Monday, February 20, 2012

Washington Pie part 2

The previous posting on Washington Pies, HERE described the round layered cake with jelly or cream filling.  The second type of Washington Pie was a square cake composed of broken cake pieces within a bottom and top pie crust.  According to the following newspaper article, it probably was named for Washington, DC where it was sold in many bakeries prior to the Civil War, and when sold "... in Baltimore... there was nothing of Washington about it except the name." --

“Washington Pie is distinctly a home production,” explained a Fourteenth street [Washington, D.C.] baker to a Washington Star reporter, “and originated in this city, though I am not clear as to the exact date.  I have had an intimate acquaintance with Washington pie for forty years [1860s] and during that time have made and handled an immense quantity of it.
As it was originally made, it was very fine, though it fell into disrepute during the war [Civil War], when certain bakers, in their efforts to produce great quantities of it, were not so very careful as to what it was composed of.  Some bakers got to making it out of stale bread and the like, and for awhile it fell out of favor.
Washington pie, properly made, consists, in the way of works, of odds and ends of broken cakes that pile up in bakeshops.  They are just as good as if they were whole, but because they are not whole they are at times unsalable.  When bakers found themselves with an overstock of broken cakes on hand they generally went into Washington pie. 
The first process was to dampen them [the cake pieces] with water and milk or cream.  Some raisins were thrown in and some spices.  There was a pie crust put under and over it and the result was Washington pie.  Now and then some pies that happen to get broken were put into the works which made Washington pie so toothsome and satisfactory to so many thousands.
It was always baked in square pans about two and a half feet wide and long, and was always cut up into squares when sold.  When it was fresh and hot it was decidedly good eating.
In many of the hotels and boarding houses Washington pie was served at meals covered with a nice sauce, and in this way there was more of it served than any other pies.  There was nothing exclusive about it, for nearly all bakers made it and found a ready sale for it, many serving it to their customers while it was hot.  There were also great quantities of it sold by the bakers in the city markets.
During this time there was a great sale for Washington pie in Baltimore, though, or course, there was nothing of Washington about it except the name.  It also found its way to New York, and even to this day [1898] Washington pie is consumed in great quantities at the Astor House [sketch from 1844] and other down town lunch places. 

There is some Washington pie still made and sold in this city [DC], but it is inconsiderable in comparison to what the Washington boys of thirty-five or forty years ago consumed.”
Milwaukee Sentinel Nov. 15, 1898 from the Washington Star newspaper

"The very cheap articles so often met with at the coffee stands and lunch houses in the vicinity of the docks and railroad depots, and known as Washington pie, railroad cake, etc., are made up chiefly of the refuse and waste material of the bakeries, old and musty cakes, waste fruit, a little spice and much molasses." 
Food adulteration, or, What we eat, and what we should eat. J. T. Pratt.  Chicago: 1880


Yet another different Washington Pie - pie crust under the cake batter, then topped with browned meringue --

"Line the pan with a crust, then fill with a rich, yellow cake dough, bake, let cool, then cover with blackberry or raspberry jam. Put a heavy meringue on the top and place in the oven to brown."
The Altrurian cook book: favorite recipes  By Troy Altrurian Club (Troy, N.Y.) 1910

For previous postings about Washington click on: Washington Pie – round layer cake, jelly or cream filled ; and Washington Cakes ; and President's cakes, pies, jumbles and pudding

©2012 Patricia Bixler Reber
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