7-Up Cake puts frozen charge into New Year’s Eve celebration
At around 8 p.m. on the last night of the year in the early ’90s, I got out mixing bowls, measuring spoons and a baking pan. The little ones gathered around me, some to watch, some wanting to measure ingredients or crack eggs. They were about to witness and take part in the making of 7-Up Cake.
Now that I’m older and can admit much to my parents, I have to say that at 10, I made the recipe up, probably on my short walk home from school, and that part of the pleasure of planning the cake was having a semi-legitimate reason for asking my mom to put some junk food on our shopping list. I probably told her that I stumbled on this amazing-sounding recipe at the library, perfectly fit for a New Year’s Eve celebration or that it was a tried and true cake traditional to one of my classmates’ families. Certainly, I don’t think I would have told her it was a total kid’s dream experiment.
Being in La Grande the last few eves, I haven’t made the cake. But talking to my sister earlier last week, she said she wanted to make it. It made me realize that this made-up cake with fraudulent origins was a family tradition, now almost 20 years old.
Back when I was 10, I wanted to make a 7-Up cake because I was once served a tender cake at a family and friends party. The server, an in-law, said the secret was 7-Up. She also flatly said she would not give out the recipe, since it was a precious family heirloom 7-Up secret.
“I’ll best you,” I probably thought. But a kid has no idea where 7-Up comes in to make cake special (I don’t know now either). My food knowledge was much more limited at that time in the early ’90s, though I wanted to be involved with cooking (I was not expected to).
At the time, in hot Hawaii, me and my brothers were doing a lot of freezing food experiments. My dad too treated us to juice and root beer icecubes that we ate with our hands out of bowls, which made us extremely happy. So, this cake experiment was a frozen one.
7-Up Cake is ridiculous. It’s just a yellow cake (I used a package mix) that’s been allowed to cool and then pierced with a skewer and then periodically, 7-Up is poured onto the cake and allowed to soak in until it is super-saturated. It’s frozen in between pourings. Around 11 p.m. when the cake is both full of 7-Up and frozen as a rock, I prepare vanilla pudding and frost the cake with it and put it all back into the freezer, “ready” to serve at midnight.
I had this unearned authority with the younger children in the family. They thought I was a food magician. Every year I was in Hawaii since that first New Year’s Eve, I was asked and begged to make the cake. The kids always helped and were eager to finally get a piece at midnight. Later, I also made the cake for friends who somehow became addicted and made their own batches to share with others. I once looked into a friend’s freezer and saw a bag full of the slices of 7-Up Cake.
For a little while after I realized that this 20-year tradition was originally just something a kid (me) made up, I wanted to inform people the cake was not special, in fact, it’s fake — no authority has approved of it.
But, I think it’s great that I have a family that supports crazy frozen cake fun. They’d rather things not be so rigid and think fondly of my concoction.
Since the ’90s, after the string of 200,000 firecrackers goes off at midnight, my family can think of no other sweet but this cake, served at midnight.