Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pistachio Watergate Cake with Cover Up Frosting

These days, what's happening in Washington, D.C., makes Watergate seem like child's play, but at the time, it was THE BIGGEST SCANDAL EVER, commanding the attention of everyone -- even, apparently, bakers. And so, in the 1970s, just around the time that Jello introduced its new pistachio pudding mix, the Watergate Cake was born. It is full of nuts, and features cover-up frosting.  And therein lies the albeit random connection to the (now old-school) burglary and cover up that captured the nation. (I actually attended one day of the Watergate hearings in 1973 with two high school friends while on a road trip. I recall we just waltzed in to see John Dean testify -- it was that easy!)

This cake screams the 1970s in other ways, too. Check out the processed food ingredients required. It was no easy feat finding Jello pistachio pudding (thanks, Target in Brooklyn) and a box of Dream Whip (thanks, Walmart in Athens, Georgia).

Despite the ingredients, this cake is DELICIOUS!!  I could not stop eating it. Did I mention that it's a snap to make?  Once you locate the ingredients, that is.

First, the essential nuts. I used walnuts, but pecans would also be lovely.

Just dump all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, after beating the eggs separately, and combine.

The batter will look like this.

Spoon it into a well-greased bundt pan.

Bake until the edges of the cake just being to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Let it cool in the pan a bit, and turn it out onto a rack.

Start the cover up frosting. I mixed all ingredients together first, then added the sour cream.

Make sure the cake is cool before frosting. I had tons left over, btw.

The recipe I followed You'll notice there are no real instructions, but I was able to figure it out by Googling a bunch of other similar recipes. (Ruth C. Scott, whose name appears on this card, embellished the standard recipe by the addition of flavorings and sour cream in the frosting.) Basically, I followed the recipe on the cake mix box, adding the beaten eggs, and flavorings last.  You really can't mess this up.
If you want to make this cake without processed ingredients, please see the wonderful book Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson, who features a from scratch version of Watergate Cake with Impeachment Frosting.


  1. So many fun things about this post! Maybe get a couple more boxes of Dream Whip ( I've seen it around, thinking Fairway on Bdwy.) as you'll hopefully need it for the (hopeful) impeachment of the current prez. Sitting in the hearings and listening to Dean testify? That's an amazing experience.

  2. I used to make this cake all the time in the 70's! Although some of my ingredients were a bit different. I don't remember the Dream Whip. It is good, so I can understand why you couldn't stop eating it. Thanks for the pertinent blast from the past!

  3. It's frightening how good something made from those ingredients can be, isn't it?! I am a child of the seventies, and I remember a Waldorf-type salad sold at the deli counter called Watergate Salad. Many laughs were had by my siblings and me.

  4. I remember the cake well, and a "salad" recipe involving the pistachio pudding, canned crushed pineapple, and, at least now, Cool Whip. I always thought the cake recipe originated at a restaurant in the Watergate Apartment building (very ritzy place) before it became infamous. I have no recollection of the cake frosting ever being called "Coverup Frosting". Perhaps this is a back-formation by a later generation?

  5. This sounds amazing! I love the name too, hehe! My grandmother used to make something similar, but the green color came from something I cannot place at the moment...

    I found these guys who make all natural green food coloring: They might come in handy for future recipes ;)

  6. I made this cake for a club meeting I make refreshments for. The whole crowd loved it. A couple of notes. Cake mixes have been shrunk recently from 18.6 oz. down to 15.6 oz. You need to add about 6 tbsp of general purpose flour to make up for the lost volume in an older recipe using a cake mix. Also, I found that Food Emporium on 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues has both Pistachio Jello Pudding Mix and the Dream Whip mixes on their shelves in the baking area. I did fool around a bit with the recipe: I had a bottle of Sprite and used 1 cup of that rather than club soda - other Watergate Cake recipes specify 7UP. Also, I used half walnuts and half roasted unsalted pistachios for the nut meats. Also, one member of the club has a lactose/dairy intolerance so I made the frosting with Coconut butter yogurt (for the sour cream) and 3/4 cup of almond milk for the 1 cup of regular milk. It tasted great! Anyway I will make it again. I have a picture but can't upload it here.