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Those darn vanity cakes ! Argh !

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by Deborah L. on November 02, 2006 10:20 AM
Remember those vanity cakes mentioned in the "Little House on the Prairie" books? Specifically, in "On the Banks of Plum Creek".
I have spent more than 25 years wondering about those, and trying them according to the various recipes online and in the "Little House Cookbook", and lemme tell you, it's all nonsense.
All I get is a round eggy-tasting ball, like a cake doughnut.
Has anyone ever had a so-called vanity cake actually come out as described in the book, perfectly hollow?
It seems to me that if it did come out hollow, it would have been two pieces of dough with the edges pressed together, like wonton skins, and then fried in deep oil. But none of the recipes describes that method.
I haven't tried that but it makes sense.
Opinions? Experiences?

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by kennyso on November 02, 2006 11:00 AM
I bought a book called recepies from the little house of the Prairie in grade five, remember seeing the recipie. I'll post it if I manage to find the book again...notice I said if just goes to show how organized I can be!

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by Deborah L. on November 02, 2006 11:05 AM
Thanks ! I wonder if it'll be the same one as the others? I can't wait !!! Hope you find it, but don't go to a lot of trouble !

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by roflol on November 03, 2006 12:57 AM
I loved the Little House series way back when, so I had to look it up. Maybe this is one you've already tried (edit: I now find it's reportedly the one from the book so apparently you have), but closest I found was this:

Vanity Cakes

Isn't it a souffle that is egg-y but is full of air? How does that happen, is that a possible clue to this mystery?

Lastly, I found mention of Louisiana's beignets as a comparison to vanity cakes, so maybe it's just a matter of what things were called in that time period. I haven't tried them but by description they seem like they fit the description of vanity cakes.

Hope this somehow helps, and good luck! [flower]
by Deborah L. on November 03, 2006 06:14 AM
Roflol, thanks, but yes, that's the same recipe.
All it gets is a heavy, cakey, eggy tasting ball.
I would be super interested in where you got the beignets info, so I could read it too?
I wrote once to the Ingalls Society about my idea of the cakes possibly having been more like two little pie crusts (wonton kinda thing) pressed closed at the edges and fried.
This made sense to me because in the Ingalls' lives, things were hard for them so much of the time, and it seems plausible to me at least, that vanity cakes may have been an invention-fried pies/turnovers, when there was flour and lard but no fruit to be had.
And calling them vanity cakes might have been a nicety.

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by Deborah L. on November 03, 2006 06:43 AM
I forgot to mention your question about a vanity cake being like a souffle. Laura described the cakes as perfectly hollow.
I guess we will never really know what in the world the Laura vanity cake was.
It's possible that the cakes were just a story, as we now know the books were. The books were based on fact of course, but highly fictionalized.
I remember doing alot of research years ago, and how crushed I was that the books weren't absolute fact. In the 1970's I used to correspond with the lady who ran Laura's home in Missouri as a museum.
Any time I have asked any of the Laura agencies about vanity cakes, they always refer me to the LIW Cookbook, and another cookbook of the era, and that gets me full circle back to the eggy ball.

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by roflol on November 03, 2006 10:39 AM
Found that comparison somewhere on this page. I had googled "vanity cakes" and it came up, and I like the Harry Potter books so read that page as well and they had an interesting thread about Harry Potter-themed parties and what to serve - read it and see what you think.

At first I wondered if it could be that old a recipe since all I saw were recipes that included evaporated milk and I don't know how old a thing that is, but I read a little history on the beignet and it was in the French colonies in the 18th century so I think it's possible it could have been a treat in that era for that family.

And I had no idea the LIW books weren't *truly* true stories! Oh well, there's another me born every minute.
by Deborah L. on November 03, 2006 11:45 AM
OK, thanks.
The LIW books were based on fact, the people were real and so forth.
Remember the mean girl, Nellie? She was actually a composite character, two mean girls in Laura's childhood.
Alot of LIW's real life was left out as it would not have made suitable reading for kids. And of course alot was personal.
The books were real, just tidied up, and condensed, and sometimes, a leap through time.
Laura really never remembered the prairie in Kansas and the Indians, as she was a baby. It was all told her by the family. Ma and Pa.
But it was written as though she was older then.
The first book was when they had already left Indian country and went back to the woods.
Remember Mr. Edwards? In all probability, he did not exist. So that means the Christmas gifts carried across the creek didn't happen.
I know it's confusing and also DISAPPOINTING somehow. I was crushed when I learned all this, but then I was alot younger then. I'm an old hag of 53 now, LOL ! At this age and level of exhaustion, not alot bugs me anymore !
You can find tons of LIW lore on the net.
The best parts are finding out what happened to the people in the books. (The ones who were real).

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by roflol on November 03, 2006 12:45 PM
lol, I'm an only slightly younger hag at 45 and on Topamax ("Makes ya dumb as a box of rocks!") for migraines so learning the LHOP series isn't a verbatim account of her life and times isn't too devastating, just sort of a "huh" moment... like "wonder what else I thought was true isn't?"

lol, don't answer that. There's not enough webspace in the world to deal with it. ;-)

I got a bigger kick out of seeing Alison Arngrim, the actress who played Nellie on the series, do a little presenting on one of those VH1 where-are-they-now programs. Even back then I felt bad for all the guff she must have taken in those days for the character she played. But the pendulum swings both ways. Time has been very kind to that lady.... [tongue]

Best wishes on the recipe testing, and/or continued hunt.
by Deborah L. on November 04, 2006 10:11 AM
That was nice, to wish me a successful hunt.
And I hope your migraines get better.
Ya wanna know funny/ironic? I never once watched the TV show, because not a penny went to any of the Laura museums. And because-get this-the show wasn't true to life, meaning the books.
Then years later I find that the books were fiction ! Or at least in part.

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by Deborah L. on November 04, 2006 10:13 AM
I saw Alison on Larry King one time, and yes, I was impressed. Quite a lady. Been to he** and back and still smiling. [thumb]

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by windysong on February 23, 2007 07:40 PM
I think I found the solution. Once you mix up the flour, eggs and salt, roll into a ball then roll the ball flat and fry them. I rolled them to about 1/8 inch thick. If they're thicker they won't get done all the way through and if they're thinner they end up more like a chip with tiny bubbles on the surface, rather than a big bubble in the middle. They are a little like sopapillas with a little of a cream puff flavor. Make sure your oil is hot enough (375-400) and deep enough for your vanity cakes to bubble. I hope that solves your problem!

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