Just because a recipe was popular once doesn't mean it will always be that way and this is especially true of vintage recipes. However, unlike most vintage recipes which are a little strange and altogether unappetizing in today's world, vintage cake recipes are charming and elegant. There's something about the earliest American cakes that take a person back to the roots of the country and its history, and, many times, that's exactly why these cakes were created.
Whether it was to celebrate a unique moment in history, a personal gathering, or some other tradition, America's first cakes made an impression. While cake comes out of a box now and the art of baking cakes with various glazes or fillings is somewhat lost, these recipes are bringing it all back. We're taking a step back in time (more than a century, in some cases) to explore what cakes once looked like way back when. Every one of them is deserving of a second chance, especially with old-world flavors such as these.
Lady Baltimore Cake
The most classic American cakes were more like edible forms of art rather than desserts. Believe it or not, it could be said that they were even more complex than the desserts we know today. A great example of this is the Lady Baltimore Cake, which had a filling of figs, pecans, walnuts, and raisins, which created an intriguing blend of sweet and nutty flavors all on its own.
To ice the cake, marshmallows were used to create a fluffy, light, and incredibly sweet exterior that really gave this cake a grand reputation. Since the cake itself was made with a plain white cake, all the other flavors were able to shine through, making this the most popular cake in the south.
Tomato Soup Spice Cake
While it doesn't sound like tomato soup and spice cake go well together, this cake is defying everything a person thinks they know about flavor combinations. The recipe, created by none other than Campbell's, calls for condensed tomato soup. The one thing that stands out about this cake is its distinct sweetness which is due, in part, to the condensed tomato soup.
Added to that is a blend of spices that don't necessarily camouflage the flavor but definitely help to mask the acidic tomato base, making this cake mellow, sweet, and unique. The recipe was actually printed on the back of the tomato soup can for some time, which was both an amusing and delightful surprise. It was often baked for Halloween because its red-orange color was perfect for the spooky holiday.
Lemon Chiffon Cake
The 'chiffon' in the title refers to the texture of this gorgeous cake. The addition of egg whites, which were beaten until they formed stiff peaks, is what gave the cake such a silkiness that was unheard of until that time. This cake recipe also used vegetable oil rather than the richer, denser fats, such as butter or Crisco, that were often used for baking.
That led to a light cake that had a texture that was as airy as it looked, with gentle citrus flavors due to the lemon that was used to create it. Supposedly, the cake was a secret until the late 1940s, when Betty Crocker was finally the first to publish the recipe after it was purchased by General Mills.
As the name implies, Election Cake was commonly made before and during elections in the U.S. While not many people, if any at all, celebrate the occasion with cakes or any type of baking nowadays, that doesn't mean the cake itself wasn't delicious. These cakes were simple yet sweet and formal, as each one had a special ingredient: some kind of liqueur. This would add a hefty punch to the cake and definitely made it more of a celebratory treat.
While it may not have been kid-friendly, it was a cake that the adults who were old enough to vote could indulge in while watching the outcome of the election process. The difference between then and now is that back then, counting votes was a process that took weeks, and that could make a person pretty hungry during the interim. Therefore, these cakes were made and eaten in between, with whiskey being the most common additive. To balance that out, other spices, such as cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, were also used, making this a true spiked and spiced cake, and one that was worth celebrating in its own right.