Breaking news from the White House (Cook Book)…

Attention: If you’re not absolutely enthralled with old cookbooks and ancient recipes, stop reading right now and cut to the chase: our recipe for Washington Pie, a takeoff on Boston Cream Pie

But if your heart starts to pound when you unearth a 1929 edition of The Boston Cooking School Cook Book in a stack of books at a yard sale; or, as I recently did, find a first edition of The Cordon Bleu Cook Book signed by Dione Lucas at a community used book sale—you’re one of us. Keep reading.

This week I’m in Washington, D.C. at the national ESOP conference. ESOP (employee stock ownership program) is a group devoted to businesses whose employees own stock in their company; e.g., employee-owned companies. King Arthur Flour is owned by us, its employees. It’s a good feeling to know we’re working for ourselves as well as our customers, rather than for some nameless, faceless stockholders a thousand miles away. The conference is an opportunity to network with like-minded folks from businesses across the country.

Packing for the trip, I was reminded of one of my oldest cookbooks:

This book came to me courtesy of my mother-in-law, who inherited it from her own mother. Its pages are yellowed and brittle with age; if I’m not very careful, they crumble under my fingers as I leaf through the book. Published in 1904, it features scattered illustrations like this:
Hey, where’s Edith Roosevelt? Teddy’s wife was First Lady from 1901-1909. And for those of you wondering, Mary Arthur McElroy, at middle-right, was the unmarried Chester Arthur’s sister and de facto First Lady.

For any of you who’ve been to the White House, you’ll remember the fence is a bit higher now, and you can no longer stroll QUITE so close to it.

Anyway, in honor of this D.C-based blog, I figured I’d better find an appropriate recipe, and came up with this one:

It refers the reader back to Boston Cream Pie. Apparently the only difference between the two is 1 tablespoon butter added to the Washington Pie, and a suggestion to serve Washington Pie very cold in the summertime, with fruit. Here’s the recipe for the cake part of Boston Cream Pie:

And here’s where my confusion kicked in. “Three eggs beaten separately”—does that mean beat the eggs alone before adding anything else? Or separate the eggs, and beat yolks in a different bowl than whites? Choose one… I tried separating the eggs and making the cake that way, and it didn’t work. Hard to put together, didn’t rise. Was it the method? The confusion about how much baking powder to use? Back to square one.

In checking other yellow cake recipes to ascertain that my guess of 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder might be the equivalent of “one large teaspoonful,” I came across a recipe given to me in 1968 by my first employer, Mrs. Watson. (Remember back when adults’ first names were always simply “Mr.” and “Mrs.”?) It was a recipe for Lazy Daisy Cake, and lo and behold, didn’t it call for a lineup of ingredients very similar to those in Washington Pie! I combined the Washington Pie ingredients with the Lazy Daisy Cake directions, and made a light, tender, cake, perfect for splitting and filling.

Hey, I warned you; I’m a fool for old recipes. For cookbooks that have passed through many hands before they’ve found mine. For the way recipes change down the years, but at their heart remain the same. Recipes are the language of bakers, and this one, for Washington Pie, spoke to me. I hope it speaks to you, too.

From 1904 to 2008, with a short stop in 1968, here’s a recipe for a lovely, summery cream cake: Washington Pie.

First, beat eggs (no need to separate!) with sugar for about 3 minutes, till the mixture is creamy and light-colored.

Add the remaining ingredients, stirring until smooth.

Bake the cakes in two 8” round pans, till “straw colored.”

Let the layers cool, then slit in half horizontally.

Like this. Now you have four thin layers.

Fill and stack, using your favorite cream filling: mine is instant vanilla pudding mix made with extra vanilla, and a combination of heavy cream and milk. Easy; fast; delicious.

Press the layers down gently, to push the filling all the way to the edges.

“Wrap around it a paper”—plastic wrap works just fine. Refrigerate the cake.

