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Finding harmony: By their foods you shall know them

August 15, 2013

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It is family reunion time. I whipped up a fast and easy Arnold Felcher cake to take to my husband’s family reunion this past Sunday. If you don’t stick your nose up in the air at doctored-up cake mix recipes, and have a potluck or reunion coming up, this is always a crowd pleaser and showy when made in three layers, light and fluffy.

I like the back story behind this cake almost as much as the delicacy. Every time I take it somewhere someone wants to know what’s in it and why it is called Arnold Felcher cake.

Arnold was a beloved radio announcer in our community on WSVA, Harrisonburg, beginning about 1962. Before that he helped launch WBVP (Beavertown, Ohio) and came up with the nickname for its call letters. He was a true personality making frequent community appearances, and Shenandoah Valley residents enjoyed waking up to his lively and sometimes outlandish (radio announcer, after all) banter with co-anchor Wip Robinson. I’m a little too young to know the legendary stories they sometimes concocted, but the duo were popular enough to publish at least one cookbook, Wip and Arnold’s Seconds Please Recipes and one volume of household hints, Wip and Arnold’s Household Hints: Like Having a Handyman Around.

The valley loved Arnold even though historically it has been a predominately Christian region and Arnold was a practicing Jew. Truly there were not a lot of synagogues in this rural valley although Harrisonburg has Beth El Congregation. Those were also the days when likely it was sometimes difficult to be different in a place like this—just as it is today for other ethnicities.

Food and friendliness can go a long way in reaching across whatever ethnic and religious differences separate good people today. David Shenk, a devout Christian who has written/co-authored a trio of books encouraging friendship and understanding between Muslims and Christians told a seminar group this summer that the way to have peaceful and harmonious dealings in our towns and valleys is the long standing simple act of asking a neighbor or associate to have a cup of coffee or tea with you.

Whip up and share a cake like this and you never know what kind of friendship will start. It has a faint citrusy taste owing to the pineapple and mandarin oranges, and you can pretend you are eating fruit instead of fattening cake. It doesn’t need ice cream BUT if you save a huge spot in your tummy, it is over-the-top-creamy-good.

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I was pleased to learn you can find the exact recipe on at least one website and many variations for it (and alternate names like “Pig Cake” at Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s popular recipe blog). Ree Drummond has complete blow by blow pictures so I won’t repeat those here. It was also featured a couple years ago as the Shaping Families radio program recipe of the week.

Arnold Felcher Cake

1 box yellow cake mix (do not add water or other items the box calls for, just use the items below.)
11 ounce can mandarin oranges, undrained
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
8 ounce container whipped topping
20 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained (do not use juice in cake)
1 large box instant vanilla pudding

Directions:

Mix together cake mix, oranges, eggs, and oil.
Pour into three greased 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes. Remove from pans and cool.
Mix together whipped topping, pineapple, and dry pudding. Spread between each layer and over top and sides.
Refrigerate until served.

Makes 16 servings.

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Do you have any Wip and Arnold stories to share? Have you ate, or made this cake or a variation?

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