Five Interesting Baked Good Patents That Actually Exist

Patents that actually exist

Not so long ago, finding myself in an extended airport layover, I did what any normal person would do: I started looking up unusual patents pertaining to baked goods. Trust me, there are a ton. Imagining everything that goes into pursuing a patent for a method or invention absolutely boggles my mind--there's a lot more to it than simply having an idea and saying "OK, patent me!". Months--sometimes years--of work go into the process. That is to say--these people really wanted to patent their idea.

The thing that I wish I had more information about is documentation of how and when the patents might have been applied to products; sadly, this information is not immediately available. Please, let me know if you might have any thoughts!

But in the meantime, here are just a few patents that caught my eye:


Held by: Nabisco

What it is: quick-setting sandwich biscuit cream fillings that resist misalignment, smearing and decapping. 

More info than you needed: Sandwich cookies and crackers occupy a significant place in the world biscuit market. Typically, two identical biscuits (the shells or basecakes) contain a layer of sweet or savory fat cream filling....

The fat component of sandwich cookie and cracker cream fillings affects not only the eating character of the product, but other important aspects of process and quality. The sandwich cream filling should be firm at ambient temperature to maintain product shape and not squeeze out on handling or when bitten, yet have organoleptic properties allowing rapid melting in the mouth to release ingredients giving maximum flavor sensation without greasiness. The sandwich cream filling should adhere to the biscuits so that the basecakes do not become misaligned or smeared, and the product does not fall apart (known as splitting or decapping) in production or after storage. 

It would be desirable to have sandwich biscuit cream fillings that accomplish these goals without the use of bonding agents or specialized manufacturing equipment. 

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Patents that actually exist


What it is: a marshmallow confection product having melt resistant properties. 

Patents that actually exist

More info than you needed: Typical marshmallow products cannot be used in high temperature processes, such as baking, due to their inability to retain identity and texture under elevated temperatures that are standard in baking conditions, i.e., F. for 20 minutes. Upon exposure to heat, marshmallow air cells expand and the gelatin destabilizes causing the air cells to collapse and reducing the marshmallow to a syrupy liquid state that dissolves into the bakery medium. This property has limited the use of marshmallows as a baking ingredient due to loss of product attributes which identify the marshmallow ingredient. 

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Patents that actually exist

US Patent 5,860,358 (1998): CONE CAKE BAKING APPARATUS. 

What it is: A cone cake baking apparatus comprising: a horizontal baking tin having a plurality of circular openings, a vertical first side wall, and a vertical second side wall; and the first and second side walls each having a securing portion.

More info than you needed: While it is well known in the prior art to utilize cup cake trays for baking cupcakes, the public domain does not contain an adequate apparatus for baking cone cakes. In particular, in order to cook a cone cake having a pointed bottom with available apparatus, it is necessary to fill the cone with cake material and place the cone cakes in a vertical position, lying down, on a cookie sheet. Moreover, while standard cupcake trays will more easily facilitate a flat bottom cone, baking such cones in cupcake trays often results in spillage or tipping of the cones during the baking process. 

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Patents that actually exist

US Patent 3,649,304 (1972): REFRIGERATED SOLID BATTER .

What it is: A refrigerated solid batter for making flour based products, such as cakes, cookies, muffins, bread and the like, and the process for making same generally consisting of mixing gelatin or other stabilizing agent of similar characteristics with fluid and dry ingredients to which is added chemical leaveners, such as a basic and an acid leavener, mixing same in liquid state before solidification of the stabilizer, sealing the batter in a container and refrigerating the same at a temperature below the melting point of the stabilizer to solidify same for marketing same as a refrigerated product.

More info than you needed: Packaged dry mixes for making bread, pancakes, cakes, cookies and other like food products have become very popular by reason of the convenience afforded the housewife in preparation and cooking such products. These convenience products have all the ingredients therein necessary to the cooking or baking of the finished product with the exception of the fluid such as milk or water, and in many instances fresh eggs must be added thereto and the product stirred and mixed in suitable form for grilling or baking. In the case of rolls or biscuits the dough must be rolled out and cut before placing it in the pan and in the case of cake the batter must be beat for a predetermined period, either by hand or by mechanical mixer, thus requiring a considerable amount of time and effort and the cleaning up of kitchen utensils, such as mixing bowls, spoons, beaters, mixers, etc., after the preparation of the product, which results in considerable effort and inconvenience on the part of the housewife. 

No satisfactory means has heretofore been provided for stabilizing premixed cake batter to give it commercial value. In the process and product hereinafter described premixed cake batter is solidified with a reversible stabilizing agent to achieve bacteriological, chemical and physical stability to provide a prepared, packaged, ready-to-cook batter which may be preserved for a prolonged period of time and when cooked provides a product of good texture and palatability. 

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Patents that actually exist

US Patent 6,410,073: MICROWAVEABLE SPONGE CAKE, and US Patent 6,410,074 (2001): Method for making a microwaveable sponge cake 

What it is: a mesophase-containing sponge cake which rises and forms a palatable, light sponge cake when prepared in a microwave oven, yielding a snack food-type products which can easily be prepared by the consumer. 

More info than you needed: Sponge cakes are a desirable dessert products. Generally, oven-rising sponge cakes are limited to those for use in a conventional oven and are not as convenient as desired. Microwaved cereal products such as breads and cakes are generally not pleasing to the palate. Microwave heating is generally uneven and, therefore, promotes the rapid onset of staleness and toughness in such cereal products. 

Microwaved sponge cakes and products are especially desirable as snack foods (e.g., after school snacks). Such sponge cake batters could be sold directly in, for example, cupcake cups and stored in the freezer until until prepared in a microwave oven. Such products would be attractive to the consumer and convenient to use. Indeed, such sponge cake products could be easily prepared by children. 

Presidential Sweet: Desserts Named After Presidents

Presidential Sweet

Happy Election Day! To whet your appetite for both politics and pastry, why not avoid getting in a fistfight with your neighbor over who you should vote for, and instead enjoy this collection of stories about desserts named after Presidents and their first ladies? 

George Washington Cake: Washington Cakes have been popular up and down the East Coast for hundreds of years. Both the George and Martha versions come in several varieties. In the most traditional sense, Washington Cake is a dense, creamy fruitcake with white icing. Philadelphia-style Washington Cakes (pictured directly below) are completely unique, however—they’re more like gingerbread.

Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

Martha Washington Cake: George Washington’s wife is remembered for her fruitcake, or “great cake,” which required a big party: the original recipe calls for 40 eggs, 5 pounds of fruit, and similar quantities of other ingredients.

George thinks the cake is great

Apricots with Rice à la Jefferson: After the development of a new strain of rice called Jefferson Rice (to honor the President’s desire to improve rice culture in the United States), Charles Ranhofer of Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City developed this tricked-out rice pudding dessert.


Dolly Madison Baked Goods: While they dropped the “e” from Dolley Madison, the snack cake company’s onetime motto, “Cakes and pastries fine enough to serve at the White House,” makes it pretty clear that the company is named after the former First Lady. The company is now owned by Hostess, and makes mass-produced snack cakes and donuts.

President stuff

Madison's Gingerbread: While to many, the Madisons (namely, Dolley) are linked to ice cream, Dolley also had a much warmer, but equally delicious, favorite for the holidays--Soft Gingerbread. Apparently hers, adapted from a Jefferson recipe, got its unique and delicious flavor from beef drippings, but call me chicken, I decided to use butter instead and while we have no point of comparison, this one was very moist and delicious, so the butter seemed to have worked just fine. Recipe contained in this post.


Grant Cake: The Grant Cake appears to be a simpler variation of the later versions of the Election Cake which lack yeast, roughly the same in construction, sweeter, quick-bread version of the cake.

Robert E Lee Cake: This orange and lemon layer cake, topped with a citruscoconut topping, was traditionally believed to be a favorite of the Civil War general who led the confederate troops in the War Between the states.

James K Polk Cake: This is a fruitcake densely packed with nuts, candied fruits, and spices. Perhaps this cake, which weighs as much as a log, is to honor his nickname as “Napoleon of the Stump”?

Peach Pudding à la Cleveland: This sophisticated peach pudding, rich with brown sugar and Madeira sauce, was named with tongue firmly in cheek after our 22nd and 24th president by famed chef Charles Ranhofer, after Cleveland declared that he didn’t like French food.

Peaches a la Cleveland

Mamie Eisenhower Fudge: After she contributed this recipe to a White House cookbook, Mamie’s fudge (also called “Mamie’s Million Dollar Fudge”) became very popular. Considering that it is so easy to make (it takes just about 10 minutes) and that the addition of marshmallow cream makes the texture smooth and creamy, it’s no surprise that this is still considered a classic today.

Truman Pudding: Also called Bess Truman’s Ozark Pudding, this pudding, which is served warm, is made with fruit and nuts native to the Ozark region. It is said to have been one of Harry Truman’s favorite recipes from his wife’s baking repertoire.

United Cakes of America

Watergate Cake: Made with pistachio pudding mix, the invention of this cake recipe timed with the Watergate scandal of 1973, when all sorts of foods with the Watergate moniker proliferated. President Nixon was known to love pistachio nuts—hence the choice of flavor.

Hungry for more like this? These posts may also be of interest:



Carnival Knowledge: Sweet Foods invented at Fair

Treats at South Beach!

I'd like to make an important announcement. Me and my friend Rachel of Coconut & Lime have started a podcast. OMG! We are still taking it slow, but it's pretty exciting.

Our first topic was Fair Food. We think about nerdy food stuff a lot, and it was an appropriate subject to totally geek out about, I thought.

You can listen to the podcast here.

But I'd also like to share some interesting factoids I learned while doing internet research for the show. It mainly involves foods invented at state or other fairs. A lot of iconic sweets are included, and I thought you might be interested in hearing about some of the famous sweets that are said to have been invented at fairs. 

