Peppermint Candy Cake – a 1940s Recipe

One of my Christmas gifts was a small 4-½ x 6 inch leather bound book engraved “Cooking Recipes”, purchased at an antique mall in Sugar Creek, Ohio.  The pages are edged in gold and there are 10 index tabs for food categories.  

The real gold in this book, though, is the collection of handwritten recipes.  There aren’t a lot of recipes – just 25, 22 of which are desserts.  The book itself could have been from the 1930s, but I believe the recipes are from the 1945-1950 era.  This is based on a lot of recipes calling for shortening, for using the word “oleo” rather than margarine in most recipes and the attention given to oven temperatures.  I believe it’s post-World War II because of all of the sugar-laden desserts.  

The handwriting is clear and ingredients are listed correctly, although most of the recipes give no idea of how the item is to be prepared, what kind of pan to use or how long to bake.  That’s why I’ve decided to make each of the recipes, using the products specified, and adding my own instructions.  I like to think that the woman from the 1940s kitchen (who would have been about my mother’s age) would enjoy having someone fuss around with these recipes again and turn out some delicious food for the family.

Here is a nice cake that will use up some of your leftover peppermint candy canes.  Crush the candy as fine as possible by putting it in a plastic bag and hitting it with the flat side of a mallet.

The candy softens when the cake is baked but the pieces sprinkled on top can be a little crunchy.  The next time, I think I’ll substitute peppermint decorative sugar for sprinkling on top.

There were no directions for mixing the cake, pan size or baking time, so this is how I made it.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil (canola)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • 1/3 cup finely crushed peppermint stick candy
  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans

To Make the Cake:

In large bowl of mixer, place flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, oil, milk, water, vanilla and food coloring.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Update:  Add crushed peppermint candy along with the food coloring.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

Gently fold beaten whites into the cake mixture.  Divide mixture between the two prepared layer cake pans and bake @ 325 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.

Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then loosen and turn out onto racks to continue cooling completely.

Note:  The candy stuck a bit in one of the layer pans but it was easy to remove and  was covered by frosting before adding the second layer.

To Make the Frosting:


  • ¼ cup margarine, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tblsp. milk
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ cup finely crushed peppermint stick or a sprinkling of peppermint decorative sugar

To make frosting:

Combine margarine, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla – beat until smooth.  If necessary, add a drop or two of milk or a bit more powdered sugar until frosting is desired consistency.

Frost top of bottom layer lightly.

Place top layer on top of bottom layer and frost sides first, then top.  Sprinkle top with crushed peppermint candy or peppermint decorative sugar.

Servings:  6 to 8

This is a moist, pale pink cake with a mild peppermint flavor.  My family liked it a lot.

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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

8 thoughts on “Peppermint Candy Cake – a 1940s Recipe”

  1. Looks delicious! I love that you are making all those recipes in that little book. I’m working on compiling old family recipes now, and definitely have some from the same era. I had to look up what oleo was! Also, lots of recipes seem to call for salad oil.

  2. Lillian, this is a beautiful cake and reminds me of the birthday cakes my mom would make me except in heart shape. She always referred to margarine as oleo. This takes me back. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Lillian, this is a beautiful cake and I love your gift. I like what you said (and I agree too) about thinking this woman that wrote these recipes out would enjoy having someone fuss over her recipes. I’m looking forward to seeing you make these recipes. Have fun.

  4. I don’t care for peppermint, but that looks good, and I could substitute spearmint candies! Very attractive, and I love what you are doing with this gift. It really sounds like an adventure!

    1. Kimberly – so sorry for this omission. Add the crushed peppermint along with the food coloring. I have updated the recipe with this addition. Thank you.

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