As we at the Digital Heritage Center have pondered the question Our State has lain before us – Pie or Cake? Cake or Pie? – we decided to don our fedoras, flip open our notebooks, and delve back into our collection of North Carolina newspapers to see when and how these dueling desserts have turned up in press history. So, what did our decisively unscientific survey* turn up?
First Mention in the Papers
Winner: Pie, 1853
Pumpkin Pie, to be specific. It was mentioned as being on the menu in the December 1, 1853 (p.2/col.2) issue of the Fayetteville Observer, when describing a dinner of “Eighteen States” to be held in Albany, NY in honor of Connecticut. However, you may be arguing that you want to know about mentions in a NORTH CAROLINA context. Then we present to you:
First Mention in the Papers, Related to a North Carolina Event
Winner: Cake, 1855
The best Pound Cake, Fruit Cake, or Sponge Cake could each win you a premium of $0.25 at the Robeson Agricultural Fair of 1855, which is the earliest mention of pies or cakes we can find in relation to a North Carolina event. The Richmond County Fair of 1857 gave out prizes for the best Pound, Fruit, and Sponge Cakes, as well as the best Potato, Whortleberry, or Green Apple Pie. Our state fair only began asking for entries for cakes in 1870, with Sponge, Fruit, or Plain Cake.
Earliest Recipe Found
Winner: Cake, 1878
The Chatham Record, October 10, 1878 (p.4/col.2) lists “receipts” for a few cakes, although none of them are battling it out in the Our State contest. You’ll see Cold-Water Cake (right), Currant Cake, and a Lemon Meringue, the latter of which we took at first glance to be a pie but the bottom is lined with sponge cake so we counted it as cake. This is the earliest actual recipe we could locate in the collection.
Pie isn’t far behind, though. The January 2, 1879 (p.4/col.1) issue of The Chatham Record lists a receipt for Sweet Potato Pie, another North Carolina favorite.
Most Difficult / Largest Dessert
Winner: Recipe for a 13-lb Fruit Cake from 1911
“Do not attempt to make the cake yourself unless you are experienced in this line; for this is the test of cake making…” Six months before Christmas, The Courier of Asheboro, June 1, 1911 (p.3/col.5), posted an examination of the making of Fruit Cake, complete with a recipe for a 13-pound version that would set you back $2.73 at prevailing prices. However, the author (Dorothy Avery Howard) warns you that Fruit Cake is no task for a young bride, as it is “called one of the most difficult to undertake.” Luckily, she provides a tried and true recipe which you can find in the paper.
Is North Carolina an Angel or a Devil’s Food Cake state?
Between mentions in social columns or posted recipes, North Carolina is an Angel Food Cake state by a margin of 6:1. Either we truly side with the Angels, or we keep our Devil’s Food Cake consumption under wraps…
Best Photograph of a Chef with Her Dessert
Winner: Mrs. Fogle and “Mary’s Pound Cake”
In the Firestone News, July 25, 1953 (p.6) we find Mrs. Marie Fogle who produces “a wide assortment of tempting, eye-appealing cakes.” The recipe for her favorite pound cake is included in the article. She is called an artist with a spatula, and from the looks of the cake in the photo we’d take one right now.
Heck if we know. We love them both and now we’re pretty sure North Carolina chefs have been mastering them all for years. If you can beat our findings using newspapers on DigitalNC.org, get in touch and we’ll dub you master chef.
* margin of error +/- 3.14159