Robin Anish | The Table is Set: Retro cake pokes fun at '70s scandal


How had I not heard of this? It's hilarious! Watergate cake with cover-up icing!

This recipe caught my eye on a food history website. The name, Watergate cake with cover-up icing, described as having a cover-up of green icing with nothing but a bunch of nuts inside, cracked me up. Of course, the name refers to the Watergate scandal that rocked the nation back in the 1970s.

Watergate was a huge political scandal that occurred following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate offices in Washington, D.C. in 1972, during the Nixon administration. President Nixon attempted to cover up his involvement, an act that led to his resignation from office in order to avoid an inevitable impeachment. Nixon was the only president to have resigned his presidency.

How did the Watergate cake recipe come about and why name it after such a calamitous event?

The recipe was created by the makers of Jell-O. Jell-O had introduced pistachio instant pudding and a pistachio bundt cake was created to promote the product. The cake became very popular in the early '70s, about the time of the Watergate scandal. As a result, the pistachio bundt cake morphed into the Watergate cake with cover-up icing — most likely as a humorous jab at incompetence on the part of the government.

I found it interesting, too, that this recipe was such a sign of the times with its use of convenience foods that were increasingly popular, if not necessary, in the '70s as more and more women entered the workforce, leaving little time to spend cooking meals for their families.

Packaged cake mixes, instant pudding, instant whipped topping and a busy mom could still treat the family to a decadent dessert.

I have never made or eaten this cake. As I was becoming passionate about baking back in the '70s, I wanted to learn how to make everything from scratch, so quick and easy didn't appeal to me. That's probably why I had never heard of Watergate cake.

Hmmm ... I wonder if I'm missing out on something. I might have to give this recipe a try!



1 package white cake mix

1 package instant pistachio pudding

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1 cup oil

3 whole eggs

1 cup 7-UP or club soda

1 cup nuts (chopped very fine)

1/2 cup coconut


Combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, oil, soda, nuts and coconut. Beat on low for 30 seconds then beat on medium for 2 minutes. Spread in a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 F, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan for 20 minutes. Turn out. When cool, frost with icing.



2 packages Dream Whip topping mix

1 box instant pistachio pudding

1 1/4 cup cold milk


Blend all together and beat until light and fluffy. Spread on cake. Store in refrigerator.


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