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Watergate Cake & More

Almost every weekend I have to make something special, usually dinner orientated dishes. But lately I have been on a baking roll using up the endless array of fresh fruits that come my way. This past weekend I had nothing to serve as inspiration but I had a need to make something. Searching in my cupboard I found I had the ingredients for my mothers old recipe Pistachio Cake, so I got to work making this easy old favorite.

The next morning I had to find some takers for my creation because my household will never eat the whole cake. So I asked a girlfriend if she wanted some of my Pistachio Inside Out Cake. She came back with "it's the Watergate Cake, I haven't had that in years" and she sent me a link to a webpage that talked about the Watergate Cake phenomenon that occurred in 1976. After reading the article, I do remember the hoopla that occurred and the shortage of Pistachio pudding. Here's the article:

WATERGATE CAKEWatergate Cake - Pistachio Inside Out Cake closeup

Courtesy of

February 26, 1976

"A new Watergate crisis is sweeping the Washington area, but this time only homemakers and a few business men seem to care... The crisis stems from the growing popularity of a recipe for a concoction called "Watergate Cake," which demands large quantities of powdered pistachio pudding mix, both in the layer cake and in its light green icing.

Apparently, only one firm, Royal Pudding, a division of Standard Brands, Inc., distributes pistachio pudding in the Washington area. Supermarkets haven't been able to get enough to cope with the demands, which began around Thanksgiving time and was very heavy at Christmas. Store shelves have been regularly stripped of the mix the same day it is displeased the sales spurt is not directly attributable to the popularity of Watergate Cake...

"We don't know why this product has suddenly taken off. It's been just phenomenal..." Barry Scher, a spokesman for Giant Foods, placed the blame not only on the recipe, but also on a coincidental shortage of pistachio nuts. "That was about five months ago, the spokesman said, "And as it ended, this recipe began circulating around. We were bombarded. We hate to admit it, but we just can't keep the mix on the shelf.

The onset of Watergate cake mania--and the resulting effort to close the supply-demand gap --has tested old friendships and challenged the ingenuity and competitive instincts of many a Washington-area homemaking...

No one, meanwhile, seems able to pinpoint the origin of this Watergate, the recipe for which has appeared in a number of newspapers, including the Washington Post. Nor can anyone explain how the cake got its name or why pistachio is the main flavoring. One current explanation leans on the presence of crushed walnuts in the cake--"bugs" in the parlance of kids.

Like the Giant spokesman, Harold Giesinger, proprietor of the Watergate Pastry shop, had no thoughts on where the recipe originated-- except that it was not with his bakery. "We haven't invented anything to which we'd attach a name like that," he said. Nor, he added, does his shop rely on pistachio as a key ingredient in any of its products. "A private source may have put it together, " he said of the recipe.

Wherever Watergate Cake started, the pudding firm would like more more problems like it. Gagan suspects some people have been buying more pistachio pudding mix than they'll ever use, simply because it's hard to get...Further relief is in sight. Another manufacturer, General Foods, scanning the Watergate-assisted pistachio market, has decided to jump in. Its version is expected to hit the supermarket shelves in March..."

---"A Watergate Cake Mania," Alexander Sullivan, Washington Post, February 26, 1976 (p. B2) [Recipe included, see below 1976]

"According to my sister-in-law who lives in Waynesboro, Virginia, the name of the cake became prominent in that part of the country because--Nixon liked Pistachio Nuts, hence (and a rather far-fetched reasoning) the name for the Watergate Cake, because synonymous with--Pistachio Nuts, Mrs. Nixon and Watergate. I had neither heard of Pistachio Pudding or the Watergate Cake until last fall we stopped to visit them, and she had the cake all ready for us to eat. However, her recipe is much different than the one printed in the Washington Post Thursday in your column. Sincerely yours, Virginia K. Wiszneauckas, Wheaton, Md."

