We turned the spotlight on silent film beauty Billie Dove.
Billie Dove began her career as a model and then starred in the Ziegfeld Follies. She started her film career in 1921 and went on to co-star opposite Douglas Fairbanks in "The Black Pirate", Clara Bow in "Kid Boots" and "Blondie of the Follies" with Marion Davies. In 1932 she retired from the screen to raise a family.
This recipe is from the 1927 - 1929 edition of "Photoplay's Cook Book: 100 Favorite Recipes of the Stars." Thank you to Fritzi Kramer of Movies Silently for sending me this recipe.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup milk
4 teaspoons baking powder
Sift together flour and baking powder; cream butter and sugar together; flavor to taste. Beat together yolks, and whites of eggs, and mix all ingredients. Bake in medium oven. (I LOVE how vague these recipes are! I baked this at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.)
Beat whites of three eggs until stiff, boil two cups pulverized sugar in one cup boiling water, until the syrup threads. Pour over the egg-whites very little at a time, beating fast. Add one teaspoon of vanilla extract before the mass creams. To make this a complete success, use the very finest grade of cake flour.
**There is currently a shortage eggs and I had to go to a few places to find some to make this cake. The original icing recipe was daunting. The idea of combining boiling water over egg whites seemed like recipe for trouble to me. Fritzi Kramer of Movies Silently dared to do this and you can read her post about this cake HERE.
In order to conserve those hard to find eggs, my friend Mary Stanford suggested that I use a vintage Betty Crocker icing recipe.
1/3 cup butter or margarine
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 4 tablespoons hot water
Melt butter in saucepan. Blend in sugar and vanilla. Stir in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until glaze is of proper consistency. Glazes a 10-inch chiffon or Angel Food cake.
Lara Gabrielle is a writer and film historian. Her new book Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies was recently released from UC Press. She writes book reviews, festival coverage, and pieces on the history, theory and culture of film on her blog Backlots. You can find the book on Amazon or at Larry Edmund's Bookshop in Hollywood.
The Final Product
The cake was a bit dense and wasn't as fluffy as I had hoped. The icing was good, but very thick and then grew hard and crunchy very quickly. I do not blame Billie Dove for this. I clearly need MUCH more practice in the art of cake making. That said, it is still edible so that in and of itself feels like a victory. I had some raspberries in the refrigerator, so I mashed them up and used them between the layers.
There are some Billie Dove movies on DVD and on Turner Classic Movies!
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