Back to the Kitchen: Bring Back a Taste of History with Old-Fashioned Cakes

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Everything old is new and trendy these days when it comes to cakes and desserts. I can get really creative with popular current  ingredients, but these old favorites have stood the test of time.  Eighty-year-old JoJo gave me her 24-Karat Cake  recipe that she got from a friend’s mother created well before she was born. My Noni’s Lemon Cake is based on a recipe that came with her mother’s very first bunt pan before Little Noni could even read English!   My mother has memories of eating the German chocolate Cake when she was just a toddler. As a kid in the 70’s we often ended family dinners with The Devil Made Me Do It Cake! The Red Velvet Cake is from my friend Sonja Alarr’s mother. Emma got this recipe from her mom in the thirties before the current popularity of red velvet cake. In the original recipe it says how many sticks of kindling to use in the wood stove. It also said to beat the frosting for 40 minutes by hand. Thanks to modern electric mixers it only takes a few minutes until your friends and family have a rich, delicious new and improved taste of history.

Bring back a taste of history with cake.

Emma Albrethsen’s Red Velvet Cake

2 oz. red food coloring

2 tablespoons cocoa

1-cup buttermilk (add a little if the batter is too thick)

½ cup butter

1 ½ cup sugar

2 eggs

2-¼ cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon vanilla

1-teaspoon vinegar

1-teaspoon baking soda

Pre heat the oven to 350. Make a paste of the food coloring, cocoa and about a tablespoon of the buttermilk. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs and the color paste to the creamed mixture and beat well. Sift the flour and salt together and add to the creamed mixture. Add the rest of the buttermilk and vanilla and beat well. Add the vinegar. Stir in the soda last. Beat well, place in -nine inch round cake pans sprayed with bakers joy and bake for about 40 minutes.

Butter Cream Icing

1-cup butter

1-teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons flour

1-cup milk

1-cup confectioners’ sugar

Gently heat the milk and flour, stirring constantly. Cook until thick, about 10 minutes. Cool the mixture in the refrigerator ‘til the bottom of the pan is cool to the touch. Cream the butter and sugar until very fluffy. Add the vanilla to the creamed mixture. Then stirring slowly, add the milk mixture.  Frost cake.

Noni’s Lemon Cake

1-cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

4 eggs, separated

3 cups sifted cake flour

2-teaspoon baking powder

1/4-teaspoon salt

1-cup milk

1-teaspoon vanilla

Juice and zest of 3 lemons

Cream butter in a mixing bowl. Sift the sugars together and gradually add to the creamed butter, mixing until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, creaming well after each addition. Fold in Lemon, lemon zest and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour and milk, alternately to batter, stirring just until well mixed. Do not overbeat! In another mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Gently fold into batter. Pour into a well-greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake in a preheated oven 350 for 50-60 minutes or until it tests done. Cool in pan 15 minutes before turning out of pan.  Glaze while warm.

Lemon Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

2-tablespoon butter

2-tablespoon milk

Juice of 1 lemon

Warm milk and butter in saucepan or skillet. Stir in powdered sugar and lemon juice. Pour warm glaze over warm cake. Cover and let set a few hours before serving to allow glaze to soak in thoroughly.

German Chocolate Cake

1/2-cup water

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1-teaspoon baking soda

1/4-teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 large eggs, separated

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-cup buttermilk

1-cup semisweet chocolate chips

Bring water to a boil in small saucepan. Remove from heat Add chocolate chips and whisk until smooth. Cool. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until blended. Beat in yolks 1 at a time. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk. Using clean dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter in 2 additions. Pour batter into a buttered 13 x 9 glass Pyrex pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on rack.


1 1/2 cups half and half

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4-cup   butter

5 large egg yolks

1/4-teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup shredded coconut

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

1/4-cup semisweet chocolate chips

Combine half and half, sugar, butter, egg yolks and vanilla in a heavy large saucepan. Whisk over medium-high heat until mixture simmers, thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 20 minutes. Mix in coconut and pecans. Spread warm frosting over cake. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Refrigerate until frosting sets, about 2 hours. (Best if made the day before.)

JoJo’s 24-Karat Cake

2 cups sifted flour

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 cups sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups cooking oil

2 cups grated carrot

8 1/2-oz. crushed pineapple, drained

1 1/2 cup chopped nuts

To flour, add salt, baking soda, sugar and cinnamon.  Mix.  Add eggs and cooking oil and mix well. Add carrot, pineapple and nuts. Put in 9×13 greased and floured pan.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.


Beat the following ingredients until smooth.

2-cup butter

8oZ cream cheese

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 pound powder sugar

The Devil Made Me Do It Cake

3/4-cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

1-cup buttermilk

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour

1/2-cup cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2-teaspoon salt

1 cup boiling (or very hot) water

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, creaming well after each addition, Stir in vanilla. Add flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning with flour and ending with flour. If using electric mixer, set on medium speed. Mix in hot or boiling water. (This makes a thin batter) Pour immediately into three greased and floured 8″ or 9″ baking pans. Bake about 30 minutes in a preheated 350F oven. Do not over bake. Cool before frosting.

7-Minute Frosting

2 unbeaten egg whites

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons light corn syrup
(or 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter)

1/8-teaspoon salt

1/3-cup cold water

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup freshly grated coconut

Mix together egg whites, sugar, syrup, salt, and water in top of double boiler. Beat together about 1 minute to blend well. Place over boiling water in bottom part of double boiler on medium heat and beat for about 7 minutes just until stiff peaks form. (Be careful not to over beat). Remove from heat, add vanilla extract, and beat until stiff enough to spread on cake Frost tops and sides of cake. Sprinkle coconut over top and sides.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON .







About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.