Friday, July 18, 2008

Matrimonial Cake.

July 18 …

Just a simple little cake recipe for you today my friends, for no other reason that it adds to the collection of recipes on a similar theme. We had Matrimony Sauce and Matrimony Pudding in a story over two years ago, today I give you Matrimonial Cake, and ask for you to help find the earliest recipe, just for fun, because it is disputed. We will allow ‘Matrimony’ as being an equivalent name, OK?

First, here is the recipe, as it appeared in an Ohio newspaper in 1933.

Matrimonial Cake.
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups pastry flour
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp soda
1 cup butter or oil.
1 lb. stoned dates
¼ cup brown sugar
juice of 1-2 lemons
1 ½ cups boiling water.
Cook slowly over a low fire until soft. Cool Mix often to prevent burning.
Mix all dry ingredients with butter. Grease shallow cake pan. Cover with ½ of ingredients and then cover with date filling and with balance of dry ingredients.
Bake in oven at 325 degrees F. for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. When cold serve with whipped cream. Serves about 15.

The common theme to these recipes for sauce, pudding, and cake, is a mixture of two different items – existing, we hope, in delicious harmony rather than remaining rigidly aloof.

The OED gives other examples of ‘matrimony’ or ‘matrimonial’ as they apply to food. It may refer to ‘that injudicious mixing of wines, which is called matrimony’, or ‘a name given jocularly to raisins and almonds mixed’, or ‘oranges and star apples [peeled and sliced] mixed’, and even ‘a slice of cake between two pieces of bread and butter’ eaten together like a sandwich.

As for matrimony (or matrimonial) cake, the ownership is in dispute. Canada claims it in the above form of an oaty slice with a datey filling, although Ohio was clearly given permission to publish the recipe early in its life. There seem to be recipes appearing for it in the 1930’s, although I am not sure we should allow ‘date squares’, even if dates, in the normal order of things, precede the marital state.

There are ancestors of course – a Jewish cookbook of 1871 has a Matrimony Cake, although I do not know its composition. An oldish Northern England recipe has a one too, which is ‘a large round cake … having a layer of currants between two layers of pastry, covered with sugar … and cut into as many pieces as there are persons at the feast.’

Can anyone add any more anecdotes or recipes to this search for the perfect marriage of cake ingredients?

Quotation for the Day …

I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly. Tunafish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison.


Anonymous said...

Coming out of lurkerdom to say
your blog is great! I'm a proofreader/copyeditor for a cookbook publisher and I find food history really fascinating.

Strangely enough, I just had a conversation with a coworker about matrimonial squares the other day. According to some sources, they're supposed to be a metaphor for marriage because they have a rough top but a sweet filling and a firm base.

srhcb said...

RE: "1 lb. stoned dates"

Back in the 70's I had quite a few 98-120 lb stoned dates. (none became matrimonial though)

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Laurie - thankyou for the kind words. Now you have 'come out', please keep returning. I do love the explanation of the name of this cake.

Steve. if you were stoned too, how can you be sure there was no matrimonial outcome? bit of a worry, huh?

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Good cake recipe Laurie Thank you

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Very Interesting Article. It looks very beautiful cake laurie.

Anonymous said...

My mother made Matrimonial Cake every Christmas, from at least the 1950's, when I was born, but maybe longer than that. I have her recipe boxes and books and use the index card with her typed Matrimonial Cake recipe. It says 1/2C lard 1/2C butter, but I use all butter until this year, when I didn't have enough.. I used 1/2C organic coconut oil with the butter. We are in Montana, so at these room temps, it is solid enough. Until I googled it, I thought most people called something else Matrimonial Cake, but now I see it is basically the same oatmeal and date bar we make. Thanks for the word origin. - Alice

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Alice: did the coconut oil add too the flavour? would you use it again?

Alice Flynn said...

Yes, there was a slight but pleasant coconut flavor added, and it made the crust a bit more flaky. I would use it again. Buy extra virgin and cold pressed - it looks pure white when solid. - Alice

Interior Designing Company said...

Very Very Beautiful it. I love this cake.

Anonymous said...

I moved to Western Canada from the States where I found Matrimonial Cake on our hospital kitchen menu for dessert every 14 days--prepared from scratch. I had never heard of it, but it became an instant favorite of mine. Rarely did so much as a crumb come back from the patient trays; inspiration that not all hospital food deserves such a bad rap. (Just most of it, wink wink, nudge nudge.)