So OK, I know you wouldn’t set a serving of cake on a plate atop the rest of the cake! But my “photo studio” is often a narrow windowsill, and this was the only way I could show both whole cake and single slice at the same time.

P.S.: Here’s a visual of how the recipe evolved in the test kitchen.

Read our recipe for Washington Pie.

Buy vs. Bake
BUY: Supermarket bakeshop Boston Cream Pie, 8” (closest equivalent): $8.99
BAKE: Homemade Washington Pie, 8” (ingredients cost): $3.93

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Mia

    I just have to say how much I enjoy the Baker’s blog — the writing is wonderful; the photos are some of the best and so instructive! Bravo for putting together such a wonderful source.

  2. PJ Hamel, post author

    Wow, thanks a lot, Mia- I LOVE doing it, and it’s gratifying that you folks are having as good a time with it as we are here!

  3. Malinda

    Hi, I am an Italian wife living temporarily in your beautiful country and with a passion for cooking ( I am a sommelier too). Thanks to you I learnt how to convert ingredients (and measurements) but especially I enjoyed in discovering new recipes. I confirm your recipes are simply the best and King’s Arthur flour is the best in making our traditional European recipes. Thanks for helping me, I will take this country and its flavors with me when I’ll be back in my country. I beg your pardon if my English is not so beautiful!:) Ciao!

  4. Dawn

    I spend way too much time going thru these recipes, I’m an addict! I love baking and trying these I have literally notebook after notebook cramed with wonderful recipes that I’ve tried I’m anxious to try this Washington Pie sounds pretty simple and delicious.

  5. Nel

    This was a trip down memory lane! I grew up with exactly THAT White House Cookbook on a high shelf in our house. We had thousands of books and hundreds were my mother’s cookbooks, but when we were stumped for something – ink in the carpet, mustard-plaster recipe – and didn’t know quite where to look for an answer, it was always, ‘Maybe it’s in the White House Cookbook.’ Or: ‘Get down the White House Cookbook and look in there.’ For years when I was little I couldn’t understand why you’d look in the White House Cookbook for solutions to the problem of a scorched white shirt and the like. Did my mother plan to COOK the shirt? But often enough, the White House Cookbook had a household tip that was worth trying. My mother was born in 1920 and raised partly by her grandmother (born in 1876), so the old-fashioned writing didn’t phaze her. She just ‘followed the recipe’ and usually the White House Cookbook saved the day.

    Mother died almost 20 years ago, and recently my stepmother e-mailed around a list of ‘your mother’s cookbooks’ either to be claimed by my siblings and me, or donated to the library book sale. I noticed that the White House Cookbook was NOT on the list of books to give away. Too much stored wisdom and family history in that book. Giving it away would be like giving away great-grandmother. My father would never part with it.

    What a treat to see that book on these pages! I haven’t been home in years, and that one picture took my right back to childhood.

    I love the Baker’s Banter! Keep it up!

  6. Candace R.

    PJ, will you please check the blog comments for the recently posted Cinnamon Bread recipe? I need advice. In addition to what I wrote there, the bread was very tasty, and great toasted but had trouble getting it out of the toaster as it fell apart. Thanks! I think it may have been dry from the extra baking because it didn’t ever seem to get “done.”

  7. Anne Lauer

    My mom used to make Washington Cream Pie, and it was one of my favorite desserts as a child. Several years ago I compiled her recipes and found this one in her “John Deere book” – the recipes she received from others and copied into a pocket ledger when she married and moved to Minnesota in 1944. In this version the eggs are indeed separated and beaten separately. Enjoy!!

