250 Cookbooks: Golden Treasury of Cooking

Cookbook #166: Golden Treasury of Cooking, Better Homes and Gardens, Meredith Corporation, USA, 1973.

The Golden Treasury of Cooking cookbook

“With one foot planted in the past and one in the future, Americans are propelling themselves forward into the ’70s. In all areas of life there is a paradoxical blending of past and future – especially in food. Homemakers are performing a modern juggling act. On one hand, they are using foods that are quick, easy, and convenient. While, on the other hand, they are going back to many of the old, time-tested cooking techniques that their grandmothers used. Out of all this comes such diverse ideas as microwave cooking, making your own breads, computerized meal planning, and organic gardening. What lies in the future? Whatever it is, it’s sure to be the best of both worlds – the nostalgic old one of the past and the bright new one of the future.”

Golden Treasury of Cooking, page 261

One foot in the past, and one in the future. My cooking philosophy for sure. And the present? That’s where I am, thinking about what to learn, to discover, and to cook today.

This week, I decided to take the Golden Treasury of Cooking off the shelf. I’ve been putting this one off because I know it will take some time. This is a special book, a super-collection of nostalgic recipes, and handsomely illustrated and presented. But more than that, it was given to my mother from my father for Christmas 1973.

inscription in Golden Treasury of Cooking

The Golden Treasury of Cooking a gorgeous book. Although now faded, the cover is golden, and a little puffy-soft. I am sure it was meant to be a coffee table book. This book compiles Better Homes and Gardens magazine’s recipes from 1930 to the early 1970s. It’s sectioned into decades: the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Each section begins with a bit of history – good Americana. A full page photo of a sample magazine cover graces each historical review, and then a fold-out photo collage of memorabilia from the age. Each decade’s recipes are sectioned into representative featured recipes (recipes from restaurants or famous people, or popular trends such as home canning, barbecues, convenience cooking, or natural foods) and then a good collection of recipes from Better Homes and Gardens magazines of the decade.

I spend quite a few hours this week reading this book. I especially enjoy reading each decade’s introduction, each along the lines of the quote, above. I think of my grandmother in the 30s, my mom in the 40s and 50s, and me in the kitchen in the 60s and 70s. The 70s is especially fun, with its predictions of the future:

Golden Treasury of Cooking excerpt

My mother’s notes are throughout this book. It’s fun to page through the recipes! Some of the recipes that interest me: Daffodil Cake (an angel food and sponge cake all in one), Orange Biscuits, Meatballs Stroganoff, Banana Apricot Bread, Puffy Tortilla Bake (includes crepes), Dilly Bread (a yeast bread with cottage cheese in it), Blueberry Dumplings (stove top blueberries with dumplings), Strawberry Shortcake (a good biscuit recipe), and Pfeffernuesse (old-fashioned anise flavored cookies), Stuffed Date Drops (Mother marked “Delicious!!”), Skillet Enchiladas, and the original Toll House Cookies recipe. I also found a recipe for “Bun-steads”. I think these are the baked tuna sandwiches that Mother used to make. They sound weird today, but I used to like them: a tuna and egg salad mixture baked with cheese inside a frankfurter bun.

The Golden Treasury of Cooking is reviewed by The Iowa Housewife. She included some photos and recipes from the book that you might find interesting.

For this blog I decide to make Pineapple Upside Down Cake, from the 40s section. I currently have a recipe in my documents that I cobbled together, but I’d like to try this one.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe

The only change I plan is to keep the pineapple rings whole, and put a maraschino cherry inside each ring.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
makes one 8 x 8-inch cake

  • 1 8 1/4-ounce can pineapple slices
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • maraschino cherries
  • milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Drain the pineapple, reserving the syrup. Melt the butter in an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan; stir in the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of the reserved pineapple syrup. Arrange the pineapple rings in the pan – you might have to cut a few in half to cover the bottom of the pan. Put maraschino cherries into the center of each pineapple ring. Set the pan aside.

