Thanksgiving Cornucopia

Desserts of the late 19th century often featured sponge cakes -- and they liked to play with their desserts to "fancy them up" as is the case with this recipe for Thanksgiving sponge cakes, found in The Boston Globe from Nov. 25, 1896. One baked individual rounds of sponge cake in 5-inch tins, took them out and rolled them slightly, put them into paper cornucopias made from writing paper, and then filled them with colored whipped cream and perhaps a bit of jelly as well. This is classic Victorian cooking from the age of Fannie Farmer.


  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
  • Filling
  • 2 cups heavy cream chilled, preferably pasteurized or pasteurized organic
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 drops red food coloring
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly


  1. For the cake: Place oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour 2 6-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper circles, and set aside. Cut four 12-inch squares of parchment paper in half diagonally to form 8 triangles. Fold each triangle into a cone about 3 inches across and tape to secure. Place upright into eight drinking glasses and set aside.
  2. Place egg whites and salt in bowl of standing mixer and beat at medium-high speed until frothy. Add 1/3 cup sugar in slow, steady stream and continue beating until mixture forms stiff peaks. Transfer whites to large bowl and wipe out mixing bowl. Add yolks, remaining sugar, water, and vanilla to now empty bowl and beat on medium-high speed until pale yellow and thick. Add yolk mixture to whites and sift 1/3 of cake flour over top.
  3. Gently fold batter until traces of flour remain, then repeat twice more with remaining flour. Scrape 1 cup batter unto each pan and smooth to edges of pan. Bake 7 to 8 minutes, until edges of cake are just turning brown and top has set.
  4. Run spatula around edges of cake to loosen and dust tops with confectioner's sugar. Flip each cake out of pan, remove parchment paper, and quickly roll cake into cone shape. Drop each cake into parchment cone and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Wipe out each cake pan, grease, flour, and line with parchment paper, and repeat 3 times with remaining cake batter.
  5. For the filling: Chill deep bowl and beaters of electric mixer in freezer for at least 20 minutes. (If freezer is too crowded to fit bowl, place beaters in bowl, fill bowl with ice water, and chill on counter. When bowl and beaters are well chilled, dump out water and dry thoroughly.)
  6. Add cream, sugar and vanilla to chilled bowl. Beat on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and continue beating until beaters leave a trail, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and continue beating until cream is smooth, thick and nearly doubled in volume, about 20 seconds for soft peaks or about 30 seconds for stiff peaks. If necessary, finish beating with whisk to adjust consistency.
  7. In 3 small bowls, divide cream evenly into thirds, setting one aside. To another, add a couple drops of red food coloring add fold gently to combine evenly. To last third, gently fold in melted chocolate until combined. Remove parchment paper from cake cones, fill each with desired cream and arrange on serving platter, seam-side up. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve immediately.