Halloween Yum-Yums

Cover of The Farmer’s Wife magazine–November 1926

Welcome Friends!

As we begin a new month, I was a little perplexed with the cover of the November 1926 edition of The Farmer’s Wife magazine (see image above). It is obviously an illustration of a child’s Halloween party, but why was it used in November. After about a week’s worth of pondering, it occurred to me that All Hallows Eve (aka Halloween) is celebrated October 31st, but All Hallows Day, which is mostly forgotten in America, falls on November 1st. Similar perhaps to the reveling of New Year’s Eve compared to more sedate New Year’s Day celebrations.

This observation helped make me a little more comfortable with my (ahem) late Halloween post. Today I’m featuring an unlikely Halloween dessert found in the October 1926 issue of The Farmer’s Wife – Upside Down Cake. The article titled “Halloween Yum-Yums” reminds readers that “Everybody likes to have fun and frolic on Halloween, then sometime during the evening everyone’s thoughts turn to food.” Several menu suggestions are listed followed by recipes for the desserts. For some reason, the Upside-Down Cake caught my fancy. Never having made or even tasted one, I decided to give it a try. But before we jump into the recipe let’s review a little of the history of pineapple and upside-down cakes.

In the early twentieth century, canned pineapple was a luxury affordable only by the well-to-do. Before mechanization, processing the pineapples from farm to cans all had to be done by hand. The price for decent fresh pineapple was exorbitant when it was available as shipping fruit long distances was difficult before refrigeration technology. By the mid-1920s the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, owned by James Dole, had developed a way to efficiently peel, slice, pack and seal fresh pineapple in shelf-stable cans to be shipped to the mainland.

Hawaiian Pineapple Ad 1920s

As a way of promoting their now readily available and affordable product, the company held a recipe contest in 1925 featuring canned pineapple. A whopping 60,000 recipes were submitted with 2,500 being for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. Interestingly, it wasn’t the upside-down cake that was new, it was the availability of pineapple. Skillet cakes, as they were called, had been around for hundreds of years. Layering bits of seasonal or dried fruit and nuts on the bottom of a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, then covering the fruit with cake batter, and baking in a fire or oven resulted in a relatively easy and satisfying dessert whether turned upside-down or not.

Now back to the Halloween Yum-Yums. Below is the recipe for Upside Down Cake as it was published in The Farmer’s Wife magazine in 1926:

Upside Down Cake

  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 eggs (beaten separately)
  • ½ tsp lemon extract
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 4 Tbsp cold water

Beat yolks with sugar, add water and flavoring. Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture. Beat well 5 minutes. Fold in well-beaten whites of eggs.

In an iron skillet melt four tablespoonsful butter and one cupful brown sugar. Cover bottom of skillet with slices of pineapple then pour the cake mixture over this and bake in a moderate oven for at least forty minutes. Start at 260 degrees let rise to 300 degrees.

*Other fruit can be used instead of pineapple.

One of the first things I noticed about this recipe was the date of publication. It was obviously an early version of Pineapple Upside Down Cake. The next thing I noticed was that the cake batter contains no fat and the eggs are to be separated with the whites well beaten. This told me that the cake is a “sponge”, a more delicate cake than a “butter” cake. I followed the recipe as written except for leaving out the lemon extract and increasing the vanilla extract to one teaspoon. I also placed maraschino cherries inside the pineapple rings before pouring over the batter. I even went through the process of slowly raising the oven temperature from 260 degrees to 300 degrees in five-minute increments which was totally unnecessary according to other recipes from the same time period. With such a slow oven it took over fifty minutes to completely bake.

In the end, the cake turned out beautifully and the flavor was excellent albeit quite sweet. I would definitely make another Upside-Down Cake, not with this recipe, but one with a sturdier butter cake recipe.

I thought the notation at the end of the recipe “Other fruit can be used instead of pineapple” was very telling. That statement points directly back to earlier skillet cakes or upside-down cakes.

I am presently compiling a sampler of other early twentieth-century Upside Down Cake recipes that I discovered while researching this article. That post will be coming soon. I am also gathering November grocery ads from the 1920s so we can compare prices between then and now. Meanwhile, Happy November!


Homemade Halloween Fun — 1926

Welcome Friends!

Dressing up in costume and going trick-or-treating to nearby homes was fast becoming popular in the 1920s however, it was not very feasible in rural areas. Instead, farm families and communities would plan their own kind of Halloween fun. Parties would be held in someone’s home or a community center. Games of every kind were played including the classic Bobbing for Apples, trying to eat a donut hanging from a string, Jack o’ Lantern carving, and going on a hayride. Interestingly, the object for most of the activities for teens and young adults was to “divine” who they would marry.

