The goodness of a cake or biscuit depends much on its being well baked; great attention should be paid to the different degrees of heat of the oven: be sure to have it of a good sound heat at first, when, after its being well cleaned out, may be baked such articles as require a hot oven, after which such as are directed to be baked in a well-heated or moderate oven; and lastly, those in a slow soaking or cool one. With a little care the above degrees may soon be known.
In making butter cakes, too much attention cannot be paid to have the butter well creamed; for should it be made too warm, it would cause the mixture to be the same, and when put to bake, the fruit, sweetmeats, &c., would, in that event, fall to the bottom.
Yest [yeast] cakes should be well proved [risen] before put into the oven, as they will prove but little afterward.
In making biscuits and cakes where butter is not used, the different utensils should be kept free of all kinds of grease, or it is next to impossible to have good ones.
In buttering the insides of cake-moulds, the butter should be nicely clarified, and when nearly cold, laid on quite smooth, with a small brush kept for the purpose.
Sugar and flour should be quite dry, and a drum sieve is recommended for the sugar. The old way of beating the yelks and whites of eggs separate (except in very few cases) is not only useless, but a waste of time. They should be well incorporated with the other ingredients, and, in some instances, they cannot be beaten too much.
From The Cook’s Oracle by William Kitchiner, MD, New York, 1829
Comment: One of the reasons 19th century recipes often seem so sparse as to be little more than lists of ingredients, is that great slabs of cookbooks of the period were occupied with general cooking instructions like the one above. After such discussion of matters which would be applicable to all the recipes following, the individual recipes themselves could avoid excessive repetition. This makes for pleasantly efficient book design perhaps, but makes the life of recipe compilers in later centuries correspondingly more difficult.
In addition to which, the advice dispensed is not always good advice. “The old way of beating the yelks and whites of eggs separate” is not in fact considered a useless waste of time, and we have no idea where Dr. Kitchiner came up with such a silly notion in the first place. We cannot on the other hand fault him for spelling the yellow parts of eggs as “yelk” instead of yolk since that was entirely common and unremarkable in his day