On a previous post, Diane requested that I post the original recipe for my great-grandmother’s pork cake, and though I was willing I couldn’t find it. It occurred to me in the middle of the night that I hadn’t checked my recipe box. Sure enough – there it was – the original and my notes. I was relieved. That’s a good place to keep it.
My great-grandmother Lucy Ream Dickson was born in Ohio in 1843, the youngest of nine children. Her family was of German descent, and they spoke German in the home. Her father died when she was three, and her mother was unable to provide for her, so she was raised by another family. She married Marcus Lafayette Dickson in Hampshire, Illinois, on September 20, 1863. By 1881, they were living in Lakeview, Oregon. They had six children, including my grandmother, Ina Dickson Dobson.
Ina evidently considered “Ma’s pork cake” to be special, but at the same time, it’s clear from Ina's recipe notes that she didn’t just love it. What I appreciate about the recipe is that it’s clearly a family recipe, one that was used on special occasions and handed down through the generations.
LUCY DICKSON’S PORK CAKE
Chop one pound fat pork thru chopper twice
1 pt coffee boiling; pour over fat.
2 c raisins
2/3 c citron
1 scant tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice (scant)
1 c good molasses
1 c white sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder may be added
1 lb almonds put thru chopper to make about one cup meats –scant fat a little if nuts are used.
½ tsp walnut flavor is an improvement. Citron, nuts, and orange peel optional.
1941 – Added a tsp of lemon extract and liked it better.
After initially experimenting with some pork fat, here’s how I re-wrote the recipe:
½ c butter
½ c applesauce
1 c coffee
1 c raisins
½ c Radiant mix
1 c slivered or chopped almonds
2 Tbsp orange peel
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
½ c molasses
½ c white sugar
½ c brown sugar
2 c flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
Bake at 325 in square pan for 45 minutes.
As you can see, I based my portions on half the original recipe. I substituted applesauce for half the shortening. As I recall, the end product was dry and not tasty. Some of the ingredients are rather expensive, so I decided to let the likes of Betty Crocker supply my fruitcake recipes. After all, it’s clear that Ina wasn’t happy with it either.
And someone else didn’t like the pork cake – my husband. He later confessed that he found the whole concept of using pork fat “gross.” So that says it all. If the other half of my household is disinterested, there’s no point in further experimentation. KW
[The picture of a young Lucy Ream Dickson was probably her wedding photo. Myrtle Dobson, Ina's daughter, copied it from a daguerreotype when she worked for a photographer in Portland, Oregon. The second I scanned from a card of small portrait snapshots, probably taken by Ina about 1900.]