My friend P invited us to her fabulous 1950s party. She was cooking all the savories — three kinds of meatloaf, delicious home-made mac & cheese, boiled veggies (how '50s!), salad, buttermilk biscuits — and retro desserts like pudding and jello. (It can't be the 1950s without jello.) She invited the rest of us to bring additional desserts. I wanted to make something that fit the theme, yet also looked pretty and tasted good, unlike some 1950s delicacies. So I pulled out Joe's 1953 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook and was stopped dead in my tracks by the above photo (which I have scanned in for your viewing pleasure).
"Angel-Cake Surprise for your fanciest party," read the header. "Listen to the "oh's" and "ah's" as you cut through the whipped-cream frosting and light, tender angel cake and find a tempting whipped cream, nut, and fruit surprise filling."
"Oh's" and "Ah's". Indeed. If there's one thing I love about early to mid 20th C cookbooks, it's how they describe the food. I truly hope that my nephew and godson's generation has as much fun reading today's cookbooks 50 years from now as I get out of reading the cookbooks from my grandmother's days.
Scary-looking. Then I read the ingredients. Whipped cream and more whipped cream. Hmm... one of my favorite ingredients used in abundance. A bit of fruit. Some nuts. Marshmallows. And NO jello. (I hate jello.) Angel-Cake Surprise was sounding better and better. Reader, I baked it.
And, truth be told, it was tasty! If you like whipped cream and ambrosia, you'll like Angel-Cake Surprise. It was a sweet, fluffy, creamy, and lightly refreshing dessert in a retro 1950s way.
And, truthfully, when you unveil this cake, people really will go "ooh!" (Before you unveil it, people will pester you to tell them what the surprise is. Which gives you the opportunity for creative disinformation. I hope nobody actually believed Joe that it was filled with deviled ham; the color's kind of similar...)
Recipe in the extended post. Here's my version of the cake:
Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 22nd edition, 1953
1 angel food cake, 10" pan, baked and cooled
You can bake your own angel food cake from scratch using any recipe out there. I used a boxed mix. Much easier, and I didn't have to figure out what to do with all the extra egg yolks.
1 C heavy whipping cream
3 Tbs sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 C maraschino cherries, quartered
1/4 C crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 C chopped walnuts
4 oz large marshmallows cut into eighths (or equiv. weight in small marshmallows)
Maraschino cherry juice for color (optional, but strongly recommended for color contrast)
Whip the cream with sugar and vanilla. Fold in other ingredients. Add small amounts of maraschino cherry juice until the desired level of pinkness is achieved (but don't let the filling get "watery"). Chill.
Cut the top off the angel food cake, about one inch down. (Top here is defined as the top of the cake as it would be served; i.e., the cracked brown crust that was the top while baking is now the bottom.)
Cut out a ring about 2 inches wide and 2 inches deep. Do this by cutting the outer and inner circles of the ring, and then carefully pull out the angel food cake to make the trough. Do not immediately eat the bits. Save the bits in case you need them for structural repairs, then eat the excess.
Spoon in chilled filling. Use reserved bits of angel food cake to repair the cake or build up the center ring as needed. Replace the top and frost with whipped cream (next step).
1.5 pints heavy whipping cream (i.e. 3 cups)
3 Tbs sugar
maraschino cherries, halved
Whip cream with sugar. Cover cake in whipped cream. Chill. Before serving, decorate with pineapple and cherries.
Kitchen Chick's notes: I used pineapple in its own juice, and not in heavy syrup. I suspect that back in 1953 they used pineapple in heavy syrup, which is a bit darker. Pineapple chunks are rather, well, chunky and thick, so I used canned pineapple rings and cut my own sections like in the photo. My center ring sunk a bit in height, so I found it useful to use the extra bits Joe hadn't swiped to build up the ring (below photo).