Gracious thanks for the recipe.

Anonymous said...

My Mom (who is 82)says my Grandma (who is from Quebec) always made matrimonial cake at Christmas time as long as she can remember and probably before, as her elder btothers & sisters remember as well. Grandma used orange juice when she had Christmas oranges, rather than lemon juice. I still use orange juice and find it yummier than lemon.

Unknown said...

On a gas station stop through Saskatchewan a few years ago, a friend from Ontario saw some matrimonial cake for sale. She said "Why do the call that matrimonial cake? In Ontario we call it date squares!"

Not trying to pull her leg too hard, I answered " Hmmm. I don't know. Maybe it is because the dates come first and the crummy part comes later....!"

We both burst out laughing wildly... and carried on down the highway to Saskatoon.

Western Canadian said...

I happened on this site while searching for info on Matrimonial Cake, knowing this was an alternative name for date squares. My search was prompted by the receipt of a gift of freshly baked MC from a lovely lady (a widow). This old bachelor has known and admired her for some years. I dont know what instigated this delicious gift and am curious if
there could be another, ulterior motive leading to its name?

Hotel at Ranchi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I just came across your site and find it very interesting. As a child in Calgary, I remember always receiving a piece of matrimonial cake as the take-away gift at weddings. Each piece was wrapped in a doiley and celophane with a little ribbon. I'm making it for a little wedding shower at work and will use some of your info when I tell them why I chose it. Thanks.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Anonymous. I am delighted that I gave you some information to 'add value' to your gift! Have fun!

Unknown said...

My mother and I have been sitting here on a cool Saturday morning in November wondering aloud about the origin of Matrimonial cake. So nice to find your blog. We grew up with the stuff, I ate my grandmother's M cake years back and have devoured my mother's cake for years.

My mother's guess is that it is of Scottish origin because her mother and father were both Scottish, but who's to say. Thanks for the entertaining blog.Tom

The Old Foodie said...

I am delighted that you found the blog,Tom,and that it added to a family discussion about a family favourite. The Scottish origin theory is interesting - I have put it on my (very long) list of things to look into.
Thanks again,

Anonymous said...

I was looking for something to make for a wedding shower a few years ago. I found a recipe for "Matrimonial Cake which I realized was what I would call "Date Squares". I decided to do some research. The recipe I found was from Saskatchewan, Canada and I am from Ontario.In eastern Canada, it is called "Date Crumbles" It turned out that the "Cake" was being made in Saskatchewan from the 30"s when flour was hard to get. Further back historically a cake with fruit goes back even to Roman times. Another tidbit is that Matrimonial Cake was broken over the heads of the bride and groom with various traditions that predicted the success of the marriage.There was always fruit or sweetmeat in the cake but interestingly enough, it was the closer to modern version that was used by poorer people who couldn't afford the more expensive flour. I think somewhat different from today when dates are more expensive. Nonetheless, this has become a new tradition at our family showers where someone always brings "Matrimonial Cake" along with an explanation as to how it has evolved.

Linda said...

I learned my date squares recipe from my mother who is from Muskoka, Ontarior, and she always called it Matrimonial Cake. I substitute mincemeat for the date mixture for a delicious Yuletide alternative. Mum also had a Romance Cake which is a shortbread crust with a coconut, egg and sugar topping.

Linda in the Kootenays of BC

Unknown said...

My wife came back from Duplicate bridge in Calgary today and the name Matrimonial Cake came up for discussion. One of the women suggested that it was made as a wedding cake because in the days of coal and wood stoves, the only cake that was sure not to fail from uneven heating was the Matrimonial cake or Wedding Cake.

I have enjoyed matrimonial cake since I was a kid in the '40s in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Roger in Okotoks

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Roger. I love it when a story strikes a personal chord for someone. The explanation is interesting, but a good housewife in the days of coal and wood stoves could pretty accurately control her oven temperature - and the light fluffy sponge cakes which might have been tricky were not usually used as wedding cakes. Solid fruit cakes are more forgiving. Still - who knows? It might be the related issue of shorter cooking time, so less fuel needed - although i would think in Canada you would have the stove lit for heating most of the time anyway!
Do you have a family recipe for matrimonial cake?

Anonymous said...

My Mum (from Saskatchewan) used to make this all the time, and now I do. When I asked her once years ago why it was called Matrimonial Cake, her explanation was that it was easy to make and often the first thing a newly married bride learned to make for her husband.