Family Recipes: Wintergreen Cake
In a previous article, I recounted visiting with my great aunt, Gloria (Felix) Faus (b. 1931), in southern California and discovering a family recipe for bean chow-chow. The recipe had been given to her by my great grandmother, Minnie (Hilner) Faus (b. 1897, d. 1992), whom I called Grandma Faus.
Grandma Faus gave Aunt Gloria many other recipes, including one for wintergreen cake. This one interested my wife, Sara, and I due to its unusual key ingredient: pink wintergreen candies.
Below is an image of the recipe that we found in Aunt Gloria’s collection. It appears to be a photocopy from a spiral-bound book of handwritten recipes. This past weekend, we decided to try making the wintergreen cake to see what it would be like.
Soak 1/2 lb pink wintergreen candies in 1 1/4 cups warm milk overnight. In the morning cream:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup shortening [or butter]
Add 1/4 cup of cold water with:
- 3 cups sifted flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch salt
Put in the milk mixture. [Alternate adding milk mixture and dry mixture.]
Beat well. [Beat the egg whites until stiff and just holding peaks.] Fold in 4 beaten egg whites.
Bake about 35 minutes [at 350ºF in two greased and floured 8 inch cake pans].
One of the first challenges in making this recipe was locating the pink wintergreen candies. Due to waning popularity, these sweet treats were difficult to find. My good friend, Clint Shearer, works in the candy business and suggested a grocery store where they were sold.
Supposedly, a customer at this store had specifically requested the candies be kept in stock so she could buy them as treats for her horses! However, with that particular store being two hours away, we checked closer to home. Eventually, we found the pink wintergreen candies at a local CVS.
Our next challenge was correctly interpreting the instructions found in Grandma Faus’s handwritten recipe. For example, the recipe neglected to include a baking temperature for the cake. Thankfully, after searching online, we were able to locate a similar recipe which helped to fill in the blanks. The online recipe also included the date it was originally published: 1965.
Lastly, the cake would need an icing—something Grandma Faus’s recipe lacked. Sara decided to make a buttercream icing. But, instead of using vanilla, the icing would use wintergreen candies to match the color and flavor of the cake. Her recipe is below:
Wintergreen Buttercream Icing
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3–4 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 cup warm milk
- 12 pink wintergreen candies
Soak the wintergreen candies in the milk overnight so they are dissolved.
In the morning, cream the butter until smooth (2–3 minutes). With the mixer on a low speed, add the sugar and milk mixture. Mix until light and fluffy. The icing may also need whipped to achieve the desired consistency.
After baking the Grandma Faus’s wintergreen cake and icing it, we sat down to try our creation. Our first impression: It was certainly pink and minty! We also quickly determined that it was more cake than two people could reasonably eat on their own. Therefore, this cake should definitely be shared with family.
We aren’t entirely sure we’ll be making this recipe for wintergreen cake again. While unique, the flavor and texture could use some improvement. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the experience of locating the candies, baking the cake, and breathing new life into this forgotten family dessert.
Andrew, You may remember that Nana & Pop kept wintergreen candies in their car. Marcia and I have recently discovered where we can buy these: a small “Amish” store in Butler MO. It’s on our way when we visit our grandchildren in Arkansas, so now we always have them handy in our car on trips across the country!
I don’t remember the candies in their car, though I have heard my father talk about it too. They do seem to be a “vintage” candy at this point and not stocked so frequently anymore!
Andrew I found the wintergreen candies here in central Florida at a CVS pharmacy. They appear to be the same ones in the bag in your photo above. They may be made in Canada. CVS has a whole line of “store brand” candy.
Yes! That sounds similar to our CVS here in PA. There was a special display with lots of those little baggies of candy. Glad you found them 🙂
BTW….CVS (Consumer Value Store) started in Lowell, Mass.
Thank you for this recipe. My family loves chocolate covered wintergreen patties! I am going to try your recipe but use a chocolate frosting and filling instead. You might want to consider that as well. Growing up in CT with relatives in MA, we would stop on our way up to MA at Hebert’s candy store and get these wintergreen patties sandwiched together with chocolate. Can’t find them any more but have found a candy store near my brother in RI that makes chocolate covered patties – to die for! Thanks again and cross your fingers!!!
Andrew, I have to tell you that Minnie Hilner was my Grandfather’s (Luther) older sister and I have enjoyed this precise cake and recipe every year on my birthday for over 45 years. My grandmother, mom, wife and daughter have all made it. Awesome family recipe!
Hi Scott. Thanks so much for posting this! My father, Mark, and I really enjoyed your comment. My question to you is: What type of icing do you put on it? Is it a pink icing or white? Is the icing flavored or not really?
Hi Andrew. The icing we’ve always used over the years with Wintergreen Cake is a white buttercream frosting. Simple as confectioners sugar, butter, and a dash of salt, vanilla and milk. I suppose it balances out the mint flavor perfectly. Also, a couple of other family tidbits/traditions: Several generations affectionately nicknamed this “Pink Cake” and we typically served/serve it in 3-4 layered tiers. Amongst my cousins, whenever a birthday was celebrated together, if a “Pink Cake” was requested (which was frequent), the birthday boy/girl got the whole top layer for themselves!
That’s a wonderful story, Scott 🙂 When my wife and I made this, we used a wintergreen buttercream which was a bit too much of the wintergreen flavor for our tastes! My great grandmother, Minnie (Hilner) Faus never specified what type of icing it should have on it in her recipe. However, your idea of a vanilla buttercream sounds great. Next time we will try it. You might check out this Hilner food related article too: https://www.hagenbuch.org/scraps-paper-recipe-bean-chow-chow/ Thanks again for writing and glad you found our site. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Thanks Andrew! Merry Christmas to you and yours!
I wanted to say I am super excited to find this old recipe. I have found with recipes this old if no frosting is noted then it’s a dusting of powder sugar that is used. My daughter loves these little pink candies and her birthday is next week, I am going to make this as a surprise.
Hi Tonya. Thanks for sharing the powdered sugar idea! I hope your daughter enjoys the cake 🙂
My mother-in-law must have gotten her recipe the same place as your grandmother. Her instructions are identical, right down to not having an oven temperature or any icing.
Thanks for posting this. Now I have the temp and I know to not use flavored frosting. I’m making it tomorrow for the first time. I think I’ll go with the powdered sugar suggestion.
Hi Phyllis. Thanks for your comment, and it is great to hear that this recipe matches the one from your family too! Enjoy the cake 🙂