Peppermint Candy Cake – a 1940s Recipe

One of my Christmas gifts 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.

Here is a nice cake that will use up some of your leftover peppermint candy canes.  Crush the candy as fine as possible by putting it in a plastic bag and hitting it with the flat side of a mallet.

The candy softens when the cake is baked but the pieces sprinkled on top can be a little crunchy.  The next time, I think I’ll substitute peppermint decorative sugar for sprinkling on top.

There were no directions for mixing the cake, pan size or baking time, so this is how I made it.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil (canola)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • 1/3 cup finely crushed peppermint stick candy
  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans

To Make the Cake:

In large bowl of mixer, place flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, oil, milk, water, vanilla and food coloring.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Update:  Add crushed peppermint candy along with the food coloring.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

Gently fold beaten whites into the cake mixture.  Divide mixture between the two prepared layer cake pans and bake @ 325 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.

Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then loosen and turn out onto racks to continue cooling completely.

Note:  The candy stuck a bit in one of the layer pans but it was easy to remove and  was covered by frosting before adding the second layer.

To Make the Frosting:


  • ¼ cup margarine, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tblsp. milk
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ cup finely crushed peppermint stick or a sprinkling of peppermint decorative sugar

To make frosting:

Combine margarine, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla – beat until smooth.  If necessary, add a drop or two of milk or a bit more powdered sugar until frosting is desired consistency.

Frost top of bottom layer lightly.

Place top layer on top of bottom layer and frost sides first, then top.  Sprinkle top with crushed peppermint candy or peppermint decorative sugar.

Servings:  6 to 8

This is a moist, pale pink cake with a mild peppermint flavor.  My family liked it a lot.

Quick and Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

If you’re looking for an easy item to add to your New Year’s Eve snack table, this might be just right.   Make it early in the day to allow for a 3-4 hour chilling period.  Or make it days ahead of time and store at room temperature in a closed container.  It’s my favorite peanut butter fudge because the peanut butter flavor really comes through.


  • Servings: Depends on size of squares
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  • 2 cups peanut butter chips
  • 14 oz. can Eagle Brand condensed milk
  • Dash of salt
  • 1-½ tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ½ to 1 cup of salted peanuts

Line two 8 inch plates with foil and butter the foil.

Have the peanut butter and peanuts measured and at hand.

In a large saucepan over low heat, place peanut butter chips, condensed milk and salt.  Stir constantly until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Add peanut butter and stir until smooth.

Pour half of the mixture onto a prepared plate.  Mix ½ cup peanuts into the remaining fudge and pour onto the other prepared plate.

Cover with foil and refrigerate for 3-4 hours until the top of the fudge feels solid to the touch.

Remove foil and cut into squares.

Of course, you could make the entire mixture with peanuts by using the full one cup or eliminate the peanuts entirely for a creamy plain peanut butter fudge.

Once fudge is set, it can be kept at room temperature in a covered container.

Mom’s Bourbon Pecan Fudge

My youngest daughter loved the bourbon fudge she had ordered online and I put together this recipe to try to duplicate it.  It’s not exactly the same, but very good and very easy to make.  This is an adult candy but the bourbon flavor is not too strong.  It just adds a nice mellow taste to a creamy, rich fudge.


  • Servings: Depends on size of squares
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4 cups Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips (two 11.5 oz. packages)*
14-oz can Eagle Brand condensed milk
Dash of salt
¼ cup bourbon
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

* You could use any kind of chocolate chips – our family is partial to both milk chocolate and Ghirardelli chips.

  • Line an 8-inch pan with foil and butter the foil.
  • In a large heavy saucepan, place chocolate chips, condensed milk and salt.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until chips are melted.
  • Remove from heat.  Stir in bourbon gradually, stirring until smooth.  Stir in chopped pecans.

  • Pour into prepared pan and refrigerate for 4-5 hours until fudge is set and completely cool – the top should feel solid.

  • Remove candy from pan by lifting foil.  Peel foil from bottom of fudge and place on a cutting board.  Score the fudge into the size pieces you prefer.  The eight-inch pan will hold fudge that is about one-inch thick.  Cut the fudge into squares.**

Store in a tightly covered container.  Once the fudge is set, refrigeration is not needed – store at room temperature.

