Today marks the 150th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder, famed write of the Little House on the Prairie books. In honor of her birthday, I made an Apple Upside-Down Cake from The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook, compiled from a scrapbook of her recipes (I’ll have more to say about the book in a later post). I actually made it on her birthday eve so I could have the photos ready for today. 🙂
A few of the apples stuck to the pan, but not as many as I feared!
It made a one-layer 8-inch square cake, which I liked because with just the three of us, we don’t need a big cake. I had all of the ingredients on hand, which helped, too. It probably won’t replace this cake as a favorite apple cake, but it was good, especially warm with a bit of ice cream.
I was going to share some fun facts about Laura in honor of her birthday, but then discovered I did that last year! But I’ll repost a few of them and add a few more:
- She was born on February 7, 1867 and died February 10, 1957 (that’s why we hold the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge in February). Almanzo was born in February as well (the 13th), 10 years before Laura. According to the cookbook mentioned above, his favorite meal was Swiss Steak and he sometimes got it on his birthday.
- She didn’t start writing the Little House books until she was in her 60s.
- She had originally written one book called Pioneer Girl, but was advised to expand and edit it. This manuscript published for the first time a couple of years ago.
- Pioneer Girl is factual, but the Little House books, though heavily based on Laura’s family, are fictional and arranged a little differently than real life, so there are some differences. For instance, Jack the dog’s death scene was totally fiction. Pa sold him.
- Nellie Oleson was based on a composite of three different girls in Laura’s life.
- Laura couldn’t spell very well — odd since she was a teacher and even wrote of competing well in spelling bees. It may be that in the original draft of Pioneer Girl, which was handwritten for her daughter, she was more concerned about getting it down that concentrating on spelling.
- Before Laura wrote her books, she wrote a column for the Missouri Ruralist: most, if not all, of those columns have been compiled into a book called Little House in the Ozarks (liked to my review.) There are over 140 articles or columns arranged by topic, and the topics range from WWI, women’s progress, and “the greatness and goodness of God,” but most are just observations drawn from everyday life.
- There was a Japanese series based on Laura’s novels called Laura, The Prairie Girl.
- Both Laura and Almanzo were fairly short. She was 4’11” and he was 5’4″. They had the kitchen in the last house built for their height.
- When asked why she didn’t write more books, one time she replied that the money she received from them cost her more in taxes. “She never found taxes on those who had labored their way to prosperity to be an incentive for even more labor” (Stephen W. Hines, I Remember Laura, p. 97). But another time she said that if she wrote more, she’d have to get into some of the sad times of her life (p. 122).
- According to the cookbook, she used a wood cookstove most of the time, even after having an electric one installed just for quick things. Some of the recipes had to be configured for modern day regulated ovens.
Some of my favorite quotes of Laura’s from her columns in Little House in the Ozarks:
- “Let’s be cheerful! We have no more right to steal the brightness out of the day for our own family than we have to steal the purse of a stranger. Let us be as careful that our homes are furnished with pleasant and happy thoughts as we are that the rugs are the right color and texture and the furniture comfortable and beautiful” (p. 37).
- “It is a good idea sometimes to think of the importance and dignity of our everyday duties. It keeps them from being so tiresome; besides, others are apt to take us at our own valuation” (p. 130).
- “Just as a little thread of gold, running through a fabric, brightens the whole garment, so women’s work at home, while only the doing of little things, is like the golden gleam of sunlight that runs through and brightens all the fabric of civilization” (p. 207).
- “Here and there one sees a criticism of Christianity because of the things that have happened [during WWI]…. ‘Christianity has not prevented these things, therefore it is a failure’ some say. But this is a calling of things by the wrong names. It is rather the lack of Christianity that has brought us where we are. Not a lack of churches or religious forms but of the real thing in our hearts” (p. 265).
Favorite moments in Laura’s books:
- When Mr. Edwards endured an arduous journey to bring Christmas presents to the Ingalls girls.
- When Pa played his fiddle in the evenings.
- When they thought they lost their dog, Jack, and he found them.
- The church Christmas party where Laura gets her fur cape and muff.
- The girls bringing in all the firewood during a storm when Ma and Pa are away after they heard about a house of children who froze.
- When Laura admires the kitchen Almanzo built for her in the first home together.
Fun links about Laura:
- The All About Laura Ingalls Wilder Quiz (I got 9 out of 10. )
- Several quizzes about Laura and the books. I haven’t tried any of these yet.
- Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder.
- The Little House Companion blog
- Books Related to Laura Ingalls Wilder