19 June 2009

Famous Food Friday – The Duchess of Windsor

“I have been very happy to help carry some of the well-known
dishes of my native
land to other countries, and especially to have
served on my table
Southern dishes which appeal to the Duke.”

The Duchess of Windsor

Today is Wallis Warfield Simpson’s birthday. How lovely of her to have her birthday fall on a Friday so we could feature her cookbook. You probably didn’t know that The Duchess of Windsor, in addition to being the only woman to have a king abdicate for her, wrote a cookbook: Some Favorite Southern Recipes of the Duchess of Windsor.

She had an ulterior motive – she was raising money for the British War Relief. As a favor, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the introduction where she noted:

“…the real improvements in American living and health has been the discarding of the elaborate and extravagant menus which marked our entertaining as recently as the General Grant period…This tendency toward more healthful simplicity and especially toward the more scientific preparations of food is, I believe, one of the outstanding contributions which the people of the United States have made toward modern eating habits.”

I find it hard to imagine The Duke and Duchess of Windsor prattling around their kitchen in the South of France; her making Cabbage and canned shrimp and the Duke drying the dishes! No doubt the “recipes” were handed off to their chef. Just to make sure the Duchess was no flash in the culinary pan, the Home Institute of the New York Herald Tribune tested each recipe.

Poor Wallis, you make one little mistake like getting a King to give up his crown and no one trusts you! I am far more inclined to eat with the Duchess than the New York Herald Tribune.

For today’s royal, though not queenly, birthday celebration, I chose a favorite cake of The Duchess of Windsor. Is it lemon chiffon cake? Devil’s food cake? A light an airy coconut cake? A rich spicy pork cake?

Did you guess? Did you guess Pork Cake?

The Duchess of Windsor’s Pork Cake

1/2 pound fat salt pork, ground
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups raisins
1 cup currants, washed and dried
3 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Place pork in a mixing bowl and add boiling water. Add molasses, brown sugar, raisins and currants and cool. Mix and sift the flour, baking soda and spices together three times. Add to the molasses mixture and beat until smooth. Turn into long narrow bar pan (10 X 4 X 3 inches) and bake in a slow oven (325 F.) 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Rarely does one find a cake recipe that begins with the 1/2 pound of fat salt pork. Pork Cakes are a Southern invention – you know in the South, when it comes to pork we eat everything but the squeal! Who knew we had such fine ideas for porky desserts.

Pork Cake shows up in a few Southern cookbooks from the early 1900’s but doesn’t seem to have caught on or survived. Such a cake is not mentioned in Mrs. Dull’s Southern Cooking, considered to be one of the most comprehensive chronicles of Southern tradition. The recipe appears in Southern Living’s encyclopedic, Southern Heritage series culled from The Williamsburg Art of Cookery. In her introduction, The Duchess of Windsor says,

“Few housekeepers owned recipe books, the first American cookbook being printed at Williamsburg in 1742. Recipes, instead, were written by hand, and passed on, as treasured gifts…”

Since she was familiar with Helen Bullock’s Williamsburg recipes, one can speculate that her recipe for Pork Cake was adapted from that volume.

Next time you want to bake a cake for the family, don’t forget the pork! And if you bake it on June 19th, stick a candle in it...

Happy Birthday, Wallis!

Simultaneous post at Cookbook of the Day.


  1. I doubt the Duchess ever partook of pork cake. It may have graced her cookbook but that's the only place it graced. Or maybe it was served to Elsa Maxwell.


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