One of my Christmas gifts this year was a small 4-½ x 6 inch leather bound book engraved “Cooking Recipes”, purchased at an antique mall in Sugar Creek, Ohio.  The pages are edged in gold and there are 10 index tabs for food categories.  

The real gold in this book, though, is the collection of handwritten recipes.  There aren’t a lot of recipes – just 25, 22 of which are desserts.  The book itself could have been from the 1930s, but I believe the recipes are from the 1945-1950 era.  This is based on a lot of recipes calling for shortening, for using the word “oleo” rather than margarine in most recipes and the attention given to oven temperatures.  I believe it’s post-World War II because of all of the sugar-laden desserts.  

The handwriting is clear and ingredients are listed correctly, although most of the recipes give no idea of how the item is to be prepared, what kind of pan to use or how long to bake.  That’s why I’ve decided to make each of the recipes, using the products specified, and adding my own instructions.  I like to think that the woman from the 1940s kitchen (who would have been about my mother’s age) would enjoy having someone fuss around with these recipes again and turn out some delicious food for the family.

I made this Spice Cake twice because I misread the handwriting in the book and used too much vinegar the first time.  I also thought apple cider vinegar would work well but it didn’t. This cake is what I would call a weekday-supper cake.  It’s easy to mix, spicy, and a good cake – just not a Sunday dinner cake.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour*
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup soft shortening

*Substitute for cake flour:  For each cup of cake flour, Place 2 Tblsp. cornstarch in a one-cup dry measure.  Fill to the top with all-purpose flour.

My vintage Swansdown cake flour scoop

Have all ingredients at room temperature

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Grease and flour two 9-inch layer cake pans

In a large mixer bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together for one minute:

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg.  Add gradually to the egg/sugar mixture until the dry ingredients are absorbed.

In a one-cup liquid measure combine the vinegar, milk and vanilla.

Add one-half of the milk mixture along with the shortening to the mixer bowl and beat for one minute.

Add the remaining milk mixture and beat for one additional minute.

Pour into the two prepared 9 inch layer pans …

….and bake @ 375 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.

Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn cakes out onto the rack to continue to cool completely.

The recipe didn’t specify a frosting, so I used the only one in the book (for Peppermint Candy Cake and left out the crushed candy).  It’s a basic frosting that my mother would have called “butter cream icing”.


  • ¼ cup softened margarine
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 3-4 tsp. milk
  • ¼ cup pecans (for topping)

Beat together the margarine, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Gradually add 3-4 tsp. milk until frosting is of a good spreading consistency.

Frost the top of the bottom cake layer.

Place the top layer on and frost the sides, then the top of the cake.  Place pecan halves on the top of the cake.

6 to 8 servings