Cotton Candy: Apparently, this concoction which amounts to spun sugar and food coloring was originally fair fare. Some brilliant fellows named William Morrison and John C. Wharton are said to have introduced it to the world at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. It was called "fairy floss". 


Cracker Jacks: A snacking intersection of sweet, salty, and sticky, this stuff was not debuted at the ballpark, but instead at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. The combination of popcorn, molasses, and peanuts was originally called "Candied Popcorn and Peanuts"--thankfully, they made the name a bit snappier before starting mass production.

Dr. Pepper: This soda, which is older than Coke or Pepsi, was debuted at the 1885 St. Louis World's fair. 

Ice Cream Cones: Neither ice cream nor waffles were invented at a fair, but they were both served at fairs, and the most famous documentation of them coming magically together occurred at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, when an ice cream vendor named Arnold Fornachou ran out of serving containers and formed a quick partnership with nearby vendor Ernest Hamwi, who rolled his zalabia (a waffle-like pastry) into a cornet shape, and the ice cream cone was born. 

August 18: National Soft Ice Cream Day


Gosh, do I love me some soft-serve. Growing up by the Jersey Shore, it  was a summertime staple at the boardwalk. Not vanilla, not chocolate, but the SWIRL. Some places would do an orange-vanilla swirl, too--because life is all about choices. And sometimes you choose to have a soft-serve equivalent of a creamsicle.

Kohr's soft ice cream, Seaside

Well, today (August 18) is National Soft Ice Cream Day, and in celebration, I'd like to share 13 points of interest regarding this sweet manna.

1. Carvel claims to have invented soft serve. Suffering a flat tire in the early 1934, Tom Carvel pulled into a parking lot and began selling his melting ice cream to vacationers driving by. He sold it rapidly, and had an ephiphany: a fixed location and soft (as opposed to hard) frozen desserts were the way to go. In 1936, Carvel opened his first store on the original broken down truck site and developed a secret soft serve ice cream formula as well as patented super low temperature ice cream machines.

2. Dairy Queen also claims to have invented soft serve. In 1938 in Illinois, J.F. McCullough and his son, Alex, also claim to have developed a soft serve formula. They sold 1,600 servings in two hours, and were officially ice cream men from that day on. 

Ice Cream

3. What's in soft serve? Mostly air, but depending on where you get it, it could also include a treasure trove of not so desirable ingredients, such as stabilizers, corn syrup, and even magnesium hydroxide. Read more here. 

Scoop de Ville, Philadelphia

4. DIY: at Scoop de Ville in Philadelphia, you can choose an ice cream flavor, choose mix-ins, and they will use a machine to render the ice cream into soft-serve. Since theirs has no stabilizers or additives, they make each cup or cone to order. It's very good!

5. Fun place to visit: Stew Leonard, the "Dairy Superstore", with locations in NY and CT, makes their own soft-serve daily--while the most popular flavor is vanilla, they also have a fantastic strawberry variety.

Source: via Cake on Pinterest


6. Lost in Translation: in Israel, they call soft-serve "American Ice Cream". In Japan, it's called "softcream". In parts of Europe, it's referred to as "soft ice".

7. Sweet fusion: This nostalgic treat has inspired some fusion foods: in Brooklyn, you can get soft-serve kefir.

8. Go Bananas: If you're vegan, or want to pretend you are, banana soft serve will serve up some vitamins and minerals as well as soft serve tastiness. 


9. Soft-serve is lower in fat than ice cream (it's made with 3-6 percent milkfat, as opposed to hard ice cream's 15-ish percent), but don't think that means it's health food. Refer to #3.


10. Fascinating phenomenon: Dole makes a series of "enhanced fruit" soft-serves, most famously the Dole Whip sold at Disney.


11. Who prefers soft-serve over hard ice cream? You can read an essay on this important subject here.

12. Guilty pleasure: You can make a chocolate soft-serve at home that tastes like a hybrid between a frosty drink from Wendy's and chocolate soft serve. YUM.

Source: via Hanna on Pinterest


13. Here's another at-home version, this one a fancier version of the Mr. Softee version. You're welcome.

Sweet Schooling: Wellesley Fudge Cake Recipe

Wellesley Fudge Cake

Wellesley Fudge cake--a deeply decadent chocolate cake topped with a slab of fudge frosting--seems an unlikely sweet to associate with the prim-and-proper ladies of Wellesley (the college featured in the classic feat of cinema Mona Lisa Smile). 

Clearly by the popularity of this recipe, it seems that those young ladies had as voracious an appetite for the sweet stuff as they did for knowledge. But to really look at the origins of this cake, we’ve got to rewind a little bit, to the invention of fudge itself.

Wellesley Fudge Cake

Fudge, that semi-soft candy made from butter, sugar, and various flavorings (very commonly chocolate) is an american-ized version of french bonbons and creams, and it became popular in the US in the early 1900s. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the name is perhaps derived from the word “fadge”, which is an old-timey term for “to fit pieces together”. Of course, not to confuse you, but an Irish dish called “Fadge” does exist, but it is actually an apple potato cake, traditionally served at Halloween.

As an interesting side note, the word “fudge” referring to a cheat or hoax dates to the 1830s, before the candy was popular--but this may explain how the name was assigned to the candy, too.

You see, those young college ladies would use the sweet stuff as their excuse to stay up late: candy-making was an acceptable activity, and they would use it as an excuse to stay up late, ostensibly to talk about boys and other forbidden subjects. “Nearly every night at college,” said the Vassar girl, “some girl may be found somewhere who is making ‘fudges’ or giving a fudge party.” The timing seems to work out: the word “fudge” for a confection showed up as early as the 1890s, and by 1908 the term was commonly used in association with women’s colleges.



A 1909 cookbook produced by Walter Baker & Co. (producer of Baker’s chocolates) includes three different recipes for fudge, each just slightly different and named, respectively, after Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley colleges.

In fact, there is a letter in the Vassar archives which says,

“Fudge, as I first knew it, was first made in Baltimore by a cousin of a schoolmate of mine. It was sold in 1886 in a grocery store...I secured a recipe and in my first year at Vassar, I made it there--and in 1888 I made 30 pounds for the Senior auction, its real introduction to the college, I think.”

So why would it proliferate, and be adapted to an even richer and more over the top treat, the decadent Wellesley Fudge Cake, at this particular school? Perhaps because it was such a forbidden pleasure there. An 1876 circular to parents states that the college refuses to accept students who are broken down in health, maintaining that a proper diet is key for proper learning, and that “we have therefore decided not to receive any one who will not come with the resolution to obey cheerfully all our rules in this respect, and pledged in honor neither to buy nor receive in any manner whatsoever any confectionery or eatables of any kind not provided for them by the College.” Further, the founder of Wellesley College held that, “pies, lies, and doughnuts should never have a place in Wellesley College”. Well, naturally it would take off here: it tasted positively sacre-licious!

By 1913, fudge and fudge cakes were was common on the tea-room menus surrounding the college.I will help

Every few decades the cake enjoys a renaissance; a little fussy to make in that it requires a bit of candy-making prowess, it is astoundingly easy to eat. The confection was bound for success too: soon, it was even featured prominently as

Some versions call for an unfrosted cake; others, which I favor, feature a double dose of chocolate, the base of which is brownie-like, coated with a more fudge-like frosting.IMAG0574

Note: Traditional recipes called for “thick sour milk”; I'm not quite sure what that even is, so this recipe employs buttermilk. After testing another traditional recipe with some help by Java Cupcake, I find this a superior cake. 

The recipe that finally ended up tasting best? This one, lightly adapted from the geniuses at Cook's Country Magazine. Their original version appears in the book Cook's Country Blue Ribbon Desserts.

Wellesley Fudge Cake
Adapted from Cook's Country Blue Ribbon Desserts


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 3/4 c. hot water
  • 1/2 c/ Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark which also works fine)
  • 16 T. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c. buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 t. vanilla extract


  • 1 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1 c. evaporated milk
  • 8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 3 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted

To make the cake:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch square baking pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the hot water and cocoa together until smooth and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Mix in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 cup of the buttermilk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup buttermilk. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the cocoa mixture until incorporated.
  3. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the tops, and gently tap the pans on the work surface to settle the batter. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Run a small knife around the edges of the cakes, then flip them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, flip the cakes right side up, and let cool completely before frosting, about 2 hours. (The cakes can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.)
  4. To make the frosting: Stir together the brown sugar, 1/2 cup of the evaporated milk, 4 tablespoons of the butter, and salt in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, 4-8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until large bubbles form and the mixture has thickened and turned deep golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk and remaining 4 tablespoons butter until the mixture has cooled slightly. Add the chocolate and vanilla and stir until smooth. Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated. Let the frosting cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
  5. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one of the cake layers on the platter. Spread 1 cup of the frosting over the cake, right to the edges. Place the second cake layer on top, press lightly to adhere, and spread the remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting is set, about 1 hour. Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.


Neapolitan Ice Cream's Sweet Origins

Have you ever found yourself standing by the open freezer door with an open carton of ice cream, trying to spoon every scoop along the chocolate-vanilla line all the way down to the bottom the carton into your mouth without getting ice cream all over your hand the further down the carton you get as a valley of vanilla and chocolate form on either side, hoping that no errant bit of strawberry taints these perfect, yin-and-yang spoonfuls?

Wow. Well...uh...neither have I.

But just in case there's anyone who has, in such moments, wondered "what's up with Neapolitan ice cream?", I took a few moments to find out more about its sweet history, with a little who-what-where-when-why-how. Not in that exact order.

First off, what is "Neapolitan"? While I personally think "strawberry-vanilla-chocolate" when I think of Neapolitan, this holy trinity isn't a hard-and-fast rule. Sometimes, other flavors (often pistachio) are included--although not a rule of the dessert, it seems that it is most frequently a trinity of flavors, regardless of what they are.

