Monday, May 6, 2019

Dolly Varden Cake - Doll Cake

This cake was named for a Dickens character in an 1839 novel and the ensuing 1870s dress style.  The earliest recipe, in 1877, had four layers - chocolate, white (egg whites), rose (cochineal), and yellow (egg yolks) - with frosting.  The new cake had appeared in several state fair lists in 1876.

Later Dolly Varden Cakes had three layers of colors—white, red, chocolate, but some had two layers of light and dark (with raisins, currents, molasses).  

Eventually it morphed into a Doll Cake (plastic doll stuck in middle of a cake with frosting as a dress).  Wilton Co. makes a Wonder Mold for doll cakes (below), which in Australia is sold as a Dolly Varden cake.

Charles Dickens's 1839 novel Barnaby Rudge, set during the 1780s riots in London, included a character dressed in colorful ‘Watteau style’ outfits.  In the  early 1870s a dress style became popular which some felt was over-the-top, and not for "persons over middle age":

We think that the immense bouquets, tropical leaves, birds and birds’ nests, swinging cupids, and love-lorn shepherdesses, which adorn these dresses, are in the very worst taste; they look as if the bed-room curtains had been made to do double duty. The true “ Dolly Varden“ dress is really picturesque and very becoming, except to persons over middle age… 
Peterson’s MagazineJuly 1872.
The following recipe was interesting in color and flavors, as were most of the older layer cakes I have made. Try one! I neglected to write down the temp and time for this was six or more years ago.  Other posts on cakes HERE

My mom made the doll cake a couple times.  She just stuck a plastic doll in the center hole of an angelfood cake and used her regular butter, powdered sugar, &c, icing to form the dress.

Most of the cakes included in the "layer cake" entry in The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets used one line out of all my research (a challenge).  "An 1877 version of Dolly Varden Cake called for four layers of chocolate, white, rose, and yellow, although later recipes generally alternated only light and dark layers."  There is a more detailed Dolly Varden Cake entry in the encyclopedia.  anyway... back to the recipe...


Dolly Varden Cake     1877
One cup sugar, one-third cup butter, one-quarter cup milk, one full cup flour measured before sifting, whites of six eggs, one-quarter teaspoon soda, three-quarters cream tartar; bake half of this plain, the other half color with one-quarter teaspoon of confectioner's cochineal; flavor with rose water.

Bake the same quantity of the receipt, using the yolks of the eggs, coloring one-half with one teacup of grated chocolate; bake in jelly tins; frost each layer with very thin frosting taking care not to get too much sugar; put together chocolate, whites, rose, and yellows. Very handsome and very good. Try it.
Melrose Household TreasureMelrose [Mass.]: 1877

White and rose layers -

1C Sugar                                                                1/3 C Butter
1/4 C Milk                                                             1 C Flour
1/4 t  Baking Soda                                                 3/4 t Cream of Tartar
6 Egg whites       
1/4 t cochineal  or red food coloring                     1 T Rose water, or to taste

Yellow and chocolate layers -

Yellow layer  - 6 Egg yolks in place of whites in above recipe
Brown layer  - 3/4 C Chocolate, grated    1 oz / 1 sq.                            

Interestingly, the recipe immediately following this was labeled a “Dickens Cake”- layers of dark and light with jelly in-between. 

The painting is ‘Dolly Varden’  by William Powell Frith, 1842.

©2019 Patricia Bixler Reber
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