100 Year Old Recipes

A few years ago my wife and I had the privilege to be in a Bible study with a number of older people. You know what goes with Bible study and older people? Food. But not the type that comes from a package. Every week someone signed up to bring a snack, and every week there was someone’s home-made treat on the table. One of the best of all time was my friend’s fresh apple cake.

Eating these delicious platters and bowls of love always led to stories about how they were made, where the recipe came from, how long they’ve been making it. When it comes to those stories, this apple cake – if you’ll pardon the expression – takes the cake.

Our friend told us it’s a recipe she got when young from her grandmother. Now since this was a few years ago and our friend even then was in her 70s, I figure she learned the recipe back in the 1950s. If it is her grandmother’s recipe, then I also figure it might well go back to when her grandmother was a young woman as well, which would take us to the early 20th century. And that makes this recipe quite possibly close to 100 years old. Who knows? It could even be older.

But you know what else this recipe is? Delicious!

Learning from our elders is ancient proverbial wisdom, and passing it along is wise too. Are there any older recipes you return to? Please share in the comments. They don’t have to be pushing the century mark; anything that’s been around a while that means something special to you would be fun for us to read about.

So here for your pleasure is a simple and delicious apple cake recipe, complete with drizzled icing. If you try this recipe, you will have a very happy tummy.


2 Cups plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

Pinch of nutmeg (recipe calls for 1/2 tsp but I think that is too much)

2 tsp cinnamon (recipe calls for 1/2 tsp but I like more)

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar (recipe calls for 2 cups sugar in total … so suit yourself)

1/2 cup shortening (I substitute one stick of butter for a richer taste)

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

3 cups peeled, cored, chopped apples (food processor works well)

1 cup chopped walnuts (toasted if you like)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 13 X 9 inch baking pan.

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.

Sift all the dry ingredients together and add to the butter, sugar eggs mixture until well combined.

Stir in apples and nuts. (Add raisins or dried cranberries, whichever sounds good)

Bake 45 minutes. (Sometimes mine gets done sooner so check after 35 minutes)


3 cups sugar

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

Brown 1/2 cup sugar in an iron skillet.

In a heavy saucepan, combine remaining sugar, flour and milk and bring to a rolling boil; mix in the browned sugar and stir well. Bring to soft boil stage and stir in one stick of butter.  Beat until creamy and spread (or drizzle, that’s what we do) over the apple cake.

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26 Responses to 100 Year Old Recipes

  1. Katie says:


    One of our neighbors growing up was Spanish New Mexican, a descendent of the conquistadors who originally settled the area. This ethnic group has a rich and delicious culinary tradition, and the family recipes she shared with my mom–for tamales, biscochitos, and other foods–are now among my family’s favorites.

    My mom loves to cook and is something of a recipe magpie. So many of the foods she makes have stories like that attached–latkes from her Jewish neighbor in the Bronx, pasta sauce from neighbors in Sardinia, curry from dad’s shipmate’s Indian wife, peanut soup from the African missionary supported by our church. The foods themselves are all delicious, but knowing their histories makes the meals all the more special.

    • Tim says:

      “recipe magpie” – I love that phrase, Katie. And you’ve convinced me of one thing over all: I want to eat at your mom’s house!

  2. Jeannie says:

    I will definitely be trying this recipe — it looks really good.

    The question about recipes got me thinking about fruitcake. I know fruitcake is one of those things you either love or … use as a doorstop. But I love it. My grandmother made fruitcake every year. It wasn’t light or sticky-sweet; it was dark and no-nonsense — and huge. She made it in an old black bundt pan and when it was done she would store it a big dutch-oven pot which my mom still uses daily. I used to love to peek in the pot to see if there was any cake left; funny how there always seemed to be enough to sneak a piece! I’ve never made fruitcake myself, but this makes me want to check and see if my grandmother’s recipe is still in existence — assuming she used one!

    • Tim says:

      I think I’ve run into more bad fruitcake than good, but the one my Dad sends me every year is among the best most delicious ever. I took it to work to share with the clerks at the courthouse this year and it was a huge hit. One young woman who said she’d never tried fruitcake before told me it was one of the best things ever!

  3. michellevl says:

    I occasionally make a similar apple cake recipe, and it’s delicious. However, that frosting recipe would elevate even the most humble, homey food recipe to bliss. I bet it would even be delicious on a baked tire!

  4. Aimee Byrd says:

    One tip I learned at these events is to look for the oldest, most banged up looking dish. That one probably has the best delights in it 🙂

    I treasure one recipe I have in my great grandma’s handwriting for coconut custard pie. The recipe is so old, it calls for one 35 cent can of coconut to make two pies.

