From 1923: Sunshine Cake


Alright, let’s go back to the The College Woman’s Cook Book one last time. I’ve used recipes from this cookbook quite a few times, but it’s just such a great cookbook! Not only does it have interesting recipes, but they all turn out. And, I’ve gone through a few cookbooks now whose recipes did not turn out for me. Sorry, 365 Foreign Dishes, but I’ve tried three different recipe from you, and they were all just terrible. I don’t know if it was me or you, but let’s just pretend none of it ever happened!

So, what’s sunshine cake? It reminds me of angel food cake. It’s super light and airy, but it isn’t quite as soft as angel food cake, I’m guessing because it just calls for regular flour instead of superfine cake flour. And, it includes egg yolks, rather that just egg whites. Either way, it’s sweet and light with a hint of vanilla, and it’s absolutely perfect for adding sugared strawberries to.

I picked this recipe for sunshine cake from 1923 because it was the simplest version I’ve found. Sunshine cake has definitely made its way across time. I’ve seen it in a number of cookbooks I’ve read through, and most often, it’s a little more complex. Other cooks recommend adding lemon zest to it, orange zest, almond extract, and even crushed pineapple. It’s really a cake that you can infuse any flavor into it. It’s versatile. It can adapted to any taste, time, or trend. I guess it’s really a timeless cake.

So, here it is. We’re making sunshine cake from The College Woman’s Cook Book published in 1923.


As usual, I halved the recipe we’re making. There are only two of us, so this means there’s no waste… and no temptation to eat an entire cake. Win-win!

Let’s go make some history!


Here are our ingredients: Eggs, cream of tartar, sugar, vanilla, and flour (not pictured: salt).


Step 1: Separate the egg whites and the egg yolks into two separate bowls. Ideally, you’ll want to use two mixing bowls, but as I’ve said before, I only have one. Go with what you have!


Step 2: Using an electric mixer (unless you’d like to do it the old-fashioned way, of course), beat the whites until they start to get foamy. Then, sprinkle the cream of tartar on top, and continue beating them until stiff peaks form.


Step 2.1: Like so!


Step 3: Then, begin adding the sugar. I just sprinkled the sugar in with my left hand as I mixed with my right. Your arm will get tired holding the electric mixer, but again, you could be doing it the old-fashioned way…


Step 3.1: Once all your sugar is added in, you’ll have a shiny white mixture that resembles frosting!


Step 4: Take your electric mixer and beat the yolks for a few seconds until they’re perfectly smooth. Then, add them into the whites. Add the vanilla at this point, as well. And, mix it all together with the mixer.


Step 5: Now, it’s time for flour. Sprinkle the flour on top (half of it at a time), and then use a rubber spatula to fold the mixture together. The electric mixer would be too tough on your light, airy batter at this point, so definitely use a rubber spatula! At this point, too, add a pinch of salt for flavor.


Step 6: Pour the batter into a buttered 8×8″ baking dish.


Step 7: Bake the cake at 350 degrees for twenty to thirty minutes, or until it’s nice and golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake the cake, or it’ll be a little dry!


Final step: Plate a big piece of cake, and top it with some fresh, sugared strawberries. You know what would make this even better? Whipped cream. Go ahead and put a big dollop of fresh whipped cream on top of it, too.

Talk about a timeless dessert. Light, airy, vanilla-flavored cake, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream. It doesn’t get much better than that. I really like things that are timeless. They’re things that anyone of any age from any era can appreciate, relate to, and enjoy. I can guarantee that this cake was just as beautiful and enticing to people in 1923 as it is to us today – 94 years later. So many things have changed in 94 years. Clothes, jobs, entertainment, travel, communication. Pretty much everything, really.

But, something timeless like this dessert, this sunshine cake, lets us pause for a minute and connect with the past – even if you we realize it. When we take a bite if it, we’re savoring something simple, sweet, and delicious. We’re the same as someone 94 years ago taking a bite of this same cake. For just a moment, we’re a part of the past, and the past is part of the present. For just a moment, we’re enjoying the timeless.

From 1923: Sunshine Cake

  • Servings: Makes one 8x8 pan
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch of salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or grease an 8×8″ baking pan.
  2. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Sprinkle cream of tartar over the top, and continue to beat until still peaks form.
  3. Slowly and gradually add in the sugar while beating until completely incorporated. You should have a shiny, white mixture that resembles frosting.
  4. Beat the egg yolks a few seconds until smooth, then add them into the egg whites. Add in the vanilla, as well, and beat to combine.
  5. Sprinkle the flour over the batter (half at a time), and fold in with a rubber spatula. Fold in a punch of salt, as well.
  6. Pour into baking dish, and bake for 20-30 minutes or until top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake. Cool before cutting.


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