Over the summer, I was surfing eBay for film memorabilia and came across a recipe for Ginger Rogers’s Christmas cake in a small food magazine, A & P Menu, which is “dedicated to food, menus and recipes.” I bought the Dec. 17, 1936, menu so I could attempt to make this cake myself.
Note: The cover reads “Ginger Rogers, RKO Radio Pictures star soon to appear in “Stepping on Toes,” believes in bigger and better cakes.” “Stepping on Toes” was the working title for “Shall We Dance” (1937), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
In addition to the cake recipe, the rest of this issue of A&P Menu gives cookie recipes and gives suggestions on easy, inexpensive meals for your family leading up to Christmas.
Ginger’s cake is three layers: The top and bottom layer are a white butter cake and the middle layer is a hot water sponge cake. In between the layers, the recipe calls for a jar of red currant jelly. Instead of icing, the recipe called for a mixture of milk and confectioner sugar. Instead, I used a 1988 Wilton icing recipe. The cake is then topped off with candied cherries and citrons. I made a video detailing this cooking adventure:
The icing recipe I used:
The video sums up making the cake. It was much more time consuming (partially because I was trying to film AND bake) than I’m used to when it comes to baking. Because I was filming at the same time, which made each part of the process longer, this probably took roughly four hours to cook. I’m sure if I hadn’t been filming, it would have taken one to two hours – I’m not a fast baker. My family has always used and enjoyed Pillsbury boxed cake mixes. I also have never made a three-layer cake. The hot water sponge was different. I’m not really sure of the point of mixing eggs and sugar over a bowl of hot water. (Maybe a more experienced baker could advise?)
I went with my own Wilton icing recipe that my family has used for years, because milk and confectioner sugar didn’t sound like it would be a very thick topping, and it also sounded like a runny mess!
If you plan on making this cake, for my oven, the baking times were way too long, so keep a close eye on the cake.
As for the taste, I would say this was merely fine, though it all depends on your tastes. I love fruit and I love cake, but I don’t exactly enjoy them together. I particularly am not a fan of lemon flavored desserts (yes, even lemon bars or lemon meringue pie). The lemon extract used in the layers makes this cake have a pronounced lemon taste. If I ever made this again (which is doubtful), I would substitute vanilla extract. I considered doing this but wanted to stay true to the recipe.
The lemon and the currant jelly also didn’t seem to mix well. Perhaps using lemon curd would have mixed better. Or the red currant jelly would have tasted better with vanilla extract.
All that said, none of you need to worry that I will turn to food blogging because this was a lot of darn work. If any of you try your hand at this recipe, let me know what you think!