    Washington Cream Pie

    Sponge cake part:
    3 egg yolks
    ¼ c. cold water
    1 c. sugar
    1 t. vanilla
    1 c. flour
    1 t. baking powder
    ¼ t. salt
    3 egg whites

    Beat yolks, add water, and beat more.
    Add sugar and flavoring gradually.
    Beat more.
    Fold in flour, salt & baking powder.
    Add stiffly beaten whites.
    Bake in 2 layers at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

    Custard sauce filling:
    2 c. milk 1/3 c. flour ¼ t. salt
    1/3 to ½ c. sugar 1 egg ½ t. vanilla

    Scald milk, add other ingredients, fold in beaten egg white. Split layers and put sauce between,
    Dust powdered sugar on top.

    Option: add sliced bananas with the custard filling.

  8. Brunetta R. Wolfman

    I loved this recipe, story and photos. I, too, love old cookbooks and found this fascinating complete with the working out of the right ingredients and methods. Thank you.

  9. Judy Galligan

    This looks wonderful…I have a ladies group gathering in my home on Monday, I am going to make this cake…Strawberries from California are plentiful in our Michigan grocery store so will serve with Strawberries…Thanks for the reciepe I was wondering what I would fix…jkg

  10. Roger

    For Anne Lauer.

    Ms Lauer,

    For your mother’s version of Washington Cream Pie you show the following…

    Custard sauce filling:
    2 c. milk 1/3 c. flour ¼ t. salt
    1/3 to ½ c. sugar 1 egg ½ t. vanilla

    Scald milk, add other ingredients, fold in beaten egg white. Split layers and put sauce between.

    Scald milk, add other ingredients! Are we to presume this means the whole egg unseparated? You then indicate to fold in the beaten egg white. What egg white? This would seem to indicate that the 1 egg is separated and the “yolk” is all that is added in the second step after scalding the milk.



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  12. Anne Lauer

    Roger, I’m sorry, I should have added the disclaimer I gave my kids with the recipes – you may need to check a basic cookbook for mixing methods, etc. Old recipes seldom provide good instructions, so part of the fun is figuring out the method. One egg is used in the sauce, and it is separated.

    Here’s my suggestion for preparation:
    In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, flour and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.
    Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolk; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat. Gently fold in whipped egg white and vanilla.

  13. Elizabeth Quigley

    Hi PJ,
    I am Cooking Nerd. I love King Arthur products. In fact I place another order yesterday. 🙂 I have so enjoyed reading your blog. I put a link on my blog to yours.
    Have a happy cooking day.

  14. Catherine de Beauvais

    King Arthur Flour is my absolute favorite website. The products are charming. The recipes are delicious. It is always such a pleasure to see what is new. Such good quality flours and your other wonderful items is of major importance when selecting ingredience for making my mother and grandmother’s handed-down recipes, as well as my own current offerings. Thank you, King Arthur Flour, for such great taste and pleasure you have given us.

  15. Cat

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. I have a bowl of strawberries just waiting for something to go with them. I have to include my favorite cookbook find. While poking thru an antique shop in Maine, I came across a 1921 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. The best part was the inscription on the inside cover to a lady with the same birthdate as mine, just 41 years earlier. That book just had to come home with me!

  16. Royce Robertson

    Thanks so much for sharing the recipe and photos of your cookbook. I thought the photos and prints had exceptionaly clear print. You are so lucky, I seldom find anything wonderful at yard sales, much less an old treasure of a cookbook. You and your co-workers have the most wonderful stories and beside baking, you are gifted writers. Once again, many thanks.

  17. Lynette Cruz

    Hello everyone and to the wonderful people at King Arthur flour! I’m making this recipe as we speak, couldn’t have been easier.Looking forward to tasting it ,I don’t know if i can wait two days,maybe have to do an overnighter! LOL

  18. Rose

    KA readers might be interested in knowing that a republished White House Cookbook can be found at the Dollar Store. I just bought it, but not all Dollar Stores have them, unfortunately.

