A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from May 08, 2016
“If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake”

"If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake” is a famous line that, according to a 1951 newspaper article below, was coined by American actor Walter Catlett (1889-1960) in the musical So Long, Letty (1915). The script for this musical is not readily available, and this cannot be confirmed. “In those stirring days they never used to say: ‘If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake’” was printed in the Boston (MA) Herald on August 9, 1923.

“If We’d Know You Was Gonna Come, We’d a Surely Baked a Cake” (1924) was the title of a song by George A. Little and Larry Shay.

“If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake” (1950), a song written by Al Hoffman, Bob Merrill and Clem Watts (pseudonym of Al Trace), was a popular hit for Brooklyn-born singer Eileen Barton (1924-2006).

[This entry includes groundbreaking research fron the Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog.]


Wikipedia: Walter Catlett
Walter Catlett (February 4, 1889 – November 14, 1960) was an American actor. He made a career of playing excitable, officious blowhards.
(...)
He started on stage in 1906 and made his Broadway debut in either The Prince of Pilsen (1911) or So Long Letty (1916). His first film appearance was in 1912, but then he went back to stage and did not return to films until 1929. He performed in operettas and musicals, including The Ziegfeld Follies of 1917, the original production of the Jerome Kern musical Sally (1920) and the Gershwins’ Lady Be Good (1924). In the last, he introduced the song “Oh, Lady Be Good!”

9 August 1923, Boston (MA) Herald, “Cut Yourself a Slab of Pie But Leave the Cake Alone” by Ed Cunningham, pg. 10, col. 4:
In those stirring days they never used to say: “If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake.”

OCLC WorldCat record
If we’d know you was gonna come, we’d a surely baked a cake.
Author: Geo A Little; L Shay
Publisher: ©1924.
Edition/Format: Musical score : English

23 March 1924, Pittsburgh (PA) Sunday Post, “Human Nature on the Half Shell” by Joseph Van Raalte, sec. 6, pg. 3, col. 1:
“Whyinhell didn’t you tell me you was comin’?” he inquired, with simulated concern. “If I’d have only knowed it I’d have baked a cake.”

28 April 1927, Life (New York, NY), “Mrs. Pep’s Diary” by Baird Leonard, pg. 31:
This night to the playhouse to see “Lucky,” a musical piece expensively mounted but void of entertainment, even Walter Catlett, whose “If I’d known you were coming I’d have baked a cake!” did so delight me in “Lady, Be Good,” having small chance to display his talents.

25 October 1929, The Evening Star (Washington, DC), pg. 40, col. 1 ad:
The old-fashioned apology “Had I known you were coming, I’d have baked a cake,” is obsolete in the modern home.
(Hostess Cakes.—ed.)

20 January 1933, Washington (DC) Post, “The Federal Diary” by George D. Riley, pg. 4, col. 2:
Had Swarmi been able to find Miss What’s-Her-Name in Paris on subsequent visits, she’d probably have asked, “Why didn’t you let us know you were coming? We’d have baked a cake.”

21 December 1933, Tucson (AZ) Daily Citizen, “New York Day by Day” by O. O. McIntyre, pg. 12, col. 3:
I called after him meekly: “Had I known you were coming I would have baked you a cake.”

29 January 1939, Los Angeles (CA) Times, Comics, pg. G12:
(Mother Jones to the men at a board meeting of the Mother Jones Baking Co.—ed.)
“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THERE WAS A BOARD MEETING TODAY?...I’D HAVE BAKED A CAKE...”

6 June 1940, State-Times (Baton Rouge, LA), “Bread and Jelly Make An Emergency Dessert” by Judith Wilson, pg. 3B, col. 1:
“If I’d known you were coming, I’d have baked a cake,” may be the perfect excuse when unexpected guests appear and you haven’t a thing ready to serve them.

OCLC WorldCat record
If I knew you were comin’ I’d ‘ve baked a cake
Author: Al Hoffman; Bob Merrill; Al Trace; Eileen Barton
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Robert Music Corp., [1950] ©1950
Edition/Format: Musical score : English

Google News Archive
15 January 1951, Toledo (OH) Blade, E. V. Durling column, Peach Section, pg. 1, col. 4:
QUERIES FROM CLIENTS: Q. What is the origin of the line: “If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake”? A. I claim this line was originated by the cartoonist Tad Dorgan. However, a fellow I discussed it with says it was first spoken by Walter Catlett in the musical show, “So Long Letty.”

YouTube
If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake Eileen Barton
Jun 26, 2008
If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake- Eileen Barton (1950)

YouTube
If We’d Known You Was Gonna Come, We’d a Surely Baked a Cake (1923)
Dish Waterhands
Published on Apr 30, 2016
“If We’d Known You Were Gonna Come, We’d a Surely Baked a Cake” (1923); words by George A. Little and music by Larry Schaetzlein (Larry Shay). Recorded in London in 1924 by Leslie Jeffries’ Rialto Orchestra, vocals by John Thorne. The B-Side of this recording was “Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavour on the Bedpost Overnight?,” which Lonnie Donegan revived in the late 150s or early 1960s.

This song was written and recorded nearly thirty years before Eileen Barton scored a number 1 hit with, “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake,” in 1950. Curiously, this song was not even the first song with a similar title. William J. Ryan of Edgewater, New Jersey, filed for copyright protection for a song entitled, “Why Didn’t You Tell Us That You Were Coming, We Would Have Baked a Cake,” on July 25, 1923; about five weeks before Hill and Schaetzlein filed for copyright protection for their song.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Sunday, May 08, 2016 • Permalink