A Slice of History

Oct 9, 2019

Have you ever considered the power of cake?

Outside of being a deliciously indulgent treat most people are accustomed to enjoying on their birthday, cake served as a morale booster for crew members aboard U.S. Navy vessels Intrepid and Growler.

Navy Cakes: A Slice of History, is a new yearlong exhibition opening at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, October 11, 2019. The exhibit explores the role of cakes in boosting morale onboard the museum’s two naval vessels, the aircraft carrier Intrepid and the submarine Growler.

Featuring photographs, recipes, artifacts, oral histories, and other materials from the museum’s collections, the exhibition will use cakes as a lens to explore the day-to-day experiences of the men who created—and consumed—these elaborate confections.

“Cakes were a traditional and beloved part of celebrations on board Intrepid and Growler,” said Elaine Charnov, senior vice president, exhibits, education and programming. “These stories help personalize and humanize the experience of our former crewmembers and shine a light on the innovation and ingenuity it took to feed thousands of people.”

Each cake reflected the hard work and creativity of the commissarymen, who had the job of creating cakes that, in some cases, weighed 1,000 pounds and fed 3,000 people.

$3.25 = The cost of a 50-pound bag of flour in 1963.
90 Dozen = The number of eggs used to make Intrepid‘s first anniversary cake.
100 = The number of portions in a typical Navy recipe.

Life onboard a U.S. Navy vessel at sea quickly fell into a predictable routine; during wartime, the stress of combat took a heavy toll. Cake offered crew members a sweet treat at the end of a long, hard day and provided a much-needed respite. On special occasions, large, festive cakes brought the crew together in celebration of what they accomplished and in recognition of what they endured. Each confection was the product of a small team of hardworking sailors who worked night and day to keep their shipmates well fed.

Navy Cakes: A Slice of History is made possible by a grant from the Navy Supply Corps Foundation and is free with the price of admission to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

So go ahead—dig in!

Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Teach & Travel.

Photo courtesy of Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.