Sibling Writing Assignment: Grandma's Cookbook and a Recipe for Applesauce Cake

Once a week my siblings join me in a writing assignment. It started as a way to help me with a memoir/recipe project I am doing. Different points of view help with memoir. Each of us now has a blog to call our own. You can find theirs here and here. The assignment this week from SilverValleyGirl was “ to focus on one object from Grandma’s house and share what memory it evoked when thinking about that object.”
When Grandma died I was honored to receive her Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. The familiar red and white design on the cover is faded and a bit stained from years of use. In her handwriting in the front is the date July 9, 1956. I would have been about 18 months old when she received it. I don’t know where it came from or why she picked that particular cookbook.
Grandma had this cookbook open on the counter numerous times when we went to visit. Her little kitchen would be filled with smells of banana bread, apple pie, spaghetti, or applesauce cake. When I leaf through the pages of this cookbook I love to find her handwritten notes by recipes. It might include how she would change the recipe a bit or what frosting to make for a particular cake. I could just picture her intently writing those notes. Grandma was serious about her kitchen tasks. Another thing I love is how certain pages are stained from being open during the preparation. I do the same thing with my cookbooks. The most cherished recipes have the telltale stains. I have since bought my own original Betty Crocker cookbook because I didn’t want to stain the pages of this heirloom further. ( note- I realize you can get those cookbook holder/protectors, but they don’t work for me… go figure).
One recipe I love from this collection is Applesauce Cake. It brings back memories of crisp days of autumn in Spokane when we would visit Grandma. The leaves along the street were turning glorious colors. Grandma had put her garden plot to bed for the winter. Maybe Dad was going to a WSU football game at Joe Albi Stadium and we got to stay and help her in the kitchen. I can still smell the apples simmering on the stove waiting to be canned for applesauce. I can picture the cake cooling on the counter, waiting to be served after a special dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and home canned green beans. The mixture of textures with the moistness of the applesauce, the softness of the raisins, and the crunchiness of the walnuts blended this cake into a slice of heaven. Grandma was influential in my life and my love for cooking, recipe collecting, and creating a welcoming place to gather around the table .
We do a fall potluck with all the neighbors in our area at Sherman Creek Orchard each November. Rich makes cider and everyone gathers to visit, share food, recipes, and leave with fresh pressed cider. I made this cake for the gathering (with Sherman Creek apples of course). It was a big hit!
(I have added a few notes after the original recipe that will help update it.)

Applesauce Cake pg. 128 Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book , 1950 edition.
“Watch this cake disappear!”
First, make thick unsweeted Applesauce (see below). Grease and flour a 9x13 oblong pan.
Cream until fluffy:
½ cup soft shortening
2 cups sugar ( Grandma’s handwritten note… 1 of the cups- brown )
Beat in thoroughly:
1 very large egg (1/3 cup)
1 ½ cups applesauce
Sift together:
2 ½ cups sifted Gold Medal Flour
1 ½ tsp. soda
1 ½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cloves
½ tsp. allspice
Add to mixture with ½ cup of water
Stir in…
½ cup walnuts, cut-up
1 cup seeded raisins, cut-up
Temperature: 350 (mod. oven)
Time: 45 to 50 min.

Grandma’s note:
Use Penuche Icing ( pg. 171)
Mix together thoroughly…
2 2/3 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup shortening
1/3 tsp. salt

Stir over low heat, and then bring rapidly to a full boil, stirring constantly. Boil to 220 or exactly one minute. Remove from heat. Beat until lukewarm and of right consistency to spread.

(Pg. 129) All you have to do-
To make 1 ½ cups applesauce: wash, quarter, and core 6 to 8 tart apples. Add ¼ cup water. Cover and cook to a mush, stirring occasionally. Press through a sieve or food mill.

My notes on the recipe:
I bake it in a bundt pan. I might sprinkle it with powdered sugar instead of the frosting.. or leave it plain. Store bought applesauce works fine. I do think chunky is better. I use oil instead of shortening. Do they still sell shortening?(: I have never cut up a raisin in my life… just throw them in whole. Adjust any other way you see fit. Enjoy!


  1. I inherited one of my great-grandmother's cookbooks and her recipe box. I was flipping through the cookbook and came across a recipe for date cookies. "These are awful," she wrote. It inspired me to start writing in my cookbooks. After every recipe, I ask Otis what he thought. There are some pages in my cookbook that say "This is disgusting," Says Otis. "He wouldn't be too hurt if I never make it again." I always date the recipes, too. And note tweaks I've made and whether they turn out. Wonderful post. Thanks.

  2. I have this very cookbook from my Mom! I realize how much cookbooks communicate in family history when I flip through their pages...great post!

  3. Thanks to both of you. I think I better go back to writing notes also. With the sticky note idea the notes will end up on the floor, on a dog, and in the cake!lol

  4. Man, another recipe to try. I still haven't tried Mrs. Price cookies yet. Wonderful story about Grandma.

  5. Anonymous9.12.08

    I found your blog because I was desperately searching for this recipe. I left my Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook at my cabin in Kimberly, Oregon while visiting my parents in Blaine, Washington. I also make it in a bundt pan and sprinkle it with powdered sugar! It's one of the few cakes that really turn out nicely in my wood cookstove's oven...wood ovens are hard to work with :) Thank You!!!

  6. I have been visiting various blogs for my dissertation research. I have found your blog to be quite useful. Keep updating your blog with valuable information... Regards


I always enjoy reading comments!