Apparently trinities are common in the ice cream world?

Waffle? Wafer? Sugar?

When did it come about? Believe it or not, it's a fairly new addition to the frozen dessert scene. While ices and granitas date back to ancient times, La Belle Neapolitan only seems to go back to the 1800s. Recipes for the fancy bricks of sweetness rose in popularity in the 19th century--a time at which fancy frozen concoctions were increasing in popularity (the same era during which Baked Alaska became popular in NYC, for instance!).

Interestingly, it seems related to spumoni--a three-flavored (usually a pink--strawberry or cherry--ice cream, paired with chocolate and pistachio).

Why then? Likely owing to the refrigeration advancements that were happening at the time, and as some food historians propose, an increasing interest in "collective gastronomy" (or complicated presentations). 

Who is "Neapolitan" named after? According to The Food Timeline, "the peoples of Napoli are credited for introducing their famous ice creams to the world in the 19th century. At that time, pressed blocks composed of special flavors were trendy. The best ones were made with 'Neapolitan-style' ice creams."

As previously noted, this would imply that "Neapolitan" refers more to the concept of several flavors pressed together, not referring to the strawberry-vanilla-chocolate combo which has become by far the most famous trinity of "Neapolitan" flavors. Interestingly, recipes from before 1900 frequently refer to different combinations, in some cases even two flavors of ice cream paired with an ice.

Neapolitan ice cream, as I hear, is nowhere near as popular in Italy as it is in the US, where it has been a popular flavor combination since the 1890s. (Some say, btw, that the American term "Neapolitan" for vanilla, chocolate and strawberry tricolored ice cream is based on its former identification with spumoni.)

Where did it rise in popularity? In spite of its Italian name, the cold and creamy sweet rose to popularity in Paris, not Italy (though the makers were Italian...still with me?). Larousse Gastronomique's words on the subject?

Porkchop, and big ice cream cones

"Neapolitan slice. A slice of ice-cream cake made with mousse mixture and ordinary ice cream, presented in a small pleated paper case. Neapolitan ice cream consists of three layers, each of a different color and flavor (chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla), moulded into a block and cut into slices. Neapolitan ice-cream makers were famous in Paris at the beginning of the 19th century, especially Tortoni, creator of numerous ice-cream cakes."

Neapolitan Cupcakes from Trophy Cupcakes

This is confirmed in the Encyclopedia of Food and Drink:

"(18th century) confectioners's shops (were) very often run by Italians. Consequently ice creams were often called "Italian ice creams" or "Neapolitan ice creams" throughout the 19th century, and the purveying of such confections became associated with Italian immigrants."

Also interesting? How it's made commercially. Here's an interesting morsel about the production process in the modern day; also, Wikipedia pointed me toward Cassell's New Universal Cookery Book, which informed me that something exists called the Neapolitan Ice Spoon.

The Neapolitan Ice Spoon has a double use; ice bowl is for putting the mixture into the mold, and the handle is for leveling it. The boxes may be made of tin, which is less expensive than pewter. They are generally sold small enough to make single ices, but these are much more troublesome to prepare. After filling the molds, if there is no cave, "bed" the ice in the usual way.

Well, no matter how you slice it (or spoon it), Neapolitan is a combination which is as iconic as it is delicious, inspiring candies, trinkets that look like candies, dresses, artwork, cakes, rice krispie treats (!) and even blondie bars.

Finalist 1: Neapolitan Blondie Bars

Conclusion? no matter who made it or where it's from, that strawberry-vanilla-chocolate confection is a trinity of awesome that is part of our hearts, via our greedy, sugar-hungry mouths.

Seeking Sweetness: Daily Snapshot, Site of the first Girl Scout Cookies Sale

On this spot girl scout cookies were first sold!

CakeSpy Note: if you follow me on facebook or Twitter, you probably know I'm partial to documenting my sweet goings-on. Here's where I post a daily feel-good photo, for no particular reason other than to showcase these sweet little nothings, in hopes that they'll make you smile.

Here's a sweet find for Girl Scout Cookies enthusiasts: the first spot the cookies were ever sold! This is near the intersection of Arch and Broad Streets in Philadelphia. Oh, to think of the places these cookies have gone since that day in 1932!

Sweet Potatoes: An Introduction to Irish Potato Candy

Image: Flickr user srbth

Sure, you've heard of potatoes from Ireland. But have you ever heard of Irish Potato Candy?


Image: Oh Ryan's Candies

No, they're not made of potato (although candies made with potato do exist!). 

Comprised of coconut cream coated in cinnamon, they're a Philadelphia tradition, with varieties produced by just about every confectioner in town (Whole Foods even has their own version!). 

But one of the most ubiquitous specimens around town is the version made by a company called Oh Ryan's. As they say on their website, 

Irish Potatoes are not Irish and there is no potato in them. A Philadelphia tradition for over 100 years, they are a coconut cream center rolled in cinnamon. Because they are rolled in cinnamon, they look like small potatoes. They traditionally come out for St. Patrick's Day, hence the name “Irish Potatoes.”

In spite of it being a long-standing Philadelphia tradition, Oh Ryan's has only been around since 1989--

Oh Ryan's Irish Potatoes is a family-run company that has been making Irish Potatoes since 1989. We named the company after our 1-year-old son, Ryan, since he has such a nice Irish name.

Now that Ryan is all grown up, he works alongside his father in the company that has grown to be the largest producer of Irish Potatoes today. 90% of our sales have been in the Philadelphia area, but we have shipped them all across the country from Massachusetts to Florida, to California, and as far away as Nome, Alaska.

But in that time, they have established themselves as the largest purveyor of the sweet potatoes.

201103march 010

But I digress. The point is that the candies are labeled "Irish" more because of their look than because of any Irish ingredient or candy-making tradition (not unlike the "Potato" pastry made by Nielsen's in Seattle). And, to that point, here's a recipe from the 1920s that I found on The Food Timeline:

"Candy Irish Potatoes for St. Patrick's Day Take five pounds of bon bon cream and into knead one pound of almond paste, stiffening it with XXXX powdered sugar while working, if necessary. When thoroughly kneaded, shape into small spuds about the size of an ink bottle, and while moist rub with powdered cinnamon. Use almond paste or pignolia nuts pressed in side to represent eyes or sprouts, or simply make little dents for the eyes. Care must be taken to bet the cinnamon to stick good." ---Rigby's Reliable Candy Teacher, W.O. Rigby, 19th edition 1920s? (p. 208)

Interestingly, the site also mentions that "Curiously, we do not find any potato candies in our historic British confectionery texts, candy reference books, books on potatoes, or Irish culinary sources."

Unlike another potato-inspired candy, the Idaho Spud, the Irish Potato seems to proliferate primarily around St. Patrick's day time. And while it is most popular in the Philadelphia area, California-based See's Candies also makes a version. As I learned from Serious Eats, 

But the West Coast confectionery See's shouldn't get all the credit for the spud trompe l'oeil. Just outside Philadelphia in Linwood, Pennsylvania, Oh Ryan'sships about 80,000 pounds of these spud-candies per year, mostly within the state. It's a Philly-area tradition that spans back 100 years, also made from scratch. They start with a special sugar made for candy-makers, then make vanilla buttercream and add coconut flavoring and macaroon coconut for flavor and texture.

As the Serious Eats article concludes, "File this under another Americanism that Irish people in Ireland probably have no clue about."

To obtain some Potato Candy for yourself, go to See's Candies or buy Oh Ryan's Irish Potatoes online here.

Heaven-Sent: A History of Angel Food Cake

Image: YumSugarThis cloudlike cake would naturally be the first choice of mild-mannered angels: light, fluffy, and delicate.

Now, if you're having trouble wrapping your mind around what Angel Food cake actually is, allow me to help. This delicate cake is painstakingly made with several egg whites whipped until they are stiff and gently folded into fairly typical cake ingredients: cake flour, sugar, vanilla (but no "fat" source such as butter or oil). It also contains cream of tartar, which helps to stabilize the egg whites, keep the cake from browning unevenly, and and does not impart a flavor to the cake. But really, it's the egg whites that are the key to this cake: it is the unique, whip-em-stiff method that allows for the cake's leavening. The resulting cake is light and delicate, making it an ideal canvas for toppings. Usually they are baked in a tube pan--a tall, round pan with a tube up the center that leaves a hole in the middle of the cake (a bundt pan may also be used, but the bumps on the sides of the pan can make removal more difficult, especially considering that the cake pan is not greased for this recipe). As I read here, "The center tube allows the cake batter to rise higher by 'clinging' to all sides of the pan."Image: Wikipedia

But how did we mere mortals come upon this sweet treat?

While some historians claim that early Angel Food cakes were baked by slaves (the reason being that making this cake was labor-intensive, requiring a strong beating arm and lots of labor to whip the air into the whites), many signs point to the cake really planting itself in the common vernacular in Southeastern Pennsylvania, where the cake molds for the famous cake proliferate. "...angel (or angel food) cakes, which some believe evolved as the result of numerous egg whites left over after the making of noodles, may or may not be the brainchild of thrifty Pennsylvania cooks who considered it sinful to waste anything." (American food: The gastronomic story by Evan Jones).

The first recipes do seem to crop up in cookbooks starting in the 1870s, shortly after the invention of a rotary beater. Not coincidentally, the cake also became more common then--much less physical labor involved.

