Coconut Candle Cake

An early 20th century name for a birthday cake. Really, I assure you, “candle cakes” are nothing more than cakes you put candles in.

There used to be quite a bit of concern devoted to keeping the candles from touching the cake itself, actually, from wooden trays with candle-holders outside the cake to sugar-roses designed to hold candles inside the cake or resting them inside marzipan decorations. Since the end of the 19th century, however, most candles were made of paraffin, and as we’ve learned, paraffin is safe to eat (not that you’d want to make a habit of it).

For instructions, let’s visit the version that appeared in the January 14, 1932 edition of the The Dothan (Alabama) Eagle:

Coconut Candle Cake

Birthday candle cake is simple to bake, delicious to the palate and satisfying to the eye:

2 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter or shortening
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 egg whites stiffly beaten

Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift together three times. Cream butter, add sugar gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add flour alternately with milk, a small amount at a tim. Beat after each addition until smooth. Add flavoring. Fold in egg whites. Bake in greased pan in moderate oven fifty minutes. Cover cake with a cooked frosting and sprinkle with moist coconut tinted green. Insert tiny red candles into the frosted cake in small holders.

To tint the coconut dissolve a small amount of green vegetable coloring in water and rub it evenly over the coconut, which has been spread on white paper.

From a notebook originally from somewhere in the general area of Sterling, Colorado from the 1930s.

This recipe is from the tenth page of the notebook; here’s the page in full (click to enlarge).

Click to expand a longer explanation...

In the words of the seller:
I acquired this book from the great granddaughter of the woman who wrote this book back in a small Nebraska town in the 30’s. She belonged to that generation of rural housewives who worked tirelessly to make ends meet and “keep body and soul together” for their families working the farms.

Later addendum:

[A]fter a conversation I had with a friend’s sister who used to live in North Eastern Colorado, given the type of recipes listed we decided it might be from a small town there, i.e., Sterling or Fort Morgan. Also North Platte or Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Even Cheyenne, Wyoming. If you Google a map of Sterling, Colorado and pull back, you will see all these little towns in that tri-state area.

Coconut Candle Cake

1-2/3 c. cake flour, sifted
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. butter or substitute
1 c. sugar
2 eggs, unbeaten
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. lemon or vanilla
1 c. [moistened?] coconut


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