Sweet Story Cake, 1948 – A Vintage Recipe Test

Posted on Feb 14 2017 - 4:31am by RetroRuth

I am bringing you an early post this week, because I made a pink Valentine’s Day cake!


This is Sweet Story Cake!

4.3 from 3 reviews
Sweet Story Cake
  • For Cake:
  • 2½ cups sifted cake flour
  • 1½ cups of sugar
  • 3½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup maraschino cherry juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 4 egg whites, unbeaten
  • 18 maraschino cherries, well drained and finely chopped
  • ½ cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
  • For Frosting: (I doubled this)
  • 2 Tablespoons shortening
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
  • 9 Tablespoons scalded cream
  • Red or pink food coloring
  1. For Cake:
  2. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl. Drop in shortening. Combine milk and maraschino cherry juice and add ¾ cup of this liquid. Add flavoring extracts and mix with mixer on low for 2 minutes (100 strokes by hand).
  3. Add remaining liquid and egg whites and beat for another 2 minutes. Fold in cherries and nuts. Bake in two 9-inch pans or two heart-shaped pans at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. (If you pour all the batter in one pan, bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes)
  4. When cool, cut layers with heart shaped pattern, if you didn't use a heart-shaped pan. Spread with frosting, and outline a short Valentine's message with a toothpick and fill in letters and outline of cake with sugar pearls.
  5. For Frosting:
  6. Combine shortening, butter, flavorings and salt and blend well. Beat in ½ cup sugar. Add hot cream alternating with remaining sugar, beating well after each addition. Add only enough cream to make a nice spreading consistency. Add a few drops of red or pink food coloring to tint frosting a delicate pink before spreading on cake.


This is a really fun cake, and I was excited to give it a try. I was doing some research on this cake, and I kept turning up all of these references to it being a couple’s cake, one that was made for wedding and anniversary cakes as well as Valentine’s Day. One recipe note even said they had for their wedding, and then made it every anniversary for 40 years!  I think this particular cake first appeared in this Spry ad for Valentine’s Day in 1948, but while I was digging through all my vintage Spry goodies and pamphlets, I saw a lot of early versions in Spry’s advertising leading up to this cake, including one that had a similar cherry-flavored cake but added some cherry-flavored frosting as well. IMG_6346

In any case, I originally ran across this recipe in a Maid of Scandinavia Mail Box News magazine, where someone had written in to request this recipe in the 1960’s after they had misplaced theirs. The reader response to the request was huge, and so many people sent in a response that they didn’t even have room to mention everyone by name who sent the recipe in. I thought that was so neat that it was such a memorable and well-loved cake. It must have been a hugely popular cake in it’s time.


Just a quick note about pans: The original recipe calls for baking in round pans and then carving out heart-shaped layers. The Mail Box News version calls for two heart-shaped pans.

I am lucky enough to own a spring form heart pan that I inherited from my grandmother. You can barely see it at the bottom of the above photo, but the two sides come together and then a clip slides over the raised edges of the two separate sides to make a pretty excellent and fool-proof heart shape.

Plus, I like to think about all the heart-shaped cakes my grandmother probably made my grandfather with this pan when I use it.


I poured all my batter in at once and baked it for a total of 48 minutes. It popped out of the pan like it was ready to go.

I’ve made a couple of these Spry cakes before, with the non-creaming “Spry”  method, and I have to say that they do have a very fine, soft texture. But they can be a bit on the dry side, depending on the flavor of cake you are making. The chocolate ones tend to be a bit dryer, for some reason. If you are a regular baker, I would suggest giving these cakes a good brushing with simple syrup. If you have no idea what simple syrup is, try to get the frosting on your cake as soon as it is cool enough. After you cut it, make sure that you press some plastic wrap up against the cut side and try to keep the cake under a cake dome if you can to keep it from getting too dry. If you put it in the fridge, it will dry out faster. IMG_6354

A little leveling and layer-splitting and we were ready for frosting!


And a three-year-old! Notice the bowls. I couldn’t find silver dragees in any of my grocery stores, so we had to make do with what I could find – some sugar pearls and some pink Sixlets candy.