1896 is the year it made its formal debut as “Angel Food Cake”, though, in that year’s updated edition of the Boston Cooking School cookbook. The recipe reads as follows:

"Angel Cake - One cup of flour, measured after one sifting, and then mixed with one teaspoonful of cream of tartar and sifted four times. Beat the whites of eleven eggs, with a wire beater or perforated spoon, until stiff and flaky. Add one cup and a half of fine granulated sugar, and beat again; add one teaspoon of vanilla or almond, then mix in flour quickly and lightly. Line the bottom and funnel of a cake pan with paper not greased, pour in the mixture, and bake about forty minutes. When done, loosen the cake around the edge, and turn out at once. Some persons have been more successful with this cake by mixing the sugar with the flour and cream of tartar, and adding all at once to the beaten egg. "

Other names under which the cake may be seen are: Sponge Cake, Cornstarch Cake, Silver Cake, and/or Snow-drift Cake.

As for my own thoughts on the cake? Confession: I've never completely understood Angel Food Cake. It has always seemed slightly too virtuous, a fat free concoction made of egg whites, sugar, and, seemingly, air. Until, that is, I discovered "Church Spread", defined by CakeLove founder Warren Brown as a "combination of corn syrup or molasses, marshmallow cream and peanut butter...calorie-wise, it's far more sinful than angel food cake"...basically the secret sauce that keeps this light-as-air cake from flying away.

If you want a recipe for Angel Food Cake, click here (also where I got the picture from the top of the post).

Here's a recipe for Church Spread:

  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth
  • 1/4 cup marshmallow creme

In a bowl, mix corn syrup, peanut butter and marshmallow creme until thoroughly combined. Store in an air-tight container.

Sweet Discovery: The Tim Tam Slam

So, I have a friend named Julie.

Julie's pretty great. There are many reasons why, but this week, two in particular stand out: first, the cookies she made the other day: malted corn flake cookies, inspired by Christina Tosi of MilkBar and author of Milk . And she shared these delicious cookies with me.

Two: Today, she introduced me to an activity known as the Tim Tam Slam. 

What's a Tim Tam Slam, you ask? Prepare to be amazed.

To understand the Slam, first, you must know what a Tim Tam is. It's a confection that hails from Australia, manufactured by a company called Arnott's. It is composed of two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by chocolate cream filling, and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate.

And it's a popular treat. According to Arnott's, around 35 million packs are sold each year. Like, whoa.

How was it invented? Per this article, inventor Ian Norris "first thought of the Tim Tam in 1958 while on a world trip for the company, searching for new ideas. In Britain, he came upon the Penguin, a type of chocolate-coated biscuit sandwich. "I thought that was not a bad idea for a biscuit ... we'll make a better one," he recalled."

Where'd it get that funny name? Per the treat's official website, "Tim Tam biscuits were named after a horse that won the Kentucky Derby! In 1958 Ross Arnott attended the race day and decided ‘Tim Tam’ was the perfect name for his new biscuit."

OK, OK. So now you are acquainted with the Tam. But what about the Slam? As I learned here, it is "a tradition Down Under of dunking and sucking tea through a chocolate biscuit." 

As I further learned on Wikipedia, 

Opposite corners of the Tim Tam are bitten off, one end is submerged in the drink, and the drink sucked through the biscuit. The crisp inside biscuit is softened and the outer chocolate coating begins to melt.

Ideally, the inside of the biscuit should collapse with the outside remaining intact long enough for the liquid to reach the mouth. Refrigerating or similar processes help to preserve the outside coating while allowing the inside of the biscuit to dissolve into a warm, creamy centre. The thicker chocolate coating on the Double Coat Tim Tam offers a more stable structure to prevent a premature collapse. The caramel centre of the Chewy Caramel variety helps to hold the biscuit together for a slightly longer time - contributing to enhanced enjoyment. When the biscuit structure collapses it is typically pushed into the mouth. This activity is often performed for show in front of large groups of people.

I know, I know. The best sporting event ever, right!? I don't know about you, but I am pretty ready to try it out myself. But not just because it sounds delicious...because celebrities do it, too:


For more, visit the Tim Tam website!

September 11th, and Basbousa in Brooklyn

So, pretty much everyone remembers where they were on September 11, 2001. It was a Big Bad sort of day. And I'm no exception, but my memory also involves cake.

Here's what I remember about that day.

I had just started my junior year at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I was studying Illustration. 

And this year was a Big year. I had moved out of the campus dorms to my first "real" apartment--in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, at the intersection of Norman and Jewel, where three rooms in a third story walkup were shared by four people. I paid, I think, $425 a month.

The previous two years, I had worked at the Pratt Art Supply store in the basement of the main building on campus. This year, to raise extra funds for my rent and tuition, in addition to this job (and being a full-time student), I also worked six nights a week at a Middle Eastern restaurant on Atlantic Avenue called Bedouin Tent. It's still there, you should go. 

Side effect of working two jobs, being a full-time student, and being on the G train line: I was always tired, and often running late. And on September 11, 2001, when I was supposed to be at Pratt Art Supply by 9, I found myself scurrying through the Pratt gates toward work when I simply had to pause, look up at the sky, and think to myself: "this is an exceptionally beautiful day."

I remember, several minutes later, walking into work and hearing the news that the first tower had been hit. The reporter was just freaking out. We listened to the news for a while, but after the second plane hit, all of the employees pretty much left the store and ran up the six flights to the roof of the building. We stared at the buildings smoking. We saw the first tower disintegrate in a puff of smoke and glittery glass. I remember saying "Oh, my, god." Some of my fellow students were not as delicate.

We watched the second tower go down too, and then we all kind of looked at each other, like "what now?". Nobody know. Me? I went back to work. I remember my boss was mad that we had all gone up to the roof.

Not many people came in to buy art supplies, but some people did. But school closed, I think, or at least I left after my shift was done. I walked from Pratt along Bedford Avenue, all the way back to Greenpoint. There was a place just as you entered Williamsburg called Diner. I think it's still there. They had a sign on the door that said "CLOSED" and there was smoke coming from under the door. It smelled strongly of cannabis.

Along Williamsburg, you can see the Manhattan skyline--it was coated with smoke. I remember I stopped at a bodega and bought a candy bar, Hershey's Cookies N Cream.

When I got home, my roommates and I wordlessly watched the news all day. And then at 4pm, I did what I did six days a week--I headed to work.

I forget if I took the subway or walked, but I remember that Atlantic Avenue--a Middle Eastern neighborhood--was a very somber place to be on that day. At my workplace, I held not only the status of the only female on staff, but also the only American. The rest of the employees were dudes, from Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen. They always had to stop work and pray during the dinner rush, I remember.

On that day, they were all scared. They thought that they would have to leave America. They were scared of mobs. They were scared people would think they did it.

And yet, we got our work done. It was actually a pretty busy night. But somehow there was no stress about getting people their food on time, it had a good flow and people tipped well, if not extravagantly.

But something that started to happen, very early on in the shift and that lasted until we ran out, was that we gave out free dessert to everyone. We didn't really discuss it--we just started doing it. Customers, people who just walked in needing the bathroom, even an office worker type guy covered in dust who walked in and asked "Can I use your phone?". It wasn't working, but we let him try. And we gave him cake. We gave everyone cake. Baklava, but mostly basbousa--because it was easier to cut into bite-sized pieces, and not as sticky.

I'm not sure how many pieces of basbousa we gave out. It felt like hundreds, but it could have been just twenty. But what I do remember is that this small, sweet gesture, was received with such gratitude by every single person to whom it was offered. Whether or not they liked it or even ate it didn't matter--it was an exchange of sweetness, and a small, cautiously optimistic wordless agreement that life could still be sweet.

Here's a recipe for basbousa and sweet thoughts for everyone.

Basbousa (as seen on Serious Eats)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (or 1 cup of whole milk)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • Blanched sliced almonds for garnish
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 generous squeeze of lemon juice (or, 1 teaspoon lemon juice)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the semolina and baking soda. Set to the side.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar; once fluffy, add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.
  4. Spoon the batter into the greased baking pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden around the edges.
  6. While baking, prepare the honey glaze. Heat sugar, water, and honey over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  7. Let the mixture simmer for about five minutes; once it has reduced to a maple syrup sort of thickness, add the lemon juice and stir just until incorporated.
  8. Once the basbousa has come out of the oven, pour the glaze directly on to the still-hot cake, being sure to cover it uniformly. The glaze will sink into the cake, but the top should be slightly sticky. Top with the almonds. Let cool for at least 30 minutes; slice into squares or diamonds before serving.


Sweet Sleuth: Who Invented S'mores?

Is this how the S'moreo was born?Today, while eating a delicious s'more, I found myself thinking that if I could go back in time, at that moment my destination would be to visit the person who invented the s'more so I could thank them. With emotion and enthusiasm.

It was with deep sadness that I realized I would not know who that person was, so I hit the books to find out more about this sweet treat.

This s'more was made using a portion of Snickers Bar.The name seems self-explanitory enough: a slurring of "Gimme some more" would naturally become S'more. Why did it settle on this particular sweet treat? No idea, but I have the thought that it is like a nickname: this one just stuck.

As for who invented it? As What's Cooking America advises,

No one is really sure who invented S'mores, because the recipe has basically been passed around by word of mouth since then. The first known recipe appeared in the 1927 Girl Scout hand book called Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts.

The recipe is credited to Loretta Scott Crew, so happily I would at least have a person to go back in time and thank, because while she probably didn't invent the confection, hers is the first known published recipe for the delicious triple-threat of graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate.

So how did this trinity of awesome come together?

What seems pretty reasonable (to me, anyway) is that what really kept this treat going was the producers of the products. Concurrently, marshmallows were becoming commercially available for the first time; Graham crackers had gained much popularity after their invention by Sylvester Graham (described as "a New England health advocate with a passion for temperance and fiber"), and the recipe had been picked up and gained popularity (as well as evolving into a sweeter, more cookielike cracker) after being mass-produced by Nabisco. I must make a side note to wonder "What would Sylvester Graham think of S'mores?". Somehow I don't think it's what he envisioned his legacy to be.Sta-Puft could make so many S'mores.

