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George Washington Cake?

My husband grew up in Germantown in the late 50's and early 60's. He has fond memories of George Washington Cake (it's kind of a spice cake chocolate icing or frosting, I'm not sure) sold in large squares.

The bakery closed years ago and yet to this day he talks about George Washington Cake.

Has anyone here heard of this and do you know where I can get my hands on some before his birthday (11/13)

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Try Haegele's Bakery - (215) 624-0117. It's near Frankford & Levick in the city. I remember when I was younger they used to sell it there. Can't hurt to call and ask.

    1. Haegele's Bakery use to have it - 4164 Barnett St, 215-624-0117. Good luck!

      6 Replies
      1. re: Bigley9

        Thank you both! I will check them out

        1. re: cgarner

          That's funny . . . Looks like Bigley & I were channeling the same food memory at the same time! (Or perhaps, Haegele's is the only remaining bakery of that generation?)

          Hope they still have it!

          1. re: gaffk

            THEY HAVE IT!! they still sell the "big squares" in the store and I just ordered a half sheet for $24 (not bad, you pay that for a half sheet of "grocery store" birthday cake!)

            You all are wonderful! Thank you so much!!!

            1. re: cgarner

              Terrific! Might have to go get some!

              1. re: cgarner

                Great . . .hope your husband enjoys his birthday surprise!

          2. Having also been in the area for school (GFS) in the same era, what was the bakery? I remember one on Gnt. Ave. near Chelten. Breadncakes? Wasn't Hanscom's a bakery as well?

            As for the cake in question, I wonder if it shouldn't be renamed Hercules Cake (considering what we know now.)

            4 Replies
            1. re: Chefpaulo

              CP Hanscoms was a bakery... they had a location in Abington also. They sold in some grocery stores but my Nan insisted we go to the store. she existed on their sticky buns and maxwell house coffee with milk and sugar... (literally there were days where that was all she ate)

              The bakery that my husband remembers was Maryanne's and he says they have a store down in Sea Isle City now.

              1. re: cgarner

                Our birthday cakes always came from Hanscoms

              2. re: Chefpaulo

                Well, having also gone to school there, I can tell you that whatever that was, it was long gone by the 80s.
                Very GFS comment, though, about "Hercules Cake."

                1. re: Bob Loblaw

                  Can't help it, Bob. I was a lifer. I still go around whistling "Jerusalem."

              3. Thank you all again for the rec. Haegele's Bakery is something out of a dream... the cake... well a little drier than I had expected, but very tasty.
                (Is it supposed to be crumbly like that?)

                4 Replies
                1. re: cgarner

                  As I recall, it was kind of crumbly. Was your husband happy with his surprise?

                  1. re: gaffk

                    he was so thrilled! even more so that I also grabbed a bag of Springerle.... which were a little moist and cakey in the middle. We can get them at Flecks in the Q-town farmers market, but the ones they sell there are hard as rocks!

                    For dinner I made his favorte Steak Oscar, we shared a bottle of Duckhorn Merlot and had the cake for dessert, a perfect day

                    1. re: cgarner

                      Glad to hear it!

                      And Duckhorn merlot? I knew you had good taste ;)

                      1. re: cgarner

                        Great! Glad it was a good celebration!

                  2. I also remember this cake! We used to get it from a "Unity Frankford" corner grocery store at 11th and Cambria Street in North Philly. Would love to have the recipe??? I live far away in Bucks County.
                    Still have memories of that delicious Chocolate Spice cake, Found a close version in Huntingdon Valley - but not nearly as good.
                    We moved from that old neighborhood in 1958!

                    1. Oh how I love this cake. Apparently it is known only in the Philadelphia area. The original, for me, was sold in squares which were always on a thin piece of pie crust. It had a chocolate icing over which was a spider web design in white icing. Now, the bakeries seem to leave out the pie crust. Every bakery I have contacted calls this a junk cake, made with whatever batters they have left over at the end of the day. Dublin Bakery in Upper Dublin made it correctly but they have gone out of business after many years. Now, as far as I know, only Lochel's in Hatboro and Schenk's Family Bakery in the NE (Rhawn and Verree) still make it, but not on the crust. Lochel's will make it on the crust as a special order. Their # is 215-773-9779 and for Schenk's, 215-722-0997. Oh, Rillings in Warminster makes it primarily for Presidents' Day, but I believe if you order several, they will make them, on the crust, as a special order. Their # is 215-357-3860. Hope this helps. It is my favorite cake. Oh, I do have a recipe somewhere. When I find it, I will post it.