Each October The Farmer’s Wife magazine published Halloween party ideas to assist their readers in planning and hosting spooktacular get-togethers — similar to the way we use Pinterest today. Party suggestions included ideas for homemade decorations, games, and activities, designs for invitations, dinner, and refreshment menus including recipes.

Another vintage tradition that lasted into the 1930s was mailing friends and family Halloween greeting cards (examples below).

Each year I host an old fashioned Halloween party by getting together with family for homemade chili and donuts followed by a hayride with the grandchildren. Can’t wait!

Wishing you a fun and safe All Hallows Eve.

Thanks for stopping by.


A Witching Party for Halloween

By Nettie Rand Miller


Send your guests a frightening invitation by copying the following poem onto orange paper and attaching it to a witch cutout:

“On Halloween when witches ride,  
Come and have your fortune tried;  
The canny witch will read your fate,  
Assembling on the stroke of eight;  
Read your fate and tell you true, 
Just what the future holds for you;  
So mount your broomstick in good time,  
But ere the day send us a line.”

Name of Hostess........................................................

Decorate the living room to represent a witch’s home. By the fireplace stands an old broom and, on the mantel, place the framed picture of a cat cut from black paper on an orange-colored background.

The witch’s black kettle in which she brews her mysterious portions hangs in the fireplace. Lacking a fireplace, it may be arranged in a corner of the room. Cobwebs of gray paper cut in strips flitter in every available place. Jack-o’-lanterns grin in the dim light and a dismal paper owl or two perched on dead branches will add to the weirdness.


Calling Up the Witch is a good game with which to open the evening’s fun as it introduces everybody and is a good icebreaker.

The door should be covered with a length of black cambric (a finely woven cotton fabric) with a yellow circle in the center. Each guest is provided in turn with three hand-sewn bean bags shaped like witches’ brooms. Each guest takes a turn in throwing the broom bags, trying to hit the orange “knocker” while pronouncing his own name. Supposing the thrower is George Black, the form of address is “George Black summons the witch to appear!” and since the name has been given three times, once each time the bag is thrown, the company learns the player’s name if there are strangers present.

The keeper of the door holds up a wand whenever the knocker has been struck then turns to say: “Witch! Come forth!”

The witch opens the door, shows herself, and immediately closes the door. The game continues until all have had an opportunity to call up the witch.

The witch then appears and guests are asked to form a magic circle by joining hands, the witch remaining on the outside. She runs around the circle touching a player, who leaves his place and begins to run (similar to Duck Duck Goose). Those in the circle count ten aloud and the witch gives chase. If she succeeds in catching the other before the count is up or on the last count, she casts a magic spell over him and changes him into some other object. Then the victim by his actions tries to make the other players guess what it is. The first to guess correctly becomes the next witch or magician and if the first one touched is not caught, the first witch must try again.

MAGIC POTIONS — To Whom Shall I Marry?

A novel method of learning one’s fate is by way of magic philters (potions) which the witch produces from her cauldron. The philters are simply small bottles filled with water and flavored in some harmless pleasant manner to suggest a magic draught. One might contain a little raspberry syrup; another, diluted currant jelly; a third could be darkened with a small piece of licorice; another similarly treated with a peppermint drop or two.

Witch labels are pasted on each philter with an appropriate interpretation. The white bottle might read:

“Whoever drinks a spoonful of the potion on All Hallows Eve shall immediately hereafter see drift before his or her mind’s vision the face of the person he or she is to marry.”

For the red liquid:

“Whoever takes a spoonful of this potion shall immediately think of the one he or she is to marry.”

For the dark liquid, there is the promise of seeing very soon the person the recipient is to marry.

In a similar manner, other potions may be arranged and the witch blindfolded takes them in turn from the cauldron.


Bewitched partners will seek their fate in still another way: The men are lined up in one row and the girls in another, while the witch stands between them and does her best or worst in choosing partners. Blindfolded, she walks down the men’s line and touches a man, immediately going across to the girls’ line and touching a girl while these two step out as partners. When all are paired, they line up in a column and pass before the witch who tells their fortunes in pairs.


Such dainties as the following may be served:

  • Rolled Bread and Butter with Olive and Cream Cheese Filling
  • Chicken Sandwiches
  • Witches’ Surprise
  • Mixed vegetable Salad
  • Witches’ Cakes decorated to represent cat faces, owls, etc.
  • Ice cream Goblins
  • Ginger Ale

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine for Farm Women October 1926, Page 491; Webb Publishing Company, Saint Paul, Minnesota *Article may be edited for length and clarity.