Happy Day Cake Recipe


It’s my sister’s birthday today.

The Happy Day Cake Recipe post is from a birthday post I made for her ten years ago.  For many family  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 filled with boiling brown sugar and butter, into a sink of cold water and then beat it by hand once it cooled.She’d add Confectioner’s sugar to it. I can hear the ring of the metal loop at the end of the pan’s handle.  She added a dash of vanilla extract.  My dad would pour milk over a stale slice of cake and eat it with a spoon.   Cake and frosting recipes below photo.

Mary bought me this vintage cake pan when we were visiting our brother in Okanogan Washington

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
  • vanilla extract


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.

Happy Birthday Mary.


I didn’t count the cake posts I’ve created in the last 12 years but if you have time on your hands and like cake  you can look at some photos from theblog tagged CAKE here

11 thoughts on “Happy Day Cake Recipe

  1. Happy Birthday Mary!!!! We’re both Virgos! Love this cake and I think I have had yours, Ruth!!!
    My Mom used to make it and Swan’s Sown was always in the cupboard!!! Xoxox

  2. Happy Birthday, Mary! I hope you have a happy day and a happy year to come. Sending hugs from Pittsburgh on your special day!

  3. Cake recipes are always welcomed! My mother made the happy cake recipe but substituted water for milk. That way we could eat it after meat #kosher. It worked!

  4. Happy birthday, Mary. Our favorite birthday cake growing up. I always made fudge frosting from the Settlement Cookbook when I started baking. My mom would make a vanilla buttercream icing with raspberry jam between the layers. Mmm, my mouth is watering.

  5. Happy Birthday Mary, Wishes from Maine. I have never heard of this cake or frosting , so I was pleased to see it. I’ve copied it and will definitely try this someday. Sounds delicious and I love the old cake pans, they have so much character.

  6. Happy Birthday Mary! @Ruth, I did take a spin through some of your previous “cake” posts: 1) there are *many* of them, and 2) more often than not, the cake is the secondary item – a gathering/celebration of someone or someone’s event is the focus. 🙂

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