Pumpkin Crumble Cake (Oregon, 2006, adapted)

For a home cook I feel like I know my way around a kitchen.  But everyone’s got their blind spots, and mine is baking.  I don’t enjoy it and I’m not good at it, and despite a background in chemistry I’m especially bad at yeast breads.  I can’t even make a decent pizza crust (although……

Sour Cherry Pie (adapted from The Black Family Reunion Cookbook, 1991)

The Black Family Reunion Cookbook (1991) is one of the books in my collection that I’ve read cover to cover but have never done much cooking from.  It’s not that the recipes aren’t intriguing or delicious, it’s that the stories that accompany them are compelling and essential reading.    The titular “Black Family Reunion” is an……

Grandmother’s Ginger Nuts (adapted from Mennonite Community Cookbook, 1950)

The recipe in Mennonite Community Cookbook that I find most entertaining is Grandmother’s Ginger Nuts.   This book designates the recipe as “very old”, presumably from the late nineteenth century.   This recipe was submitted independently by two different women, once as Grandmother’s Ginger Nuts and another as Ginger Balls.   And while there’s some puerile entertainment……

Next Best Thing to Tom Selleck Cake (Wisconsin, 1980s, adapted)

Next Best Thing to Tom Selleck Cake is a genteel, Christian take on Better than Sex Cake, which was a randy fixture of otherwise staid cooking magazines in the late 1980s.  This recipe is adapted from a version I found in Country Favorites, andI imagine that the Cookbook Committee in St. Patrick’s Parish appreciated the……

Apple Pudding Bread (Wisconsin, 1989, adapted)

Apple Pudding Bread is a spiced dessert bread recipe from Ascension Lutheran’s 1989 community cookbook.   The recipe’s author was a longtime member and mother of three.  She was an avid bridge player and teacher and her husband served in various lay leadership positions at the church.  In the recipe description she brags that Apple……

Grandma’s Cheesecake with Chocolate Sour Cream

I spend a lot of time reading cookbooks from communities and churches that I’ve never seen written by people that I never knew.  I’ll do some basic internet research to learn about the community and what it must have been like way back when, but it’s rarely possible to connect the dots completely.  Food can……

Shakespeare Cake (adapted from Scripture Cake, Oklahoma 1970s)

The Scripture Cake, a simple spice cake with raisins and figs, was a fixture of mid-70s church cookbooks.  For those outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition or without religious inclination, I present the Shakespeare Cake.  Rather than use the Bible, you may consult the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Tis an ill cook that cannot lick……

Scripture Cake (Oklahoma, 1970s)

The scripture cake is an old standby in church cookbooks.  Spoiler alert – it’s a spice cake with raisins and figs – but unless you’re an adept bible scholar you’d never know it from reading the recipe.  The ingredient lists have been replaced with obscure bible verses (e.g. 1 cup of Jeremiah 6:20), and even……

Tomato Soup Cake (Oklahoma, 1970s)

This bizarre spice cake recipe has a minor cult following online, a trend that Campbell’s has embraced wholeheartedly.   Campbell’s takes credit for inventing the recipe in the late 1920s and making continuous tweaks and updates to “evolve the recipe with trends in the culinary world”.   I personally have no nostalgia for this cake.  Condensed soup……