Nan-nan’s cupcakes

Looking through Nan-nan’s recipe books, the first thing that caught my eye was a recipe for cupcakes from her sister June, see below. I’ve preserved her notes and phrasing as much as possible but have adjusted certain elements to be more usable.

I’m an OK baker but more of a pies-and-cookies person. Every cake I’ve ever made seems a little meh. These were not meh, 10/10.


Cup Cakes

From June, Merle’s favorite. Good with baked icing or white fudge icing. Makes 12.

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).

In a large bowl, cream together ½ c (113 g) softened unsalted butter, 1 c (200 g) sugar, ½ t salt, and 1 t vanilla extract until very fluffy and light. Next, beat in 4 egg yolks until thick and light in color. In another bowl, sift together 2 c (230 g) all purpose flour and 2 t baking powder. In small, alternating amounts, add the flour mixture and ⅔ c (158 ml) milk to the butter mixture. Beat after each addition, until smooth.

Pour the batter in to a lined cupcake tin, filling each cup ⅔ of the way. Bake in a moderate oven, about 350F (175C), 25 to 30 minutes. Turn the tin once halfway through if you find one side is browning more than the other.

Additional notes

Note that the cupcake recipe originally calls for Spry, a vegetable shortening. I’ve substituted butter here since that’s what I’ve got.

The original recipe also specified 2 c of sifted flour, with an additional note that specified Gold Medal or Swans Down flour. Gold Medal is usually plain / all purpose flour, and Swans Down only produces cake flour AFAIK. This made determining the metric measurement kind of ambiguous, 2 c sifted all purpose flour is significantly different than cake flour. The measurement below worked well ultimately, but I’d like to try cake flour eventually so will need to keep this in mind.

She originally said it makes 18, but I found that it is much closer to 12 in a 12-cup cupcake tin with cups that measured 2″ (4.25 cm) in diameter across the base. The flour debacle might have caused the difference.

The cupcakes supposedly go well with “baked icing”, something I had never come across before. I tried it with baked frosting and failed *spectacularly*. I can see that it could be great though, kind of like a molasses-y meringue on top, so I’ll try again and note here if successful.

Nan-nan’s recipe books

Handwritten recipes by my paternal grandmother

My cousin kindly let me borrow my paternal grandmother’s cookbooks for the next few months until we meet again in August. One is a comb-bound cookbook assembled by the community of Worthington, OH. The other is more of a diary where she recorded her favourite recipes. I had NO idea that these books existed. I had always been told she didn’t keep track of her recipes, so this is pretty exciting.

It’s going to take a while to go through the cookbooks, so I took some rough photos of all of the spreads in case I don’t get through it all by the time I return them. It’s classic late 20th-century Midwestern fare. Most of the pages are dedicated to sweets of all sorts, and there are a fair few recipes that call for Velveeta cheese, Jello, or Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. I’ll probably steer clear of the gelatine “salads” and sadly have to avoid the cheesiest of things, but I’m up for everything else!

I’ll share some of Nan-nan’s recipes in future notes as I try them.

Effie Bradley’s memoranda

Over the holidays, Grandpa showed me Effie Bradley’s daily memoranda. Effie was his grandma on his mother’s side, so my great-great grandmother. I asked if Effie was short for anything, he wasn’t sure. It may have been Euphemia, but maybe Effie wasn’t a nickname.

The relative that typed up the memoranda was June Bradley Piper, Grandpa’s double cousin. Double cousins are related via both parents (two brothers partnering with two sisters). I’d never heard of that before. I think June was named after Grandpa’s paternal grandfather June Piper. I didn’t know June was used as a male name. Via Wikipedia: “As a boy’s name, June reached a peak in 1922 at 697th, but then also declined and left the top 1000 list in 1939.”

Read Effie Bradley’s January 1902 memoranda

Grandma Piper’s Sugar Cookies

The best & easy
Bake @ 375°F (190°C) 8 min

Cream:

  • 1 c (226 g) butter
  • 1 c (200 g) granulated sugar

Beat in:

  • 1 egg
  • ½ t vanilla

Add:

  • ½ t baking powder
  • 1 c (120 g) wheat flour
  • 1 ½ c (188 g) white flour

Use 3 trays. Make a fat rope. Pinch off pieces on to trays. Flatten each 3x by dipping ⅓c measure into sugar in ½c measure. Cool cookies on newspaper.


The recipe above was written by hand in to a community cookbook she gave me in 2001. It retains her original wording and formatting, though I have added gram and Celsius conversions.

We miss you so much.

XYT: Detroit Streets

Been away from the desk for a while, and thus the blog has been on hiatus. With good reason, though: I was on holiday in the states at long last! Got to participate in two friends’ lovely wedding outside Boston, and then we visited family in Nashville, the south coast of Lake Michigan, and Chicago.

Sam was a lucky duck and got to spend a day exploring on his own in the windy city. He saw a ton, including XYT: Detroit Streets, an installation by Zago Architecture at The Art Institute of Chicago. He filmed a little sample of it on his phone. Wish I could have seen it in person.

Watch clip (YouTube)