Hundred-Year-Old Fleischmann’s Yeast Advertisement

Source: The Housewife’s Cookbook by Lilla Frich (1917)

I always find it challenging to interpret hundred-year-old bread recipes. The old recipes generally call for cakes of yeast, and I’m never quite sure how that translates when using modern dry yeasts.

So I was amazed when I saw a hundred-year-old advertisement for Fleischmann’s Yeast in the back of a 1917 cookbook. Was Fleischmann’s Yeast a cake back then? Perhaps the product has been refined and modernized across the years, but the same company has been around for at least a century.

29 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Fleischmann’s Yeast Advertisement

  1. I remember my Mom talking about ‘cakes of yeast’, but I don’t recall ever seeing one.
    I like this ad. John Dough, how cute is that and perfect for a bread baker. 😀

  2. John Dough caught my eye, too. I saw cakes of yeast when I was a child. That probably should be singular, because I didn’t see it at my house. I remember the packets, though. I’m sure they were out-dated and probably useless by the time someone reached for them.

    1. It’s fun how they personified the product with “John Dough.” And, the way that the name has a different meaning when spelled differently (John Doe) adds to the fun.

    1. Thanks, this is good to know. I tend to shy away from old yeast bread recipes. This may give me the confidence to try another one.

  3. My mother would buy cakes of Fleishman’s yeast when I was a kid. “Cake” is a bit deceptive, as it was more like bars of yeast, but that’s what they were called.

    For reasons that I can no longer recall, at one time in my childhood she thought they were a good remedy for something, so I can recall eating bits of them. As you might suspect, they’re awful as food.

    Ah. . . yeast cakes, codliver oil. . . the things youth today will be thankfully spared.

    1. This is fascinating. It’s awesome that you can remember this product. I’ve tried eating unbaked bread dough – and think that it tends to make my stomach feel very gassy. I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel to eat the yeast all by itself.

    1. Companies published so many intriguing recipe booklets a hundred years ago that people could get upon request (or for sending in a postage paid envelop or a few cents in some cases).

  4. My curiosity was challenged, so I did a quick internet search. Per Wikipedia a yeast cake is a compressed cake of fresh yeast; dry yeast came about during WWII. The company’s website has an interesting history The company has changed owners several times, including a period with Nabisco. Today, per their website they are part of ACH Food Companies.

    1. Thanks for researching this. The link is really interesting. It’s interesting that dry yeast was invented so that GIs could have “home-baked” bread. I hadn’t realized that a difference between yeast cakes and dry yeast is that the yeast cakes need to be kept cool, while the dry yeast does not.

      1. Like my mother I did keep the packets in the refrigerator even though not necessary. Now I know this is a carry over from when the cakes were used! Thank you for an interesting and informative post!

  5. I don’t bake much at all, let alone with yeast, but this entire post and the comments are fascinating! Where do you find all this cool 100 year old stuff?

    1. I am very fortunate to live near an excellent library. I also occasionally find hundred-year-old cookbooks at used book stores, ebay, and rummage sales.

  6. It’s amazing that the yeast we use today is so different then years ago! I remember yeast cakes. They came in cubes wrapped in foil, I loved unwrapping them for Mom, then plopping them in warm water to dissolve. Now I use instant yeast that you mix in with your flour instead of water, although you can put it in warm water if you wish.

    1. I’m often surprised how much some ingredients and foods have changed across the years. Another example: Hundred-year-old recipes refer to “top milk” and “sour milk” which suggests that milk generally wasn’t pasteurized back then.

  7. I inquired about yeast cakes several years ago at a local Italian grocery/bake shop and they sold me a block of active yeast. It was quite large – about the size of a lb of butter. They said I could freeze it so I cut it into squares around the size of a tablespoon. It worked but was a bit of a guessing game when it came to using it in recipes.

    1. Wow, I had no idea that it was possible to actually get yeast cakes any more. Using small pieces of the yeast cake in recipes sounds like a fun cooking adventure.

      1. ~8 years ago I bought a cake of Fleischmann’s (yes, they make cakes of yeast even today, or at least 8 years ago) at a QFC grocery store (major chain) in the Seattle University District. The store had a large amount of jewish food, so I don’t know if there’s some crossover there (more traditional baking methods?) but that’s wild speculation so I may be way off-base. I don’t remember the exact recipe I used for it, but I do remember thinking it worked out as expected. I kept it in the fridge for a few days before I used it. I remember it was in an odd section of the store…next to the juice? Or butter? Definitely never where I would have looked for it, and it was in a tiny box of small cubes, easily overlooked.

  8. Now that is a company with staying power! I can imagine it would be very challenging to translate a recipe with specific products that were made a hundred years ago. Yeast being such a vital part of bread making it doesn’t leave too much room for error.

    1. That’s what I thought – that there isn’t much room for error when using yeast. That said, maybe that’s a modern way of thinking. I’m guessing that back in the days before the standardization of yeast, that cooks routinely adjusted the amount of time that bread was allowed to rise to address variations in the yeast and other conditions (room temperature, etc.)

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