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.

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