  19. Julia Thornton

    Sunday morning and I’m off on a tangent! Not all White House cookbooks are created equal. I have my grandmother’s, published in the old German script in 1906 by Saalfield Publishing Co. in Chicago. The recipe for Boston Cream Cake appears to be for cream puffs instead. Apparently something was lost in the translation. Interestingly, a recipe for Blitztorte, in a section of German favorites, is very similar to the one on this website several months ago.
    Enjoy King Arthur’s blog and participants!

  20. Little Bit

    For those interested in old cookbooks, Radcliff College (Harvard) has a library of just old cookbooks. And I mean old! You can find recipes in thes books from how to cook aardvark to zebras.

  21. Kat DeFonce

    I too, have a passion for old cookbooks. A few years ago, I was able to obtain, by mail order, three reprints of old cookbooks. One, “The Orginal Whitehouse Cookbook” copyright 1887 is chock full of recipes of which the units of measure one must play around with unless you had a grandmother (like I did) and got used to the method! I can’t wait to try this recipe. It does not appear in my copy.

  22. Stephanie

    PJ – I really wish I had read this earlier. I live in DC and would have been more than happy to give you a culinary tour of the city! Next time you or any of the other Baker’s Banter writers are in the DC area, email me and I’ll be more than happy to put on my tour guide hat!

  23. Paula

    PJ, What a fine! your doing a super job’er I shouldn’t call it a job
    if you’re enjoying what one does. This WH cake looks so good and yes
    I too will be baking it soon. theses “old” cookbooks have many memiores
    too share with us.
    Thank You so much for puting the baking Blog together.

  24. PJ Hamel, post author

    Stephanie, thanks – could have used your guidance. I don’t know how many times (about 8?) I walked the wrong way on Mass. Ave…. And we totally had no clue where to eat. Though we did find (by accident) some superb Thai food. We’ll be down again next May…

    And thanks for your kind comments, Paula-

  25. Sharon Richmond

    Am a little confused as to measure: 1 cup being 7 ounces, in another recipe for sourdough bread, the recipe calls for 1 cup starter, but says its 9 ounces!!

    I thought that one cup always equaled 8 ounces?

    Thanks for clearing this up for me 🙂

  26. PJ Hamel, post author

    Hi Sharon – Yes, it can be confusing. 1 cup = 8 ounces (not 7 ounces) liquid: this means water, or water-like liquids (juice, milk, etc.) But 1 cup of honey weighs about 11 ounces. 1 cup of alcohol might weigh a little less. And 1 cup of flour weighs 4 1/4 ounces. So 1 cup doesn’t ALWAYS weigh the same… only when it’s a certain type of liquid.

  27. s.tai

    I tried the recipe tonight and ended up with 2 layers that were less than an inch thick. They are not thick enough to slice so I’ll just make a 2 layer cake. I double checked the ingredients/measurements but wasn’t missing anything. Did anyone else have too little batter?

  28. PJ Hamel, post author

    S. Tai – That sounds just about right, though I would have thought the layers would have been 1″ thick, not less. This recipe makes two THIN layers (unlike what you’d normally expect from a cake), which you then carefully slice into four thinner layers. though you can certainly do as you did, and simply make a double-layer cake—which I’m sure you’ll enjoy anyway!

  29. Gail Cacciatore

    I can’t begin to tell you how delicious this recipe really is. I didn’t think it would be all that easy to fix, but to my surprise it came out just like the picture. I only had to make one change. The recipe for the custard is just not enough custard to put between the layers. So I doubled it, but had about a cup left over and that was no problem to get rid of in my house. They were putting the left over custard on vanilla wafers with two blackberries on top. The custard was made with half and half and cream, so it was sweet and rich. And I was told by another family member that they hoped this would be my Holiday dessert for this year. I have been purchasing from your catalog and never knew that you had these recipes online. I will surely be watching out for more in the future.
    Thank you for a new found dessert that I will be known for in my family now.

