Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hobo Cake.

On this day in 1898 in Sedan, Kansas, the circus performer Emmett Leo Kelly was born. Kelly was the creator of “Weary Willie”, the famous tragic, tattered clown with the permanently mournful expression. Now, there is a white cake in the American repertoire which is called “Weary Willie Cake”, so naturally I am intrigued by the connection.

Here is today’s mystery. Kelly apparently based his character on the tramps and hobos of the Depression era of the 1920’s. So, how come there are references to the cake in a newspaper cookery column in 1908 (the earliest I have found so far)? Perhaps “Weary Willie” was a pre-existing name for an itinerant beggar? Perhaps one of you with some local knowledge can enlighten us.

The recipe from 1908 contains an obvious error in the amount of flour, so I give you one from 1915, from The Syracuse Herald of April 8, 1915. Note that some recipes for the cake use butter, not Crisco (an unavailable mystery to those of us on the other sides of the two big waters), so we can make this wherever we live.

Weary Willie Cake.
2 large or three small egg whites, Crisco, Milk, 1 ½ cupfuls flour, ¾ cup sugar, 1 ½ teaspoonfuls baking powder.
Break eggs into a standard measuring cup. Fill cup over egg to one-half full with Crisco, then fill with milk. Pour into mixing bowl. Put dry ingredients into sift into first mixture. Beat thoroughly and bake twenty-five to thirty minutes in a slow oven.

Quotation for the Day

If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn't have given us grandmothers.
Linda Henley


panavia999 said...

I'm one of those people who find clowns creepy!
I always heard of that recipe as a "measuring glass" cake. I think the cake recipe has been around a long time, and has had many names. Crisco is a leading USA brand name of vegetable oil and solid shortening. (Very nice quality actually!) Use melted butter and the recipe becomes super delicious tea cake called "cottage pudding". :-)

Shay said...

Crisco is solid vegetable shortening. It has its place (but baked goods really aren't one of them).

Marcheline said...

I'm guessing the cake is supposed to cure a weary willie? Get him to stand up and take notice?

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with Crisco shortening for pie crusts especially when you need too make lots of pies. My personal pie crust fave is lard+butter, but crisco works fine. Crisco sells many types of vegetable oil.

hellrorin said...

My parents born 1916 1nd 1917 both referred to "Hobo Cakes" as bread or cakes "baked goods more than a day old were chopped up into a re-manufactured doe and remade into cakes or muffin size cakes to sell to the public or give away to the needy. Sorry don't know the exact recipe but it would work itself out with a little patience