Was history your favorite subject in school? I enjoyed it for the most part, though American history was one I enjoyed the most. Being a writer about food, the history of our recipes and food products are always a fascination for me. Today’s recipe is no exception, given the fact that there’s a bit of interesting product history behind it.
All of us who cook are very familiar with “Crisco”, the vegetable shortening for baking and frying. As with most any consumer product, there’s always another similar product to compete with it. In the case of “Crisco”, made and marketed by Procter & Gamble at that time (it’s now marketed by Smucker’s), Lever Brothers (now Unilever) decided to get in on manufacturing of shortening, too. Around 1936, Lever launched a shortening called “Spry”, which was similar to “Crisco”. Crisco was already an established brand and was well-known throughout the food industry. Yet, through an aggressive marketing program, Spry caught on with American cooks and at it’s peak of popularity, took 75% of Crisco’s market share.
Spry managed to become quite popular and was especially popular in the northeastern part of the country. It went through a few formula changes over time and as some products do, their market share declined and became a product in limited distribution. According to my research, Spry was being sold as late as 1980. Since then, Lever has since discontinued the product. However, many cooks remember Spry and claim that some of the recipes shown through advertising over the years have remained personal favorites in many cook’s recipe files. This brings me to the recipe I have for you, which is one that was at one time on the back of the Spry label, which is for “Treasure Cake”. It’s a simple, basic yellow cake flavored with vanilla and could be iced anyway you choose. Though the recipe goes way back a number of years, it’s still a great cake!
This is a cake that was advertised as a “one-bowl method” cake, meaning that there was no creaming in the recipe, nor the use of several mixing bowls that we tend to go through when we bake a cake. The recipe is very easy and is ready for the oven in just four minutes! You begin by sifting cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Shortening in added, along with some milk and vanilla extract. This is beaten for two minutes with the electric mixer at medium speed. In go the eggs and additional milk. This gets beaten again for two more minutes. The batter goes into two 8-inch layer pans and it’s ready for the oven. Once they come from the oven and are turned out to cool, you can ice the cake anyway you like. I’m including the recipe for ‘Minute-Boil Fudge Frosting”, which is another Spry recipe and goes perfectly with this yellow cake.
Of course, since Spry isn’t available any longer, Crisco would be what you’d use for the shortening in this cake. Nonetheless, it’s a tender, velvety old-fashioned cake and one that is dependable to turn out great every time. One note about the baking time: the original recipe stated to bake the cake at 375 degrees. I prefer baking the cake at 350 degrees, as I’ve discovered that my oven will brown a cake too dark baked at 375. Use your own judgement according to how your oven bakes. I find that 350 degrees works just fine.
Another great cake I shared sometime ago was for a “Graham Cracker Cake” that has a creamy lemon icing on it. This one came from the label of the Crisco shortening can back in the 1950’s and is a great cake! To get the recipe, simply click on the embedded link.
Once you try this cake, you may decided it’s a “treasure”, worth a place in your recipe files!
- 2 cups sifted cake flour
- 1-1/3 cups sugar
- 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons milk
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the shortening, 2/3 of the milk and vanilla extract. Beat for 2 minutes with electric mixer on low speed. Scrape the bowl and beaters. Add the eggs and remaining milk. Beat for an additional 2 minutes at low speed. Turn into two greased and floured 8-inch layer pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 25-35 minutes or until they test done in the center. Let cool about 5 minutes before removing to cooling racks to cool completely.
MINUTE-BOIL FUDGE FROSTING
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into bits
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 7 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons shortening
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place all ingredients except for the vanilla extract in a saucepan. Bring to boiling slowly, stirring constantly and boil briskly for 1 minute (on a rainy or very humid day, boil the mixture 1-1/2 minutes.) Cool to lukewarm. Add the vanilla extract and beat until thick enough to spread. If it becomes too thick, add a little additional milk. Makes enough for 2 8-inch layers or 1 12×8 inch cake.
Variation: Nut Fudge Frosting: add 1/2 cup nuts to frosting just before spreading.