Crave: Tried & true family recipes

photo by: Photo courtesy of Mother Earth News

A delicious slice of Mayonnaise Cake punctuates a wonderful dinner.

If my house was burning down, the one item I’d grab would be a cookbook. But not just any cookbook — my great-grandmother’s handwritten recipes in an aged, olive-green, water-stained binder simply titled “Receipts,” the old-fashioned word for recipes.

This binder represents my family’s culinary history in all its majesty. Yellowing, brittle pages, runny ink, recipes torn from old magazines and food boxes and — my favorite — the personal notes scribbled on various recipes that offer me a portal back to the kitchen of my ancestors and allow me to cook right alongside them.

Old cookbooks served as not only inspiration for dishes and ingredients, but also as instruction manuals for hosts. Many cookbooks published from the early- to mid-20th century begin with an illustrated course on how to set the table for various occasions; what the various dishes, glasses and silverware are to be used for; and basic nutrition and meal guidelines to follow.

Here are some old-time recipes from that yellowed family cookbook — translated from its original shorthand for modern cooks, of course.

Mayonnaise Cake


1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

4 tablespoons cocoa

1 cup lukewarm water

1 cup mayonnaise


Heat oven to 375°F. Grease and flour bundt cake pan; set aside.

In large bowl, combine sugar, flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa. Add water and mayonnaise, mixing well.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Gelatin-Cranberry Salad


1 package (6 ounces) raspberry gelatin

1 1/2 cups boiling water

2/3 cups port wine

1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple with juice

2 cans whole cranberry sauce

1 cup chopped walnuts


1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup sliced almonds


In 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish, pour boiling water. Using fork or whisk, blend in gelatin, stirring for 5 minutes until entirely dissolved. Stir in port. Let set at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Stir in pineapple, cranberry sauce and walnuts. Cover and place in refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

To make topping: Combine cream cheese and sour cream in medium bowl. Blend on slow speed until fluffy. Using offset spatula, carefully spread topping over gelatin. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Dutch Potato Salad


4 russet potatoes, cleaned and unpeeled

3 slices bacon

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup sliced celery

2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

Salt and pepper


Place potatoes in large pot and cover with water. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Drain and cool. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and slice into 1/4-inch pieces.

Fry bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towel-lined plate. When cool, crumble into small pieces. To bacon grease in pan, add flour and cook for 3 minutes. Add vinegar and cook until thin, like consistency of mustard. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.

Place sliced potatoes in large serving bowl. Add crumbled bacon, onion, celery, hard-boiled eggs and green pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over and toss together to coat. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature before serving. Yields 4 servings.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.