Little House Cookbook: Ma’s Heart Cakes

It was such a treat to win The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories recently from Barbara H. from her Laura Ingalls Wilder reading challenge.

The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories

It was so much fun to browse through the cookbook. It contains not only many recipes, but also information from the Little House days — what it must have been like to cook in that era (hint: not easy!).

I wanted to make a recipe from the book, but that was a challenge. So many of the recipes involved lard, cracklin’s, and other things either not readily available or perhaps not something we’d relish eating in our improved-and-modern world.

I finally settled on the Heart Cakes. Remember, from Little House on the Prairie?

Those stockings weren’t empty yet. Mary and Laura pulled out two small packages. They unwrapped them, and each found a little heart-shaped cake. Over their delicate brown tops was sprinkled white sugar. The sparkling grains lay like tiny drifts of snow.

The cakes were too pretty to eat. Mary and Laura just looked at them. But at last Laura turned hers over, and she nibbled a tiny nibble from underneath, where it wouldn’t show. And the inside of that little cake was white!

It had been made of pure white flour, and sweetened with white sugar.



Ma’s Heart Cakes

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a 2-quart bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and a pinch of ground nutmeg. With cold fingers, rub 1/4 cup chilled lard into the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, add 1/3 cup cultured buttermilk, and work with one hand into a dough that can be rolled out.
Dust rolling surface with flour. Shape the dough into a ball and roll it out into an 8-inch circle. With a table knife dipped in flour, cut the circle in half, then the halves in thirds, to produce six equal wedges. Shape each wedge into a heart.
Grease baking sheet and place hearts on it so they do not touch. Bake for about 15 minutes, until cakes are puffy and nicely browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle tops immediately with sugar (the crystals will melt slightly and stick.) When cool, eat or wrap for gift giving.

LittlLittle House Ma's Heart Cakes

We ended up eating our heart cakes with strawberries. I regret to say that nobody just nibbled theirs, nor were there any exclamations over the lovely white color of the inside (in a touch of irony, I actually tried to make them a bit healthier by using some wheat flour). What can I say? Compared to the Ingalls family, we’re definitely wimps.

Little House on the Prairie Ma's Heart Cakes

6 thoughts on “Little House Cookbook: Ma’s Heart Cakes

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book! The heart cakes sound great with strawberries. I’ve thought about trying the vanity cakes some time — they sound similar to doughnuts.

    The recipes remind me a little of when I got some recipes from one of our missionaries in the jungles of Indonesia for our church cookbook. I wasn’t sure how to convert them to American cooking, so I just published them as they were for he sake of interest.

  2. Your heart cakes sound yummy to me! Adding strawberries improves so many things. Strawberries always have been my very favorite fruit since childhood, because we had a huge strawberry patch with fresh pickins’ every other day or so during May/early June. Isn’t it wonderful that you can purchase decent strawberries in a local supermarket for most of the year nowadays?

  3. We made these, perhaps for a 4-H demonstration, and served them for 4-H. We wrapped them in blue tissue paper, too as it says the Ingalls family did. It is a sweet memory. Do any of you girls remember this? I sure do! Now that I think about it, one year for the December 4-H meeting I had a teacher come to our home who was totally into the Little House series. That is probably the time we served the heart shaped cakes.

  4. This was interesting, Susan. Thanks for posting it. What did you substitute for lard, since I know there would be no lard usedin your house?

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