Authentic Period Washington Pie

Nov 26, 2016
central NC
(Public Domain)

Washington Pie, which is actually a layer cake with a jam or jelly filling, has been around since at least 1850. A jelly-filled version made an appearance in Mrs. Putnam’s Receipt Book. In the mid-19th century, home cooks often baked layer cakes in pie tins. As a result, many referred to cakes baked in pie tins as “pies.” At one point, Washington Pie was so popular that shallow, round baking pans were often referred to as “Washington Pie plates.”

Washington Pie (Layer Cake Version)

4 eggs
1 ⅓ cups white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup flour
Juice and zest from half a lemon
6 ounces of tart raspberry jam
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare two round, shallow 8-inch pans (you can use pie tins if your cake pans have high sides) by coating them with butter and flour, then set aside.

Separate the eggs. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the yolks with sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Sift together the flour and baking powder, then sift into the egg yolk mixture and beat until just combined.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the rest of the ingredients.

Divide the mixture evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes. The cakes will have risen slightly and will be lightly golden when finished.

Cool the layers completely, then spread the bottom layer with a thick, even layer of raspberry jam. Top with the second layer, and dust with confectioner’s sugar. This cake is best served after it has sat overnight, and is excellent with whipped cream.
Nov 26, 2016
central NC
There’s also a second, very different, version of Washington Pie, which was made primarily in bakeries in the Washington, D.C., area. This style—whose name likely stems from its place of origin—does involve pie crust, but it was essentially a bread pudding made from leftover cakes. The origin date is hard to pinpoint, but it pre-dates the Civil War, according to newspaper records.

Washington Pie (Pie Crust Version)

Ingredients for the crust:
4 prepared pie crusts (You’ll need this much dough to fully line a standard loaf pan.)

Ingredients for the filling:
½ 8-inch layer cake, cut into cubes
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3 eggs
2 cups milk
Zest of one orange
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a standard 8 ½-inch by 4 ½-inch loaf pan with pie crust and chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake cubes, raisins, and chopped nuts.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, orange zest, cinnamon, ginger, and sugar. Pour over the cake cube mixture and soak for 10 minutes.

Fill the pie crust with the soaked cake cubes and remaining custard, then top with an additional layer of pie crust and crimp the edges. Make four to six diagonal slashes in the top crust.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set but still has a bit of a wobble. Cool in the loaf pan, then turn out and cut into slices.