Queen Elizabeth Cake

Queen Elizabeth II was born April 21, 1926. She became Queen on February 6, 1952 and was crowned on June 2, 1953.  At the age of 90, she is the longest serving British monarch. All these events have put Queen Elizabeth II in the spotlight throughout this year and created a resurgence of interest in Queen Elizabeth Cake.

QEingredientsFrank Berkers, owner of Bugaboos Café (http://bugabooscafe.com) on Silver Star Mountain (Vernon BC) often has Queen Elizabeth Cake on hand for customers. A friend who bought a slice told me it had chocolate chips in it. That sent me into my old recipe books to see exactly what Queen Elizabeth Cake was.  Queen Elizabeth Cake uses simple ingredients. It’s basically a white cake with chopped walnuts added and instead of milk, it uses one cup of dates, softened in one cup of boiling water and one teaspoon of baking soda. This gives the cake its rich brown colour and moistness.  The distinctive flavour is in the topping – a mixture of flaked coconut, butter, brown sugar and cream.

QErecipebooksThe origins of the Queen Elizabeth Cake recipe are unclear. It may have been created for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Mother Queen Elizabeth in 1937, and resurfaced in 1953 in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. The Royal Cook Book, commemorating the Royal Tour 1951 compiled and published by the Amicus Club of Yorkton, Saskatchewan did not include the recipe although it did include a recipe for Prince Philip Cake (p. 20). The inclusion of the Queen Elizabeth Cake recipe in Chatelaine’s 363 Home Tested Recipes (p. 35)  and in the Coronation Cook Book (p. 1) by Proctor PTA, both printed in 1953, suggest that the recipe was in use well before 1953. The recipe also appeared in the Women’s Auxiliary to the Nanaimo Hospital Cook Book (1952, no page #) and in books as recent as the 1980s.

I remember my mother and her friends in the 1950s discussing how to get the topping right.  The recipe instructions said to return the cake to the oven and bake until the top browned because the wood stoves they baked with didn’t have broilers. Their toppings probably looked something like mine – a little thin and not too decadent! More recent recipes increase ingredients in the topping to as much as: 1 cup flaked coconut, 2/3 cups packed brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of butter, and ¼ cup cream; and recommend browning under the broiler.

Whether you use the QErecipe from Chatelaine magazine’s 363 Home Tested Recipes (p. 35) or more recent versions, this is a tasty cake,QEslice perfect to serve with a cup of tea or coffee.QEcake

Does Queen Elizabeth Cake appear in your old cook book?

9 Responses to Queen Elizabeth Cake

  1. Diane O'Shea August 16, 2016 at 5:24 am #

    Right now my old (and very precious to me!) cook books are packed as moving mode is in place. My mother and grand parents had a great love for this cake. I didn’t. Dates are not a favourite food. However, your point about the wood stoves and the variation in cooking is such an excellent point to think about! Planning to have a chat with 87 year old mother on this one. Thank you for such a wonderful discussion piece.

    • Linda August 16, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

      Let us know what you learn from your mother. It would be fun to know when this recipe first started to appear in Canada.

  2. Lorna August 16, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    I could find nothing in my old recipe books called Queen Elizabeth Cake but several recipes for a Lazy Daisy Cake which is a white cake with broiled coconut topping. It was a favourite recipe of my mum’s and I remember it well.

    This is an interesting article, Linda.

  3. Linda August 16, 2016 at 4:47 pm #

    It would be fun to learn when this recipe first started to appear in Canada.

  4. Laurana Rayne August 23, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

    Hi Linda. I grew up on Queen Elizabeth Cake and was always surprised that most people had never heard of it. It was my mom’s go-to cake for almost every occasion because it took simple ingredients she always had on hand. It made a moist and tasty cake which would have kept well if there had ever been leftovers. She never used the coconut topping, perhaps because of the wood-stove issue you identified. Instead, it was topped with a Penuche Icing made from butter and brown sugar boiled for a minute, cooled, and with icing sugar stirred in. A fabulous complement to the date flavour.

    My mom’s recipe (with my tweak, substituting half whole-wheat flour) appears in Comfort Food for Families: Food that Nourishes and Nurtures. This was a project of home economists in Calgary, edited by Norma Bannerman and Laurana Rayne, and published in 1997. The introduction to that recipe may shed some light on the origin of the name, or maybe not! “When my mother first made this cake, she told us it was Queen Elizabeth’s favourite cake and the Queen always went into the kitchen to give it a ceremonial stir when her cook made it. I don’t know if this is really true, or a legend that Mom invented to create a mystique about this cake, but it has always been one of my favourites—to make and to eat.”

    • Linda August 27, 2016 at 10:40 am #

      Lazy Daisy Cake seems to be a popular BC recipe. You are right in that it is a plain white cake with this topping. I was reminded that in the 1970s we used to make a banana cake that had this topping as well. Hmmm. Who creates recipes — interesting combinations of base and topping. Around the same time that Queen Elizabeth Cake appears, there are a number of recipes for date cakes that use the same method for the base cake (dates, etc.) but without the coconut topping.

  5. Linda September 10, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

    Carol Ferguson and Margaret Fraser who authored A Century of Canadian Home Cooking, 1900 through the 90s (1992), include the following note about Queen Elizabeth Cake: ” In a reply to our query about the name of this recipe, the Queen Mother’s Lady-In-Waiting writes: “I fear that I have to tell you that, although we have known about this recipe for many years, it did not originate from either Buckingham Palace or Clarence House….However, as Her Majesty has always made it a rule, due to the number of requests received, never to give ‘favourite recipes’, I fear I have to tell you that should you wish to include this recipe in any cookbook, it should only be called ‘a date and walnut cake’ with no reference to the Queen Mother” (p. 115). Despite this request, Ferguson and Fraser did include a recipe for Queen Elizabeth Cake stating that recipes for this cake “have appeared in cook books coast to coast for many years” (p. 115).

  6. jim anderson February 14, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

    Just this evening I was cataloguing a copy of the cookbook mentioned, namely The Royal Cook Book compiled by the Amicus Club of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, published to commemorate the Royal Tour of 1951. I’m a Winnipeg bookseller and archives broker specializing in cookbooks, Icelandic books, Canadian prairie ephemera.

  7. Mary Leah de Zwart March 20, 2021 at 8:28 pm #

    Here’s a note from Erin in Quebec:

    My quebecois roommate made this. Apparently it is a tradition here.

    https://www.iga.net/en/inspiring_recipes/recipes/queen_elizabeth_cake

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