**Makes 16 two-inch squares of fudge.  Note that these are BIG pieces of fudge.  You could also use a nine-inch pan and cut the candy into smaller squares.

Key Lime Pie Fudge Dessert

Using, I happened upon a wonderful dessert blog, dozen, and found this recipe which I adapted just a bit.  I used Key limes but I’m sure regular limes would work just as well.  This fudge has a delicious, tart flavor and I like the crunchiness of the graham cracker crust.  I think it turns a very good candy into a great mini-dessert.


Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups finely crushed graham crackers


  • 3 cups white chocolate chips (Ghirardelli)
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (non-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Key lime zest  (6 Key limes)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a square 8″x8 baking pan with foil or parchment paper, extending it up and over pan to allow for easier removal of the fudge.  Butter sides and bottom of the pan, especially the corners. Set aside.

To make the crust:   In a medium sized bowl, place butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs.  Stir with a fork and toss to mix well.  Spread evenly on the bottom of the baking pan…

…and bake for 4 to 5 minutes @ 375 degrees F or until edge is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Stir white chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a large heavy saucepan over low heat just until chocolate is melted and all the lumps are gone.

Remove from heat and stir in zest and juice. Spread mixture evenly over the baked crust.

Cover and chill for at least two hours.  Lift the fudge from the pan using edges of foil. Peel off foil …

…and use a heavy non-serrated knife to cut the fudge into 25 pieces.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Yield:  25 pieces

I served two of these as a very rich, delicious, girly dessert.

Baby Ruth Bars–Cookie or Candy?

My husband, David, was so proud of the 40 years he worked for Good Samaritan Hospital (Cincinnati) and he was proud of anything that Good Sam did such as distributing a small cookbook in 1982.  I found this recipe for Baby Ruth Bars in the book and made them for him to take in his lunchbox.  It’s a cross between cookie and candy, but either way makes a nice snack.


  • 3-1/2 cups corn flakes
  • 1/4 cup peanuts
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white Karo syrup
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter


  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips)
  • 1-1/2 Tblsp. peanut butter
  • 2 Tblsp. butter

To make the bars: In a buttered 9×9 dish place the cornflakes.  Sprinkle the peanuts evenly over the top.  Set aside.

In a small pan over medium high heat combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar and Karo syrup.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil for one minute without stirring.

Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter.  Pour this over the cornflake/nut mixture.  Butter your hands and gently press down on the mixture.

To make the frosting: In a small saucepan over low heat, stir until melted the chocolate chips, 1-1/2 Tblsp. peanut butter and the butter.  Mix well and spread over mixture in baking dish.  It’s OK if some of the peanuts peek through.

Place on a wire rack and while still warm, cut into 16 bars and remove from baking dish.  If you forget to get them out and the caramel is sticking to the bottom, place the glass dish in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.

These are really good.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Crunch

After snacking for a month on Rolo Pretzel Candy, I found myself with a lot of leftover broken pretzels.  I looked around on the internet and put several ideas together to get this candy which is quick to make, delicious, and uses up broken pretzels.


  • 2 cups broken pretzels
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup salted peanuts
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup undiluted evaporated milk
  • 2 Tblsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the pretzels, marshmallows and peanuts.  Set aside.

In a heavy medium saucepan, place the sugar, evaporated milk and butter.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil – bubbles across the top surface.

Remove from heat and add peanut butter chips and milk chocolate chips.  Allow to stand for one minute, then stir to combine.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Pour the chip mixture over the pretzel mixture, stirring to coat.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto two wax-paper-lined baking sheets, using your fingers to press the molds together.

Chill until firm.  Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.  These also freeze well.  I like to put 2 or 3 in a zip-lock bags for freezing and to keep me from eating too many at one time.

Makes 25-30 pieces, depending on size.

Rolo Pretzel Candy

I found this idea several places on the internet and it was our snack of choice for the month of December.  It’s very easy and very delicious.


  • Servings: As few or many as you want to make
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  • Rolo caramel candy
  • Small round pretzels
  • Toasted nuts

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with foil.

