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Grandma Griffith’s Hot Milk
Sponge Cake
By Charlie Burke

Click here for printer-friendly version of this recipe

My mother, like most moms of her time, viewed making meals as an important
responsibility and had the usual schedule of casseroles, pot roasts and other
fare of the mid-twentieth century which were filling but not very exciting.
Working full time and having a tight budget certainly constrained her
creativity, but I remember good food which was very much like meals
neighbors and relatives served.

A few of her recipes, usually for deserts, were very good and were not seen on
other tables. Invariably, she would say that she had been given the recipe by
“Grandma Griffith”, a locally famous cook in Riley, Ohio who befriended my
mother when she and my father moved there after being married in 1938. We
moved back to New England when I was very young, but I recall meeting her
when we visited when I was eight years old. I recall a very old, warm, smiling
woman in a white apron busy making pies, exactly as I had envisioned when
my mother had spoken of her.

Ripley, Ohio, located on the Mason-Dixon Line and across the Ohio River from
Kentucky, had its cooking influenced by the South, and the many wonderful
deserts my mother recalled having there reflected this. One simple such desert
was this hot milk sponge cake, which my mother made as long as I can
remember. It was a family favorite, and became a favorite of our sons, Kevin
and Michael.

In later years, when I had the opportunity to cook for her, my mom usually
brought this cake to our house. After she died, we found the original recipe in
an old cookie tin on a yellowed index card, written in a young bride’s hand
and labeled “Grandma Griffith’s Hot Milk Sponge Cake”. I was surprised by
the simplicity of the recipe for this slightly crusty, moist and flavorful cake,
but perhaps I shouldn’t have been. Grandma Griffith was nearly eighty years
old when my mother met her, so this recipe may well have been given to her in
the 1870’s!

One nine inch cake:

2 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Heat milk in a small pan until it just starts to boil. Add butter to milk, stirring
until melted. Keep milk warm.

Beat eggs until light in color; add sugar, salt, vanilla and continue beating
until mixed.

Add baking powder to flour and stir to distribute.
Add flour and milk alternately to the egg mixture with mixer running. Begin
and end with flour; add milk in a thin stream.

Pour into a buttered 9” cake pan. Cook at 350 degrees  for 25-30 minutes.

Leave in cake pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cake rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Often, simple is best, and this little cake certainly has passed the test of time.
Served in the summer with fresh fruit or at other times with home made
preserves or jams, it is a great desert for all occasions. I’m sure both my mom
and Grandma Griffith would approve of my passing the recipe along.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at
Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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