One of the most used, spotted, and worn recipe cards in my collection is in my Mom’s handwriting and it is for “”Brown Stone Front Cake”. I lost track of how many times she made this cake; it was my Dad’s absolute favorite.
Holding that recipe card in my hands, I can close my eyes and see her in my mind; plumping the raisins, gathering the ingredients, and pouring the batter into a well-used, very old 13 x 9 pan.
As it baked and the warming scent of cinnamon and cloves filled the air, chances were my Dad was on his way home from a trip hauling coal to Philadelphia or New York in his tractor-trailer.
As the cake cooled, Mom put the coffee on in anticipation of Dad’s arrival. As he came through the kitchen door, he greeted us as if he hadn’t seen us in days. After the hugs and kisses were through, his eyes would light up again when he spotted his favorite cake on the counter.
Simple pleasures made my Dad happy. A piece of this cake accompanied by a “cup a Joe” put a smile on his face many a day. I surely wish he was still with us.
In doing some research on this cake, I came across several Coal Region cookbooks that include this recipe in one version or another and call it “Brown Stone Front Cake” just like my Mom did. But on the internet, a “brown stone front cake” recipe often includes cocoa or chocolate and a suggested frosting. Mom’s version needs no frosting and Dad never wanted any, but you can dress it up nicely with simply a dusting of powdered sugar.
As with so many old recipes, the cook knew the baking time but failed to write it down — Mom could make this recipe in her sleep. I only made it a few times after Pop passed, and I too failed to write down the baking time; similar recipes call for approximately 35 – 40 minutes in a 350F oven.
Start watching it at 30 minutes and test it with a toothpick for done-ness when it no longer looks wet in the middle and the edges are springy to the touch. Once the toothpick comes out clean, it is done.
I promise my readers that I will make sure to record the baking time the next time I make this cake and update Mom’s recipe!
Brown Stone Front CakeCourse: DessertCuisine: Coal Region, GeneralDifficulty: Intermediate
A lightly spiced cake studded with raisins, perfect with a cup of coffee or hot tea.
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter or shortening
1 cup sour milk (1 cup whole milk plus 1 Tablespoon white vinegar, stir and let sit 10 minutes)
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound raisins (plump by simmering raisins in just enough water to cover until they plump, about 15 minutes, remove from heat, cool completely and drain well)
3 cups all purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Cook the raisins, cool completely then drain well.
- With electric mixer, cream sugar with butter or shortening until fluffy, then beat in eggs one at a time .
- In small bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, cloves, salt.
- Add half the flour mixture along with half the soured milk to the eggs/sugar mixture. Combine. Then add the remaining flour mixture and the remaining soured milk. Combine well.
- By hand, gently fold in cooled, drained raisins.
- Pour into well greased and floured 13 x 9 inch pan or 2 prepared 9 inch round pans.
- Bake until cake tests done using a cake tester or toothpick and the pick comes out clean and cake bounces back lightly when pressed. (Mom’s recipe does not give baking time. Start visually checking at 30 minutes for a 13 x 9 pan; baking time will be around 35 to 40 minutes.)
- Make sure the raisins as completely cool and very well drained before adding to the batter.
- Stir in raisins by hand; do not use electric mixer.