The Sisterhood of the Traveling Cookbook and the Marvelous Applesauce Cake

My mom made this cake and packed it in school lunches for us kids and in Dad’s lunch for work. She always put in an extra piece in the lunch sack for my best friend, Deb. I still make this cake for Deb once in a while.

Every time I would remember to ask Mom for the recipe for this cake, she would tell me it’s in the Betty Crocker cookbook. We would get sidetracked in conversation and the cake was forgotten. It wasn’t in my Betty Crocker cookbook, which was published in the early 1970’s. It was in hers, which was published in the 1950’s.

I was able to find her “Betty” years later while cleaning out their house after the death of Dad. Her book was a mess! It had been in their kitchen for 47 years. No cover, no spine, no back. Many pages missing but the best pages were still there and had food stuck on them. And, it was held together only by the three loose rings, but it was a gold mine and I now had it.

Over the years of my possession of “Betty”, I would get calls from both of my sisters asking for recipes from the book. I would carefully pull out the book and give them the recipe over the phone. This was usually at holiday time. It seems that the holidays have always evoked memories of food, special dishes, holiday tablecloths and napkins, and of past gatherings. It has always been that way and I hope it will remain that way for generations to come.

The Sister (the one who wrote for the blog last month) and I were shopping at Restoration Hardware a few years ago. To our surprise, we discovered the 1950’s version of “Betty” had been reprinted in all its glory!!! We made those noises that only girls make when making a shopping discovery. We each purchased a copy for ourselves and we got one for our other sister too. Now, each of us girls had a copy of the cookbook from our childhood.

Deb, my friend from junior high, asked me one day if I ever made that spice cake my mom used to make. She said she always loved that Mom put an extra piece in my lunch just for her. I told her I had never thought about it, but would give it a try. When I first made this cake from the book, I followed the recipe exactly as written. Deb and I tried the cake. Good as it was, it was not the same as Mom’s. What had she done differently? She left no notes in the cookbook. Just lots of “drippage” on the page! I thought about the recipe and about Mom. She was a good cook. Her food was hearty, simply made, and consistently good. I looked at the recipe again. Cinnamon, cloves, allspice…wait a minute. Mom cooked very simply and her pantry was never stocked with seldom used spices. The pantry carried the bare minimum of spices. So, I made the cake with cinnamon only. None of the “extra” spices. Deb and I tried a piece. Oh my gosh, we had discovered the cake. Deb and I still marvel over Marvel’s Applesauce Cake.

Marvel’s Applesauce Cake, adapted from Betty Crocker

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 X 13 inch pan or a bundt pan. In a mixing bowl, mix the wet ingredients until blended together:

•1/2 cup soft shortening
•1/2 cup water
•1 15 oz. can applesauce
•2 eggs
•1 cup golden raisins (plumped)

To plump raisins, place one cup of raisins in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. Cover with water and microwave for two minutes. Let set a while to cool off. Drain and toss them in the cake batter.

Sift the following and then add the dry mixture, in three additions, to the wet mixture. Mix for a couple of minutes until well incorporated:

•2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
•2 cups granulated sugar
•1/4 teaspoon baking powder
•1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
•1 1/2 teaspoons salt
•1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Pour into the prepared pan and bake 45-50 minutes for the 9 X 13 and 55 minutes for the bundt or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Mr. Wii’s dad turned 83 this weekend. I made this cake for him, he requested it.

Happy Birthday Big Daddy!
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