Baking: Remembering Grandma’s Specialties

April 2, 2014

Baking: Remembering Grandma's Specialties - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

A love for baked goods runs in my family. A few weeks ago on Facebook, my cousin started a conversation on my Grandma and all the wonderful things she used to cook and bake. I lamented that as the second youngest grandchild, I didn’t get to experience as much of her food as my siblings & cousins did. But I’m so glad I knew her for those fourteen years!

Every year, Grandma made a birthday chocolate layer cake (two yellow cakes with chocolate frosting in the middle and on the top and sides) for my dad and my brother, who were both born on Christmas. My mom has continued the tradition, always striving to get closer and closer to Grandma’s original cake in taste, texture, and chocolate flavor.

Baking: Remembering Grandma's Specialties - Sweet and Savoring

Unfortunately, this is the best shot I have of the famous chocolate layer cake. Trust me, it’s amazing.

The rules for eating chocolate layer cake are simple: you get your triangular-shaped piece, and then slice it down the middle. Hopefully each half will still have chocolate frosting on it, but sometimes it sticks to one half. That’s all right. Some people might eat the frosting off and then the cake underneath, but the frosting complements the cake, so I say eat them as one. Have a glass of cold milk close at hand, because there’s nothing else that will quench that thirst. The most important thing is to take small to moderate-sized bites and savor that cake. It won’t last forever, but you’ll wish it did.

Grandmas was also famous for her apple pie, and my dad, her youngest son, has continued the holiday apple pie tradition faithfully. I’d love to share the recipe, but all I have are some scribbled notes on scrap paper that aren’t terribly cohesive. Here are some great shots of the apple pie making process that Andy captured, with my dad holding up the recipe:

Baking: Remembering Grandma's Specialties - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

I love it! Anything that has Grandma’s handwriting is such a treasure.

Baking: Remembering Grandma's Specialties - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

The necessary gadget: apple corer, peeler, and slicer

Baking: Remembering Grandma's Specialties - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Rolling out dough for the crust…

Baking: Remembering Grandma's Specialties - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Pouring the cinnamon sugar apples into the prepared crust.

By the way, sampling those sliced apples coated in cinnamon sugar is an essential part of the pie preparation. Trust me, it’s a family tradition. Moving on…

Baking: Remembering Grandma's Specialties - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

And rolling out the top layer of crust!

Baking: Remembering Grandma's Specialties - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

After pressing a fork along the edges of the crust, the egg wash is brushed across the top.

Baking: Remembering Grandma's Specialties - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Ta da! Dad with the finished apple pie. Pass the vanilla ice cream!

One last thing I remember fondly from Grandma’s kitchen is the chocolate chip bars we had nearly every time we ate dinner at her house. These weren’t ordinary chocolate chip bars, however: they were sunshine squares. Isn’t that such a grandma name? I love it. Sunshine squares were wonderfully full of vanilla and brown sugar, so flavorful and full of chips, and also perfect with a glass of cold milk.

I wish I could spend time with my grandmothers now, as an adult. I wish I could have asked them so many more questions than I did: more about their childhoods, where they got their recipes from, and what it was like to grow up in the early 1900’s.

Do you have a cherished family recipes? How long did you know your grandparents?



This is my second post in the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Today’s theme was Baking. Stay tuned tomorrow for a C post!

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  • Sue April 2, 2014 at 11:53 am

    I also wish I had more time with our grandmothers. But I love that I have recipes from both, in their own handwriting even!

    • Christy April 2, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      Yes, I’m glad I kept cards from both of them- one I have from Grandma Rothaug says ‘Thank you for asking me how things are. I could never think of this place as home’, after she moved into the nursing home/assisted living place :\

      • Sue April 4, 2014 at 8:35 am

        I have a letter from her when I was in college. Definitely a treasure.

  • Deb Rothaug April 2, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Such a beautifully written (and photographed) story, Christy! I would like to add Grandma R’s rice pudding as a favorite, too, and don’t forget her raspberry currant jelly and syrup for peach melba. Ahh, I could go on, now to look up some of my mother’s, Gram Starke’s and
    Grandma Morch’s recipes, too. To be continued……

    • Christy April 2, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      Thanks, Mom. I don’t remember currant jelly or syrup at all- did she stop making them after awhile…? I know my memory isn’t that bad! Yes, do go on!

  • Tamara April 2, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    OH..yum. The sunshine bars. And the cake! My step mother-in-law bakes a cake like that for everyone on their birthdays.
    My grandmother on my mom’s side is 100 and still alive, however, she grew up very wealthy (and spoiled) and she never cooks. She’d make us sandwiches, though! Chips, pickles, sandwiches, ice cream.
    My other grandmother passed away when I was about 21. Everything she made was good to me. Everything.

    • Christy April 2, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      Wow, that’s amazing that your grandmother is 100! How special that she got to meet her great-grandchildren 🙂
      Yes, somehow everything Grandma made was good to us, too. What stinks is she used to make eggplant for my mother because she knew she loved it, and I never ate it because it was before I fell in love with eggplant! I missed out for sure.

  • The Dose of Reality April 2, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    My grandmother was also a fantastic baker. I remember making little, personal apple and cherry pies with her when she’d be making the big ones. She even had the great handwritten recipes with that beautiful cursive writing! Like you, I wish I had the chance as an adult to talk to her and find out all about her life when she was younger. This post just made me smile with warm memories!! –Lisa

    • Christy April 3, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      Aw thank you for sharing all of this, Lisa! This is exactly what I wanted to hear when I wrote this. Grandmothers are pretty special!

  • Mark Anthony Guanzon Tinkham April 3, 2014 at 3:55 am

    Yeah, our grandmas’ are so cool! sometimes they are funny. I enjoyed giving them time. I hope i could be a better granpa in the future like that. It’s good for grandma that she knows very well how to bake.

  • Sophie Bowns April 3, 2014 at 8:18 am

    They look delicious! My Nan is a wonderful cook. Her Sunday dinners are amazing!

    • Christy April 3, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      Sunday dinners were amazing at my Grandma’s too 🙂

  • Calli April 3, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    What a great post! For my family it’s Nana’s Pumpkin Pie that I try to replicate every year at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Sadly she passed away when I was ten so I don’t really remember the flavours of her pumpkin pie but I do have my dad there to tell me how close I am with each bite. We do chocolate layer cake for birthdays with buttercream icing and smarties. Now in his 50s my dad still wants the cake his mother made for him every year. It’s nice to have traditions like this I think.

    • Christy April 3, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      Thanks, Callie- I love that you shared about your family, too. It must be so nice to hear from your dad that your pie comes close to his mother’s!

  • Somber Scribbler April 3, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    What a lovely post. My grandmothers both made pies. One was pumpkin pie, the other was apple. I was very close to apple pie grandma, it has been exactly 10 years since she’s been gone. I can still remember the smell of her pies 🙂

    • Christy April 5, 2014 at 10:10 am

      I love pumpkin pie, too, but if apple pie is there, I almost always choose that instead.
      Isn’t smell such a powerful thing? There’s not much better than the smell of baking pies.

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