But I digress. My theory about products coming together in the right place at the right time is supported by an article on Slashfood, which also brings up an interesting point on other popular confections which debuted in the same era:

The true origin of the snack is unknown, as camping recipes tended to be passed from person to person and family to family - often over the campfire itself. The first recipe for s'mores was published in 1927 in the Girl Scout Handbook and the event marked the official introduction of the s'more into popular culture.

The publication of the s'more recipe was not the first pairing of chocolate, marshmallow and cookies. In 1913, the Mallomar cookie was introduced to market, followed in 1917 by the Moon Pie. Both products have a graham cracker-like base - a sandwich, in the case of the Moon Pie - and are topped with marshmallow and a layer of chocolate.

 so, maybe it was a Girl Scout reaction to popular treats around the time, which themselves were the result of these new products?

As for their enduring popularity? As Liesl Schillinger (a documented s'more hater) says,

they're easy-to-make, guaranteed nostalgia-inducers, well within the reach of any parent's budget. Others may disagree, but I suspect that most us don't eat them for the taste. We eat them to relive our first s'mores experience, back when our taste buds were so rosy new that any sugar was ecstasy; back when our parents were the age we are now … and younger. S'mores take us back in time. You don't have to like them to love them.

Well put.

Want s'more? You may enjoy:



No Small Trifle: A Primer on Eton Mess

What's better than a hot mess and makes for some sweet eatin'? Eton Mess, naturally!

But...what is it, exactly? So glad you asked. It's a stately collegiate dessert, defined as "a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream, which is traditionally served at Eton College's annual cricket game against the students of Winchester College."

So the Eton part of the name is pretty obvious...but what about the mess? And what's the story behind this vaguely trifle-esque dessert?

According to Robin Weir in Recipes from the Dairy, Eton mess was served in the 1930s in the school's sock (tuck) shop, and was originally made with either strawberries or bananas mixed with ice cream or cream. Meringue was a later addition (many credit this addition to Michael Smith, author of Fine English Cookery). Nowadays, Eton mess consists of pieces of crisp meringue, lightly whipped cream and strawberries, all stirred together - hence the name "mess".

But Eton isn't the only place where it's eaten: A similar dessert is the Lancing Mess, served throughout the year at Lancing College in West Sussex, England (see per this menu).

Of course, you could always describe this dessert the way I did while recently trying to explain it to a friend: "it's kind of like Pavlova and Trifle had a baby."

But no matter how you slice it (or spoon it), one thing is for certain: this is one mess you won't be able to get enough of. It's infinitely adaptable, too: got blackberries or blueberries? Substitute them in whole (or in part) for the strawberries. Don't like meringues? Try it with crumbled Nilla wafers or ladyfingers instead. 

Want a recipe? I will be posting a recipe next Monday on Serious Eats; in the meantime, here's a good one to try, or, if you're in Seattle, you can get Eton Mess at Smith in Capitol Hill.

Pastry Profiles: Fisher Fair Scones of the Pacific Northwest

Recently, Fisher Flouring Mills celebrated their 100th anniversary. Why is this of interest, exactly?

Because, for anyone who has ever attended the epic Puyallup Fair in the Seattle area, you may know them as the makers of the famous Fisher Fair Scones. Let's take a few minutes to learn a bit of the backstory behind this company and their signature product, shall we? I'd like to thank Nick at Team Soapbox who was so helpful with getting me much of this information.

The Fisher Flour Mills opening invite, from 1911First off, why the Pacific Northwest? This company, which initially focused mainly on flour, settled in Seattle in 1911 because it was “the most promising city on the coast.”

The Fisher booth in 1923How did they start making scones as a fair food? William H. Paulhamus, president and general manager of the Puyallup Fair (Western Washington State Fair) pitched the scones idea to Fisher and said he’d donate jam made from his raspberry farm in Oregon. The scones debuted at the fair as a chance to showcase and promote the company's flour flour. They were a success, going for just a few pennies each. Today, they are still a Northwest favorite and a tradition of Washington fairs.

Current CEO Mike Maher has a long history with the company, too:

“My connection to the fair goes back three decades. As a teenager, I started working in fair operations for Fisher, driving the trailers to each venue, training staff and making scones for customers myself. I learned quickly about the magnetic appeal of a fresh-baked scone slathered with whipped butter and raspberry jam. It didn’t take long before I became hooked on the idea of delivering smiles to our customers, one fresh-baked bite at a time.”

Michael Maher began with the company in 1978 (then Fair Scones, Inc.) and has risen up the ranks as the company has grown over the past 30-some years.  

Current CEO MikeHow did current CEO Mike rise to floury fame? Mike’s career began as a high school student in Portland, OR when he was hired by Fair Scones, Inc. to work its concession booth at the Rose Festival.  From 1979 to 1984, he worked summers as a concession manager, operating various events in Oregon,Washington, and British Columbia.  After graduating from the University of Oregon in 1985, he came on board full time as the general manager, overseeing all festival operations.  In 1995 Mike became vice president—operations and directed the company’s expansion into retail scone products and wholesale baking to the airlines.  In the late 1990s Mike led three specialty food company acquisitions and expansion into private label products.  He was named president and COO in 1999.  He joined the Board of Directors in 2003, and was later promoted to his current post as president and CEO.

Old Fisher Flouring Mills truckHow did the scones gain such popularity? What started as a promotional tool eventually expanded to became a signature food item at 39 fairs and festivals throughout the Northwest, but the company is still family-owned (and even the Fisher family still has a stake in the company) committed to local community. Today, Fisher owns the raspberry farm in Oregon and still uses the same simple jam recipe (berries, sugar & pectin) to accompany the scones. The scone recipe has remained largely unchanged, except for a few tweaks to the salt and sugar amounts to accommodate modern tastes.

The scones represent the company’s commitment to a tradition of local, Northwest deliciousness by utilizing local ingredients and tastes—showcased at local fairs. This commitment has now come full circle in a world where people are thinking and shopping local.

Some more little tidbits of interest, sent along by Nick of Team Soapbox:

  • Fisher Scones debuted at the 1915 Puyallup Fair, in the very same corner booth under the grandstand where they are still sold today.
  • The scones originally were free or just a few pennies, promoting Fisher Flours.
  • Today, Fisher serves up more than 40 tons of raspberry jam each summer to top the scones.
  • 1.5 million scones are sold each year
  • This fall, Fisher will serve its 100,000,000th (yes, one hundred millionth!) scone at the Puyallup Fair. 
  • Mike Maher, Fisher’s CEO started out by making scones at the fair himself. Mike’s been with the company three decades. Nobody's sure how many scones he’s eaten.
  • Fisher supports Northwest farmers through a partnership with Shepherd’s Grain, a cooperative of 33 local farmers who use sustainable agriculture farming methods. They’re also connected with the Food Alliance of Oregon, which provides the most comprehensive third-party certification for social and environmental responsibility in agriculture and the food industry in North America.
  • For almost 100 years, Fisher Scones have been a tradition at fairs and festivals throughout the Northwestern United States. These triangular shaped biscuits, baked fresh and smothered in honey-whipped butter and tart raspberry jam, have created unparalleled loyalty.
  • Scones can be yours year round, at home. Fisher brand scones are available by a home mix line; on the mix subject, this year, the company plans on introducing new packaging for the scones (and new all-natural Pancake & Baking Mix, Biscuit Mix, and Cornbread Mix).

Want to continue getting sconed? Check out their website here, and find them on Facebook here.

Muffin Tops: An Ode to US States With Official State Muffins

Now, it's true that CakeSpy has gone on the record as saying that muffins are just ugly cupcakes. But the fact is, when it comes to official state treats, more states (3) have declared an official state muffin than have declared an official state cupcake (0, to the best of my research, although some have official state cookies and/or cakes).

And with that in mind, why don't we take a moment to celebrate this trinity of muffin royalty in the US? Here they are:

Massachusetts: Corn Muffin. Though Rhode Island is famous for its corn cakes (Jonnycakes), it's Massachusetts that has made much ado about the muffin. Per, "The schoolchildren of Massachusetts petitioned for the CORN MUFFIN, a staple of New England cooking, and the Legislature made it official in 1986."

Minnesota: Blueberry Muffin. That two-timing blueberry makes an appearance in official state goodies in both Minnesota and in Maine, where they call Blueberry Pie their official state dessert (although some argue it should be the Whoopie Pie). As I learned here, "Minnesota designated the blueberry muffin as the official state muffin in 1988. Wild blueberries are native to northeastern Minnesota, growing in bogs, on hillsides, and in cut-over forested areas."

New York: Apple Muffin. That's right! One might think the apple muffin would be the official state muffin of Washington, but one would be incorrect. While the apple is the official state fruit of both Washington and New York, it was the latter that claimed the muffin as well, made official in 1987: "The apple muffin was adopted as the official State muffin of New York in 1987 through efforts of students throughout New York State." That is to say, get on the ball, schoolchildren of Washington! But make it apple cake, OK? Ok. Cool.

For more official state foods, visit

Sweet Mystery: Lowry's Fudge Cake Recipe and Story

Recently, I came into contact with a new type of cake: Lowry's Fudge Cake. Or was it Lowery's? I'm not completely sure, because based on anecdotal evidence, I see it both ways.

To the best of my sweet sleuthing, this cake--really more like bar cookies, really--made a name for itself in the kitchen of the Lowry's Motel restaurant in Greenville, IL. I found this small recipe headnote on Recipe Circus:

No Greenville native of a certain age will ever forget the pleasure of biting into a piece of Lowery's Fudge cake. It was sold exclusively at the old Lowery's Motel. We still remember how it was cut into squares and neatly wrapped in wax paper. After the Lowery ladies died and the motel restaurant became but a fond memory, custody of the fudge-cake recipe was passed to another lady of the church. It still arrives for the reception in perfect squares, wrapped in the traditional wax paper, though now the ladies of the Pastoral Care Committee unwarp it and arrange it on a silver tray. It never lasts long.

