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5 Old Timey Sweet Recipes From My Grandma's Food Journal

I recently discovered my grandmother's well-worn, food-spattered food journal. Here are five of her wonderful desserts.

Two of the spattered pages from my grandma's recipe journal

Two of the spattered pages from my grandma's recipe journal

My Grandmother's Handwritten Journal

My mother would have loved the testing of recipes that are featured here. That is because she genuinely enjoyed her desserts. She indeed baked enough of them for our family of five! Not only did she bake cookies, cakes, and pies, but while we lived in Wisconsin, she also made homemade loaves of bread. We were spoiled. I had just turned 13 years of age when we moved to Texas, and before that, had never eaten store-bought bread.

Upon going through some of her things recently, I discovered a box of recipes. Some of them were old yellowed newspaper clippings with a variety of what must have sounded like tempting recipes to try. Others were scraps of paper with handwritten recipes.

An old journal caught my attention, and I was delighted to find that it had belonged to my maternal grandmother. It had been well used and is in fragile condition, with some of the cover crumbling away. A few of the pages are loose, and every recipe in this book is handwritten, mostly in my grandmother's penmanship.

Many of the recipes have the names of the people who would have shared them with her. Her mother is the author of several plus her sister, some aunts, and some friends.

Candid photo of my grandmother, taken many years ago

Candid photo of my grandmother, taken many years ago

My Grandmother

My great-grandmother died when my grandmother was a young child. These recipes from her dear mother provided a personal culinary link to her past and were undoubtedly cherished. The crossed-out recipes, when tested, were obviously not to her liking.

My grandmother was an excellent cook and baker, which were only some of her many admirable attributes. She was like a second mother to me when I was growing up.

This old journal was often used when cooking and baking because some pages have years of accidental food spatter. It is reasonably easy to determine which of the many recipes were the favorites judging by just how marked up the pages had become!

Spine of this old journal

Spine of this old journal

The Recipes

When trying some of the recipes, it made for some happy neighbors of ours. My husband and I are not substantial sweet eaters, but we know people who savor desserts.

In reading many of these recipes, there were only ingredients for many of them. Cooks back then would have known how to proceed. Measurements are also hard to decipher as packaging has changed dramatically over the years, and I could not find some ingredients. Many recipes in this old journal will be read for entertainment purposes and will probably never again be made for those reasons.

We did taste the results of ones that I could decipher, and five of them are below.

Recipes in This Article

  1. Soft as Silk Cake
  2. Date Bread From Mrs. Kraase
  3. Crumb Cake
  4. Crunchy Chocolate Cookies
  5. Cherry Torte by Alma
Piece of soft as silk cake

Piece of soft as silk cake

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1. Soft as Silk Cake

A notation says that this recipe originated from listening to the radio. Television was a relatively new thing when I was a youngster, and I still remember my parents listening to the radio for broadcasts.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 ounces chocolate, melted

Instructions

  1. Sift flour with the baking powder.
  2. Beat eggs until very light.
  3. Beat in the salt, sugar, and vanilla.
  4. Heat milk with the butter, and beat into the egg mixture.
  5. Add in the flour and baking powder.
  6. Pour 1/3 of batter in well-greased 8-inch pan.
  7. Blend melted chocolate into the remaining 2/3 of the batter.
  8. Put into pan and bake in 350 degrees oven for about 25 to 30 minutes. (Work fast with cake.)

This chocolate cake is very light and airy. The name does it justice. Check cake readiness with a toothpick to make sure the toothpick comes out clean. It took a little longer than the time stated in this recipe with our oven.

2. Date Bread From Mrs. Kraase

What drew my attention to this page was the notation at the bottom of the page, stating that it "takes 5 fruit cans to bake this amount." Oh, the good old days! Naturally, I would not have known what size, nor do I ordinarily bake in fruit cans, so I used my mini-loaf pans to make this date nut bread recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup dates, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 heaping tablespoons shortening
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 rounded teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Instructions

  1. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the sugar, dates, and shortening, and let stand until cooled.
  2. Then add the beaten egg and one teaspoon of vanilla.
  3. Sift 2 1/4 cups flour together with one rounded teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture.
  5. Stir in 1 cup of chopped nuts.
  6. Bake about 1 hour in a moderate oven.

