Monday, February 15, 2010

Colonial Carrot Cake, a New York Tavern and a Future President

The phrase “Let them eat cake” may have fanned the flames of the French Revolution, but according to legend, a slice of carrot cake served to war hero George Washington in New York City in the year 1783 marked the close of the turbulent years of the American Revolution.

The location was Fraunces Tavern - on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan – and the occasion was a lavish reception for the future American President, French Ambassador Luzerne, and more than 100 generals, officers and civilians. The distinguished guests had gathered at the tavern - then known as “The Queen’s Head” – to mark the evacuation of British troops from New York City on November 25, 1783. Several days later, Washington would say farewell to his officers at the newly-renamed Fraunces Tavern.

American Patriot Samuel Fraunces was renowned for his excellent taste and culinary abilities and his tavern was a center for fine dining in colonial New York. The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook from the Montclair Historical Society (1975) reproduces the menu from that 1783 banquet which included Fresh Sorrel Soup with Sippets, Roasted Lamb with Oyster Forcemeat, Tipsy Squire and Carrot Tea Cake. For a time, Fraunces served as steward for President George Washington.

America’s Best Lost Recipes (2007) from the Editors of Cooks Country Magazine includes a recipe for “Real Carrot Cake” in the spirit of that early American celebration – a fitting indulgence to celebrate President’s Day 2010. The recipe is said to be similar to colonial spiced oil cakes, and the cake is brushed with dry vermouth and topped with a buttermilk rum glaze.
Real Carrot Cake - Adapted from “America’s Best Lost Recipes” 2007
3 cups, plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup raisins
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 pound carrots, peels and grated in a food processor

½ cup dry vermouth
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon dark rum

Place the oven rack in the middle position, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan. Using a whisk, combine three cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Toss the walnuts, raisins and 2 teaspoons flour in small bowl and coat well.

Using electric mixer on medium high, beat eggs and granulated sugar until combined. Reduce speed to medium and slowly add oil until incorporated. Increase speed to high and beat until light and creamy. Using rubber spatula, stir in flour mixture, walnuts and raisins, and carrots until combined. Scrape batter into cake pan and level. Bake 60 minutes. Test for doneness with toothpick. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 30 minutes. Turn out of pan to cool completely, at least one hour.
When cake is cool, brush the vermouth over the cake until it is absorbed. Wisk the confectioners’ sugar, buttermilk and rum in a medium bowl and drizzle over cake.

You can dine at the restored Fraunces Tavern in New York and visit the “Long Room” where George Washington bid farewell to his officers. There was no carrot cake served, but numerous toasts were offered on behalf of the 44 war officers in the room. They had been away from their families and homes for seven years. General Washington was quoted as saying:

“With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.”

For more on Carrot Cake, check out the tasty information provided by Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations!
©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


My Carolina Kitchen said...

T.W. I love American history and we have some early American antiques in our home. I think George Washington is so interesting and we've been to Mount Vernon and Jockey Hollow in NJ where he camped with his troops.

However, we've never been to this tavern. The architecture is gorgeous. I'll make sure we don't miss this the next time we go to NY. Thanks so much for telling me about it. Bless our ancestors, rum did make everything better and the icing on the cake is so interesting with the rum, vermouth and buttermilk. A lovely cake and a lovely post.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Happy President's Day, Sam! I just learned from a friend that the restaurant at Fraunces Tavern has shut down as of Saturday - hopefully temporarily - as they look for a new operator. Apparently business has been tough, but this doesn't impact the museum. The restaurant has survived attach by canon ball in the 1700s, so I do hope it survives this crisis, too. It's one of the rare preserved sites from the Revolutionary War in NYC, since so much was burned when the British invaded.

~~louise~~ said...

What a fine tribute for Presidents' Day T.W. Your Colonial Carrot Cake looks impeccable. Even better than the picture in the book. Yes, at that last auction, one of the many many cookbooks I "won" was America’s Best Lost Recipes. I didn't have a chance to look at it until this very moment.

It's a shame about Fraunces Tavern. So many historic buildings have been left in the shadows in NYC. I do hope they find a way of preserving it. I was to the museum many years ago. I'm so glad it hasn't been affected.

Happy Presidents' Day! Thank you for sharing this delectable memorial, T.W. I must find another use for that icing. It sounds so yummy:)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I remember visiting Fraunces Tavern when I was a child. My parents and I, all native New Yorkers, were fascinated, and really felt that we had stepped back in time. There are few places left in New York where you can get that feeling now; it would be a shame to see the tavern closed. Fortunately landmark status will protect the building from demolition.

Fresh Local and Best said...

I am only beginning to uncover the rich history tied to New York City. I'm going to make a point to visit Fraunces Tavern to have a slice of carrot cake.

The Chef In My Head said...

Looks very very good! Really interesting post, love the history! ~LeslieMichele

Stacey Snacks said...

This is my favorite cake. I am such a fool for carrot cake.....can you believe I have never been to Fraunces Tavern? a New Yorker my whole life.
Shame on me.

Helene said...

I was surprised to see 5 eggs but that's a big cake. I love the pics that you are sharing today.

Julia said...

How neat! You're creating a fun food itinerary for a NYC visit -- food trucks and now this museum (and hopefully the tavern will reopen soon!).

lostpastremembered said...

Honestly, I hadn't heard about this wonderful cookbook... thanks for sharing and the cake and story are wonderful! It is sad so many great NY restaurants are closing... hopefully the tavern will re-open with a better kitchen serving more things like you carrot cake!

Mary said...

T.W., we raised our family in Montclair so I was delighted to see you are familiar with the cookbook.
The carrot cake looks wonderful.

Lori Lynn said...

As you know, I am a patriot. And cannot get enough of the patriotic food history of our country.

I adore this post. Isn't the research gratifying?

tasteofbeirut said...

I am learning a lot through your post! IN REGARDS TO THE CARROT CAKE, THIS is the first time I see Vermouth applied as a glaze. GReat idea!
(sorry about the capitalizations, I am a horrible typist)