...and yet when I tried to find "Lowery's Motel" I drew a blank, but I did find evidence of a Lowry's, as noted in the obituary of Mariam T. Lowry (which references a motel in the family), and this vintage postcard: sadly, while I was unable to find out much more about who created this recipe, one thing is not shrouded in mystery: the cake's deliciousness. As previously noted, it really is more like a cross between a cake and a bar cookie, kind of like a chocolate gooey butter cake with a crumb topping. Very decadent, very delicious. Happily, I was able to find a recipe--here it is for you. The one I tried (pictured top, not baked by me) also had a brown sugar crumb topping. Feel free to leave any more lore about the cake in the comments section!

Lowry's (or is it Lowery's?) Fudge Cake

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 4 squares semisweet chocolate
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together. Add the sugar, Stir until melted. Cool slightly. With a wooden spoon, mix in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in flour and salt. Add vanilla and chopped pecans. Some people like alot of vanilla and a lot of nuts. I suggest 1 tsp vanilla and 1 cup chopped nuts. 
  3. Pour the mixture into a buttered 9X11 inch pan. Bake for about 40 minutes. Start testing at 30-35 minutes. To be a purist, your straw for testing should come out clean. Cool on wire rack.


Foodbuzz 24x24: Nanaimo Bar Extravaganza

It is with a heavy heart full of sadness that I realize that many of you have never even heard of--much less tasted--the wonderful thing that is the Nanaimo Bar.

But it is with the lightness and joy of 99 luftballoons floating in the summer sky that I realize that I am going to show you the light, in the most delicious way possible.

That's right. It's time for an absolute education and delicious extravaganza featuring the Nanaimo Bar. This post is my entry for the Foodbuzz 24x24 project, and it's broken down into three parts: History (wherein you will get educated on the ways of the Nanaimo), Recipes (I made 7 different versions!), and Testimonials (loving thoughts and odes from eager eaters).

You say Nanaimo...
First things first. It's pronounced "Nuh-nye-moe". And it's named after the city where, if not officially where the bar was invented, the city where it came into its own. But don't worry, I'll tell you much, much more.
As previously mentioned, I realize that it is possible that you have never tried--or even heard of--the Nanaimo Bar, which I lovingly refer to as “the best thing Canada has ever invented”.  Let me briefly try to explain its wonder of this three-layer no-bake bar cookie, building it from the bottom up:

The bottom layer is a sturdy, tightly packed layer of chocolate, graham cracker and coconut, bound together with melted butter.
The middle layer is a buttery, frosting-y, creamy, custard-y stuff that is so much the opposite of low-fat that it makes you want to weep with pleasure.
The top layer is a solid chocolatey layer, which is firm but not hard.

As you may have come to suspect, each layer is tasty enough to stand on its own--but when combined, you’ve basically got a triple threat of intensely rich, decadently condensed deliciousness.

That is to say--super yum.

But where did this bar come from? There’s a popular story about how the bars were the winner in a baking contest, invented by a housewife who named them Nanaimo Bars in a burst of civic pride. While said housewife does figure into the equation (see below), it’s definitely not the whole story.

There are several purported predecessors of the bar going by “New York Slice”, “Chocolate Slice”, “Refrigerator Cake”, “Miracle Bars”, “Ribbon Bars”, “Smog Bars” (or “London Smog Bars”). 

It’s those Smog Bars, though, that seem to be the closest relative to the Nanaimo Bar, as evidenced by an interview with Jan Pare, who wrote Company's Coming: 150 Delicious Squares, who spent her formative years (1927-47) in Alberta, Canada:

"Nanaimo Bars were originally called Smog bars, and everybody made them: graham-cracker crust, cocoa, Bird's Custard in the filling. My Grandma Locke made smog bars, so did my mother."

Proof is in the pudding--or rather, custard: Bird’s Custard, a popular custard powder invented in the UK and a key ingredient in Nanaimo bars, easily could have immigrated to the area in the early 1900s when there was a large wave of new immigration from Europe; this would have been well-timed with the advent of iceboxes as a common household item in Canada, which would explain for the bar’s UK influence but Canadian birth.

In fact, the first published instance of the phrase Nanaimo Bars dates back to 1953, in the Vancouver Sun, but the recipe itself is for London Smog Bars, with a footnote that “These are also known as Nanaimo Bars”.

It doesn’t seem too far-fetched then, to conjecture that this confection, like those European settlers, migrated westward; a recipe that resembles the Nanaimo bar in basically all but name, entitled “Chocolate Slices”, was submitted by a Mrs. E. MacDougall in 1952 Women’s Auxiliary Cookbook.

But regardless of how they got there, one thing is for certain: even if they weren’t invented in Nanaimo, it is where the treat took root. And it’s here that the humble housewife mentioned earlier shows her important role: Mrs. Mabel Jenkins of Cowichan Bay submitted her recipe for the bars to the annual Ladysmith and Cowichan Women's Institute Cookbook, which was sold in the early 1950s in the region as a fundraiser. It was a popular favorite in the book, and because the bars are ridiculously delicious and keep well, the recipe gained popularity in the province's households and working-class towns, and was sold in many of the coffee shops on Nanaimo’s Commercial Street.

In more recent years, the bars have been called “Canada’s Favourite Confection”, and all I can say is, Butter Tarts never stood a chance.

Part 2: The Recipes

How did I do it? I made a variety of different types, starting with the traditional recipe, then creating several riffs on it (many inspired by other Canadian specialties!). I then got testimonials and stories from the eaters (scroll to below the recipes for those), who ranged from professional Nanaimo Bar eaters to first timers. Some were even Canadian.


Bottom Layer
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
  • ½ c. finely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup coconut

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.

Middle Layer
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder (Cake Gumshoe Kate adds that if you don't have or can't find custard powder, instant vanilla pudding works in a pinch)
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Top Layer
  • 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

Recipe 2: Maple Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
  • 1 cup coconut
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Middle Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup (the darkest you can find)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (instant vanilla pudding works in a pinch)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar

Top Layer

  • 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. Prepare the bottom layer. Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased, parchment-lined 8" x 8" pan. Let chill in the refrigerator until cool to the touch.
  2. Cream butter, cream, custard powder, maple, and confectioners' sugar together well. Beat until light; it should be a thick consistency, but still spreadable. If desired, stir in food coloring until completely mixed in. Spread over bottom layer, making sure that it is as flat as possible (I use a metal spatula to "scrape" it into a flat top). Return to the fridge until the middle layer is completely set. Sometimes I even put them in the freezer so that they will be extremely firm before adding the top layer.
  3. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer, very gently spreading so that it covers the entire layer--you will need to do this fairly quickly so that the second layer doesn't start to melt or meld with the top layer. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least a half-hour. Serve lightly chilled, or let come to room temperature. When you're ready to serve, use a sharp knife to slice the bars, and keep a towel on hand to clean the knife frequently between cuts to ensure clean, good-looking bars which showcase the pretty layers.


Recipe 3: Blonde Nanaimo Bars

These have a white chocolate topping and a mix of cocoa and brown sugar in the base, making for maybe more of a dirty-blonde, but a very delicious variation.

Bottom Layer 

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
  • 1 cup coconut
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts

 Middle Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (instant vanilla pudding works in a pinch)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar

 Top Layer

  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli)


  1. Prepare the bottom layer. Melt butter and sugar in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased, parchment-lined 8" x 8" pan. Let chill in the refrigerator until cool to the touch.
  2. Cream butter, cream, custard powder, maple, and confectioners' sugar together well. Beat until light; it should be a thick consistency, but still spreadable. If desired, stir in food coloring until completely mixed in. Spread over bottom layer, making sure that it is as flat as possible (I use a metal spatula to "scrape" it into a flat top). Return to the fridge until the middle layer is completely set. Sometimes I even put them in the freezer so that they will be extremely firm before adding the top layer.
  3. Make the topping. Melt the white chocolate either in 20 second intervals or over low heat until it is smooth and creamy. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer, very gently spreading so that it covers the entire layer--you will need to do this fairly quickly so that the second layer doesn't start to melt or meld with the top layer. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least a half-hour. 


Recipe 4: Maple Canadian Bacon Nanaimo Bars

Inspired by two other Canadian specialties, these bars were made with a "blonde" (sans cocoa) bottom layer, topped with a maple-infused buttercream center, all of which was topped off with a thick layer of white chocolate sprinkled with brown sugar and Canadian bacon baked until crispy with a maple glaze.

Bottom Layer
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
  • ½ c. finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup coconut
Middle Layer
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons cream
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup (I used grade B)
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder or vanilla instant pudding powder
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
Top Layer
  • 3-4 slices canadian bacon
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar


  1. Melt the butter and sugar in the top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.
  2. Cream butter, cream, custard powder, sugar, and syrup together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer, making sure that it is as smooth and flat as possible. 
  3. Prepare the bacon. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet with parchment. Place the canadian bacon slices on top of the parchment, and drizzle with the maple syrup. Place in the oven until it is very crispy, turning after about 5 minutes. For me, the slices were fairly thin so it only took about 10 minutes total to get them very, very crispy. Remove from the oven and let cool while you prepare the rest of the topping.
  4. Melt white chocolate in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring after heating, until it is melted and smooth enough to spread on top of the buttercream layer. Spread it on top as quickly and smoothly as you can.
  5. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the white chocolate, and then crumble the bacon on top, making sure to get even coverage. 


Recipe 5: Butter Tart Nanaimo Bars

For these babies, combined the regular Nanaimo bar crust recipe with that of Butter Tart filling. I omitted the raisins - not my style.

