McCleary Cake History

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My mother's family is composed of four boys and two girls: William (Bill), Debra (my mom), Julie, Paul, Matt, and David, not necessarily in that order. They all have different memories of the cake and what the original cake is or should be. I have included excerpts from some email conversations with them, so you can see the extent of the debate.
I have no idea on the origin. It has just always been there for birthdays as long as I can remember. I don't know of anyone outside the William D McCleary family that makes it, so I suspect that grandma Jane got the recipe from somewhere. The original as far back as I recall was made with dreamwhip between the layers of Betty Crocker devils food cake, which always had toothpicks to keep the cake straight while it froze. We now use cool whip, and additionally we frost the individual layers, so it actually takes about a tub and a half of frosting. For whatever reason, we no longer use toothpicks-probably because the cool whip is more firm than the dreamwhip. That's about all I know.

-David McCleary

Matt insists that we use dream whip and not cool whip. We also have to use Betty Crocker cake mix, Betty Crocker frosting, we can't have sprinkles or anything other than candles on top cuz that is how it was done when he was a kid.

-Raelynn McCleary (Matt's wife)

I know the very first time I had it was at Grandma Mac's house so I'm pretty sure it is not just a William D. And Jane tradition but I don't know the history behind it....

-Karen McCleary (Paul's wife)

To the best of my recollection, Grandma Mac and I developed this special recipe as a science project in her kitchen way back in 1958 (I was only one year old and was preparing my family to move to California). The original recipe used ingredients from scratch (no commercial mixes allowed) and real whipped cream between the layers of cake. The icing was smooth and heavenly. As time moved on, each individual family modified the recipe to meet their family palates, budgets and domestic skills.

-Bill McCleary

Okay, In the original mccleary chocolate cake we did use dream whip. I believe Mom started adding pudding for a change, and that's where Debra got her recipe. My family prefers cools whip and homemade chocolate frosting instead of the canned stuff.

-Julie McCleary

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