We're celebrating the birthday (February 7, 1867) of Laura Ingalls Wilder with a $1.99 sale of the Kindle edition of A Wilder Rose, the story of the mother/daughter collaboration that produced the Little House books. If you already have the print edition, you might take this oppotunity to add the eBook edition to your Kindle library. While you're at it, take a look at the Reader's Companion, which details the research on which the novel is based. And for your reading group (or for your own guided reading), check out these reading group questions about the book.
As Laura and Rose tell the story in On the Banks of Plum Creek, Ma Ingalls made vanity cakes for Laura's birthday party.
She made them with beaten eggs and white flour. She dropped them into a kettle of sizzling fat. Each one came up bobbing, and floated till it turned itself over, lifting up its honey-brown, puffy bottom. Then it swelled underneath till it was round, and Ma lifted it out with a fork. She put every one of those cakes in the cupboard. They were for the party.
In Little House Cookbook, Barbara Walker gives us her recipe for Vanity Cakes:
1 large egg
1/2 cup white flour or whole wheat pastry flour
Beat egg and salt in a bowl for 1 minute, then beat in 1/4 cup flour, then add rest of flour one tablespoon at a time until batter is stiff but not so hard that it could be rolled out. Cover a plate with flour and then drop dough by small spoonfuls onto the flour. Flip them over so both sides are coated. Cook in hot lard (approx 350 degrees). Drain cakes on a paper towel, then dust with powdered sugar.
If you make these, please remember that children of pioneer parents didn't have sugar, so even a hint of sweetness would have been a treasured treat. If you'd like to make a modern baked version, here's how. If Ma Ingalls had had lots of sugar, plenty of eggs, and could rely on a very slow oven, this is the way she would have done it.
Happy birthday, Laura!
Reading note: As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that things truly worthwhile and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then. It is not the things you have that make you happy. It is love and kindness and helping each other and just plain being good."--Laura Ingalls Wilder