Bottom Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cups graham wafer crumbs, very fine
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup raisins (optional)

Middle Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup (the darkest you can find)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (instant vanilla pudding works in a pinch)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar

Top Layer

  • 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. Prepare the bottom layer. Melt butter and sugar in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Press firmly into an ungreased, parchment-lined 8" x 8" pan; bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Cream butter, cream, custard powder, maple, and confectioners' sugar together well. Beat until light; it should be a thick consistency, but still spreadable. If desired, stir in food coloring until completely mixed in. Spread over bottom layer, making sure that it is as flat as possible (I use a metal spatula to "scrape" it into a flat top). Return to the fridge until the middle layer is completely set. Sometimes I even put them in the freezer so that they will be extremely firm before adding the top layer.
  3. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer, very gently spreading so that it covers the entire layer--you will need to do this fairly quickly so that the second layer doesn't start to melt or meld with the top layer. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least a half-hour. Serve lightly chilled, or let come to room temperature. When you're ready to serve, use a sharp knife to slice the bars, and keep a towel on hand to clean the knife frequently between cuts to ensure clean, good-looking bars which showcase the pretty layers.

Recipe 6: Nougabricot Nanaimo Bars

What is Nougabricot? It's a Québécois preserve consisting of apricots, almonds, and pistachios, that's what. Here's a Nanaimo bar made with a white chocolate topping studded with apricot, almond, and pistachio, inspired by this specialty.

Bottom Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
  • 1 cup coconut
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Middle Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (instant vanilla pudding works in a pinch)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar

Top Layer

  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • About 3/4 cup of a mix of almond bits, dried apricots, and pistachios (make the mixture to the proportions of your liking)


  1. Prepare the bottom layer. Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased, parchment-lined 8" x 8" pan. Let chill in the refrigerator until cool to the touch.
  2. Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and confectioners' sugar together well. Beat until light; it should be a thick consistency, but still spreadable. If desired, stir in food coloring until completely mixed in. Spread over bottom layer, making sure that it is as flat as possible (I use a metal spatula to "scrape" it into a flat top). Return to the fridge until the middle layer is completely set. Sometimes I even put them in the freezer so that they will be extremely firm before adding the top layer.
  3. Melt white chocolate in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring after heating, until it is melted and smooth enough to spread on top of the buttercream layer. Spread it on top as quickly and smoothly as you can. Directly after adding the topping, scatter the fruit and nut mixture on top to ensure that it sticks to the still-tacky white chocolate. Let set before serving.

Recipe 7: Poutine Nanaimo Bars

So, I thought to myself, "what if I used a Nanaimo bar as the base for a batch of Poutine?". Poutine, of course, being that famous Eastern Canadian dish consisting of french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds (in NJ, where I grew up, we had a decidedly less pinkies-out version consisting of Cheez Whiz and gravy on fries, known as "disco fries"). Guess what? Not delicious. But pretty fun to make.

Bottom Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
  • 1 cup coconut
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Middle Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (instant vanilla pudding works in a pinch)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar

Top Layer

  • 1 cup cheese curds ( had fairly big ones, which I warmed and kind of squished into place, which gave them a sort of ricotta cheese look)
  • 1/2 cup gravy


  1. Prepare the bottom layer. Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased, parchment-lined 8" x 8" pan. Let chill in the refrigerator until cool to the touch.
  2. Cream butter, cream, custard powder, maple, and confectioners' sugar together well. Beat until light; it should be a thick consistency, but still spreadable. If desired, stir in food coloring until completely mixed in. Spread over bottom layer, making sure that it is as flat as possible (I use a metal spatula to "scrape" it into a flat top). Return to the fridge until the middle layer is completely set. Sometimes I even put them in the freezer so that they will be extremely firm before adding the top layer.
  3. Place the cheese curds on top of the Nanaimo Bars. Let come to room temperature before serving; ladle a little gravy on each slice before serving.


Part 3: Nanaimo bar Testimonials 

To get a variety of reactions on La Belle Nanaimo, I took it to the street--literally.

First, I took a batch to the Seattle waterfront, set myself up nearby the ferry to Canada and swapped treats for tales, asking eaters "What's the best thing about a Nanaimo Bar?".

Most people were quite receptive to swapping treats for short tales, and after about 20 minutes my batch was gone. Some remembered the bars as a childhood treat; some recalled them from ferry rides; one person said that the best ones are found at the grocery store baker's case; and for some people, this was their first-ever Nanaimo bar experience (I'm so glad I got to share it with them).

My favorite response, as it happens, was from a homeless guy who asked if he could have one. After taking a thoughtful bite, he told me that these were much better than "the package cookies". This made me feel sort of like laughing, and sort of like crying, all at once.

Next, I brought a big batch to the Bake it in a Cake Cupcake party at CakeSpy shop, where I got some real-live testimonials on the bars.

Mr. Spy expands on what is so great about a Nanaimo Bar, including how it is better than Rick Moranis:

A couple of other store visitors, upon tasting the Maple Canadian Bacon Nanaimo Bars and the Blonde Nanaimo Bars, respectively (both were first-time Nanaimo bar eaters!) had this to say:

...and yet more eaters had this to say:


...but  I will tell you the truth, after one bite of the poutine version, it became very clear that this probably is not a food trend that will take off, so I didn't serve those. 

All in all, people loved learning about and devouring these delicious bars, and I feel as if I have done my job to spread the word about this sweet Canadian treat. So...til next time...

A Paczki Upon Thee: A Primer on Paczki and How to Enjoy It

The good news: today it is your job to eat Pączki.

The bad news: you don't know what Pączki is, and it sounds like something contagious.

Never fear! I am here to introduce you to this traditional Polish sweet. Really, it's far more delicious than it sounds  (pronounced--oh those crazy Europeans--"poonch-kee").

First off, what is it? Per Polish Heritage Cookery, "Pączek is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened sphere and filled with confitureor other sweet filling. Pączki are usually covered with powdered sugaricing or bits of driedorange zest. A small amount of grain alcohol (traditionally, Spiritus) is added to the dough before cooking; as it evaporates, it prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough".

Or, to simplify it a bit, sort of but not quite a jelly doughnut--but possibly its European ancestor, with a richer, eggier dough. And not limited to just jelly for filling.

Why is it your job to eat them today? Well, as I learned from the internet,

In Poland, pączki are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (the last Thursday before Lent). Many Polish Americans celebrate Pączki Day on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Traditionally, the reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because they were forbidden to be consumed due to Catholic fasting practices during Lent.

So, today through thursday is kind of like "Stop! Packzi Time" (insert "Hammer time" breakdown here).

How can you enjoy them? In a few ways. If you're in Seattle like me, lucky you: they have them at Metropolitan Market locations, and at Bakery Nouveau for sure. If you're in the midwest, they're probably at so many places that you can't even count (at least this is my fantasy). But if no bakeries in your area have these treats on offer, there is a solution: make them yourself. Here's a recipe--but, you know, there's also one in this great book called Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home by my bloggy BFF Lara Ferroni.

Red-Hot: A Treat-ise on Marilyn Monroe and Red Velvet Cake

If Red Velvet Cake were a celebrity, living or alive, who would it be?

If you ask me, the answer is clear: Marilyn Monroe. 

After all, Red Velvet is one hot number of a cake (the New York Times has even referred to it as "vampy"); Marilyn, one hot number of a lady. But not content to leave it at that, I've created a "Treat-ise" if you will of similarities between these deliciously sensual icons.

Life and Death in 1962: As it turns out, the first recipe for the iconic dessert referring to it as "Red Velvet Cake" was published in 1962. The cake had existed before that, it's true, its red color a reaction of its ingredients, but this recipe calls for red food coloring, which amps up the color and has become a signature of the cake. So while the cake had existed, this was the year that it began its ascent into legendary territory. Similarly, for Marilyn, 1962 was a remarkable year: the year of her death, and also the year she went from starlet to legend with legacy.

Humble beginnings and a Swanlike Transformation: Both Red Velvet Cake and Marilyn Monroe began their lives in much simpler, humbler ways than the icons that we now call to mind when thinking about either party, pastry or person. In the case of Red Velvet Cake, it began as the slightly ruddy-hued outcome of buttermilk and vinegar reacting while baking; it wasn't until years later that bakers began to play up this reaction by adding red food coloring (and lots of it) for the dramatic look. Marilyn Monroe came into this world as Norma Jeane Mortensen--at a very young age, her mother remarried and Norma Jeane took on the last name Baker(!). But it wasn't until the 1940s, when she bleached her hair blonde and took on the name Marilyn Monroe that her career really took off.

A Dramatic Signature Look: There's no denying that both Red Velvet Cake and Marilyn Monroe are both iconic in appearance. In the case of Red Velvet Cake, cutting into the fluffy white frosting which gives way to a highly contrasting, visceral red expanse of cake is a downright heady experience. Marilyn, with her platinum locks, contrasting dark arched brows, signature beauty mark and pretty pout, had the power to draw all eyes to her. Love 'em or loathe 'em, in both cases there is no denying that they're striking visually.

Do these icons sometimes cross into caricature territory, more alluring in looks than in reality? Perhaps, but as Marilyn once said, "It’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." 

Haute Hotel Connections: Both of these icons have ties to another legend--the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel. In the case of Red Velvet Cake, it comes by form of an urban legend: 

One early story links it to New York. In their new “Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook” (Bulfinch Press, 2006), John Doherty and John Harrisson say that the cake, which they call a Southern dessert, became a signature at the hotel in the 1920s. (It is also the subject of an urban legend: a woman at the Waldorf was supposedly so taken with it that she asked for the recipe — for which she was charged $100 or more. In revenge, she passed it along to everyone she knew. The tale, like a similar one about a cookie recipe from Neiman Marcus, has been debunked.)

