The Origin Story Of The '70s Classic Sock It To Me Cake

a plate of cake
a plate of cake - Linda21/Shutterstock

There's a deliriously good bake with an odd name: The sock it to me cake -- a classic pound cake and streusel coffee cake hybrid (except the streusel is on the inside), based on a classic Southern butter cake, and topped with a creamy vanilla glaze -- is baked in a Bundt pan and generally agreed to be an epic crowd pleaser. So, where and when did this concoction originate, and why does it have that name?

The Duncan Hines corporation apparently invented the cake in the early 1970s. In fact, recipes for its sock it to me cake have appeared on the box of the company's Classic Butter Golden Cake Mix since around that time. Since its directions call for a box of this mix to be used when making a sock it to me cake, it's possible that somebody on the company's development team came up with the recipe to help sell their product. But it's the name that really dates this creation -- to the extent that it could make the list of popular desserts the year you were born.

While the phrase "sock it to me" might be nothing more than a curious anachronism these days, it has a long lineage and led to a significant cultural breakthrough in the late 1960s -- so much so that it must have seemed the perfect moniker for Duncan Hines' newly-developed cake recipe. That particular pop culture process is crazy enough to merit a closer look.

Read more: Cake Hacks Every Baker Will Wish They Knew Sooner


Aretha Franklin publicity photo
Aretha Franklin publicity photo - Express Newspapers/Getty Images

We Americans got the slang term "to sock" from England in the 19th century. There, the term meant (as you might expect) "to strike a hard blow" -- at least according to the 1877 edition of the "Dictionary of Americanisms." The book's author, John Russell Bartlett, expressed familiarity with the term, giving this example: "Two loafers are fighting; one of the crowd cries out, 'Sock it to him.'" The phrase was colorfully used a few years later by Mark Twain, who wrote it as dialogue for a greedy New Orleans undertaker.

Ultimately, "sock it to me" made its way into African-American slang: Popular (and controversial) Black entertainer Lincoln Perry (in his role as Stepin Fetchit) included "sock it to me" during a proto-rap performance in the 1945 musical "Big Timers"; soon radio DJs incorporated it into their patois; and by 1966, a young Bob Seger went full James Brown in the Christmas novelty song "Sock It To Me Santa." But it was soul singer Aretha Franklin's powerhouse 1967 smash hit cover of the Otis Redding song "Respect" that put the phrase on the cultural map due to its rapid-fire repetition by Franklin's backup singers. But to really achieve cultural saturation, "sock it to me" had to cross over into white pop culture, and that move wasn't long in coming.

Sock It To ME?!

sock it to me cake
sock it to me cake - Preppy Kitchen/YouTube

In 1968, after hearing Franklin's "Respect" on their car radio, television producer George Schlatter was convinced by his wife to use "sock it to me" in his new, hip comedy show "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." The phrase was made famous by its star Judy Carne, who would utter it before enduring some visual calamity, like being dunked in water or falling through a trapdoor. ("Laugh-In" became known for several other catchphrases, too, like "you bet your sweet bippy," "look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls," and "verrry interesting.") But it was a presidential candidate who really cemented the legacy of "sock it to me."

Television had never been kind to Richard Nixon. He was partly credited with losing the 1960 presidential election to the youthful John F. Kennedy by looking sweaty and tired during their televised debate. As a result, Nixon refused to participate in another debate but did consent to appearing on "Laugh-In" when his advisors told him it would appeal to the younger generation of voters. The idea was that Nixon would utter one of the show's famous catchphrases -- and, after flatly refusing to say "you bet your sweet bippy" on camera, the clueless presidential candidate finally got a keeper take of "sock it to me," which he phrased more as an indignant question. Regardless, the phrase became pop culture canon -- so much so that some Duncan Hines exec knew exactly what to call its kitchen-sink cake recipe several years later.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.