Happy Day Cake Recipe

For Birthdays it was the 1-2-3-4 Cake recipe or the Happy Day Cake recipe on the back of the Swan’s Down Cake Flour box, frosted with Penuche icing.  My mother would put the saucepan into a sink of cold water and then beat it by hand once it cooled. I can hear the ring of the metal loop at the end of the pan’s handle. And as I remember it she added a dash of vanilla extract.  My dad would pour milk over a slice and eat it with a spoon.   Cake and frosting recipes below photo.

Happy Birthday to my sister Mary who gave me the vintage pan
Happy Birthday Mary. This vintage cake pan was a gift from her to me.

Happy Day Cake

2½ cups sifted cake flour

1½ cups sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup shortening, at room temperature

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

Sift flour with sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir shortening to soften. Add flour mixture, ¾ cup of the milk and vanilla. Mix until all flour is dampened, then beat two minutes at medium speed. Add eggs and remaining ¼ cup milk. Beat one minute longer. Pour into two 9-inch layer pans that have been lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans; remove from pans and cool thoroughly on racks.

This cake also may be baked in three 8-inch layer pans for 25 to 35 minutes, or in a 13- by 9-inch pan for 30 to 35 minutes. Batter may be spooned into 36 medium paper baking cups in muffin pans, filling half full. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Penuche Frosting   Butter is Key


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, more or less
  • hot water, optional


In a saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Add the brown sugar. Bring to a boil and lower heat to medium low and continue to boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm. Gradually add sifted confectioners’ sugar. Beat until thick enough to spread. If too thick, add a little hot water. Frosts top and sides of a 2-layer cake or a 13×9-inch cake.

11 thoughts on “Happy Day Cake Recipe

  1. Ruthie thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. I have such fun memories of your MOM in the kitchen. She always seems very busy, getting lots done, taking care of everyone.

  2. I was just think how I always wanted a store bought cake when I was little. Now I’m glad I always had homemade

  3. Oh No, I just gained another five pounds just reading this! The photo reminds me of a flea market I went to; one table had dozens of old metal cookware just like these.

  4. Happy Birth-Day, Sept 8th: Virgo continues until Fall Equinox so more beautiful Summer days of celebration for you, Mary!
    My Mom used Swan’s Down also and probably the same receipe, but white frosting, which has a name I do not remember!! “Thanks for the Memories.” !!!! XOXOXO Erica

  5. I was surprised to find this recipe was still around.As a new bride back in the 50s or 60s,this is the only recipe I used.Going to make me one for Mothers Day

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