Place round pretzels on the foil-lined sheet.  Unwrap and place a Rolo candy piece on each pretzel.  Place in the preheated 300 degree F oven for 3 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately press a piece of nut into the top of each Rolo.

Place in the refrigerator to chill for 10-15 minutes.

Place some Rolo Pretzel Candy on a plate and watch it disappear.

Any kind of toasted nut would work – pecans, walnuts, almonds, cashews, etc.

Buttermilk Pralines

Making candy, especially with a thermometer, is not one of my strong points, but these pralines always turn out well – buttery and full of toasted pecans.  I first made them in 1986, using a recipe card from Saco Buttermilk Powder.  I like this powder very much and use it a lot in lieu of having a quart of buttermilk in the refrigerator all the time.


  • Servings: Approx. 15, depending on size
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  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup Saco Buttermilk Powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tblsp. butter
  • 1-1/2 cups toasted pecan halves
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Line a large cookie sheet with foil and butter the foil.

In a large heavy pot (like a Dutch oven), combine the sugar, soda, salt and buttermilk powder.  Stir in the cup of water. Insert a candy thermometer and bring mixture to a boil over high heat (#9 on my gauge), stirring constantly until mixture reaches 210 degrees on the thermometer.

Reduce heat to medium  (#6) and stir in butter and pecans.  Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture reaches 230 degrees on the thermometer.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Allow mixture to stand in pan for 5 minutes, then beat with a wooden spoon for 5 to 8 minutes until mixture loses its gloss and begins to thicken.  Drop in mounds on the buttered foil and allow to cool.

Makes about 15 pralines, depending on size.

This candy is forgiving – even when it’s not perfect, it’s so delicious with its buttery caramelized sugar holding together big toasted pecans that no one notices any little flaws.  Just the kind of candy for me to make.

Christmas Fudge

During the rationing of World War II, we children craved sugar

As we watched Mother sprinkle carefully measured spoonsful over our oatmeal.

We wanted more sweetness in our hot chocolate, in our pudding;

We longed for a bottomless sugar bowl.

But in the fall Mother stood in long lines that coiled around the city tenements

To get an extra bag of sugar allotted for canning and preserving.

She squirreled this away until Christmas

When it was transformed into the most glorious pecan studded fudge,

Sweet enough to make up for a whole year of rationing.

“Christmas Fudge”, by Lillian – 1997

My mother was famous in our family for her homemade fudge, made without benefit of a candy thermometer and cooked and beaten until it was perfect.  Then, it was placed in a special rose-bedecked tin to be brought out on Christmas Eve, opened and squares of never-to-be-forgotten goodness placed on her fancy Christmas plate.

I was never able to duplicate her fudge and have had to rely on the easier candy since she passed away in 1991.  I have several good recipes but my oldest daughter asked for some fudge made with marshmallows rather than marshmallow creme, so this is the version I made for her.


  • Servings: Depends on size of squares
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  • 2 cups mini-marshmallows*
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli)
  • 1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup undiluted evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

*20 large marshmallows = 2 cups mini-marshmallows.  Cut large marshmallows into 8 pieces using kitchen shears that are dipped in water to prevent sticking.

Butter a large plate or platter

In a medium bowl, combine the marshmallows, chips and walnuts.  Have ready and at hand before starting the fudge.

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, combine the sugar and milk.  Cook over medium high heat (#6 on my gauge) until the mixture comes to a boil, stirring occasionally.  When there are bubbles across the entire top surface of the mixture, set a timer for 5 minutes and cook at the same heat setting, stirring occasionally.

After 5 minutes, remove pan from heat and stir in the marshmallows, chips and nuts, stirring quickly until the marshmallows and chips are melted.  Stir in the vanilla.

Immediately pour onto the buttered plate and let cool at room temperature.

This is a batch made with milk chocolate chips.  I also made a batch with semi-sweet chips, resting on Mother’s World War II era platter.

Mother always cut her fudge in big squares.

The fudge does not need to be refrigerated.  Should be stored in a container with a tight lid.   My mother’s old rose tin is just the right size for a batch of fudge.

This is not even close to my Mother’s fudge, but brings back the memories of all the Christmas Eves when I enjoyed her wonderful candy.