As for Marilyn? According to Wikipedia,

In 1955, Marilyn Monroe stayed at the hotel for several months, but due to costs of trying to finance her production company "Marilyn Monroe Productions", only being paid $1,500 a week for her role in The Seven Year Itch and being suspended from 20th Century Fox for walking out on Fox after creative differences, living at the hotel became too costly and Monroe had to move into a different hotel in New York City.

Of course, there's no mention of whether or not she ate the cake while she stayed there.

They both have Famous admirers. It's true: both are famously (or perhaps infamously) favorites of high-ranking notables. I wanted to say that both had Presidential admirers, but after much googling I couldn't find any pictures or references of past or present presidents eating Red Velvet Cake (what's up, Google, not responding to my "Bill Clinton eating Red Velvet" query!?). Although...the President...of the Borough of Brooklyn, that is, Marty Markowitz, was recently a judge at a Red Velvet contest. So Red Velvet does have a presidential admirer! Of course, Marilyn's presidential admirer--a fellow named Kennedy--notably involved an incident with singing (and cake?).

But even without Presidential admirers, Red Velvet is still a known favorite of many famous people, having received public love from Oprah Winfrey (arguably more influential than the President), Katie Holmes, and Russell Brand.

Silver Screen Sirens: Obviously Marilyn Monroe stole the show in just about every movie she was in, but Red Velvet has had its moment too: it was famously featured in the classic film Steel Magnolias and is often cited as one of the most memorable bits about the movie (at least by people I know).

Say "Cheese": Yup--cheese figures into the lives of Red Velvet and Marilyn Monroe--literally and figuratively, respectively. Red Velvet is arguably most deliciously (if not technically most authentically) topped with cream cheese frosting. Marilyn famously did "cheesecake" calendar poses.

Of course, if after reading this you're still not with me on the Red Velvet-Marilyn Monroe connection, I'll leave you with these bits to prove that I'm not alone in comparing this sultry red cake to blonde starlets. “It’s the Dolly Parton of cakes: a little bit tacky, but you love her,” said Angie Mosier (via the NY Times), a food writer in Atlanta and a board member of the Southern Foodways Alliance at theUniversity of Mississippi in Oxford. Also, Lux, a cupcake shop, has a flavor that they call "The Marilyn Monroe". What flavor? You guessed it, Red Velvet.

Holey Grail: Why Do Doughnuts Have Holes?

If you are a truly devoted doughnut lover, it's likely that this doughy dilemma has come up in your mind: why do doughnuts have holes? 

Turns out, there are a few tales out there. Let's discover them together, shall we?

At least three versions of the story involve a Mr. Hanson Gregory, a seafarer who turned tall-tale-teller in his golden years. According to a 1938 article in The Tuscaloosa News,

it remained for an old New England Sea captain, one Hanson Gregory, from Camden, Maine, to introduce the hole in the doughnut, as we know it today. As an old man he liked to tell his story many times--how as a boy he had been watching his mother frying doughnuts and had noticed that the centers always remained partially uncooked and doughy. 'Mother', he said, "leave a hole in the center." Laughingly, she obliged him and never went back to the old way. Her method was widely copied.

There is also an unlikely, but wholly (holey?) enjoyable, version of the story, also involving Gregory, which goes thusly (according to the Lewiston Evening Journal): "one legend is that he liked to munch fried cakes while steering his craft. One day, in 1847, the seas were rough and he needed both hands to control the rudder. So he slapped several cakes on the spoke of his wheel, making holes."

And third, there is a lighthearted variation on the lightened fried doughnut rounds which states that Gregory purposefully poked a hole in the doughnut to lighten it up "because he had already lost six men overboard due to the heaviness of the doughnuts".

Of course, according to aforementioned Lewiston article, another New Englander, Henry Ellis, of Hyannis, MA, argued there was even a more outlandish story behind the doughnut hole: "An Indian's arrow aimed at a housewife pierced a round of fried cake". The article does not back this up with any evidence, but you know, this could just be further proof that it wasn't all making nice and Thanksgiving in the early US.

Of course, Hanson Gregory's tales get even more street cred based on the fact that he's the only one commemorated as doughnut hole inventor who boasts a historical plaque: it's true. In Rockport, ME, you can find a plaque inscribed with the following: "In commemmoration. This is the birthplace of Captain Hanson Gregory, who first invented the hole in the doughnut in 1847. Erected by his friends, Nov. 2, 1947."

And beyond that, the oldest article I could find on the subject points to Gregory as well (from the Washington Post, March 26, 1916), which I found here:

Old Salt” Doughnut Hole Inventor Tells Just How Discovery Was Made And Stomach of Earths Saved 

Boston, March 25.—The man who invented the hole in the doughnut has been found. He is Capt. Hanson Gregory, at present an inmate in Sailor’s Snug Harbor, at Quincy, Mass. Doughnut cutters have made fortunes for men; millions eat doughnuts for breakfast and feel satisfied. Doctors do not assail the doughnut. And all of this owes its being to Capt. Gregory, who made the doughnut a safe, sane and hygienic food. 

It’s a long story, mates; but as the 85-year-old chap relates it, it’s only too short. Outside the fact that Capt. Gregory is a bit hard of hearing, he’s as sound as new timber. 

He’s a product of Maine; and so Maine can lay claim to the discoverer of the hole in the doughnut, along with the discoverer of new ways to evade the prohibition laws. But Capt. Gregory’s discovery is of real use in the world; millions have risen, and millions more shall rise up, and call him blessed. 

‘Bout ‘47 Was the Date. 
“It was way back—oh, I don’t know just what year—let me see—born in ‘31, shipped when I was 13—well, I guess it was about ‘47, when I was 16, that I was aboard ship and discovered the hole which was later to revolutionize the doughnut industry. 

“I first shipped aboard the Isaac Achorn, three-masted schooner, Capt. Rhodes, in the lime trade.  
Later I joined other crews and other captains, and it was on one of these cruises that I was mawing doughnuts. 

“Now in them days we used to cut the doughnuts into diamond shapes, and also into long strips, bent in half, and then twisted.  I don’t think we called them doughnuts then—they was just ‘fried cakes’ and ‘twisters.’ 

“Well, sir, they used to fry all right around the edges, but when you had the edges done the insides was all raw dough.  And the twisters used to sop up all the grease just where they bent, and they were tough on the digestion.” 

“Pretty d—d tough, too!” profanely agreed one of the dozen pipe-smoking fellows who were all eyes and ears, taking in their comrade’s interview by The Post reporter. 

With a glance at the perfervid interrupter, the discoverer continued: 

“Well, I says to myself, ‘Why wouldn’t a space inside solve the difficulty?’ I thought at first I’d take one of the strips (Col. 2—ed.) and roll it around, then I got an inspiration, a great inspiration. 

“I took the cover off the ship’s tin pepper box, and—I cut into the middle of that doughnut the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes!” 

“Were you pleased?” 

“Was Columbus pleased?  Well, sir, them doughnuts was the finest I ever tasted.  No more indigestion—no more greasy sinkers—but just well-done, fried-through doughnuts. 

“That cruise over, I went home to my old mother and father in Camden, Me., where I was born. My father, Hanson Gregory, sr., lived to be 93, and my mother lived to be 79. She was a pretty old lady then. I saw her making doughnuts in the kitchen—I can see her now, and as fine a woman as ever-lived, was my mother. 

Taught Trick to Mother. 
“I says to her: ‘Let me make some doughnuts for you.’ She says all right, so I made her one or two and then showed her how. 

“She then made several panfuls and sent them down to Rockland, just outside Camden. Everybody was delighted and they never made doughnuts any other way except the way I showed my mother. 

“Well, I never took out a patent on it; I don’t suppose any one can patent anything he discovers; I don’t suppose Peary could patent the north pole or Columbus patent America. But I thought I’d get out a doughnut cutter—but somebody got in ahead of me. 

Hole “Cut Out,” His Joke. 
“Of course a hole ain’t so much; but it’s the best part of the doughnut--you’d think so if you had ever tasted the doughnuts we used to eat in ‘31. Of course, lots of people joke about the hole in the doughnut.  I’ve got a joke myself:  Whenever anybody says to me: ‘Where’s the hole in the doughnut?’ I always answer: ‘It’s been cut out!’” and the old chap laughed loud and longat his little sally, while the rest joined in. 

So there he sits—in the Snug Harbor by the sea. And whenever there’s doughnuts on the day’s fare, Capt. Gregory takes a personal pride trying to do what nobody’s succeeded in doing yet—in trying to find the hole in the doughnut. And whenever the old salts rally him about it, he always springs his little joke: 

“The hole’s been cut out, I guess!” to the delight of the whole shipful. 

While Gregory certainly has the flashiest connections to the doughnut hole, I'd just like to offer up a couple more bits of food for thought: 

Some say that the Pennsylvania Dutch were responsible for making the first holey doughnuts in the US, cutting the centers to ensure even frying and easier dunking. 

Another theory that I personally have is that an explanation for the doughnut hole may be twofold: while the ease in even frying certainly makes sense, it also seems that the doughnut was rising in popularity in the US around the same time as the bagel, which were frequently sold on sticks on the Lower East Side of New York City. Could this easy mode of selling have perpetuated the ring around the doughnut?

Oh, and finally, what of the dough from the middle? Interestingly, those little doughnut dots we love so much aren't necessarily cut from the same dough as the doughnut: "commercially made ring doughnuts are not made by cutting out the central portion of the cake but by dropping a ring of dough into hot oil from a specially shaped nozzle. However, soon after ring doughnuts became popular, doughnut sellers began to see the opportunity to market "holes" as if they were the portions cut out to make the ring."

Seeking more holey grail? You might want to check out this article on Barry Popik, this one on Mr. Breakfast, or the fascinating Wikipedia entry. And of course, if you call yourself a doughnut devotee but don't own Donuts: An American Passion by John T. Edge, you really should remedy that immediately. It's a great book.