Add milk to the remaining pineapple syrup to make 1/2 cup liquid. Cream together the white sugar, shortening, and vanilla. Add egg; beat well. Stir together the dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with liquid, beating after each addition.

Spread the dough carefully over the pineapple-brown sugar mixture in the pan. Bake at 350˚ for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is turning brown around the edges. Cool 5 minutes and then invert carefully onto a plate. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Pineapply Upside Down CakeOh yes, this was good! It has always been one of my husband’s favorite desserts. It was rich and sweet and very pineapple-y. Will I make it again, and do I recommend it? Yes to both. But next time I make this cake, I will compare and contrast the above recipe with my cobbled-together recipe. It’s almost too sweet, even for my taste!

Favorites: Lemon Cake

My mother and aunt made this recipe for years and years. My sister and I still love this cake. My blog entry on Molly Wizenberg’s recipe for French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon reminded me of this old favorite.

Today, I do appreciate the subtle tastes and textures in the French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon. A tiny slice of that cake makes me very happy. But there is still a place in my repertoire for this sixties lemon cake made from a cake mix and lemon jello. It remains an old favorite.

I grew up in a house on a half-acre in Southern California. We had a lemon tree in the yard, and my mother would go out back and pick lemons from that tree to make this cake. I remember making lemonade too from those lemons . . . dipping graham crackers into the sweet-sour juice just until they almost gave way, savoring the soaked crackers and then downing the lemonade on a hot and sultry summer day of childhood.

Lemon Cake

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pkg. lemon jello
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 4 eggs

Mix together and beat for 4 minutes. Pour batter into a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 11 1/2-inch pan.

Bake at 350˚ for 45 minutes.

While the cake bakes, mix 2 cups powdered sugar with the juice and rind of two large lemons.

Remove the cake from oven and make fork holes in the top. Pour the sugar-lemon juice mixture over the cake.

We always served this cake directly from the pan. It’s a great traveling cake, and always a hit.


250 Cookbooks: Pillsbury Busy Lady Bake-Off Recipes, 17th annual

Cookbook #61: Pillsbury Busy Lady Bake-Off Recipes, 17th annual. The Pillsbury Company, 1966.

Busy Lady Bake-Off CookbookThis is another of my mother’s Bake-Off Cookbooks. So far I’ve done three Bake-off years: 1964 (Cookbook #4) and 1959 (Cookbook #10) and 1963 (Cookbook #27). I refer you to the 1964 blog post for a more thorough discussion of these booklets and an explanation of Mother’s rating system for recipes.

Looks like my mother barely used this Bake-Off Cookbook. She marked two recipes, “Macaroon Cookie Cake” and ”Nutty Fudge-Wiches” as “Good“, but that’s it. None of the recipes look familiar to me.

“Busy Lady” is the theme throughout the book. Look at this:

Busy LadyThe busy lady of 1966 took care of the baby, golfed, served a cake, and shopped. Always in a dress!

Shortcuts abound for the busy lady. Dessert recipes in this cookbook employ self-rising flour, cake mixes, packaged frosting, pudding mixes, canned pie filling, and even ice cream to shorten time spent in the kitchen. Main dishes include canned corned beef, canned chicken, frozen french fries, gravy mix, canned vegetables, and canned and dried soups. This is not a “from scratch” cookbook.

I am a “from scratch” cook, and I had trouble finding a recipe I liked enough to try in The Pillsbury Busy Lady Bake-Off Recipes cookbook. I will keep this cookbook only for the sake of nostalgia!

For this blog, I decided to try “Apple Pan Walnut Cake”. It is semi-nutritious, with apples and walnuts, and the sugar and fat content is not terrible.

Apple Pan Walnut Cake Recipe I will make my own apple pie filling from scratch (I want this to be good, not fast!), and I will cut the recipe in half.

