Watergate Cake

The Recipe

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Finished Product

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VERDICT: Horrible

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.

IMG_1456The 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.

Chicken Casserole

Recipe

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All righty, Grammie’s Chicken Casserole recipe looked pretty simple, I mean, five ingredients that I can make ahead before shoving it in the oven for an hour? I had high hopes for this one. I can see why casseroles were so stinkin’ popular.  Was this before the advent of the slow cooker?  Well, I did a little poking around, and according to Allison Speigel who wrote the nail-biting (just kidding, it’s very straightforward) article, “A Brief History of the Crock Pot, The Original Slow Cooker,” the Crock Pot, while invented in the 1930s, did not get wildly popular until it was bought by Rival Manufacturing in the early 1970s.  But before then, it’s totally understandable that dumping ingredients into a casserole dish and throwing it into the oven was the way to go for a busy housewife.

Grammie’s recipe was very specific about the brand and shape of the pasta which made me think that this might be a recipe from the company itself. I checked out the Creamette website and didn’t find one that matched Grammie’s recipe, though I’m sure the fine folks at Creamette have changed their recipes over the years.

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This recipe also didn’t say what kind of cooked chicken to use so I just chopped a couple of chicken breasts and fried them in a little bit of oil.  Maybe rotisserie chicken could have been used instead as a time saver. The Velveeta (SO reminds me of childhood!) was also a bit of a challenge.  I couldn’t for the life of me cube it.  Maybe because it was room temperature? Anyway, I ended up just pinching off bits and placing them evenly over the noodles.  I layered the ingredients in the order of Grammie’s recipe.  The clean up crew had to be called in after I got a little crazy with the mushroom soup/milk mix. She didn’t complain about the overtime though, so it all worked out.

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This is Grammie and Grampie, probably in the late 1950s.  I have a sneaking suspicion that my dad is the boy wearing the face mask on the left.  And look at that farmer’s tan on Grampie! Grammie looks so cute in her gingham bathing suit and that is the happiest smile I’ve seen in a photo of Grammie to date.  The family went on a quite a few vacations like camping (in a cabin), Yellowstone, and Mt. Rushmore, among other places. Grammie and Grampie often vacationed with her sisters and their families. Some of the vacation photos are labelled with locations and it would so much fun to recreate some of them one day!

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Final Product

If this tastes like it looks, it’s going to be Horrible.

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Looks kind of pretty plated up but…

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VERDICT: Horrible

Too salty, not enough flavor, looks like cat vomit.

Of course, the Hubs loved it.

It’s definitely a creamy dish, not super flavorful but it perked up a little bit after sprinkling some smoked paprika on top.  Some of the noodles were more al dente than others but overall not a bad make ahead dish for a busy mom, I mean, I’m never making this again, but I’m sure it would work for other people. I’m glad I cooked my own chicken as the Velveeta and mushroom soup gave this plenty of sodium and the plainness of the chicken balanced that out a bit, or at least tried to. If this is ever made again (never going to happen), maybe use low sodium mushroom soup instead? The Chicken Casserole needs an additional oomph in the flavor department, the smoked paprika helped but maybe it needs to be incorporated into the preparation, or another ingredient should be thrown in there.  Maybe a dash of chipotle hot sauce? I don’t know, it needs something though. The 12 year old thinks it’s edible but not great.

Thanks for visiting!

 

Goody Good Bars

Recipe

A lot of the recipes in my Grammie’s recipe (chocolate) box had the name of the person that shared the recipe.  This one did not.  Maybe they didn’t want to own up to being the person that put ONE SOLID POUND of powdered sugar in a single dessert? I’m not going to lie, I’m a little scared.

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Okay, so I’ve assembled the ingredients.  The only substitution I’ve made is one stick of butter instead of  one stick of Oleo (read: fake stick of death. Okay, okay, margarine does not cause death but I’m clearly on Team Butter).  The Great and Powerful Google told me that a stick of Oleo was the same size as my stick of butter now. I’m not sure what constituted a ‘large’ cream cheese in the 1950s-1970s but I’m using 8 ounces and we’ll see how it goes. The recipe doesn’t specify, so I’m going with unsweetened coconut flakes.

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Steps 1 and 2 completed! The instructions did not say to grease the jelly roll pan so I didn’t bother.  Doesn’t look half bad.  The second step called for 1 pound of powdered sugar which was a LOT more than I thought it would be.  I just kept adding and adding and adding  spoonfuls to the scale.  I barely had enough but just squeaked by.  That 5 minute whisking was no joke either. I’m glad I opted for the mixer instead of hand mixing! As I was mixing, I thought maybe shredded coconut might have been a better choice, but it might not matter that much in the end.

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While the Goody Good Bars are in the oven for the next thirty minutes, I thought I would post a photo of my Grammie, Inez.  She labeled it herself as she wrote “Me” in the margin below the photo (not shown).  Grammie was born in 1910 so that dates this photo to about 1914-1918.  I remember her telling me a long time ago that she was five years old when this photo was taken which tracks with the drop waist white dress, over the knee socks, and white ribbons in her hair. On the reverse side of the photo (not shown) is printed POST CARD with defined spaces for correspondence, name and address, and the stamp.  Grammie also labeled that side with “Me.” She was so cute!

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Final Product

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Verdict: Horrible!

It would be easier to mainline sugar directly into your veins than to make these, even though the Goody Good Bars were pretty easy to make.  I know it said one pound of powdered sugar but holy cow.  Even the twelve year old passed on them initially. He said he might like them but wasn’t in the mood for them at the time.  A pre-teen boy NOT in the mood for a sweet treat?  Luckily, my neighbors have three kids so I’m going to take them over there.

If I were to ever make these again (never going to happen), I would use shredded coconut instead of flaked coconut (thank goodness I opted for unsweetened!) and cut waaaaaaaay down on the powdered sugar.  The top started browning at 30 minutes so I took them out but I think they could have stayed in a bit longer.  The bars were quite sticky to cut and the knife picked up bits of the bars. Greasing and/or flouring the jelly roll pan is definitely not needed as the bars released very easily.

UPDATE

Verdict: Not So Bad

The next day, I tried one (NOT because I was too lazy to make breakfast) and 24 hours made a huge difference.  I mean, it’s still sweet but it’s not so sickeningly sweet as yesterday.  They also firmed up and are less sticky.  I would suggest letting them sit for 24 hours even before cutting them. They are the 12 year olds new favorite thing in life so I’m not sure the neighbor kids are going to get any.

Thanks for visiting!