Confession: Nothing will make me buy a vintage cookbook faster than seeing handwritten notes inside. It’s my ultimate jackpot (other when I married a devastatingly handsome man with wit and handyman skills). I love the little details of most things in general (like patterned lining on the inside of a blazer or colored stitching just for the sake of colored stitching), but handwritten notes or recipe cards hidden inside of books are, in my opinion, heaven-sent. So when I picked up the Betty Crocker Cook Book of All-Purpose Baking (1942) and a handwritten recipe card fell out, I had to have it.
First of all, this book was completely beaten-up, with yellowed masking tape holding the cover on. To me, this said a few things: 1. This book has been used a lot (a great sign to someone interested in time-tested favorite recipes), 2. Whoever used this book cared enough to save the cover (another good sign that the owner valued keeping it all together), and 3. This book was important to someone that came before me. Call me sentimental but I think there is great value in honoring and respecting the woman that unknowingly passed these recipes onto me.
I remember I was once at an estate sale in Sisters, Oregon, and the woman who had passed away was a cookbook collector. I instantly felt a connection with her and wanted to know more about her. I asked the sellers at the estate sale and they were a company brought in to sell off her property. They knew nothing about her and, frankly, didn’t seem to care.
I went back to the room of cook books she had and poured over them, searching for her most used recipes (usually the ones with the most stains) and prayed for her, thanking her for passing these items on to me so that I could honor her in that small way. After all, if she loved to cook like I knew she did, this would have likely been her way of showing love and I could now pass along that gift to someone else. I’m reminded of her every time I open her cook books.
In my new old Betty Crocker Cook Book, the handwritten recipe that fell out was different than any I had found before. There were two recipes on front and a short note on the back. It was not addressed to anyone; however, the author’s name and location was on each recipe card. It read: Glenys Gilbert, Wilton, ME 04294. I had the name of the woman who had passed down a recipe! Giddy with excitement, I did what any cookbook-obsessed, Internet-savvy gal would do and googled her. I knew her name and location so it wasn’t hard. Sadly, her obituary came up.
Glenys died peacefully on her 82nd birthday (February 15th, just a couple of days from today). She loved cooking, knitting, traveling, and she was active in her church. I was able to ascertain the name of her children and searched for a contact number for her daughter, Joann. As I was baking Glenys’ blueberry cake recipe, I found a phone number and called Joann. I explained who I was and why I was contacting her. I wanted to learn about Glenys and also I wanted to return her mom’s handwritten note and recipes, if she was interested in them. She was surprised, happy, and grateful.
Over the next twenty minutes, Joann shared stories about her mom. How she worked for a shoe company and later as a cook for executives visiting Maine for business. How she loved to cook and shared her gift with others, as she was constantly being asked for her recipes. Joann described Glenys saying, “Cooking was part of her ministry.” She also said that just this morning she had been thinking about her mom. The funny thing is, I was too.
Recipes are so much more than words on paper. Especially today. Below is Glenys Gilbert’s “Melt in Your Mouth Blueberry Cake” recipe. I made it today and could not feel more blessed to pass it along to you. I know Glenys would have done the same.
“Melt in Your Mouth” Blueberry Cake
2 Eggs Separated
1 Cup Sugar
½ Cup Shortening
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 ½ Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/3 Cup Milk
1 ½ Cups Floured Blueberries
Separate Eggs. Beat Whites with ½ Cup Sugar. Cream Shortening with other ½ Cup of Sugar. Add yolks. Add dry ingredients and milk. Mix well. Fold in Whites. Then fold in Blueberries. Sprinkle top with Sugar and Cinnamon.
Bake at 350 Degrees for 40 minutes in 9×9 Greased and Floured pan.
I can vouch, this cake is completely amazing. It is most in the style of a coffee cake, I would say. I used my Kitchenaid mixer to beat the Whites and Sugar while I mixed up the other ingredients and then folded the Whites in from there. It’s not blueberry season but I was able to find good berries at my local market. Also, the 40 minute bake time worked perfectly.
This will definitely be a ‘go to’ recipe. The cake is not overly sweet but just sweet enough and it really does melt in your mouth, as it is light and fluffy. Joann advised that it’s even better the day after as it seems to get more moist (I know, I hate that word too but it’s the perfect word to describe good cake, am I right?). So, do your best and try to leave some for the next day.
I would ask that as you make this cake, you remember Glenys and Joann, cook with a grateful heart, and always wear a colorful apron. I can’t be sure but I swear it makes food taste better. Enjoy!
Source for Vintage Photo: Anne Taintor via Pinterest
*** UPDATE FOR THOSE WITH ALLERGIES*** My girlfriend and her son suffer from food allergies so she made the following substitutions: For a gluten free, soy free and dairy free version, replace baking flour with gluten free baking flour at the required amount, replace the shortening with organic palm shortening (regular shortening uses soybean oil), and replace milk with organic coconut cream (full fat). She also replaced refined sugar with coconut palm sugar. It’s lower on the glycemic index and doesn’t alter your sugar levels. She advises that the cake will have to bake it a little longer so be sure to check it often. Thanks, Leigh-Ann, for your expertise!