Jiffy Cake

Using the method that would become Betty Crocker’s “new method” two decades later.

A frosting recipe (and an explanation of the name) appeared in the July 6, 1920 edition of The Kansas City Star:

Jiffy Cake

From the Philadelphia Record.

To make this cake sift 1-1/2 cups of flour into a bowl of 2-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Then add a cup of sugar, break in 2 eggs, add 1/2 cup of melted shortening and beat it all together very vigorously with a good strong Dover egg beater. It is well to have one for this purpose.

It is no wonder that this is called “jiffy cake,” for you really can put it together in a jiffy. You can flavor the batter with vanilla and add a tablespoon of melted chocolate and have a very good chocolate cake, or you can add dates, nuts, or raisins. It can be baked in a loaf, in cup cakes or in layer pans.

For icing use confectioner’s sugar and either milk, melted chocolate or fruit juice. A most delicious icing is made by mashing several nice juicy strawberries into the confectioner’s sugar. This makes a delicate shade of pink.

So if this is a cake put together “in a jiffy,” you ask, what’s the slower method? It has to do with how the cake is leavened.

If you wanted to divide the universe of cake in half, you could divide it into foam cakes and butter cakes. Foam cakes, like angel food cake or Yesterdish’s chocolate roulade cake, rely on beaten eggs (either whites alone or whole eggs) to introduce air into the cake. The air expands in the oven and the cake rises and takes on a sponge-y texture. Butter cakes, on the other hand, are made by using butter, lard, or other shortening to make a structure that holds air; those air pockets expand with the help of leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda.

Traditionally, the way you start a butter cake is to cream the sugar into the butter or shortening. The texture of the sugar would cut air pockets into the butter while they’re mixed, which is why the butter was ideally room temperature–too hard and you can’t cream it, too soft and the butter won’t hold the air. With stand mixers, obviously, the butter can be a little bit colder when you start.

So what made jiffy cake quicker was that it was an early iteration of what you could call the “muffin method” of cake mixing–the ingredients are mixed together in one bowl. The resulting cake doesn’t rise as much and has a bit of a less refined texture, but the higher density makes it moister, and the cake is more tender, because the butter actually avoids some gluten formation by melting into the flour and protecting the proteins a bit. (There’s a hybrid method, too, of beating the egg whites and folding them into the other mixed ingredients.)

Notice the recipe in the newspaper above was from 1920? In the 1940s, Betty Crocker promoted the muffin method of cake-mixing as the “new method.” For example, check out the insert in the photo at the above left.

From a box sold in River Forest, Illinois.

Jiffy Cake

1/3 cup lard
1-1/3 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1-3/4 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 cup chopped raisins


Cut raisins. Put all ingredients together including lard and beat thoroughly until smooth. Bake in a shallow pan rubbed with lard in a moderate oven 25 or 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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