Starch Cake, made by my mother-in-law, Cecilia Gunderson was as traditional for mothers with new babies in Mt. Pleasant as turkey is for Thanksgiving.
As soon as she heard of a new baby in town or someone being sick, she popped a cake in the oven walked miles to deliver.
Making a cake in those days was work; especially a starch cake, for which you had to make your own potato starch and supply your own eggs. The day of the cake making started out by building a good hot fire in the kitchen range with wood and coal. The ingredients consisting of 8 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and 3/4 cup of potato starch were carefully measured out on the big round table in the center of her kitchen. First, she would separate the egg whites and beat them with a hand beater until they were stiff. Next, she beat the egg yolks with a wire spoon until light and fluffy. Then the sugar was added very slowly and beaten until the granules were dissolved. The potato starch was also sprinkled in slowly, and last of all the egg whites folded in gently.
The thick fluffy batter was poured into a 16 inch dripper and placed in the hot oven for 10 minutes or more. As the heat had to be reduced gradually, she would use a small fire shovel and lift the hot coals out of the firebox until it was the temperature she wanted. In about an hour the golden brown cake was removed from the oven with tender crust that took the place of a good frosting.
Her cakes, which she sold for $1.00 each, were also in great demand for parties, weddings, birthdays, clubs, and banquets.
As I watched and helped her make hundreds of cakes, I learned the art of making starch cake, which has become a tradition in our family as well. Whenever I have club or the family comes home, they expect to have "starch cake", just like my mother-in-law used to make. Although I bake it in an electric oven with a glass window and can regulate the heat with a little knob, I have never improved on the texture and beauty of her cakes.