Pillsbury’s 75th Anniversary Cake

My birthday was this week. What better way to celebrate than to bake a WWII era cake? I’ve had the Pillsbury’s Diamond Anniversary Recipes cookbook for a while and haven’t had a chance to make anything from it. This seemed like a good time to do so.

The Cookbook was published in celebration of Pillsbury’s 75th anniversary in 1944. It’s more of a large booklet than a cookbook, and it also contains little stories, poems, and anecdotes about the 1944 readers’ grandmothers and great-grandmothers. The recipes range from cakes to cookies to casseroles. I chose the cake that was specifically created for the cookbook, the Pillsbury’s 75th Anniversary Cake.

The lighting isn’t great in the pictures. I apologize for that. It was much later in the day than I had hoped it would be when I took them.

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Pillsbury’s 75th Anniversary Cake

2 1/2 c Pillsbury’s Best Enriched Flour

4 1/2 tsp baking powder (or 3 tsp double acting)

3/4 tsp salt

3/4 c shortening

1 tbsp grated orange rind

1 1/2 c sugar

3 eggs

1 c milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together three times. Blend shortening and orange rind. Add sugar gradually, creaming until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Beat about one minute after each addition. Add dry ingredients alternately with combined milk and flavoring. Mix well after each addition. Beat well after last addition only. Turn into well-greased layer cake pans. Cool before frosting. Put layers together with Fluffy Orange Frosting.

Fluffy Orange Frosting

2 1/4 c sugar

7 tbsp water

3/8 tsp cream of tartar

3 egg whites

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp yellow food coloring

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp grated orange rind

Combine first four ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Beat slightly to mix ingredients. Place over rapidly boiling water, beat with rotary beater until mixture will hold a peak (about 7 minutes). Remove from boiling water and add salt and yellow food coloring. Add vanilla and orange rind. Beat until thick and cooled, or until frosting holds its shape.

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Results

This recipe just didn’t work very well. My cake was a bit dry, and the frosting was really sweet and a bit gritty from the sugar not dissolving. The good news is that these are things that can be fixed with a few tweaks. The flavor of the cake is actually really good. It has a mild orange flavor. My husband doesn’t like anything with orange rind in it and he agrees that this is a nice, sweet orange without the bitterness orange peel often adds. The frosting is also flavored similarly and could be amazing if adjusted to be less sweet and gritty.

While this wasn’t exactly a win in the kitchen, it gives me a new challenge to work on. The light orange flavor is definitely worth trying again.

The day I made this cake, I read a magazine article that included three more orange cake recipes. I find that interesting. Was orange cake popular in the 1940s? I’m definitely going to do some research on this, and I think we’ll try one or two more of those cake recipes, too.