Desserts don’t get much more Canadian than red velvet cake. While it’s technically an American creation, it was the signature dessert of the stylish Eaton’s department store restaurants north of the border more than 50 years ago.
I was as happy as the next dessert lover when red velvet came back in vogue a few years ago. But now it’s practically in every bakery and café: Starbucks has a red velvet cupcake, President’s Choice sells a cake mix, celebrity chef Mark McEwan makes red velvet bread pudding, and at the midway at the Calgary Stampede next week, there’ll be, you guessed it, red velvet funnel cake.
But red velvet’s historical roots (many sources link its creation to New York’s Waldorf-Astoria in the 1920s) – got me thinking – and then leafing through some 100-year-old Canadian cookbooks and traditional recipe collections. As someone who grew up in rural Ontario at a time when you couldn’t run into a church lady without a pan of date squares falling out of her handbag, I know that there is a delicious world of great Canadian heritage desserts beyond red velvet. And not just butter tarts and Nanaimo bars.
Grunts, buckles, rolls, puddings, squares, ices – even their names are redolent with old-timey charm. This Canada Day, bring your patriotism to the dessert platter by tucking into these Canadian classics.
I wanted to stay as true to the historical recipes as possible because that’s part of their charm. That said, there are a few interesting challenges Baking time and temperature were often not provided in recipes. When using a wood stove, why would you need to provide a temperature? Our modern palates are quite different, so in some cases we have suggested a lesser amount of sugar. Alterations from the original recipe are in square brackets.
Where omitted in the original recipe and for ease of use, we have added an ingredients list.