The Watergate Cake, in its various incarnations has been around for many years. It began as a kind of pudding in the 1950s and morphed into the sweetheart of instant food. According to the Atlas Obscura article, “Watergate Cake,” the version of the recipe found in Grammie’s recipe box gained popularity in the 1970s.
The recipe card was made by Current, Inc. which is still in business making cards and various other paper products today. The “Kissin’ wears out cookin’ don’t,” was a popular saying and adorned many products in the 1970s such as local cookbooks, needlepoint, plates, patches, and coffee mugs. You can actually still buy a vintage set of the recipes cards here.
The ingredients and the mixing of them was simple, really just dumping them into a bowl and giving them a quick stir. I tried to get Mexican 7UP but they didn’t have any at the store that day.
I’ve obviously never made pistachio pudding because I was surprised when the cake mix turned green. I also didn’t have the correct cake pan. Grammie’s recipe called for a flat cake pan so I just used what I had on hand, which didn’t turn out so well as you can see below. The middle totally fell in (but I slathered icing all over it anyway). Speaking of the icing, it was more of a pudding than anything. I’ve never used Dream Whip before (I didn’t even know if they still made it) and didn’t taste the icing until after I mixed the pudding in, but next time, I’ll whip up the Dream Whip and taste it on its own first.
Here is Grammie and Grampie in their living room, December 1975. They look like they’re ready to go out to a Christmas party. Nice medieval looking Christmas decoration on the mantel! And is Grampie checking out Grammie’s boobs?
So maybe I should clarify what constitutes a Horrible recipe from a Not So Bad recipe. A Horrible recipe is one that I’m never making again, or that to make again, I would need to revamp the recipe in such a way that it would be unrecognizable from Grammie’s original recipe. A Not So Bad recipe is one that I would make again but possibly with an addition or substitution here or there.
The reason the Watergate Cake recipe gets a Horrible rating is because it just didn’t taste like much. If I’m going to eat dessert, I want it to be amazing and this completely missed the mark. It just tasted like a cake mix cake, which I know it was, but I had high hopes that the addition of the pistachio pudding would have done something to take it outside of the cake box. It did not. A lot of the recipes online (and there are tons) bake the cake in a Bundt pan, which would have solved my sinkhole problem, and some of them used Cool Whip instead of Dream Whip, though I don’t think the substitution of whipped topping would have made any difference.
The Hubs thought it was pretty tasteless too. The 12 year old, on the other hand, loved it and this is what I came down to the next morning…
Yep, that’s my oldest, stuffing his face with cake for breakfast right out of the pan. Maybe I’ll make it next year for St. Patrick’s Day just for him.