Apple Pan Walnut Cake
serves about 6-8

For the apples:

  • 2 large apples, such as Granny Smiths or any tart cooking apple, peeled, cored, and sliced into fairly thin slices
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons boiled cider, or apple juice (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons flour

For the batter:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (generous) chopped walnuts

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Slice the apples into an 8- or 9-inch round pan or a 8×8-inch square pan. Add the brown sugar and mix it into the apples with your fingers; let the mixture set a few minutes. Add the cinnamon, boiled cider (if you are using it), and the two tablespoons flour and mix.

Combine the 1 cup flour, white sugar, baking soda, and salt. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples.

Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, oil, and most of the walnuts (save a few for the top of the cake). Pour the mixture in the pan. Take a big spoon or spatula and gently mix it all up, only until just blended, like when you are making muffins.

Meanwhile, combine the topping ingredients (sugar, sour cream, baking soda) in a saucepan and stir and heat just until it boils.

Bake at 350˚ for about 35-40 minutes, until the cake springs back when you touch it in the center. Make fork holes in the cake and pour the topping over it. Sprinkle the reserved walnuts on top.


Success! This is a good, homey dessert. I will add it to my repertoire of apple-nut semi-healthy desserts.

I used granny smiths and after I peeled them, I cut them into quarters and cored them. Then I sliced them thinly crosswise (not lengthwise) across each quarter, so that each apple piece is small. I thought this would better resemble “canned apple pie filling”.

Apple Pan Walnut CakeI didn’t use the entire two apples, because I felt the pan was full enough when I got to this point:

Apple Pan Walnut CakeTurns out I was right, because when I baked the cake, it almost overran the pan. Next, I added the brown sugar and rubbed it into the apples. This macerates the apples, drawing out some of the juice and softening them.

Apple Pan Walnut CakeI looked at the apples in the pan and thought: boiled cider! They begged me to pour a couple tablespoons over them. Cinnamon too. I stirred in a couple tablespoons flour before I added the dry flour mixture and the wet batter mixture. This is pretty much how I’d prepare apple pie filling if I were making it from scratch. Why pull a can from the shelf, containing preservatives and sugar and who knows exactly what, when I can make it using fresh apples?

Below is after the wet and dry ingredients were added and mixed with the apples. This is why it’s called a “pan” cake: the mixing is done in the pan and not in a mixing bowl. That busy lady needs to go out and play golf, no time to mix up a batter in a bowl.

Apple Pan Walnut Cake

Here is my baked cake, after the topping was added. Not terribly pretty. As I said, it almost overran the pan. Next time I would use fewer apples or an 8-inch square pan with a touch more capacity.

Apple Pan Walnut CakeIn spite of its looks in the pan, Apple Pan Walnut Cake looked pretty darn good in the  depression roseware that I inherited from Nana, my father’s mother.

Apple Pan Walnut CakeI learned from my previous cookbook that this roseware was given away – not sold – during the depression. They put it in boxes of oatmeal as a sales tactic. Movie theaters had “Dish nights, collect a complete set of fine dinnerware completely free. Anything that was free in the 1930s received a warm welcome.”

This dessert was certainly a warm welcome. Nutty and apple-y and almost like a pudding. Yum.

250 Cookbooks: Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 3

Cookbook #55: Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 3, Bea-Cas. Woman’s Day, Fawcett Publications, NY, 1968.

Encyclopedia of Cookery Vol. 3This is the third in a series of 12 food encyclopedia volumes. I discussed the first two volumes here: Volume 1 and Volume 2. I pick this volume from the shelf and settle into a cozy chair and start reading.

Catfish, a Mississippi Valley favorite, is the first entry. The oldest records for cauliflower date to the 6th century BC, from the area around the Mediterranean, near where we visited Turkey last spring. Cheese was made and eaten in Biblical times, and when the Pilgrims set sail for the new continent, they took round Dutch cheeses with them. This encyclopedia includes a useful chart of different cheeses and a “Cheese Cook Book” with recipes ranging from soups with cheese to creamy macaroni and cheese to Swiss fondue to desserts.