  30. Charlene S.

    I made this cake last weekend for my daughter’s graduation party. I made the cake TWICE–first time it didn’t rise as much as i thought it should. Turns out I made TWO mistakes: 1. Didn’t beat the eggs long enough 2. Used a 9 inch pan instead of an 8 inch one!
    Good mistake since we had LOTS of extra cake around! It definitely needs to be cut in the thin layers since otherwise the cake is too dry. Served it with strawberries. YUM.. Actually, I think it got even better the second day! this blog!

  31. PJ Hamel, post author

    Charlene, I totally agree – it was even better the second day, after being refrigerated, as the book said. Hey, that recipe is in better shape than any other 104-year-old I’ve ever heard of! I love the thin layers; so elegant, yet not at all difficult to pull off, esp. with my best friend in the kitchen, instant pudding mix. : )

  32. Dana Booth

    Well after seeing this of course I had to go back and look at my White House Cookbook (1964) to see if it was there. Didn’t find it :(. I did see a couple of interesting things tho:

    1) According to the editor of this edition, older cookbooks used the term “powdered sugar” not to mean the current confectioner’s sugar, but instead to mean a cone of sugar that has been chopped up and rolled or powdered. Unfortunately it doesn’t say with what.

    2) There is a measurement in the Election Cake recipe called a gill (e.g. 5 gills new milk; 1 gill brandy)

    If anybody could shed light on either of these, it would be much appreciated!

    Here you go, Dana, I googled gill: Unit of volume. Normally taken as a quarter of a pint, it can also be a third or a half pint, especially in conversation. The legal definition is a 1/4 of a pint. The word Gill is pronouced with a hard G (as Jill). -PJH

    PJ and all KAF Baker’s Banter folks, thanks for the wonderful info, pictures, recipes, and other banter. I look forward to making this one tomorrow (wish we could eat it then! 🙂

  33. Joyce

    I’m going to be making this cake over the weekend. I have high hopes for a wonderful dessert. But a question on the filling. I bought the large size instant pudding, but the box calls for 3 cups of liquid. Should I have gotten the small box or am I just to use less liquid than the box calls for? Thanks for your help.

    Hi Joyce,

    You can use the big box and make it with 1 1/2 cups cream and 1 1/2 cups milk, and some extra vanilla extract. You will have plenty to fill the layers, and some left over as well. It’s great in creampuffs, or parfaits.

    Happy Baking!

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

  34. Candace R.

    PJ- I too love old cookbooks, actually any cookbook! I was looking in the Yankee Cookbook (Imogene Wolcott) that was a mainstay of my childhood home, for a recipe for rhubarb pie, which I made with peaches instead of strawberrys. Tasted great! Her recipe for Peach Pie, pg.216, tells you to fill the lower crust with the fruit, put on the top crust and bake. Then, when it is baked, gently lift the top crust and pour in a cold filling you’ve made with eggwhites, milk, sugar, cornstarch, etc. I had never heard of this method. Sounds like a lot of work and kind of chancy outcome as to looks of the finished product. Are you familiar with this?

    Candace, I’ve heard of pouring heavy cream through the vent hole on top of an apple pie. And the same with Amish peach pie. But I’ve never heard of lifting the whole top crust off. That must be one sturdy crust, eh? Wouldn’dn’t you like to be able to go back in time and see some of these old-time bakers at work? -PJH

  35. Smriti

    Thanks for the detailed instructions PJ! I tried this recipe and not only is it tasty but also very simple. Its one of the few things that came right the first time :). I think that has a lot to do with your photo-for-each-step technique. Thanks again!

    You’re very welcome, Smitri – glad it worked for you. Sometimes those old recipes, plain and simple as they are, work to a T. – PJH

  36. Alex

    I also have a very old copy of the White House cookbook and you don’t know how excited I was to find someone else playing with it. This cake looks delicious, I’ll definately give it a try. Thank you!

