Yes Virginia, There were Worm Cakes!

Yes Virginia, There were Worm Cakes!



Shane Wm. Edwards found these photos and I had to expand on it.


Clipped from

  1. The Kirwan Chief,
  2. 14 Aug 1878, Wed,
  3. Page 3


Clipped from

  1. Reading Times,
  2. 13 Nov 1861, Wed,
  3. Page 2

Chocolate Worm Cakes had a vermifuge that killed intestinal worms. This can is from the 1900s. Discover more at the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret. 



Clipped from

  1. The Norfolk Weekly News-Journal,
  2. 20 Feb 1903, Fri,
  3. Page 3



Clipped from

  1. The Woodstock Sentinel,
  2. 10 Aug 1864, Wed,
  3. Page 4



The tapeworm Diet

The idea is simple, and gross. You take a pill containing a tapeworm egg. Once hatched, the parasite grows inside of the host, ingesting part of whatever the host eats. In theory, this enables the dieter to simultaneously lose weight and eat without worrying about calorie intake.The tapeworm diet may thus have been the perfect solution. Allegedly, a woman would never rise hungry from the table, yet she would continue losing weight. All concerns for health and discomfort could be dismissed with the claim that beauty is pain, and sacrifices must be made.






Earlier this week I went to a holiday party where we ended up discussing old family cookbooks.  The woman sitting next to me mentioned that her grandmother’s cookbook from the 1920s contained a recipe for “Earthworm Cake.”

Not the popular kid’s confection of today, which is made with crushed Oreos and gummy worms.  We’re talking about a cake recipe which contains (as she recalled) a cup of fresh earthworms, purged and pulverized.

I’m sorry.

As I’m sure you know, earthworms are low in fat and high in protein.  In fact, earthworms are pretty nutritious.  Disgusting, but nutritious.  And “disgusting” isn’t just a cultural term, the way that (say) a Westerner will talk about the Korean practice of eating dog meat.  Earthworms are, in a very objective sense, gross.  They are pale, naked, with a pinkish hue much like our own skin, but cold, slimy, clammy.  They wriggle in an unseemly fashion.

(A quick digression: in researching this topic I found a lot of people posting questions about “why does my dog eat earthworms?”  Allow me to answer: because your dog is a dog.  It will also enjoy noshing on rotted garbage and cat poop.  Dogs, being scavengers, have no sense of disgust.)

But I can see how you could work a cup of earthworms into a cake.  I can see all too well.  It’s similar in concept to those brownie recipes that contain spinach, and chocolate cake recipes that contain black beans.  Except that instead of hiding gross vegetables in a delicious treat, you’re hiding a gross invertebrate.

I would have to be pretty desperate (or vengeful) to bake real earthworms into a cake.  But I can see it as a possibility.  Frankly I always figured that once the apocalypse came, I’d be living off mice.  They are plentiful here, I’ll just say that.  And haven’t you ever read or watched Farley Mowat’s “Never Cry Wolf”?

A caveat to potential worm-eaters: worms can make you sick.  I ran across an academic paper about a 16 year-old girl who ate an earthworm on a dare, and ended up with a nasty case of parasitic roundworm in her lungs.  Therefore I advise methods in which you use proper food safety handling procedures to prepare your earthworms before cooking.  Oh god I never in a million years could have foreseen myself writing that sentence.

Okay, so.  Before you start cooking, you want to purge your earthworms for 24 hours.  Earthworms are constantly eating, and it takes 24 hours for food to pass through their systems.  When you pull worms out of the ground, they are filled with sharp, gritty dirt.  So put them in a damp container with some slices of apple and oatmeal.

Rinse your worms well, in a colander and cold water.

Now you have two choices.  You can either bake and grind your worms, and use them like flour.  Or you can boil and mash them, and use them like a wet inclusion.  It depends on what kind of cake you’re baking.  I guess I would recommend boiling and mashing earthworms, because they will make your cake more moist.  Erp.  I’m sorry; I just gagged a little bit.  No, I’m okay.  Really.  Ulp.




The Victorian Fasting Girls- Thanks to Dennis Riggs

“Get it On” — Banging Cookies Recipe–This Will Feel Wrong, but Trust Me!

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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