Cakeover: Watergate Cake – Redux

It’s been a full, lonnnng month since our last cake expedition. I got a lot of ooohs and ahhhs on my Louisiana Butter Pecan Cake in May. (You can get all the buttery, pecan-y lowdown here.)

So it’s a new month and, as promised, it’s time we talked cake again. Specifically, another “Cakeover” of a cake that was popular during my 1970s childhood in Louisiana. If you weren’t around in the 1970s, or just don’t remember (a condition that was epidemic then), there was a particular presidential scandal in the early part of the decade involving the U.S. president. Some cake legend-ologists say the cake I’m redoing this month was named for that particular scandal, but I’ve also read that the Watergate Hotel restaurant’s signature Watergate Salad had something to do with the name’s provenance. Some say the cake actually predates the salad. So confusing. (Read more about all that here.) The salad apparently featured pistachios, whipped cream, and pineapple, among other psychedelic goodies from that period.

In my update of this cake, I killed off the boxed cake mix idea and the frozen whipped topping (that would be Cool Whip) right out of the gate. We can make a real cake from scratch here, so we will. I had intended to make real, homemade whipped cream to replace the Cool Whip, but after playing with that and realizing that, in the heat of summer, whipped cream really doesn’t travel well (I had envisioned the layers of cake sliding around in the car as I traveled to whatever picnic I was headed to). ANYWAY, in addition to making the cake from scratch (not much more involved than pouring it out of a box – but SO much better-tasting), I landed on a basic buttercream frosting, with the pistachio pudding mix (the one boxed ingredient that should stay intact). This approach maintains the spirit of the original, while being easier to use and, frankly, tastier, and more full-bodied than the faux whipped cream of the original.

So let’s get baking:


For the Cake:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1, 3-ounce package of pistachio pudding mix
1 cup  melted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup lemon-lime or grapefruit flavored carbonated soft drink (I used Fresca).

For the Frosting:

1 stick of room-temperature unsalted butter
1, 8-ounce package of room temperature cream cheese
1, 3-ounce package of pistachio pudding mix
3-to-4 cups powdered sugar (depending on how thick you like your frosting)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon  vanilla extract
Optional: Chopped pistachios or walnuts for garnish

For the Cake:

1 -Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat three, 7-inch cake pans with cooking spray (of course if you only have two such pans, you’ll have to reuse one of them in a second baking).
2 – Whisk dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
3 – In a larger bowl, using a hand mixer, cream sugar into melted butter until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then mix in vanilla extract.
4 – Add dry ingredients alternately with the soft drink, starting and ending with the flour, mixing a little between each addition.
5 – Pour batter into prepared pans; fill each no more than halfway.
6 – Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
7 – Cool layers completely before frosting.
8 – Garnish with (optional) coarsely chopped pistachios or walnuts.

For the Frosting:

1 – In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with a hand or a stand mixer until smooth.
2 – Add the package of pistachio pudding mix, and then the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until you get a thickness you like. You may not use all four cups of the sugar.
3 – Beat on medium speed until smooth.
4 – Using a rubber spatula, fold in the sea salt and vanilla until fully integrated.

Let me know how it turns out in the Contact section. And make sure to FOLLOW me! (form at the bottom of this page).


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6 thoughts on “Cakeover: Watergate Cake – Redux

  1. So my grandmother had a recipe for what she called Cajun Cake, and for some reason, this post reminded me of that! I think she got it from another United Methodist Woman member. Thought I’d share.

    Josephine Andrews’ Cajun Cake

    2 cups flour
    2 eggs
    1 can (no. 2) crushed pineapple
    1-1/2 cup sugar
    1-1/2 teaspoon soda
    1 pinch salt


    1 stick oleo
    1 small can evaporated milk
    1 cup flaked coconut
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 cup chopped pecans

    • Mix all ingredients together and beat by hand for one minute.
    • Pour in a greased 11” x 14” pan.
    • Bake for 40 minutes at 300º.

    To make the icing:
    • Mix oleo, milk and sugar.  Boil for 5 minutes.
    • Add vanilla, nuts and coconuts.
    • Spread on hot cake.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I want to make your grandmother’s cake! The recipe makes me think of a cake that I’ve had (not sure the name). I love that the term “oleo” is involved! teeheehee.


  3. Your cake recipes ALL look like trouble& you know that’s a good thing. I can’t stop thinking about that butter pecan cake. Have a family recipe for Pecan Pound Cake that calls for 1 cup bourbon (OR 1 cup milk). These were not drinking women so I’m wondering if you’ve seen any cake recipes with that bourbon option. North Georgia origin. So glad to find you here.


    1. Hi, Bonnie! Sorry, I’ve been offline lately due to the flu (uggh). ANYWAY, you should MOST DEFINITELY make the Butter Pecan cake asap! Then all the others of course (if I do say so myself, they are each worthy!). I have never seen a pecan pound cake recipe with bourbon, but it sounds pretty good to me. Thanks for your kind comments! I hope to get back to posting more frequently than I have been lately (due to lots of reasons – moving apartments, overflow of my day-job stuff, and other writing projects that are burying me at the moment. Uggh. NONETHELESS – Thank you!


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