In 1937 the founder of the Interstate Bakery Corporation introduced cakes good enough to serve in the White House, and dubbed them Dolly Madison. The first lady, wife of President James Madison, was well known as a domestic goddess. Her name has a long association with everything for the home, including linens, dinnerware, jewelry, tobacco, and a variety of foods. She was a true “hostess with the most-ess, and served as our nation’s social matron. (The original Martha Stewart.) Original advertising for the Dolly Madison Bakery brand included images of a prim and proper 19th century woman caring for her home.
When women started to look for their cultural place outside the home, Dolly Madison Bakery decided to change their target. Individual cakes, including Zingers, Gems, and Fruit Pies were marketed to kids with the help of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts. Dolly Madison was soon a major sponsor of the Peanuts television specials, and quickly became a household name. Each product had a different character on its wrapper, and their individual wrapping made them perfect for lunch bento boxes. Charlie Brown preached the back-to-school message “school time is snack time.”
Recommended Reading: Get started with baking by reading our Ultimate Guide to the Best Baking Equipment for Beginners!
Here, with Peanuts and lunch boxes, lies the key to our love of the snack cake. They are permanently linked in our sensory memory with the joys of childhood. For so many of us, these cakes are not merely junk food. They are heartwarming comfort food.
Look-Alike Strawberry Zingers
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 TB. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- [1/2] cups (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups strawberry preserves, divided
- [1/2] cup milk
- 1 tsp. strawberry extract
- 6-8 drops red food coloring, divided
- 1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe below)
- 1 cup Simple Syrup
- 2 cups shredded coconut
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat 6 mini loaf pans with pan spray. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl mix thoroughly sugar, eggs, butter, 1 cup strawberry preserves, milk, strawberry extract, and 3 drops food color. Add wet to dry, and mix until just blended. Transfer batter to prepared pan, filling [3/4] full, and bake until golden brown and firm, about 15-20 minutes. Cool cakes 10 minutes, and while still warm, invert to remove from pan.
- Mix thoroughly remaining preserves, cream cheese frosting, and 1-2 drops food color. Use a chopstick to make a hole at each end of each cake. Fit a pastry bag with a small plain pastry tip. Fill the bag with the cream mixture, insert tip, and inject cream until you feel the cake expanding. Repeat on each end, and with all cakes. Brush filled cakes with simple syrup.
- Thoroughly mix coconut with a drop or two of food color, and place in a wide plate. Use remaining frosting to lightly coat each cake, then roll cakes in pink coconut before serving. Makes about 6 cakes.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 oz. ([1/2] stick) butter, softened
- 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 TB. vanilla
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 (1 lb.) box powdered sugar, sifted
- Cream together butter, cream cheese with a sturdy spoon or electric mixer until lump-free. Add vanilla, salt, then slowly add powdered sugar, and mix until smooth. Makes about 4 cups.
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