe 6-8 weeks long in fall or winter.
I also have a similar recipe for chocolate cake which doesn’t call for eggs in my cookbook, Whatever Happened to Dinner? Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime (Herald Press, 2010), “Sheri’s Chocolate Cake.” So if you need a monster cake for the soccer team, a potluck at church, a cake for a funeral dinner, soup kitchen, or other large feeding program, below is a great recipe. Or, if you bake it in two 9 x 13-inch pans, you can eat one and freeze one—it freezes well.
Come back next week to get the recipe for Ruth’s Chocolate No-Egg Cake! Plus, leave a comment below to enter to win a copy of Whatever Happened to Dinner!
Melodie M. Davis is the author of nine books, most recently, Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime (Herald Press, 2010). She writes the syndicated column, Another Way, serves as a managing editor for Herald Press, and is also editor of a local family publication, Valley Living. She keeps a blog where she features frequent recipes from her home, family and church life. She is married and the mother of three adult daughters and two grandsons.