27 April 2011

27 April - Samuel F B Morse; Telegraph Cake

Traditionally, this is the day to plant French Beans.
Born today in 1791, Samuel Finley Breese Morse, artist and inventor.

As his name is most often coupled with the invention of the telegraph, few people seem to remember that he was also a highly acclaimed artist, and - through his friendship with Louis Daguerre, whose work he promoted - the father of American photography.

That he was the inventor of the modern telegraph is arguable (like the telephone, there were a lot of people inventing the same thing at the same time), but his improvements upon his own and other models successfully produced a superior electromagnetic telegraph, one that can be seen in almost any classic Western (how else will the good guys get word that desperadoes are on their way to raid the town?)

courtesy of ClipArt ETC

His friend and financial backer, Alfred Vail, is credited with developing a system of dots and dashes representing the letters of the alphabet, which could be 'read' by listening, an improvement on the previous use of pencil marks on paper.  The differences between the original (American) Morse code, Gerke's Continental Code, and the current International Morse Code, can be seen in this chart, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In honor of Professor Morse, and all of the inventors and improvers of the electrical telegraph, make a TELEGRAPH CAKE:

Heat oven to 375˚ F.
Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan
Melt 1 cup of butter
Lightly beat 2 eggs

Sift together 3 cups of flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 2 cups of sugar.  Add 1 cup of dried currants or raisins, 1/2 cup of chopped blanched almonds and 3/4 cup of chopped mixed candied fruit.

In another bowl, mix the melted butter with 1 cup of milk and the beaten eggs.  Add to the flour mixture and stir until well blended.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

A recipe from 1914 uses less of the ingredients and bakes the cake in a flat pan:

Sift 2 level tsp. baking powder into 1-1/2 c. flour. Add following before stirring: 1 c. granulated sugar, 2 eggs, 6 tbsp. milk, 1/2 c . butter, vanilla. Beat all together until smooth. Bake in long flat pan. Use any icing. —Mrs. Chas. Dudley.
"Cookbook of the Woman's Educational Club (Toledo, Ohio)" [which you can find on Google books]

For this recipe, I'm guessing the oven should be at 375˚, the vanilla 1 teaspoon, and the baking time 50 minutes to 1 hour.

For either cake, the appropriate decoration should be dots and dashes - if you are really clever, sign your name on top using one of the Morse codes.  For the International Code, you can find a translator here at Online Conversion.

_ _  . ..  ...   . ..  .._  _..  _..   (American)

_ _  ._.  ...   ._.  .._  _..  _..   (International)