                      1. I have passionately fond memories of George Washington Squares I used to get at a bakery in Castor Gardens, where I grew up. I can't remember it's name, but it was on the 6500 block of Castor Avenue (no, it wasn't Michael's Bakery, which was on the 6600 block of Castor). They were huge squares of a super moist spicy/gingery cake with a thick chocolate frosting. In 1983, they were a quarter a piece, five for a dollar. I would grab one or two of them every morning on my way to school, and I loved them dearly. To be honest, I don't think I've seen them since that bakery closed.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: StrandedYankee

                          Speaking of Castor Avenue, does anyone remember Zeft's Pharmacy (and their fabulous soda fountain) at the corner of Castor and Rhawn (I think)? That is where I first tasted flavored soda-fountain Coke - vanilla, chocolate, lemon and cherry! Absolutely the best sodas I have ever had. I wonder if they are still there, and if they still have the soda fountain? There is a soda fountain at Burdick's in Hatboro but I have not tried it. All the 5&10s used to have one, at their lunch counters. Someone mentioned Hanscom's and Horn & Hardart. I lived in West Oak Lane as a young girl and we went to the Hanscom's on Ogontz Avenue and my grandfather would take me to the H&H in town, when we would go in on the train. It was great to be a kid in the 50s and 60s. My neighbor has a recipe for the George Washington Cake and I will post it later today.Nancy

                          1. re: melrosemiss

                            I remember Zeft's, but I think it was gone by the time I was a teenager. All over the Northeast when I was a kid you could basically get what I call semi-fountain sodas (the places had the pre-mixed fountain sodas putting out Pepsi and the like, but they would also have chocolate, cherry and lemon syrup you could have them add in, or I would just get a chocolate cherry soda).

                            1. re: StrandedYankee

                              I am not sure this is exactly the cake we remember so well, but her goes:
                              2-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
                              1-1/4 teas. ginger
                              1-1/4 teas cinnamon
                              1/2 teas each: cloves, nutmeg and salt.
                              2 teas. Calumet or Clabber Girl baking powder OR 2-1/2 teas. Rumford baking powder.
                              2 eggs
                              3/4 c, brown sugar, packed
                              3/4 c. molasses
                              3/4 c. melted shortening
                              1/2 teas. baking soda
                              1 c. boiling water
                              Line bottom of 9 x 9 x 2 pan with waxed paper. Grease paper and sides of pan. Start oven at 350 10 minutes before baking. Sift flour, measure and sift 3 more times with next 6 ingredients. Beat eggs in 3 qt. mixing bowl with rotary beater (old cookbook). Beat in brown sugar, molasses and until very creamy. Remove and wash egg beater. Using wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture in 2 portions until well mixed. Add baking soda dissolved in boiling water. Beat with rotary beater until smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 35 mniutes or until cake tests done. Coolon rack in pan x 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack, peel off paper carefully and invert. The recipe here says to serve warm with whipped cream but if this is "our cake", I imagine we would cool it and ice as desired. At Lochel's it is always iced with chocolate and then a spider web design is put on the top with white icing, and then a cherry is put in the middle of the top of the cake. Let me know if anyone makes it,. please.

                              1. re: melrosemiss

                                My kind of recipe. Where did you find this and why the differences between baking powders? Please advise. Very interesting.

                                1. re: Chefpaulo

                                  Recipe is in Meta Given's Encyclopedia of Cooking, copyright 1953 (last I checked on Amazon it was over $100.00), page 600. Now, I hope I can relay the data about the baking powder differences, correctly. Calumet and Clabber Girl are double action sulfate-phosphate types of baking powder. The Royal, if I mentioned it, is a tartrate baking powder (2-1/2 teas) and the Rumford is a phosphate type baking powder, per page 558. From pages 201-202: two types of baking powders are used in the home -1) the sulfate-phosphate double action kind, a/k/a combination type, or 2) the tartrate or phosphate types which seem to be single action. The tartrate type is Royal brand and contains cream of tartar and tartaric acid. The phosphate type contains calcium acid phophate and this is the Rumford type. The Clabber Girl/Calument ones contain two elements - sodium aluminum sulfate and calcium acid phosphate. Both types give off the same type of gas, but the rate of formation and residue vary greatly between types. There are two long paragraphs explaining the chemical action, The book is old and falling apart and it is too hard to hold it and type out the article with the computer in my lap. I would be very happy to write out the explanation by hand and snail mail to you if you would like but it all boils down to their action when mixed with a liquid I think. If you want a copy, send me your snail mail addy to melrosemiss@aol.com and I will be happy to send it. You may be able to find the info here:
                                  http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/Ba.... It is always nice when someone else is as interested in the "why" as I am.