Cheesecakes. I am halfway through a good article on the history of cheesecakes when I think to look back to see who wrote it: James A. Beard! I have two of his cookbooks and have always enjoyed his writing (Beard on Bread was my 5th entry in this series). The article begins:

“If you’re as fond of cheesecake as I am, you might like to join me in honoring its inventor. It seems to me that anyone who could think up such a fantastically wonderful concoction deserves a statue in his memory. The only difficulty in memorializing cheesecake’s originator is that no one has the faintest idea who he, or she, was. It might have been an ancient Greek, for they made cheesecakes of a simple kind.

Cheesecake isn’t at all new. Its’ a rediscovery. When I was twenty years younger, cheesecake wasn’t so widely known as it is today, and the art of making it was pretty much of a specialty in restaurants serving German, Austria, or French cuisine. Nowadays, it has grown so popular that it rivals apple pie as an American favorite.”

And I come to the entry for “chef”. “In French, the word means ‘chief’, but in both French and English it has become a culinary term for a superior male cook, head of his kitchen.” The article continues with the emphasis on “he” and discusses several famous male chefs. It ends with “As for trying to explain why great, creative cooks have practically always been men and not women, prudence dictates an unbreakable silence.”

That was 1968. We’ve come a long way, ladies!!

On to cherries (I learn the origin of maraschino cherries), chicken (a section called a “Chicken Cookbook”), and Chinese food. My mother marked several recipes, and I found some recipes I’d like to try in the Chinese section.

Chocolate and Christmas cookbooks, citrus and clams, coconut and coffee. Cookies! The section on corn reminded me that I should make double corn sticks in my cast-iron corn stick pan. Crabs and cranberries. The final entry is crême brûlée.

I marked several sections and recipes for my personal notes.

My mother’s note of “don’t panic!” on the black bottom pie recipe made me smile:

Black Bottom PieI remember this pie from childhood, so I checked my recipe index card box. Yes, I was right! When I moved out from my childhood home, this is one of the recipes I copied and took with me. It is slightly different from the above recipe, so my guess is that Mother included improvements in her version.

For this blog, I decide to try a dessert cake using sour cherries. Why? I bought a jar from Whole Foods quite a few months ago (forget why) and they need to be used.

Tart CherriesHere is the scan of the recipe for Cherry Upside-Down Cake:

Cherry Upside Down CakeCherry Upside Down CakeThis recipe is a bit high in calories, but we usually treat ourselves to something special on Saturday nights. I recall that sour/tart cherries are supposed to be good for you. I googled and found this 2013 article in Medical Daily that touts tart (sour) cherries as “America’s super food”, reporting that they are beneficial for: arthritis, blood sugar levels, lowering risk of heart disease and colon cancer, and improving memory. And, they help you get a good night’s sleep!

I made a few changes in the recipe as I went along. I was taking the photo of the jar of cherries and the bottle of vanilla that my daughter-in-law brought me from Mexico caught my eye:

vanillaHmmm, I think I’ll add some vanilla to the batter! And then I thought of cinnamon – yes, I’ll add cinnamon too. For the cherry sauce, I decided to reduce the cherry juice before I added the sugar and cornstarch. This should deepen both the flavor and the color of the sauce.

The following is my version of Cherry Upside-Down Cake.

Cherry Upside-Down Cake
serves 6, generously

  • 3/4 cup butter, divided (1/4 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 16 ounces water-packed pitted red sour (tart) cherries
  • lemon rind, grated (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Cherry Sauce

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a 9-inch square baking pan. (I used a metal pan and did this on the stove top; you could use a glass pan and melt the butter in it in a microwave oven.) Sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted butter in the pan.

Drain the cherries, saving the juice for the sauce. Spoon the cherries evenly over the brown sugar, then top with the lemon rind and cinnamon.

