Ginger Rogers’s Christmas Cake

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 recipe: 

Ginger Rogers’ cake recipe along the right side of the page

The icing recipe I used:

The icing recipe we used from a 1988 Wilton cookbook.

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!

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

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5 thoughts on “Ginger Rogers’s Christmas Cake

  1. Great work! Recipes have a wonderful way of reflecting place and time — remember all the crazy Jell-O salad recipes of the 60s and 70s? Ginger’s cake seems to reflect the actress’s public persona — cheerful, sweet, and unique. Enjoyed your video! Merry Christmas!

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  2. I love you for making this. Going through Photoplay Magazines of the 30s and 40s, I have often been tempted to make some of the recipes proffered by the film stars of the day. But you actually did. I’m sure it was better that anything that emerged from Miss Stanwyck’s imaginary Connecticut kitchen in 1943. And yes, I finally got to see what Miss Pickens, the Great Comet, actually looks like. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  3. OMG this video made me smile from ear to ear, I loved it! I’m not a fan of cooking or spending any time in the kitchen, so I have nothing but mad respect for you for carrying this out and attempting the reciple. You’re right, it looked very time consuming.

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  4. I think the poster doesn’t know very much! 1) does she know that the A&P was a grocery store chain? and the recipe book is an advertizement for the store? 2) beating the eggs over warm water will make them beat up fluffier? 3) did she read the recipe for the frosting? the one she posted called for shortening (vegetable fat–that has fallen out of favor since is is hydrogenized (i.e. it is full of trans fat? and not a glaze (confectioners sugar and milk) –but that a glaze would have been nice too) 4) Time consuming? Oh. yeah–what did it take? all of an hour? what a waste–

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    • Hi Helen, thanks for reading! I’m afraid you misunderstood what I said about the frosting. The recipe called for the confectioner sugar and milk mixture, I instead went with the posted Wilton recipe. I updated the cutline so others wouldn’t be confused, so thank you for pointing that out! As for trans fat, is anyone who is eating cake really concerned with that? This cake did take a long time because 1. I’m not an experienced baker 2. I was filming the embedded video at the same time. I would estimate that this took four hours. I would love to hear your thoughts on the cake and see your video when you do!
      -Jessica

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