January 9, 1852

Cake

1852 Friday Jan 9th

[…]Have had about 30 here this evening and

quite a pleasant time though the weather not

pleasant.  Lavinia came here with Augustus last

night and we ladies have had a nice time making

cake and getting ready for them  Helen & Lavinia

made the bed in the front chamber to suit themselves

Oakes and Evelina Ames hosted a wedding reception at their house for newlyweds Edwin and Augusta Pool Gilmore, attended by members of the extended Gilmore and Pool families who traveled through inclement weather to get there. The celebration, complete with cake and tea – but no wine – was “quite a pleasant time.” What a special occasion for a cold, dark time of year.

The preparations for the party had been fun, too.  Lavinia Gilmore, sister of the groom, had been driven back to Evelina’s, carried by her brother Augustus Gilmore, to help with the cake. More cake! Helen Angier Ames had walked over from next door, again. The two young unmarried women had a sleep-over at their Aunt Evelina’s.

What might the cake have been made of? Sarah Josepha Hale offers up quite a recipe for a wedding cake in her 1841 The Good Housekeeper:

Take two pounds and a half of dried and sifted flour, allow the same quantity of fresh butter washed with rose water, two pounds of finely pounded loaf sugar, three pounds of cleaned and dried currants, one pound of raisins stoned, one nutmeg grated, half a pound of sweetmeats cut small, a quarter pound of blanched almonds pounded with a little rose water, and twenty eggs, the yolks and whites separately beaten.  

The butter must be beaten by hand till it becomes like cream; then add the sugar, and by degrees the eggs; after these, the rest of the ingredients, mixing in at last the currants, with nearly a tea-cupful of rose or orange flower water.  This mixture must be beaten together rather more than half an hour, then put into a cake-pan, which has previously been buttered and lined with buttered paper; fill it rather more than three quarters full.  It should be baked in a moderate oven for three hours, and then cooled gradually, by at first letting it stand some time at the mouth of the oven.

If you fear the bottom of the cake may burn, put the pan on a plate with saw-dust between.”*

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 100

March 17, 1851

images-1

*

March 17  Monday  A very cloudy windy morning  Jane could

not put her clothes out.  Orinthia washed the dishes

& I made the beds &c. Commenced working on a

fine unbleached shirt that was cut out

last Nov & partly finished.  It is all done but

[…] putting in the sleeves & making Collar and 

binding  Cut out some receipts for my scrap 

book from the Ploughman  A[u]gustus here to dine

The Massachusetts Ploughman was an agricultural newspaper published in Boston that provided reading material for a number of Ameses.  It was probably subscribed to by Old Oliver, who maintained an interest in farming that he couldn’t seem to pass on to any of his children. Although the Ames shovel business had helped turn once-rural North Easton into a productive, if small, industrial village, agriculture still ruled the show as the “largest single sector of the economy even in the highly commercial states of Massachusetts and Connecticut.”** Most people still farmed, raised livestock, worried about bringing in the hay, and looked for guidance from experts such as those behind the Ploughman masthead.  Evelina turned to the paper for recipes.

It may have been St. Patrick’s Day, but no celebrating would have gone on in the Ames compound.  At the factory, however, things might have been different. Thirteen years from this date, in the middle of the Civil War and less than a year after Old Oliver’s death, Oliver Jr. would note in his diary that on “St Patricks day did not run Engines in Shop.”  Was that also true in 1851, or did Old Oliver’s animosity toward the Irish preclude such an indulgence?

* A late-19th century copy of the Massachusetts Ploughman after it merged with the New England Journal of Agriculture.

** Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840,