Catharine Beecher on using up egg yolks

I don’t know about you, but I find it much harder to think of ways to use up spare egg yolks than egg whites. I know, I know – custards and lemon curd – but I never seem to get round to it and I HATE ending up throwing the yolks out. What I really like is when a recipe uses both whites and yolks, like a good old lemon meringue pies.

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This is not entirely a modern first world problem. I was very happy when reading Catharine Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book of 1846, to come across two recipes, delightfully named Golden Cake, and Silver Cake, which she states ‘should be made together, so as to use both portions of the eggs.’. Their names derive from their colour, ‘as well as their excellence.’ The Golden Cake requires the yolks of fourteen eggs, while the Silver Cake needs, you guessed it, fourteen whites. I have never yet had fourteen eggs in my fridge at the same time, but it’s nice to know that I have an outlet for the yolks should I wish to make a gargantuan pavlova, or a groaning buffet table of cakes (one for lovers of rich treats and one for people who are watching their cholesterol, perhaps?!).

Catharine Beecher was a remarkable woman, best known for her role in extending education for women in America in the early nineteenth century. Her sister was Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and they worked together on at least one of Catharine’s domestic treatises. She was unusual for being such a strong advocate of women’s education, while remaining wedded to the notion of separate spheres – women should not, for example, get involved with politics. This paints rather a misleading picture of her ambitions as to the boundaries of women’s knowledge though: to properly run an economical and well-functioning household a woman should have a good understanding of nutrition and chemistry. among other things, and she wrote textbooks for the school she founded in Hartford, Connecticut, on several of these topics. These interests can be seen in her recipe book too, which explains, for example, the use of alkaline raising agents. On the other hand, she also includes much more down-to-earth gems, like the best way to judge an oven’s temperature in the era before calibrated dials: β€˜A quick oven is so hot that you can count moderately only twenty; and a slow one allows you to count thirty, while you hold your hand in it.’

All quotations are from Catharine Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, which can be downloaded from here

And if Golden and Silver Cakes aren’t your thing, here is a great list of uses for egg yolks (though it only goes up to twelve yolks – points awarded to Miss Beecher there, I think πŸ˜‰ )


3 thoughts on “Catharine Beecher on using up egg yolks

  1. Pingback: What do we want from our domestic goddesses? | A Slice of Cake and a Pocket of Pins

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