We are on safari in Africa. How the women who live on remote farms in Kenya find the time and energy to devote to the finer points of baking while dealing with invading lions, leopards and locust plagues is remarkable. But they complain that the lightness and texture of the cakes they bake need improvement. The flour used here is simply ground wheat, not as fine nor white as General Mills Softasilk cake flour. Could you possible tell us, if it is not a trade secret, what might be done to improve the quality of the Kenya flour? Your assistance would be extremely welcome, both for its intrinsic value and as a gesture of American kindness.
Letter from Mrs. Ernest Hemingway
Kimana Swamp, Kenya, 1954
Your letter arrived this morning just after we heard over the radio of your fortunate escape from two airplane crashes...
There isn’t much your friends can do in their own kitchens to improve their flour, but they might refine the flour some by putting it through a sifter, fine strainer or through loosely woven silk cloth. Any cloth with an open texture will do, though it might take more than one sifting.
Flour in our mills is sifted many times through silk and other fine meshes. Rich cakes won’t be so successful with their kind of flour, but I have enclosed some recipes for a few that should work.
I live on the 50th floor of an apartment building. Do I have to use the high altitude directions on the cake mix package?
Letter from Chicago, 1990
High altitude directions apply to elevations of 3,500 to 6,500 feet. You are safe in Chicago to use the regular cake mix directions.
I just found a Betty Crocker Angel Food cake mix in our civil defense bomb shelter. It must be over 20 years old. Is it okay to use?
Call from Arizona, 1990
On your advice, I went ahead and made the angel food cake mix that we found in our bomb shelter. It rose just beautifully. You were right. It worked after all these years because it was stored in a cool, dry place.
Call back from Arizona, 1990