Cream the 1/2 cup butter, gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, then add these dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Spread the batter on the cherries. (The batter is thick; I put big dollops of batter on the cherries and used my fingers to spread the batter to cover the cherries.)

Bake at 375˚ for 30 minutes. Top with Cherry Sauce.

Cherry Sauce

  • 3/4 cup reserved cherry juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Boil the cherry juice until the volume is reduced by about a third and the color is a rich red. Cool. Mix the sugar and cornstarch, then add this mixture to the reduced cherry juice. Put back on the stove and heat until it boils and thickens.

Here are the cherries in the pan:

cherries in panThe cake, baked:

baked cakeAnd our one-sixth portions (they are big!):

Cherry Upside-Down CakeYum yum yum! This dessert is way too good. The tart and flavorful cherries under the brown sugar and cinnamon and vanilla-laced cake – perfect. A homey dessert that I would love to have a lot if it weren’t for the calories.

I slept really well after eating this dessert, though! Cherries, the perfect sleep aid.

250 Cookbooks: Country Cakes

Cookbook #48: Country Cakes, A Homestyle Treasury. Lisa Yockelson, Harper and Row, Publishers, New York, 1989.

Country CakesIt’s good to be back to my cooking blog! The townspeople of Lyons, and myself in the Lyons outskirts included, are beginning to recover physically and mentally from the September flood. Time to again take up my favorite pastimes.

And what a sweet way to do it: Country Cakes! This book was a present from my aunt and uncle to my mother for Christmas, 1989. My mother always wrote these remembrances on the inside cover of her cookbooks. It’s almost Christmas again, and I smile thinking of my mother.

I first picked this cookbook from the shelf looking for a recipe for a very rich cake to make on a small scale for one of our good meals during the holidays. You see, both our kids are off in other parts of the world this Christmas, and our own brothers and sisters are in California and Hawaii. So there’s just us two. But it’s still Christmas, and we can eat something very, very rich on Christmas, that’s the rule.

To my surprise, this cookbook does not have many over-the-top rich cake recipes. Instead, it has recipes for a lot of cakes that are right up my healthy alley. Apples, bananas, nectarines, blueberries, sweet potatoes, carrots, raisins, and nuts abound as ingredients in Lisa’s recipes. Sure, the cakes are still high in calories, but they pack some nutritional punch. On the downside, the recipes call for butter rather than a “healthy” oil, and are generous with it; they use regular flour instead of whole wheat. On the upside, these cakes will taste great.

Each day, you should eat at least a bite of something that makes you stop whatever you are doing and say “wow!” That’s my new year’s resolution.

Mother tried and liked “Chocolate Pan Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting”. This is one of the recipes in the book that is very rich. (But it’s not my choice for this blog.)

Chocolate Pan CakeChocolate Pan CakeThe book has a cute layout, with each recipe covering two pages, decorated with illustrations. Each recipe is introduced with a friendly note.

Almost each cake in this book is made with a basic procedure: “the fat, usually butter, is beaten for several minutes before a measure of sugar is added in stages and thoroughly combined; eggs and flavorings are then mixed into the batter completely; finally, a sifted or stirred  mixture, which contains leavening and salt and any spices being used, is added to the batter alternately with a liquid, such as milk, buttermilk or cream.” I learned this method in my mother’s kitchen, and every from-scratch cake baker to this day still uses it. Easy as cake!

The categories of cakes in this cookbook include: back porch cakes, coffee cakes, traveling cakes, upside-down, cakes, pound cakes, fresh fruit picnic cakes, little cakes, and cake and ice cream. I want to try the Marbled German Chocolate Cake, Coconut Layer Cake, Peach Upside-Down Cake, Blueberry Gingerbread, Raspberry Coffee Cake, Banana Coconut Coffee Cake – and more!