  37. Alaine

    Made this wonderful cake last weekend and it was delicious! Everyone liked it, light and I didn’t feel like I cheated in eating cake every night! Want to try it with different pudding mixes. I’m a BIG pumpkin fan and can see one with some spices in the batter and a pumpkin pudding. The photos do make we want to bake more. Can’t wait to try the chocolate chip cookies! Thanks so much.

  38. Eric Janvrin

    I made this cake yesterday (two batches – I was making it for a small club my wife belongs to) and can echo all the comments here – I am new to layer cakes and found slicing the thin cakes challenging, so I increased the cake ingredients by 33 percent (went from 1-1/2 cups flour to 2 cups flour, etc.) in the second batch. The biggest challenge was the vanilla extract and almond extract amounts came out to 1-1/3 teaspoon and 1/3 teaspoon, so I just used 1/4 teaspoon measure and deliberately overfilled those measures, letting some liquid spill into the batter while measuring. Since I was adding another 1/2 cup of flour, I used 1/2 cup King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour in combination with 1-1/2 cup all purpose flour. This made a very similar cake to the first batch, the thicker cake was just easier for me to cut into layers. We served it with strawberries on the side, and it was a hit! I am never fearful trying a King Arthur Flour recipe – the directions are very clear and I can follow them easily. Anytime there have been problems, I can re-read the recipe and quickly figure out my mis-step, and even my mistakes have been edible (and usually still very tasty!). My wife has given me the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking cookbook, and I am enjoying trying some of those recipes – I made the Fresh Berry Tiramisu, and received rave reviews on it! Thanks for an interesting recipe makeover story, and an introduction to Washington Pie!

    Kudos to you, Eric, for teaching yourself to bake. It’s a WONDERFUL, imaginative, giving pastime… and as you say, even the “mistakes” are tasty. And congrats on the fancy math making a thicker cake… Have fun- 🙂 PJH

  39. ruben dabdoub a.

    i have the same cook book and my friends ask me where to find an original book or a copy i will apreciate your help, thank you
    That’s a tough question. Keep checking old bookstores. You might find it on ebay sometime. Good luck in your search.

    Hi Ruben: go to, and check the used and out of print book section – they have copies of The White House Cookbook, dating back to 1913, for less than $10. Good luck – PJH

  40. Patricia Rankin

    Anyone know where I can find a conversion chart for old recipes? Like how much is a HANDFUL, a PINCH, a DAP etc.

    I am puting together a ETSY Hungry Artist Cookbook and wanted to include these conversions. (ETSY is a online marketplace for all things handmade with the exception they allow vintage items).

    Patricia, you’d best Google. I found the following, but I’ll bet with research you could find more:
    * Tad — 1/8th teaspoon
    * Dash — 1/16th teaspoon (or less than 1/8th teaspoon)
    * Pinch — 1/16th teaspoon (or 1/24th teaspoon)
    * Smidgen (smidge, for short) — 1/32nd teaspoon (or 1/48th teaspoon)
    * Drop — 1/60th teaspoon (or 1/80th teaspoon or 1/120th teaspoon)
    * Hint — a trace
    Good luck – PJH

  41. ernie almodovar

    my aunt has the book and was given to her by senior, it was published in 1906. what can she do with it?

    Enjoy it – it’s a treasure. If you mean can she sell it, she could try eBay, but surprisingly, this book is pretty common – they must have printed an awful lot of them back in the day… PJH

  42. Alicia

    Does anybody know what the value of the 1901 Whitehouse Cookbook is? I recently inherited one and have only found out that they are rare but can’t find the value. Thanks…Alicia
    You can check with a rare book dealer. Joan D@bakershotline

    Try checking, in their used/out of print book section. Surprisingly, last time I checked they weren’t that valuable; there seem to be quite a few of them around… PJH

  43. Katie

    All these comments about old cookbooks and recipes remind me of my grandmother. When she passed away, we were looking through some of her recipes and discovered one that called for “a nickle’s worth of ginger.” I don’t think we will ever be able to figure that one out!