Oh, and I doubled the frosting recipe. I thought I would use the extra for piping on top, but I have a heavy hand with frosting and I think my heart pan is on the larger side, because I ended up with only a small amount of extra frosting from a double batch.

And it was mysteriously eaten when my back was turned.


I’d give us a good, solid “C” for effort. My advice to you is to forget about the little silver dragees, or pearls, or Sixlets, or what have you and just hit it with a piping bag and some extra cherries. Or, if you have no piping skills, you could put the frosting in a ziploc bag, cut off the tip with scissors and then just shoot the frosting directly into your mouth. Or your kids’ mouths, or your husband’s. You know, whatever you want. It’s your Valentine’s Day.

But seriously, writing on top of the cake would be much easier.


I digress. And Tom wants his cake.



“So, what do you think?”


“Get that cake out of your mouth and say something!”

“It’s fun. I love it.”

The Verdict: Eat It All

From The Tasting Notes –

This cake was good. I had my doubts that 1/4 cup of cherry juice would flavor and color the whole cake, but it totally did its work and then some. This cake was NOT lacking in flavor. The cake itself had a strong maraschino cherry and almond flavor, which was good and unique. It was a very fun cake. Both Tom and Alex were charmed by it, and spent a lot of time talking about how cool it was. It had a light, soft texture. Not too moist, but not dry either. The frosting was tasty as well. I thought for sure it would be too salty, but it actually ended up being a very good compliment to the sweetness of the cake. The hot cream helped dissolve the grit that is usually in straight buttercream frosting. Tom even said he liked it, and he is very picky about frosting. Overall, this cake totally rated a kiss!


“There’s a lot of this cake left. It was huge.”

“It was so good.”

“I know. You ate three pieces.”

“Put the cake away while I put the baby down. I can’t look at it anymore.”

“Why? Are you sick?”

“No, if I see it again I’ll eat all the rest of it.”

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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit in...to the 50's. I have a passion for vintage recipes and an enormous vintage cookbook collection that I keep testing, even though by now I should know better. Creator of Mid-Century Menu (www.midcenturymenu.com), No Pattern Required (www.nopatternrequired.com), and I Ate The 80's (www.iatethe80s.com).

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18 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Melinda February 14, 2017 at 8:29 am - Reply

    I wonder if this is the cake Betty Crocker based their cherry chip mix from?
    If you’ve every had the Betty version, let me know if it’s a similar taste.

    • RetroRuth February 14, 2017 at 11:43 am - Reply

      Hmm..I wonder. And I suppose adding chocolate chips to this would be delicious! I will have to some digging and keep checking recipes. I might have to try the Betty version now. Thanks for the suggestion! 🙂

  2. Beverly Baumann February 14, 2017 at 8:30 am - Reply

    It looks soooo good. It’s an entertaining cake similar to the Lynda Bird wedding cake. My mom made it for my birthday one year. Wish I could find that recipe. Oh yes, we have google. Should try it. Glad you had sooo much fun!!

    • RetroRuth February 14, 2017 at 11:41 am - Reply

      Thanks! Wasn’t her wedding cake a fruit cake or something like that? Now I am going to have to look it up, too! 🙂

  3. Devyn February 14, 2017 at 11:18 am - Reply

    Any suggestions if there aren’t maraschino cherries available? I live in Ireland, and I have only seen glace cherries which are very firm, candied, and have no liquid. Maybe fresh cherries? Or cherry pie filling (watered down?)

    • RetroRuth February 14, 2017 at 11:41 am - Reply

      Hi Devyn! No glace cherries. If you are really into it, you could make maraschino cherries yourself. I know there are lots of recipes for maraschino cherries floating around, but if you don’t want to invest the time in canning them, could probably just boil chopped sweet cherries in sugar syrup and add some food coloring and get close to the same result. If you add a shot of maraschino liquor, even better. 🙂

    • dkzody February 14, 2017 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      Perhaps check at a liquor store? Or a bar? They need maraschino cherries for drinks.

