Cake Detective - Wedding Cake Frosting from 1945

Monday, October 4, 2010

1945 Wedding Cake - How is this frosting made?
How do you make this icing?

Attention Cake Detectives:
We need your help!

I received an email from Phoebe, granddaughter of this totally cute couple. She wants to replicate this unusual frosting at her grandparents 65th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. (Yes, 65 years together. Wow!)

Do you know how this is done? Here are some facts about this 1945 (I did the math for you) cake from Phoebe's email (information from her grandmother):

Main thing - The cake was frosted right before it was cut! (Yes, this wasn't Ace of Cakes. They didn't need a week and pounds of fondant...they had minutes.)

Grandma says, "The icing was cooked up on the stove and then poured over top of the 3 tiered cake shortly before the cake cutting."

1945 Wedding Cake - How is this frosting made?

"My grandmother claims it was very runny when it was poured out of the pan but cooled & hardened quickly. The flavor was closer to a boiled icing than a buttercream. In pictures it looks like a drip castle or a fluffy waterfall. The icing has a kind of dull shine to it like meringue."

Phoebe says for their 50th anniversary they tried to get a caterer to attempt it but the caterer refused & just piped a sort of drippy waterfall design on with buttercream. Let's not let that happen again.

This may not be relevant but one side of the family is very German & most of their favorite baked goods are traditional German ones. Perhaps this is from a German bakery? Also, the wedding took place in suburban Philadelphia in the fall of 1945.

So, interwebs. Have you seen this cake before?! And more importantly, how is it made? Does YOUR grandmother or mother have this cake in the wedding album? Let's make sure Phoebe's Grandpa and Grandma enjoy this cake again! Thanks!

{insert Law & Order music here}
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Rina said... [Reply to comment]

My paternal side of the family is VERY German. I have a Mennonite cookbook I'll quickly look through to see if I see anything like this.

Jen said... [Reply to comment]

This looks like it might be the icing in the picture:, or perhaps this:

Congratulations to Phoebe's grandparents! My grandparents just celebrated their 65th anniversary this year, too.

greydawn said... [Reply to comment]

this blogger would know I researched my old cookbooks and could not find any help

beth said... [Reply to comment]

My hubby the chef suggested you might try making seven minute frosting (Italian meringue) and instead of whipping it forever at the end, just pour it while hot over the top of the cake. You would also need a BIG batch of the frosting to cover that big of a cake. We'll keep researching to see what else we can find.

Shannon said... [Reply to comment]

Its one of those ultimate reference questions! It looks familiar to me but I cant think of where I have seen a cake like it before. I am going to ask my mom tonight.

Unknown said... [Reply to comment]

Good luck finding it

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Is it me, or does it look marshmallow-ish?

The Food Librarian said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks everyone for the help and suggestions. As Shannon says, this is one of those ultimate reference questions. I think this is a variation of the 7-minute frosting (which makes it "marshmallow-ish" (comment #7)... we'll see what else comes in - including the name of this technique! - mary

CM said... [Reply to comment]

Crazy- it totally looks piped.
Here's a recipe from one of my vintage cookbooks circa 1905~ maybe something similar was done, but poured over without beating at all...
Milk frosting- boil together 2 cups sugar, 1/3 cup milk and 1 tablespoon of butter for 10 minutes. Remove from the stove and beat until creamy. Beat in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Or maybe it was a poured fondant?

CookingChinchillas said... [Reply to comment]

To me it looks like icing sugar,some shortening and egg white frosting.

Annie's Dish said... [Reply to comment]

I don't know what it is off hand but I have some old cookbooks from my Grandmother that I would be more than happy to look through. BTW what a sweet picture!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

huh, i have some old cookbooks & will look and see what i can find.

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said... [Reply to comment]

I have no idea but I wanted to say I {heart} you Mary for your awesomeness of a post. You're so cool!

Annie's Dish said... [Reply to comment]

I couldn't find anything in my cookbooks :(

Unknown said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks so much to Mary for taking this on & for all the great suggestions! I really appreciate it!

Anyway, I tried the under-whipped 7-min frosting idea tonight and the results were underwhelming. I think I must have under-under-whipped it, the cake should have been covered with a cold, rough base coat of something, or the frosting required some fat to give it body. Anyway, it all kind of ran together. I drizzled it carefully from high above it & it looked pretty good for a moment but very quickly it all oozed into a smooth coating.

Tomorrow I'll try the recipe with milk & butter. Poured fondant sounds like a good idea too.

Susie said... [Reply to comment] Hope this helps find the cake that your clients Granny had!

c said... [Reply to comment]

I'm totally intrigued. Have you tried the SeriousEats forum with your question? If you don't have an account, it's easy to sign up-- or I'll gladly ask for you and link to your post!

c said... [Reply to comment]

It's just so odd-- if it could be poured, the density of the icing wouldn't allow that kind of definition of the ripples! I'm thinking that a thinnish icing would have to be poured multiple times, perhaps 4-5 layers, to make that kind of effect. The trouble is what recipe for the icing... But I might be totally off with my guess!

Jill said... [Reply to comment]

I do hope you make another post about this...totally looks fun.

Pepi said... [Reply to comment]

There is a blog called and they will try to find this recipe for you. They seem to find everything they try to. Good luck!

Jane said... [Reply to comment]

You mentioned that the icing quickly hardened after being poured. Do you suppose this was a thick royal icing? That's certainly pourable, and heaven knows it starts to harden quickly. Maybe dripping layers of it formed the odd ridges?

Lena said... [Reply to comment]

I'm probably waaaay too late, but i figured I'd leave a comment anyhow. I googled around and came across a couple recipes that seem close to what is being described:

White Mountain Frosting
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
Whites 2 eggs

Put sugar and water in saucepan, and stir to prevent sugar from adhering to saucepan; heat gradually to boiling-point, and boil without stirring until syrup will thread when dripped from tip of spoon or tines of silver fork. Pour syrup gradually on beaten white of egg, beating mixture constantly, and continue beating until of right consistency to spread; then add flavoring and pour over cake, spreading evenly with back of spoon. Crease as soon as firm. If not beaten long enough, frosting will run; if beaten too long, it will not be smooth. Frosting beaten too long may be improved by adding a few drops of lemon juice or boiling water. This frosting is soft inside and has a glossy surface."

Boiled icing
One cup of sugar (granulated), quarter cup of water (cold), one egg (only white, beaten stiff). Put water on sugar in a saucepan and let it boil until it threads. Then remove from fire and pour over the stiff white, beaten until it thickens. Put on the cake at once."

These both came from this site: It has a lot of old recipes starting from the 1800s. It's a really interesting read. Anyways, hope this helped a little.

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