                                  1. re: melrosemiss

                                    Yes. It does boil down to the liquid.

                                    I grew up asking such questions and getting more-than-complete answers. My dear dad was an organic chemist, bacteriologist and food technologist who consulted internationally. He could always explain why horseradish was hot, why toast turned brown, why older canned food started to bulge and everything else. (His most humorous, graphic and unforgettable was his explanation of beer making. NO 10-year-old could forget that!) He's a major reason why I'm a Hound. Your response would have generated his kind of conversation.

                                    From a discussion with dad years ago, my recollection is that gas from single action is heat induced while double action is both chemical and heat induced. This is why double action requires acid to get going (e.g. buttermilk or facsimile) while single action does not. Your explanation above is more than sufficient and I would not want you to go to the trouble of writing out anything additional but I really thank you for the offer.

                                    1. re: Chefpaulo

                                      I would have liked your Dad. I have a science teacher at Melrose who was like that and because of her I have always loved science (well, maybe not chemistry) but I loved bio and microbiology.

                        2. Anyone have any idea where the name came from?

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: barryg

                            I wrote to cake/sugar artist and current star of the Food Channel's Save My Bakery, Kerry Vincent, and she forwarded this history.
                            This seems to be for a lighter, currant cake but perhaps as the recipe circulated through other populations, it was tweaked until it became what we know. I am going to try to make the recipe I listed above and hope it comes close.

                            1. re: melrosemiss

                              wow, I would have not thought to do that, but what a great article, thanks so much for posting!

                              1. re: cgarner

                                You are most welcome. I love research which is probably why I have always been the one who kept up on the locations of my former classmates at Melrose, in the 50 years since we graduated. I have even researched the property back to the architect who designed it, had it built and then lived in it, circa Civil War. How I wish there were photos back then, to know what Old York Road looked like in the mid 1800's. Kerry was so nice. Have you ever seen her on the Food Channel? I love her new show, "Save My Bakery", because this first season, it has been all Philly-area bakeries, starting with Viking on the Main Line, and also Schreck's at Rhawn and Verree, one in Holmsburg and one in Flourtown. I never expected a TV personality 1) to answer at all and 2) to be so very personable. She is delightful. I will eventually try that recipe but in the meantime, if anyone here tries it, please post whether or not it tastes like "our" George Washington cake.

                                1. re: melrosemiss

                                  Flourtown? On Bethlehem Pike? I wonder if you mean the Flourtown Bakery. hadn't been there for a couple months and then went in and saw it redecorated. If do, I would love to see that episode. Such nice people.

                                  1. re: JanR

                                    Yes, Kerry did that one. I imagine they lose business now that they are out of the shopping center and they are limited signage-wise by the township. I spent my years from say 8-17 in Oreland and walked to the Flourtown shopping center so often, where the Genevieve Shop was and Pike Records, and a bowling alley and the bakery used to be in there.

                                    1. re: melrosemiss

                                      Thanks. I've DVRed the rebroadcast. I didn't know they had been in the shopping center.

                                      1. re: JanR

                                        Jan, perhaps I am wrong but I thought they were the one that had been in the shopping center in the late 50s and into the 60s.

                                        1. re: melrosemiss

                                          Entirely possible. I've only lived in the area less than 10 years.

                                          1. re: JanR

                                            I know there was a bakery in the shopping ctr in the 60s because we bought a cake there for a surprise BD party for a friend of mine. On leaving the parking lot (my Mom was driving), she did not realize they were working on the exit and that there were open trenches where they had taken away the curb. Yes, she drove off the lot into one of the trenches and the cake slid off the seat and hit the floor as the car was nose down into the trench.