    No, I guess not, Katie. Interesting all the old measurements – a “teacupful” of this, a “soup spoon” of that. Plus so many old recipes didn’t include any directions – just ingredients! I guess women were just expected to know what to do, no instructions needed… PJH

  44. nelda

    Among my many cookbooks is a copy of this book. It’s a very interesting read! I bought it at an auction many years ago…
    Love your site and recipes! Many of your recipes are amoung my favorites! Thanks!

  45. KimberlyD

    I love my old cook books, mine isn’t as old as your but I still love it. I have a Better Homes and Garden cook book published in 1940 that was my great grandma’s, it has little side notes from her. Than I have a Watkins cook book published in 1938, my dad use to sell Watkins products and liked to collect anything from Watkins. I too fine it exciting when I fine an old cook book.

    When ever I try to cut a cake in half I don’t cut straight, any sugestings?
    Hi Kimberly,
    One of the best pieces of advice our cake baker Elisabeth gave me is to not try to cut all the way through the cake on the cut. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut in about 1 inch and then turning the cake as you go, cut that 1 inch all around. Then, go a little deeper on each round until you have cut all the way through. Hope this helps! ~ MaryJane

  46. Anne

    I just unearthed a couple of treasures–a 1918 Fanny Farmer and a “Rumford’s Baking Powder” cookbook of the same vintage. My grandmother wasn’t yet married in 1918, but her sister Annabel got a degree in nutrition and dietetics from what was then the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia (now Drexel University). I think she received it about that time, so I’m guessing the cookbooks were hers. They’re crumbling to dust. Although Aunt Annabel didn’t pursue a career as a cook or chef, she was a marvelous cook, and her food was always wonderful.

  47. Tinky

    I love this, love this, love this. Treasure that cookbook–and thanks for the recipe! I’ve been dying to make a Washington pie for years; you may have finally pushed me to it.

  48. Louise

    Wonderful to see this recipe and everyone’s comments. The recipe and preparation method is similar to my great-grandmother’s poppy seed cake–2 thin cakes, split into 4 tiers and filled with a cooked custard. My grandmother gave me this old recipe 40 years ago. I found the recipe recently after many years and served it for Mother’s Day. What a pleasure to revive family traditions.

  49. Dana Booth

    Love the post! Have an old White House Cookbook myself, also an old Joy of Cooking which my brother just gave me (can’t wait to cook from it :). I remember seeing the Washington Pie recipe in my White House Cookbook. Love just reading that book there are so many fascinating things. Will try the cake this weekend if I can find everything (just moved recently). As for the older ways of measuring, my favorite is my Grandma’s recipe for peanut brittle. You use a chunk of butter the size of a walnut and cook it over a fire until it spins a hair 🙂 I have finally mastered making this, but the first time it came out as trick peanut brittle — looked great, but actually bent without breaking! 🙂

  50. gail giddings

    Thank you for your website. I am writing a cookbook, (A Hundred Years of American Cookery), & was looking to see what I might find about The White House Cookbook on line. It just gives me a good feeling to know that there are other people that treasure these old cookbooks as I do. Every time I find a ‘new’ one, I couldn’t be happier than if I had found the holy grail. And thank you for your lovely pictures detailing Washington pie. God bless & good luck in all your endeavors.

    And best of luck to you, too, Gail. Writing a book is a challenge, but an enjoyable one – enjoy the journey! PJH

  51. Pearl Louise

    My mother (born in 1916) made a special cake for Christmas. Here is the recipe that she says came from “a white house cookbook”. Do you know anything about it?