I had a sweet potato lurking in my potato bin that was asking to be cooked, so I decided to try the “Walnut-Sweet Potato Coffee Cake”. Instead of a rich dessert cake, this should be a sweet, moist and fragrant treat for these cold holiday mornings.

Walnut-Sweet Potato CakeWalnut-Sweet Potato CakeI would call this a “quick bread” rather than a cake. The distinction? In my mind, I think of quick breads as breads baked in a loaf pan and intended for breakfast or snacking. But I won’t quibble.

This recipe calls for a 10 x 3 1/4 x 3-inch loaf pan. I have tons of loaf pans, but none that size. I went to a local kitchenware store and couldn’t find one there either. A quick web search pulls up only 10 x 5-inch loaf pans. (Why did the author choose such an unusual pan?) So, I did a volume calculation and decided to use an 8 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, although I knew this size might be a touch too small.

 Walnut-Sweet Potato Coffee Cake

For the cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (if you use salted butter, cut the added salt in half)
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potatoes, pureed (I probably used 1 1/4 cups)

For the topping:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cook the sweet potato and mash or puree it; measure 1 (generous) cup. Lightly grease and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Turn on the oven to 350˚.

Sift (or stir) together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger.

Combine the topping ingredients, crumbling the mixture together with your fingers until the butter is broken own into small bits. Set aside.

Melt the 4 tablespoons butter and place it in a large bowl. Use a spoon or a hand mixer to beat in the sugar and the brown sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each. Add the milk, vanilla, orange rind, and sweet potatoes. Stir in the flour mixture and the 1/2 cup walnuts.

Turn the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top, pressing it gently down into the batter.

Bake at 350˚ for about 45 minutes, or until it tests done with a toothpick or cake tester. Let cool in pan at least 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack (see my note on inverting the cake in my comments).

Walnut-Sweet Potato Cake


This coffee cake is delicious. I baked it in a smaller loaf pan, though, and the topping fell off when I inverted it onto the cooling rack. It did not look pretty! In my version of the recipe, above, I suggest using a larger loaf pan and pressing the topping into the batter before baking. And then, after cooking, carefully cover the cake with perhaps foil while inverting it to get it out of the pan.

I might try this in a square pan next time. That way, I could serve it right out of the pan and avoid the inverting step. A crumbly topping is always going to fall off when a cake is inverted! Another option is to skip the topping and cook it in a smaller loaf pan. Tough decision, because the cinnamon-walnut-sugar topping gives a burst of flavor, making me say “wow!”.



Bookmark: I have to step back from this project that I started October 2012. So I am marking my place and will come back to carry on my reading and writing when I have time.

What happened? The floods, the Lyons floods. We are fine but I’ve taken up volunteering to help in the recovery. Much more important than this cooking blog. My cookbooks will wait.

But I made a great dessert last night that I want to share. It’s Apple Gingerbread Cobbler. I’ve been making it for years and it is sort of low in fat (plenty of sweet, though). From my desserts document: “This recipe was clipped from a magazine in the seventies. It is good, homey, and different. I thought it wouldn’t “go over”, but it did!”

Apple Gingerbread CobblerApple Gingerbread Cobbler

  • 4 medium apples, pared, cored, and sliced (4 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon cinnamon (it called for 1/4 teaspoon but I like a lot)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup molasses (2 3/4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly ground is wonderful)
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch plus 1 tablespoon water

Combine apples, brown sugar, 1 cup water, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Cover and cook till apples are tender. Beat (whisk) together sugar, egg, buttermilk, molasses, and oil. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt. Add to egg mixture and mix till smooth.

When the apples are tender, take them off the heat, then combine the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon cold water. Stir into apple mixture. Pour into 8×8-inch baking pan.

Spoon gingerbread mixture atop the apples. Bake in 350° oven 30 minutes.


