Railroad Cake

My heroine is back in the kitchen, and still struggling. She’s feeling a tad more confident and has moved beyond “Johnny Cakes” to something a bit more complicated: Railroad Cake. My source for this recipe was printed about the time railroads came through the Old West. I think we can safely assume it must have been served in a dining car. Interestingly enough, railroads not only changed the face of the landscape but also brought new recipes to the West.

Not much is recorded on railroad dining, but what few references I found referred to a limited menu. This cake recipe reflects the need to keep things simple yet palatable. Most coach passengers carried their own nonperishable food with them to save what precious few dollars they had.

I’m going with the assumption that my heroine traveled to the West by train, sampled this cake and begged for the recipe. She may have had to pay for it. You, however, get it for free. SO…here you go (modified for the modern kitchen).

Railroad Cake

Baking Time: 30 minutes
Oven Temperature: 350 degrees

1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt

Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, blending well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda. Add to creamed mix slowly, alternating with lemon juice and buttermilk. When well blended, turn out into two 8-inch cake pans that have been well-greased and floured. Place in a preheated oven. Done when an inserted toothpick comes out dry.

A slice on a bed of hot cream is a nice touch of the Old West. You can sprinkle with powdered sugar for a decorative look or substitute almond extract for the lemon juice for a more nutty flavor .

So, who’s going to try this recipe with me?

+ posts

15 thoughts on “Railroad Cake”

  1. This looks absolutely yummy! I’ll have to try it even if I’m not supposed to eat sweets. I do cheat now and then. I can only imagine how sinfully delicious this would be on a bed of hot cream sauce.

  2. Hello all, just got back from the eye doctor so can’t read a thing (had to get dilated…yuck). I’m trying to type this with one eye closed.


    One of the things I love about the Old West recipes is their simplicity. Kind of the same reason I love the Old West. 😉

  3. The recipe sounds (and looks) yummy, Renee. Neat that it’s based on an authentic old-time recipe. Looking forward to more of your heroine’s culinary accomplishments.

  4. Always great to see something from you, Renee! This looks yummy! We don’t always think about what the people ate while traveling! Thanks for making us think about it!

  5. It’s always fun to try old recipes. This one looks good! If you don’t have buttermilk you can substitute 1 tablespoon (15ml) lemon juice or vinegar and enough milk to make 1 cup (about 225ml). Probably the most famous railroad food is Bisquick. The story is that a General Mills executive asked the chef in the dining car how he could have fresh biscuits so easily and he explained about his mix. General Mills then developed it into Bisquick. This was in the 1930’s, I think, definitely not the late 1800’s, but what a great contribution to American kitchens.

  6. Looks and sounds good. Going to have to try it!
    Love trying oud recipes.
    Bisquick is Wonderful for so many different things!

  7. Sounds good. Would be nice topped with some fresh strawberries. I made the first of the season strawberry rhubarb pie this afternoon. Can’t wait to have some. It will be breakfast tomorrow. The berries are great this year – big, juicy, and sweet.
    Thanks for the recipe. Will try it out soon.

  8. Wow, thanks for sharing! Do you know if this recipe was around and possibly used on trains in 1873?

    Also, will you be sharing any more research on the railroad? I’d love to know what the inside of a sleeper car looked like in the late 1800’s. The private ones.

Comments are closed.