Chances are, you have your favorite, go-to birthday cake — but how about enjoying the one everyone was eating on the day you were born? Let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at all the biggest, best, and most popular cakes that have trended over the years. Some were popular for decades, some were popular for only a year or two, but at one time, they were on everyone’s table
1948-1956: Chiffon cake
Chiffon cake is a light, dairy-free cake that looks a lot like Angel Food. It’s got the same spongy texture, but this cake is made with both egg whites and yolks, along with fruit juice. It also has something of a sordid history, says The Rake. The cake’s history goes back to the 1920s, and it was the creation of a super-secretive baker named (and we’re not making this up) Harry Baker. He sold his recipe to Betty Crocker in 1948 and when he did, the following marketing campaign made chiffon cakes one of the new food trends that ushered in the 1950s. For years, orange and lemon chiffon cakes were the pride and joy of many home cooks, and the crowning glory that dinner guests “Ooh’ed” and “Aah’ed”
The most popular cake the year you were born
Chances are, you have your favorite, go-to birthday cake — but how about enjoying the one everyone was eating on the day you were born? Let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at all the biggest, best, and most popular cakes that have trended over the years. Some were popular for decades, some were popular for only a year or two, but at one time, they were on everyone’s table.
1957-1960: German chocolate cake
German chocolate cake isn’t actually German, says NPR, and was instead named for Sam German, the creator of a sweet baking chocolate
aptly called German’s Chocolate. Even though the chocolate hit the market in 1852, it wasn’t until 1957 that it became hugely popular — and German himself had nothing to do it with. When a Texas baker sent her chocolate cake recipe to a Dallas newspaper, people tried making it for themselves and absolutely loved it. German’s sweet baking chocolate was the key ingredient, and the cake was so popular their sales rose around 73 percent.
Pink champagne cake
You’ve probably seen the social media posts about the brilliance of putting carbonated beverages in cakes, and it’s definitely not a new thing. Chocolate cakes made with cola have been popular across the southern US for decades, but in the beginning of the 1960s it was the West Coast’s pink champagne cake that took, well, the cake.
There actually is champagne in it, and Epicurious says it’s one of the most requested recipes from the Los Angeles Times. Their version called for ¾ cup of champagne, and others who wanted to make a cake that was a little less boozy substituted strawberry soda. The layers of this sweet, light cake were usually separated by a layer of coconut or Bavarian cream then covered in fondant, and for the life of us, we can’t imagine why this one ever fell off America’s radar.
1967-1971: Carrot cake
People have actually been making carrot-filled desserts since the Middle Ages, and Cake Spy says foodie history is dotted with a resurgence in the popularity of carrots in sweet and savory dishes alike. But carrot cake got a major boost in popularity as the decades shifted from the 1960s into the 1970s, for a few reasons. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the cream cheese frosting we know and love today became the go-to choice for topping carrot cake, and let’s be honest here — it’s the frosting that makes it. Couple that with an increasingly health-conscious country, and carrot cake surged in popularity. It stayed near the top for years, too, because the carrots make it healthy, right?
1972-1973: Sock-it-to-me cake
A what? We can hear it now. The 1970s Sock-it-to-me cake was a kind of coffee cake, and it looked pretty boring from the outside. Cut into it, though, and you’ll find a layer of brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecan filling. The whole thing was usually topped with a glaze, and it’s what anyone who was anyone was making for their guests. That’s partially because the name was a pop culture reference to one of the biggest shows on television at the time, Laugh-In. According to The Times-News, the Sock-it-to-me cake wasn’t just banking on its sketch comedy name — it was seriously tasty.
1975-1977: Jell-O poke cakes
We can’t even begin to stress just how important Jell-O was in the 1970s. It was quick, it was easy, and it was even used in cakes. The idea is actually pretty brilliant, and there’s an almost endless number of combinations you could have whipped up for your family’s dessert. When Chicago Now’s Abbie Claire had her first 1970s-inspired Jell-O poke cake, it was lemon cake with lime Jell-O, while cookbook writer Jeremy Jackson says his grandmother’s go-to recipe was white or yellow cake with strawberry Jell-O (via NPR). Integrating the cake and the Jell-O is the brilliant part, and doing it only requires poking some holes in the cake (hence the name), and pouring in the Jell-O. That’s it. Seriously. The Jell-O sets into the cake, and it’s no wonder this slightly psychedelic cake was so popular.
1978-1983: Hummingbird cake
Hummingbird cake is pretty aptly named, as it’s a light cake filled with the sweet flavors of banana and pineapple. It’s also a little odd in that we know exactly when it became so popular: with the February 1978 issue of Southern Living. That’s when Mrs. LH Wiggins’s recipe was published, and for decades, it’s remained their most requested recipe.
It was massively popular when it first came out in particular, because it was a pretty novel idea with a neat name. It’s said to be so sweet it would attract even a hummingbird, and earlier versions of the sweet, fruity layer cake were called the Doctor Bird Cake, created by a Jamaican airline. It was Mrs. Wiggins’s recipe America really feel in love with, though, bringing a slice of the tropics to dessert plates everywhere.
By 1985, Eater says, tiramisu was so popular that The New York Times was wondering just how it had happened. The spongy, chocolately, espresso-dusted cake only really got introduced to restaurants in America in the 1980s, and America immediately fell in love with it. It had been kicking around for a long time before that, but it was something of a niche dessert served by grandmothers following recipes handed down through the generations. It’s not entirely clear just how the tiramisu craze kicked off, but we do know that by 1987, there were hundreds of different variations on the same idea being made in restaurants and bakeries across the country. Bread or cookies, booze-filled or booze-free, cocoa or chocolate… there were any number of ways you could get your tiramisu, but everyone was eating some version of it.
1988: Chocolate praline layer cake
The Pillsbury Bake-Off competition introduced the Bundt pan to the country in 1966, and in 1988, it introduced another star. The chocolate praline layer cake looked much, much more difficult to make than it was, and it tasted even better. Julie Bengtson’s recipe for a Devil’s food cake layered with sugary pecans and whipped cream proved that boxed cake mix definitely doesn’t have to be boring, and that layered cakes don’t have to be difficult. No wonder it was a massive hit!
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