I enjoy reading about the history behind recipes. Perhaps that is why I was so excited when my niece, Marcella, recently sent me a cookbook that covers "100 years of timeless American recipes."

The cookbook, published in 2009, is titled "Unforgettable." It was written by Sue Dawson, who for 22 years was the food editor for The Columbus Dispatch in Columbus, Ohio. It is a great book, not only telling the history of the recipes but also the history of foods and kitchen equipment in general.

The book is divided into decades. As I read through it, a smile came to my face because some of the recipes that I remembered from my youth were not just recipes that my mother put together in her old-fashioned Southern kitchen. Someone had actually created these recipes years before I was born.

In the section devoted to the 1920s, there is a simple recipe for Carrot Pineapple Salad, which I had always thought was a product of our school cafeteria. It seemed to appear quite often on the menu.

One thing that amazed me is that most of the well-known restaurant recipes from the early 1900s were quite simple. As the years progressed, recipes became more "gourmet."

The chiffon cake became popular in the 1940s but seems to have disappeared during the following years. A man by the name of Harry Baker created this light and luscious cake in the 1920s. He opted for oil rather than butter in his cake. He tried to sell his recipe to General Mills, to no avail. However, when some of the company executives tasted the cake, a deal was made.

It has been so long since I have tasted a chiffon cake that I really want to try it again with this recipe from the 1940s. You will notice that this cake is handled in much the same way as an angel food cake when it is taken from the oven. This is an important step.

ORANGE CHIFFON CAKE

  • 2 ¼ cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup oil
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup cold water
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons orange zest
  • 8 egg whites (1 cup) at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; place in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in center and add wet ingredients (oil, egg yolks, water, orange juice and zest). Beat with a spoon until smooth.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Gradually pour yolk mixture into the egg whites. Fold gently with a spatula just until combined. Pour batter into ungreased 10-inch tube pan and bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched with the finger. Immediately invert pan on pan legs, a funnel or bottle, then let cake stand until completely cooled. Serve plain or with fruit.

Contact Prudence Hilburn at prudencehilburn@aol.com.