I took this to mean a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven, which seemed to work well. Start checking the bread after about 45 to 50 minutes to see if it is finished baking.

3. Crumb Cake

This recipe is by my Great Aunt Lona, who was one of my grandmother's sisters.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup lard (Using lard was common back then, and shortening can be a substitute.)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Mix the first six ingredients "like pie-crust" and take out 1 cup of mixture reserving it for the topping.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and beat well.
  3. Put in greased tin and sprinkle with the 1 cup of topping.
  4. Add dates and nuts if desired.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until done.

Note: I added about 1 cup of chopped pecans, and the baking time took a little longer in our oven. This recipe reminded my husband and me of some coffee cakes we have had in the past. So a little more of this stayed in the house instead of it all going to our neighbors. Oh, the research and sacrifices that we made for this article!

4. Crunchy Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 (12-ounce) package of chocolate bits
  • 1 (6-ounce) package of cherry bits
  • 1 (6-ounce) package of butterscotch or caramel bits
  • 1( 6-ounce) can of chow mein noodles

Instructions

  1. Melt over hot water (not boiling) the chocolate, cherry, and butterscotch or caramel bits.
  2. When thoroughly melted, add the can of Chow Mein noodles.
  3. Stir and coat the noodles thoroughly.
  4. Drop by teaspoon onto wax paper.
  5. Stir often, while dropping them.
  6. Let harden.

Note: I could not find cherry bits, so I only used the chocolate and butterscotch in this recipe. One could also use other combinations of bits like peanut butter and chocolate.

This recipe reminded us more of tasting a crunchy candy bar than eating a cookie. It is rich. Crunchy candy bar lovers will like this! Our neighbors were once again made very happy with the gift of this completed recipe.

This recipe was handwritten on a slip of paper by Mrs. Rathmann and was dated March 19, 1959, McAllen.

My grandparents vacationed in McAllen, Texas, and had a large group of friends that did the same each year at the same prearranged time in the winter. They had regular reservations at the Royal Palms Motel. At the time, my grandparents lived in Wisconsin, and the Rathmann's resided in Minnesota.

Fond friendships ensued, and many of them ended up moving down to McAllen permanently. I think that Mrs. Rathmann is undoubtedly in this picture shown above, along with my grandmother and other friends.

5. Cherry Torte by Alma

Alma (standing on the left in the second picture above) was my great-grandparent's daughter. My great-grandmother is seated on the right. My grandmother is standing next to Alma, the author of this mouth-watering recipe.

Ingredients

For the torte:

  • 2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans of tart cherries, drained until dry, or press dry with a large spoon (save juice)
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 cups of the drained cherries
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping:

  • Reserved cherry juice
  • 1 level tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions

For the torte:

  1. Sift the dry ingredients together and then add the nuts, egg, butter, and cherries.
  2. Blend well and pour into a buttered 8 inch by 11-inch pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Note: When cake or baked bread starts pulling away from the side of a pan, it is an indication that the baked goods are getting close to being done.

For the topping:

  1. Boil the ingredients until thickened and pour over cake.

This topping makes a beautiful cherry-colored glaze.

Suggestion: Serve with whipped cream.

Well-worn journal of my grandmother's with handwritten recipes inside

Well-worn journal of my grandmother's with handwritten recipes inside

Back to the Journal

This 236-page journal could have served several purposes. My grandparents kept logs of their vacation trips, writing notes in smaller booklets and often jotting down notations onto the back of postcards of places where they stayed.

My grandmother decided to make this blank paged and bound journal into a cookbook of tried and true recipes gathered from relatives and friends. I am so happy to have come across this treasure.

While the journal's overall condition is not in the best shape, the endleaves are particularly beautiful. After all of these pictures of family members and the desserts that they shared with my grandmother (and tried and tested by me these many years later), I decided to show you the dazzling colors of this journal's marbleized endleaves as a final photo.

Beautiful endleaves in this old journal of my grandmother's

Beautiful endleaves in this old journal of my grandmother's

© 2010 Peggy Woods

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