Over a year ago, I discovered a recipe for my great-great-grandmother Grace Raver’s cake, thanks to an article from my grandfather’s cousin, Anne.
In her article, Anne recalled that her grandmother Grace would vary the cake according to the seasons; she would flavor it with black walnuts when they were harvested in fall, but would make the cake with orange and lemon the rest of the year. I’ve made the black walnut version of this cake a few times already, so I decided to try the orange and lemon version this time.
Unfortunately, Grace only wrote down her base recipe for cake – she didn’t record the exact quantities of orange and lemon she added, so I had to experiment a bit to try to recreate it. I decided to use both zest and juice, and to add a glaze to the cake as well.
Grandmother Raver’s Cake (with lemon and orange):
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cups shortening, room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/3 cups milk
- 1/3 cup mixed orange and lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp orange zest
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tbsp orange juice
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Beat eggs to creamy fullness. Cream the shortening and sugar. Add eggs, beating all to smoothness. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together 3 times.
- Heat milk with vanilla to wrist temperature. Add alternately with flour and orange and lemon juice, using spatula to blend all smoothly. Add orange and lemon zest.
- Turn a mixer on high, and beat 1 minute. Without stirring, pour mixture into a well-greased floured tube or bundt pan. Bake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour at 350 degrees.
- For the glaze, whisk together orange and lemon juices, zest, and powdered sugar. Pour over the cake while it is still slightly warm.
The texture of this cake is slightly different from the original black walnut version, probably because I substituted lemon and orange juice for some of the milk. It’s a little denser and not quite as fluffy as the original; it reminds me more of a pound cake (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I like pound cake). It’s also a bit sweeter than the black walnut version because of the glaze. The lemon and orange flavors are delicious; they were even better the next day.
Although I think I do slightly prefer the black walnut version of this cake for its unique flavor and texture, the lemon and orange cake is good too and works well for spring when black walnuts are out of season. I have no way of knowing exactly how my great-great-grandmother Grace would have made this cake; but I hope she would approve of my take on it.
Raver, A. (2002, Nov. 28). Nature; First, drive your S.U.V. over 1 cup walnuts. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/28/garden/nature-first-drive-your-suv-over-1-cup-walnuts.html