The official dessert for the celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this June is Lemon Swiss Roll and Amaretti Trifle. It looks terrific—but over two hours of prep time? How cottage-friendly is that?
CL humbly suggests a more practical Canuck option: Queen Elizabeth Cake. Enriched by dates, topped with its trademark broiled butterscotch-coconut icing, QE Cake was a snacking mainstay in this country during the ‘50s and ‘60s. “It’s something most people could make using ingredients from their pantry,” says University of Guelph historian (and Severn Falls cottager) Rebecca Beausaert. “But because it’s called Queen Elizabeth cake, it sounds regal.”
The exact connection between the monarch and the single-layer confection is obscure. Is it the Queen’s favourite? Nope, that’s chocolate. Did her mother develop it for a church fundraiser? Not true, the palace told cookbook editors in the ‘90s. Was it produced for the Queen’s 1953 coronation? Sort of. A gussied-up version was Chatelaine’s recipe of the month in June 1953. Yet the recipe appears in other places as early as 1950.
“Its origins are somewhat debatable. But I’m pretty sure the name refers to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, rather than Elizabeth II,” Beausaert says. The Queen Mother was tremendously popular after a 1939 Royal Tour of Canada and during the War Years, and the recipe’s use of dates hints at Depression or Wartime origins. Dried fruit was an economical way to add richness and sweetness without extra eggs, sugar, and butter.
But don’t take our word for it. Here’s a version of one distributed by The Ontario Wheat Producer’s Marketing Board (now Grain Farmers of Ontario) in the 1970s and ‘80s, and attributed to Mrs. Audrey King, of Pain Court, Ont.
Queen Elizabeth Cake
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ cup shortening or butter
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ cup walnuts
- 1½ cups cake flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 5 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp cream
- 3 tbsp butter
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- Add baking soda to dates. Pour boiling water over them and let cool.
- Cream butter or shortening, add sugar, and cream well.
- Mix egg, salt, and vanilla, and add to butter-sugar mixture.
- Mix flour and baking powder and add alternately with date mixture. Stir in walnuts.
- Bake in 8x12 inch pan at 350° for 35-40 minutes.
- Boil together for three minutes, pour on hot cake and brown in oven.