And so here we are. Not far at all from the site of the 1904 World’s Fair. More modern food favorites were catapulted into The Big Time at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition than at any other single event in history. Sure, maybe the hot dog, the ice cream cone, the hamburger, iced tea, push-pops, peanut butter and Dr. Pepper were invented someplace else. But they got noticed here. And without the spotlight of 1904 would they have become what they are now? Maybe, maybe not. It’s said that even the term “fast food” was popularized here. Doesn’t get much more American than that.
And we’re only about two blocks from where it all went down some 116 years ago, in five handsome rooms in St. Louis’s Central West End. The food historian in me is tickled to say the least.
This is the cake my twin sister and I ate regularly out at my grandparents’ house in Wayne, Illinois. Normally we ate it plain or with a little powdered sugar sprinkled on top, usually a few berries on the side. Still, somehow I think grandma would approve of this treatment with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. She was a slender woman right up into her 90’s, but had no problem with dairy fat and/or chocolate when circumstances permitted.
When my grandfather realized, just a few weeks after his wedding, that his new bride didn’t know how to cook, he sent her to cooking school (my grandmother had been too busy studying law). That school was the Antoinette Pope School in Chicago, where my bookish grandmother learned the base skills that would one day turn her into a kitchen maestro. This cake is a slight variation on the recipe she learned then, and made probably hundreds of times thereafter:
4.5 ounces (1 cup) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (12 large) egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
10.5 ounces (1 1/2 cups) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon extract of your choice: lemon, almond, orange, etc.. or citrus zest (2 tsp.)