“Laura and Mary made new starry papers for the shelves, and Ma made vanity cakes.”
Vanity cakes were a special party treat for Laura that she remembered fondly even in later years. In a letter now available in the Detroit Public Library, she writes about how the cakes bubbled up when they were fried until they were so light and fluffy like a bubble with nothing inside – hence the name, vanity cakes.
Vanity Cakes Recipe: Yield six cakes
Vanity cakes are the perfect treat to add to a Little House on the Prairie birthday party, unit study, or gathering. Note: this recipe is adapted from a recipe in The Little House Cookbook, but makes some modern substitutes like oil instead of lard. We also included a strawberry sauce you can use as a topping if you’d like, or try the blueberry sauce topping shared in Laura’s Wedding Cake recipe.
Ingredients for Making Vanity Cakes
- 1 egg, large
- Pinch Salt
- ½ Cup All-purpose flour, plus additional for cutting board
- 1 Cup Powdered sugar
- 2-4 cups of oil
- ½ Cup Strawberry dipping sauce (optional)
Making Vanity Cakes As Laura Ingalls Wilder Did
Fill your fryer or dutch oven with about 3 inches of oil. Heat to 350 F. Caution – use extreme caution around hot oil and closely supervise any children who may be helping you.
In the bowl, beat the egg and salt for 1 minute. Whisk in ¼ cup of flour thoroughly. Add the remaining flour, one tablespoon of flour at a time, until the dough is too stiff to beat, but too soft to roll out. There’s a balance here between too much and too little.
Cover a cutting board with flour. With a teaspoon, spoon the batter into the flour on the board in six separate portions. Carefully turn each spoonful of dough over to cover it with flour, then flatten. Slowly drop it into the hot oil, cooking one at a time.
Cook for approximately 3½ minutes, carefully turning halfway through. The cakes should cook to a golden brown. Adjust the temperature if they are browning too quickly.
Drain cakes on a paper towel and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with strawberry dipping sauce.
Strawberry Dipping Sauce
- ½ Cup sugar
- ½ Cup water
- 1 Cup Strawberries, hulled and quartered
Mix water and sugar in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling, stirring constantly.
Reduce heat to low and add strawberries. Stir occasionally cooking for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool and serve.
This deceptively simple recipe will create a delicious treat that you and your family will love.
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