Old-Fashioned Ribbon Cake With Jelly Icing

Time1 hour 45 minutes
YieldsServes 10 to 12
Print RecipePrint Recipe

Let’s say you wanted to host a Valentine’s Day party in 1945. According to a cover story in The Times’ Home magazine on Feb. 11 that year, it should be a simple “affair of hearts.”

First you’d lay a “snowy-white” tablecloth on the table and sprinkle it with red or pink paper hearts cut in various sizes. Then you’d use extra-large hearts as place mats and smaller ones as doilies for candle holders, vases and candy dishes.

As for the food: “Hearts made to be broken are the little heart-shaped cakes, tarts, brightly frosted cookies, molded salads and luscious gelatin desserts that bring Cupid’s touch to menus,” the article suggested. “And they bring joy rather than woe with the breaking.”

For instance, a children’s Valentine’s Day party could include “cookie dough hearts frosted bright red and white with powdered sugar icing.” And the table centerpiece could be a four-layer cake with red jelly filling and icing--what Times Food Editor Marian Manners (the pseudonym of homemaking expert Fleeta Louise Hoke) called Old-Fashioned Ribbon Cake.

“Place it upon a frilly lace-paper heart,” she wrote, “and make it a good-fortune cake by tucking cheerful little forecasts written on tiny strips of paper into the bottom layer of the cake.”

(The recipe doesn’t indicate when or how to add the strips of paper--which should be heat-resistant like parchment paper. If they went in the batter before baking, you’d have to worry about the pencil smudging or the ink running; if they rested on top of the baked bottom layer they’d be ruined by the jelly “glue” that holds the cake together.)

Even without the Valentine “fortunes,” this is certainly an impressive holiday dessert. The alternating pink and white cake layers with sticky red jelly will give new meaning to the phrase “pretty in pink” and make your sweetheart smile.



Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Cream shortening on high speed 1 minute in separate bowl. Add sugar gradually, creaming on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add egg whites 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beating on medium speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon extract.


Pour half batter into greased 9-inch cake pan. Add red food coloring to remaining batter and pour into another greased 9-inch cake pan. Bake at 375 degrees until cake springs back when lightly touched in center, 20 to 25 minutes.


Let cakes stand 5 minutes in pans, then turn cakes out on racks. When cool, split cake layers into halves crosswise. Spread jam/jelly on top surface of 1 white and 2 pink layers. Stack together, alternating layers, starting with pink and ending with white. Frost top and sides with Jelly Icing.

Jelly icing


Melt jelly in saucepan over low heat, about 2 minutes.


Add salt to egg white and beat on high until stiff, 2 minutes. Pour melted jelly over beaten egg white and beat on high 8 to 10 minutes, or until frosting is of spreading consistency.

The Times Test Kitchen used currant jelly for the filling and icing, but strawberry or raspberry jelly would work as well. Although many recipes call for uncooked eggs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found them to be a potential carrier of food-borne illness and recommends that infants, the elderly and immuno-compromised people avoid raw eggs.