---"That Cake," Washington Post, March 11, 1976 (p. VA2)

Watergate Cake Watergate Cake - Pistachio Inside Out Cake 1976

My Recipe is called "Pistachio Inside Out Cake"

1 box white cake mix
1 box pistachio instant pudding
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup club soda
3 eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt® pan or 12 x 9 inch pan. Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Beat eggs for 1/2 minute then add liquid ingredients to combine. Add cake mix and pudding to liquids. Mix all ingredients well then add nuts. Pour into pan and bake 12 x 9 inch pan for 45 minutes or Bundt® pan 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cool cake on rack for 15 minutes then remove from pan. Cool another 15 minutes then cut the cake in half or thirds and allow to cool a little longer before topping with pudding mix.

Pudding Topping for Cake

1 box pistachio instant pudding
1 packet Dream Whip whipped topping mix
1 1/2 cups cold milk or half and half
12 x 9 Cake - 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans and maraschino cherries
Bundt Cake - powdered sugar

Place the pudding mix and Dream Whip in a medium bowl. Add milk and beat until the mixture become very thick and mounded, about 5 minutes.

For the Bundt® pan, cut the cake in half or thirds, carefully removing each layer. Spread pudding topping on to each layer, reserving 1 cup. Place the reserved 1 cup of pudding into the middle of the cake. Sprinkle entire cake with powdered sugar. (Note: The original recipe calls for cutting the cake into 3 layers, I prefer cutting the cake in half; cutting in thirds results in a lot less pudding between each layer.)

For a the sheet cake, spread pudding topping on the cake and top with nuts and cherries. (I never made this version.)

Refrigerate cake overnight before serving for the best flavor.

Now here is another Watergate Recipe my wonderful friend found that I have not made yet. I will make it next weekend and post the results.

Tupperware Watergate Salad Recipe

Watergate salad mounded on a dishCourtesy of

According to Tupperware, in 1975, pistachio pudding was developed by a major food corporation. The recipe for Watergate Salad was originally dubbed "Hawaiian Surprise", but to increase its popularity, the name of the recipe was altered to reflect the famous political scandal.

Here is Tupperware's Watergate Salad Recipe * This recipe will make approximately 7 cups.

8 oz. carton of whipped topping
3.4 oz. pkg. instant pistachio pudding mix
20 oz. can of crushed pineapples, drained & reserve the juice
8 oz. can of mandarin oranges, drained
2 cups of miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup of chopped pecans

Combine whipped topping, pistachio pudding mix and a small amount of juice from the pineapples in an 8 3/4 cup Wonderlier (tm) Tupperware bowl. Blend well with the Tupperware Saucy Silicone Spatula (tm). Fold in the remaining ingredients. Chill for 4 hours or so before serving.

My Results: I made the Watergate Salad according to the above recipe. I was surprised you put the DRY pudding mix in; my girlfriend told me to make the pudding first but every recipe online said to use the pudding dry so I did. I used 1/8 c. Pinapple juice for the "small amount of juice" instruction above. I was amazed that I got over 2 cups of juice from the 20 oz can.

I waited to add the mandarin oranges until the end with the marshmallows-next time I will ad the oranges at the very end. I also read recipes that called for maraschino cherries-I think they would be better as the oranges broke up as I mixed them in. I think next time I will eliminate the nuts as I am not thrilled with nuts in jello.

I licked the spoon after mixing and noticed the granular texture from the dry pudding. The recipe says chill for 4 hours so I will be back and let you know if it dissolved.

image of the side the recipe for pistachio pudding on the side of the boxThe Pistachio Pudding Box

I noticed as I was making this recipe the box of pistachio pudding had it's own version on the side. I would not try this one, there is too much juice in the pineapples and I would think this would be watery. But if it is on the box it must be OK.



Here is another version that I might try in the future:

Pistachio Salad

1 (20 oz.) can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 (16 oz.) container cottage cheese
1 (8 oz.) container cool whip
1 ( 3.4 oz.) package pistachio pudding mix
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

In a bowl, add cool whip and dry pistachio pudding mix. Mix until well blended. Then add pineapple and cottage cheese; mix well. If you like really soft marshmallows add them at this point, if you like more firm marshmallows, mix in just before serving (I like mine soft). Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

For more information on the Watergate Cake and Pistachios, visit

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