    • Tim says:

      That is one of the best tips ever, Aimee! (And let me know if you ever find that 35 cent can of coconut.)

      • Laura says:

        Unique post Tim! My mom has an old recipe from her mom for a chocolate pound cake that calls for a 5 cent Hershey bar. What size is that? : ) Maybe one of those Halloween “fun size” ones?

  5. KSP says:

    I wish I had time to cook!

  6. Nancy Van Wyck says:

    This cake sounds yummy and I do want to try it. I am for old recipes and believe they taste better then the ones today that require many expensive added things to it. I always buy a cook book from the Amish Country but did find out some of those books now have modern recipes in them with to many ingredients, so I search for the books from years back. They are out there and I love them. My favorite being whoopie pies. A lot like devil dogs. Great Bible study with the older folk, we are fortunate because most of our congregation are older, but a concern because the younger folk are the future of the church.

  7. A 100 Yr. old apple cake recipe! How delightful!
    I do have a recipe for cobbler which is very special to me. It was my great-grandmother’s. She started using it after my grandmother (Mimi) was newly married and passed it on to her. Apparently it created quite a sensation among all the ladies in the family when it was discovered because it was a “quick cobbler”. Up to that point, great-grandma had always rolled her dough out by hand. I watched my Mimi make this many times when I was a child. I have the recipe memorized and make it for my family often.

    Mimi’s Quick Cobbler

    1 stick of butter
    1 cup of all-purpose flour
    1 cup of sugar
    1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking powder (This was added to the recipe about 15 yrs ago.)
    1 cup of milk
    2 cups of fresh berries or canned (drained) peaches (The berries taste better if you actually pick them with your grandmother!)
    Place stick of butter in a baking dish. ( Mine is a 2.8 liter dish)
    Place dish in the oven to melt butter while the oven preheats to 350 degrees

    Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients
    Add milk and berries or peaches to dry stuff. Stir to mix.

    Pour batter on top of melted butter in baking dish. DO NOT STIR.

    Bake for 45-50 minutes.

    (Mine’s in the oven right now. My kids will be thrilled to have warm peach cobbler for breakfast!)

    Thanks for the opportunity to share a beloved recipe, Tim. I always have fun over here.

    • Jeannie says:

      I may be dumb (or possibly just Canadian), but what is a “stick” of butter? Is that a metric or imperial unit? Based on these very tasty-sounding recipes I am definitely going to need answers to these questions soon.

      • Well, it’s certainly not a match stick, unfortunately! 🙂
        It must be an imperial unit. We Americans are the daft ones ! We’re still measuring things by using sticks and our feet!
        hee hee hee …
        So according to the butter package, one stick is equal to 1/2 cup.
        I should also mention that I’ve found this recipe to be somewhat flexible. Sometimes I add a bit of salt, sometimes I cut back on the sugar, now and then I cut back some of the butter, often I beef up the berries. The only time it didn’t turn out is when I stirred the batter and the melted butter together. I’ve doubled it many times for family or church events.

      • Tim says:

        Jeannie, when we buy a pound of butter it is in a package divided into four sticks that look like this. So (as Adriana said) each stick weighs a quarter pound; its volume, though, is half a cup.

    • Tim says:

      Your kids are going to have yummy in their tummies this morning, Adriana!

  8. Lesley212 says:

    Yup, I’m gonna have to try this one. Thanks for the recipe, Tim! And, I agree- there is nothing that can replace the advice of elders. My mentor is in her 70s and the wisdom she speaks into my life is one of my biggest blessings.

  9. Laura Droege says:

    How had I missed this post, Tim? I love baking and my older daughter does, too. (I don’t do much anymore, as I like to bake unhealthy things, but my daughter has gotten into baking a lot. I’ll have to share this recipe with her. Maybe I’ll make it and put a photo on Pinterest. 🙂 And what a blessing to get to know those older folks. As an only child, raised across the street from my grandparents, I grew up around many older people at church. All the stories from the “olden days” enchanted me.

  10. Gwenn Smith says:

    This cake sounds delicious. I’m going to have extra apples from canning for sure and this just might be something I could make. I think I can veganize it.

    This is a decadent Pennsylvania Dutch recipe that is sooo yummy. When I was a teen and we made it at home, though we aren’t Pa Dutch, I didn’t know it was a traditional recipe that originated from Pa Dutch country. Much better than shoo fly pie. I guess the Amish use butter, not oil, but that’s no shock.


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