    1 cup Shortening
    2 cups Sugar
    2 each Eggs – well beaten
    3 cups Flour
    3 cups Stewed raisins (reserve 1 cup
    of liquid)
    2 tsp Cinnamon 1 tsp Nutmeg
    ¼ tsp Salt
    1 cup Liquid from stewed raisins
    2 tsp Baking soda
    1 cup Walnuts or pecans
    Cream together shortening and sugar. Add already beaten eggs and beat well. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a separate bowl, dissolve soda in cooled raisin juice.
    Alternately add dry ingredients and liquid to shortening and sugar mixture beating well after each addition. Add raisins and nuts. Pour into a greased and floured 10” tube pan. Bake at 350º for about 1 hour.

    I don’t see it in my “White House Cookbook,” Pearl, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there – there was more than one edition, if I’m not mistaken. as a raisin-lover, this recipe looks fabulous! In fact, it almost looks like the cake part of a recipe I’ve been researching lately, something called Spanish Bar Cake that the A & P supermarkets used to sell (remember “Ann Page” brand?) I’m absolutely going to try this – thanks so much for sharing! PJH

  52. Pearl Louise

    Thank you so much for looking! Enjoy my mother’s recipe. I believe her cake is heavier and darker than the Spanish Bar Cake. As a family we were never unanimous on a frosting for “The Cake” – my brother favored (still does) a coffee icing, my sister loves cream cheese frosting and I like it both ways as well as without frosting!

    I do remember “Ann Page”. The thing I remember most about the A & P is going there to get one dose in the series of polio vaccinations. My daughter doesn’t even know what polio did to people.

    Again, thanks.

    Wow, both icings sound delish, Pearl! My mouth is watering just thinking about “The Cake.” Hard to believe, but some people don’t care for raisins – I don’t count myself in their number! Thanks again – PJH

  53. sagvig3

    You have some recipes linked to your unbleached cake flour product, including this one, which call for AP flour. I find this curious because I once used your baker’s hotline to inquire about what ratio to use when substituting cake flour for all-purpose in a cake recipe (from another source) in order to achieve a lighter result, as your products advertise… and was told I shouldn’t do this! Can I infer from the fact that you link these recipes to your cake flour, that cake flour CAN be used in cake recipes calling for AP flour? If so, what volume/weight adjustments do you suggest? (Usually the substitution is in the other direction: How much less AP flour do you use if the recipe calls for cake flour and you do not have any on hand…)

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello! There seems to be a little confusion here. While you can certainly substitute AP flour for our Unbleached Cake Flour Blend (and vice versa), it can generally not be used to replace a bleached cake flour like Swansdown or our Queen Guinevere in recipes calling for this type of flour. If you need to replace our Unbleached Cake Flour Blend then you will need to remove two tablespoons of flour per cup and replace this flour with an equal amount of corn starch. Jon@KAF

  54. Pat Hunter

    I have “The White House Cook Book” The pages are so brittle they fall apart when touched.
    It says The SAAlFIELD Publishing Company 1904. The cover is made out of material and is hand stitched together. Do you know if this is worth anything or where I could find out about this book?

    Thank You

  55. Steve

    I haven’t finished assembling this cake yet. However, I wanted to point out the cakes are very thin before cutting. Mine are about 2/3 inch. It will be challenging to cut. I think next time I will double the recipe.

    The cakes look fabulous though!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Steve, yes, the layers are very thin; mine was a scant 1″ tall, I believe. But, that’s what they’re supposed to be, so I think you’re headed in the right direction. Good luck! PJH

  56. Steve

    I completed and ate this cake this evening with family.

    I wish I had thought to assemble it right before serving.

    I put it in the fridge for probably 6 hours before serving, and it simply made the cake too hard/cold.

    It looked nice, and it was fun to make. It was just a bit too cold/hard for me. We even sat the slices out 1 hour, but it was just oh so cold.

    At least I can say I made a Washington Pie!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sorry the cake hardened up on you; apparent;y that’s how it was supposed to be, though, back in the day – if you check out the original recipe, it calls for it to be served very cold (their italics) with fruit. These days, though, you might want to take it out of the fridge sooner. Thanks for making it – and for helping to keep this venerable recipe alive. PJH

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