Fiesta Flaming Peach Cake (1956) ★★★

When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. I mean, a cake on fire?! It had to be done. 
Plus the cake did look kind of yummy.

Original Recipe:

Gay as a fiesta, and just as light-hearted! You start with BETTY CROCKER* HONEY SPICE CAKE MIX, so you know your cake will be perfect. Just let the cake cool, then fill and top it with sweetened whipped cream. Arrange well-drained California cling peach halves on top. In the center of each golden peach, place a sugar lump soaked in lemon extract. Then light up the sugar lumps...and serve your cake flaming!

The Verdict:
Full disclosure: I did not use Betty Crocker Honey Spice Cake Mix. I couldn't find a Betty Crocker spice cake mix, so I went with Duncan Hines's Spice Cake. I'm assuming there isn't much difference there. I also didn't want to buy an entire box of sugar cubes when I only needed a few, so I made them myself. Yes, you can do that! I just mixed white sugar with some water until it was like wet sand and I packed it into a chocolate mold I had. I let them stand at room temperature overnight to harden, before removing them from the mold. 
So the first issue here was that my peaches wouldn't light on fire! I'm thinking maybe my lemon extract wasn't alcoholic enough? It was seriously disappointing, though. Plus the middles needed to be scooped out more - it was really hard to fit the sugar and extract in there. Lastly, they were really gross to eat with the cake, because of the extract. I'm not sure now if I was meant to eat them or not.
The cake itself was kind of bleh. I'm not a fan of this flavour of packaged mix. I don't mind the chocolate or vanilla, but this one wasn't great. It wasn't awful, but I wouldn't eat it by choice.
The whipped cream was probably the best part - it makes a really nice filling.

Modernized Recipe:
(Adapted from LIFE 23 Jan 1956)

SUGAR, to taste
5 - 8 PEACH HALVES, drained

1. Make and bake the cake mix according to directions. Let cool.
2. Meanwhile, whip up the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in sugar to taste.
3. Assemble the cake and place the peach halves on top. In each peach half, place a sugar cube soaked in alcohol. Light the sugar on fire before serving.

Anje graduated with a Honours Bachelors degree in History with a minor in Museum Studies. She currently lives and works in Japan's least populous prefecture as an assistant English teacher.


  1. It was my son's 12th birthday the other day and all I can think is how much he'd have loved a cake with real flames as his birthday cake!!

    I may have to think of a way to get the sugar to burn by next year!

  2. There are other ways to get some fire on the top of a cake. I would not use whipped cream and I would use a cake that I know we like.
    1. You can really cheat and put tea lights in slices of fresh fruit. Discard the candles and the fruit before serving.
    2. You can do the plum pudding thing and heat brandy or vodka and ladle some into tiny sauce dishes before lighting them with a taper. This one is quite tricky.
    3. You could use nuts. Yes, many nuts have a sufficiently high fat content that they make natural candles. Brazil nuts are best but I have used cashews several times with great success. Simply stand the raw unsalted nuts on top of the cake, pressing them in a bit to keep them balanced. They should look like candles. Light them with a cigarette lighter. I have actually done this with three year olds as well as adults.
    Try each strategy on a plate first before donating the cake to the cause. I have also done this for a child who could not eat cake. I stuck things to the plate with blutak.

  3. I have found out that lemon essence is made to a different recipe these days to that used in the 1950s. In those times it was made with rather a lot of alcohol. In fact people sometimes bought it specifically to drink when they could not purchase spirits. This could have affected your results.

    1. Thanks for the information! I'm curious to try this with 100 proof alcohol, but also your suggestions above were very intriguing as well!

  4. Well, modern extracts still have the proper alcohol content, but you have to look at the labels and make sure you're getting pure extracts. The imitation flavors are especially awful about watering down their alcohol content. It's getting really difficult to find pure extracts other than vanilla, though. You might have to pay a little (or a lot) more and get some super-gourmet brands from overseas.

    If the alcohol content is different, then try a little lemon liqueuer, like Limoncello, instead of lemon extract. I think Limoncello can be used for anything, but that's me. it's about 28-32% alcohol.

    The other thing to try, even with the modern extracts, is heating the extract. You get bigger flames with alcohol of any kind if you heat it first, because that breaks out the flammable vapors. Can't remember what they're called, but gently heating the alcohol for a bit makes those vapors more volatile--i.e., more flammable. I know that when I heat cognac first (barely to a simmer), I get the "stand back so your hair and clothes don't catch on fire" effect more than I do with room temp or colder cognac, which will usually get a low blue-green glow an inch or so over the food before quickly petering out. Pathetic.

    Heat is the key.