    • Jenny Islander October 1, 2017 at 1:42 pm - Reply

      Modern maraschino cherries are bleached(!!) pickled cherries drowned in cherry-flavored sweet syrup and red dye, but the original (available through U.S. Amazon) is made like this: Get some pale cherries, some plain pickling brine, and some cherry liqueur–authentic Maraschino from Dalmatia if you can get it. First pit and pickle your cherries, for just long enough that you can taste one and say, “Yep, that’s a pickled cherry.” Then rinse and drop into a jar of cherry liqueur. Keep tightly covered in a cool dry place. Provides a powerful cherry flavor and a slight alcoholic kick.

      An old-fashioned cherry Coke is just a spoonful of modern maraschino cherry syrup stirred into a glass of Coca-Cola, so you could make a cocktail in the same way with the liquid from your jar of boozy cherries.

  4. Susan February 14, 2017 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    I used to be a Pastry Sous Chef. Simple Syrup (for you readers) is so easy to make. It’s basically equal parts sugar and water, (ex., 1 cup of water to 1 cup of white sugar). Simmer on the stove. The longer you simmer it the darker the color. In this case, I would cook it just long enough to liquefy. Just be careful when cooking sugar as it’s very dangerous. Cooked sugar burns hotter than a flame when it hits the skin.

    Once the simple syrup has cooled, brush the cake with it as it will add moisture. Brushing cakes with simple syrup is a pastry trick.

    I hope I didn’t overstep by commenting with this info.

  5. Stephanie February 14, 2017 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    How fun! I’m normally not a big fan of cherry flavor but I would try this. And, I love your little helper.

  6. Angie February 14, 2017 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    Would you like it if you are not a huge maraschino cherry fan? I love them but I think I’m the only one I know who loves them. I would love to eat a whole cake to myself but I really shouldn’t.

  7. Angela February 14, 2017 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    My dear mother (who has a treasure trove of old recipes that you’d probably drool over, btw) made a maraschino cherry cake for a family member’s birthday years ago. This recipe reminds me of hers, but the frosting is different, because it became really gummy and sticky after a day or two. It wasn’t a typical buttercream, so I want to say it had to be made with Karo or something. I’ll have to ask her. I love your site!

  8. Marty February 14, 2017 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    This looks AMAZING — you did such a great job decorating too! Thank you for the bonus Alex picture too! She’s adorable! 🙂

  9. Laura (Untwisted Vintage) February 18, 2017 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    Such a pretty cake! I love the idea of the almond extract with the cherries. I made a maraschino cherry cake once and felt like I completely overdosed on maraschino cherries. A few cherries really do go a long way. It’s so cool that you have your grandmother’s pan!

  10. Minya, Warrior Seamstress February 19, 2017 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    If you bake a 9″ square layer and a 9″ circle layer, you can make a heart. Halve your circle and put each half on either side of one of your square’s corners. You will have a one layer heart.

    • RetroRuth February 23, 2017 at 11:07 am - Reply

      Good suggestion, Minya! 🙂

  11. Janice July 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    I immediately was reminded, when seeing the photo, that my mom used to make this cake. I can still remember exactly how it tasted. One of my favorites – thanks for the memories. I’m going to make it, even though I’m really not a fan of baking.

  12. Patrick October 6, 2017 at 10:25 am - Reply

    I love this recipe! I have made it 4 times now, each time I forget exactly how to sift and end up (accidentally) doing it correctly. I am making a lot of old fashioned recipes and it’s kind of hard to gauge exactly what will happen when you make it, but this last time it came out absolutely perfectly.

    I found that having a piece right after it’s made it tasted a little dry, but that after sitting in the frosting for a day and night it tasted perfect the next day at the party I served it at. Instead of the dryness I was anticipating and dreading, it was light, airy, and fairly moist.

    I usually put slivered almonds in it, but due to a request for no nuts, omitted them and it works well without.The only thing I haven’t figured out with the recipe is how to make the cut cherries look like the promo. Were vintage maraschino cherries much larger than what we get today? I ended up adding a bunch more in the latest recipe to no detrimental effect, but haven’t gotten the pleasing chipped effect in the picture.

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