250 Cookbooks: Baking Without Fat

Cookbook #15: Baking Without Fat. George Mateljan, Health Valley Foods, Inc., Villard, NY, 1996. Baking Without Fat

I like cakes and muffins and quick breads. In order to fit these treats into a healthy eating plan, I always keep my eye out for recipes that are low calorie or low fat, and that add nutritional punch. Hence I picked up Baking Without Fat in the late 1990s. I think I found it on a cold and hungry January day, near the check-out counter at McGuckins in Boulder. (I am always watching calories in January!)

The author of this book is George Mateljan, founder of Health Valley Foods. A Google search reveals that he sold that company and now runs a not-for-profit called The George Mateljan Foundation for the World’s Healthiest Foods. He is the author of a book titled “The World’s Healthiest Foods” (2006).

I admit, I don’t remember cooking any recipe from Baking Without Fat. The recipes call for ingredients I do not keep on hand – for instance, frozen concentrated apple juice, and baby food jars of carrots, sweet potatoes, or prunes. Reading the recipes now, I know I am going to have to go to the store to make any of the recipes in the book.

I take some time to read the introductory chapters. Matelian explains some of the functions of fat in baking. Fat adds a creamy texture and pleasing mouth feel, acts as a carrier for flavor, and can alter the way the flavor is perceived. Fat makes baked goods moist and tender. To make baked goods taste good without fat, the author and others at Health Valley Foods spent “hundreds of hours” in the kitchen to develop a “whole new method” of baking. Here is the basic plan:

  • use nonfat dairy products instead of full-fat ones
  • substitute pureed fruit for fat
  • use egg whites instead of whole eggs
  • highlight natural flavors to make up for the lack of fat

Well, it’s worth a try. I’m a bit hesitant because I’ve clipped and tried a few recipes employing these same strategies over the years, and usually have not been happy with the results. I do like my my Irresistable Low-Fat Brownies but those use non-fat sweetened condensed milk – not pureed fruit – to provide a good mouth feel. Pureed fruit would be a healthier choice because it will add nutritional punch.

The baby food purees called for in the recipes do not appeal to me. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mateljan gives instructions for making your own purees from apples, apricots, carrots, prunes, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. This will add more cooking time, but I’m retired! Instead of sugar, the recipes are sweetened with fruit juice concentrates, honey, maple syrup, and molasses. Whole grain flours are advised. Cheesecakes and frostings employ non-fat yogurt and/or yogurt cheese. Fruit crisps are topped with non-fat granola. This all sounds great to my healthy-food conscience, but do these recipes have a chance of tasting good?

For this blog, I chose the recipe “Coco Garden Cake”, which includes chocolate, carrots, zucchini, applesauce, honey, and spices. Mateljan states that pan size is important for good baking results, so I go ahead and make a full recipe for the just two of us. I might have to waste some, but heck, this is like a chemistry experiment! So I gathered the many, many ingredients for this recipe (including a huge jug of honey) and went for it.

Coco Garden Cake Recipe

CocoGardCakeRec2 Note the two book excerpts (above). For each recipe in this book, the recipe is on the right page, and a discussion of the recipe, including nutritive information, is on the left. This makes the book feel friendly and personal, like the author really cares that each recipe is well-received.

Coco Garden Cake

  •  3/4 cup coarsely grated zucchini
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 1/2 cup frozen apple juice concentrate (defrosted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel (the rind from one lemon)
  • 2 egg whites, unbeaten
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup grated, peeled carrots
  • 2 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks

Preheat the oven to 325˚. Set the grated zucchini between paper towels and press to remove excess moisture.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

In another bowl, combine the honey, juice concentrate, vanilla, lemon peel, 2 unbeaten egg whites, applesauce, and grated carrots. Stir this mixture to combine (I used the hand mixer to beat the other 2 egg whites, then used the same beaters to combine the honey mixture). Combine the honey mixture with the flour mixture and the drained zucchini and the beaten egg whites. Gently but thoroughly fold the mixtures together; be careful not to over mix.

