"Anne Shirley!" she exclaimed, "what on earth did you put into that cake?"Today, I baked a liniment cake! The recipe comes from The Book Lover's Cookbook (Ballantine, 2003). I stumbled upon this book while searching the library catalog for "food in literature" and couldn't pass it up. This cookbook "features nearly two hundred recipes that were cooked up, served, or mentioned in your favorite novels and works of nonfiction." Who was I to resist such riches?
"Nothing but what the recipe said, Marilla," cried Anne with a look of anguish. "Oh, isn't it all right?"
"All right! It's simply horrible. Mr. Allan, don't try to eat it. Anne, taste it yourself. What flavoring did you use?"
"Vanilla," said Anne, her face scarlet with mortification after tasting the cake. "Only vanilla. Oh, Marilla, it must have been the baking powder. I had my suspicions of that bak--"
"Baking powder fiddlesticks! Go and bring me the bottle of vanilla you used."
Anne fled to the pantry and returned with a small bottle partially filled with a brown liquid and labeled yellowly, "Best Vanilla."
Marilla took it, uncorked it, smelled it.
"Mercy on us, Anne, you've flavored that cake with anodyne liniment. I broke the liniment bottle last week and poured what was left into an old empty vanilla bottle. I suppose it's partly my fault -- I should have warned you -- but for pity's sake why couldn't you have smelled it?"
Anne dissolved into tears under this double disgrace.
"I couldn't -- I had such a cold!" and with this she fairly fled to the gable chamber, where she cast herself on the bed and wept as one who refuses to be comforted.
-- Anne of Green Gables, Chapter XXI
Of course, the first recipe I checked for was liniment cake and, yes, there it was -- "Anne's Anodyne Liniment Cake (Without the Anodyne Liniment)." This recipe is derived from Kate MacDonald's The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook which I had looked at last week. I didn't have both recipes on hand when I made the cake so I can't tell you what differences there might be between the two.
I am mostly pleased with this cake. It is very light and fluffy with a nice crumb and a good vanilla scent, but not a strong vanilla flavor. Indeed, if you've been spoilt by the commercial boxed mixes, you might be disappointed by how mildly vanilla this cake tastes. I liked it for its mildness, because it goes so well with cups of milk and tea. It seems like a companionable sort-of cake which is happy to work with other foodstuffs rather than shine out all on its own.
The frosting does not please me so much, but my success rate with frosting has always been rather hit or miss. When I was making the frosting, it never stiffened up as I was expecting, but stayed a bit on the runny side. I was afraid to throw more powdered sugar in as the frosting already seemed plenty sweet so I just frosted the cake as best I could and then popped it in the refrigerator to "set."
While this cake is not quite what I've spent all these years imaging liniment cake to be (not quite as "light and feathery as golden foam" as I'd hoped), it's still a very good cake and I would make it again. However, next time, I will also clap it together with "layers of ruby jelly" and see if that doesn't make it more Anne-ish.