Pour batter into a 10-inch nonstick fluted tube pan and bake at 325˚ for 55-60 minutes. Cool at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan.

Cocoa Garden Cake


The above photo is not too impressive; I had a little trouble with the cake sticking to my non-stick pan. Honestly, when I took my first bite of this cake, served as our dessert after a Saturday night dinner, I thought it was a failure. Neither of us commented on it at the time, either favorably or non-favorably. But the next day, I took a little bite mid-day and then had to have another bite. The texture is moist and tender, it’s sweet but not too sweet, and the flavors of chocolate and spices are wonderful. When dessert time rolled around again, my dining partner opted for the cake instead of a low-fat yogurt ice cream cone. I did too. Hmm, this cake is really good! I think it’s better the second day.

And even better the third day, when I decided to take more photos, to show the good texture of the cake. The slice below is 1/16 of the cake, so about 200 calories; it’s a nice hefty chunk of cake for that many calories. (I should have this for breakfast!) I kept grabbing cake crumbs as I was trying to make the “perfect” slice for my photo. That’s when I decided to enter this recipe officially in this blog. It is good! And I’ll try more recipes from this book in the future.

Slice of Cocoa Garden Cake

Classic favorites: Angel Squares

My mother made these for us when we were kids and I loved them. This is one of the fifty or so very special recipes that I took with me when I moved out on my own.

I’m not sure I made these myself, ever. I’ve thought about them, and looked at the recipe card in my recipe file box. But on close inspection, I made several crucial typos, so I doubt I’ve made them.

Then I ran across the very original of the recipe in one of my 250 cookbooks (1964 Pillsbury’s Bake-Off). It is noted with my mother’s “Good” written next to it. I think it’s time to make them again!

The recipe below has two options for serving: the original, and an updated, lighter option. For us, I’ll make the light version. But I guarantee that the original recipe is very, very good!

Recipe: Angel Squares
three and a half stars

You can bake a half-recipe in an 8″x8″ pan for 35 minutes. Use 4 egg whites in a half-recipe.

Stir together:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Blend in:

  • 1 cup hot milk (hot milk helps dissolve the sugar faster)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat 2 minutes at medium speed (or 300 strokes with a spoon).


  • 7 egg whites (1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter

Beat until soft peaks form. Fold into batter, gently but thoroughly.

Turn into 13″x9″ inch pan, greased and floured on bottom. (I lined the bottom of the pan with parchment, sprayed with Pam, and dusted with flour.)

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool.

Two options for serving:

Original: Cut the cake into 3×2-inch rectangles. Frost top and sides. Roll in 1 1/2 to 2 cups cashews or salted peanuts, finely chopped. (Peanuts were what my mother used.) Drizzle with chocolate glaze.

  • Butter frosting: In mixer, beat 1/4 cup butter, about 4 cups powdered sugar (1 pound), and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Blend in 5-6 tablespoons milk until spreadable. Add more powdered sugar if you get it too thin.
  • Chocolate glaze: Melt 2 5¢ Nestle’s Milk Chocolate Candy Bars, 2 tablespoons milk and 1 tablespoon butter over hot water. (I have no idea how big a 5¢ chocolate bar is compared to today’s chocolate bars. Sorry.)

Light version: Cut the cake into serving-size portions, and split in half through the middle. Top with softened frozen yogurt and fruit (such as sliced strawberries or peaches, or blueberries). Drizzle with a tiny bit of your favorite chocolate sauce if you want. Or use fruit and lite frozen topping (like Cool Whip). One-eighth of an 8″x8″ cake has about 200 calories and essentially no fat.

Recipe Comments

This is good for a non-fat cake. It tastes, predictably, quite sweet. I remember it as being a lighter, fluffier cake. That may be because I didn’t make any adjustments for high-altitude (we live at 5000 feet), or it may just be that I remember wrong. We had it both with strawberries and the next night, with sliced bananas and chocolate. Great!