Life can be celebrated in many different ways. Years ago, when arriving home from school, Mother made sure there’d be cookies or freshly made sweet bread waiting for me on the kitchen table. On Oct. 4, when I became a year older, a homemade angel food cake drizzled with pink and green frosting was placed on the dining room table to enjoy with family and friends. It was also the feast of my patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, who, like me, loved animals. So I always made sure my dog, Suzy, celebrated the day, too, with small piece of cake.

Reader requests and recipes throughout the year also become special gifts. Let’s start with a delicious apple recipe from longtime reader Donna Brooks, Baraboo, who has shared many other favorite recipes in the past. This is a favorite apple cake recipe that her friends enjoyed so much they asked for the recipe.

Caramel apple cake

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups white sugar

3 eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups peeled sliced apples

1 cup chopped walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour

Beat together oil and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together; add in small amounts and beat well. Stir in apples. Combine nuts with flour and stir in batter. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Remove from oven and immediately spread with topping.

Caramel topping

½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

¼ cup milk

Combine ingredients, boil over medium heat for 3 minutes and spread at once on cake.

Another special recipe arrived from Glenda Lindsay, Madison, who discovered it in “The American Country Inn and Bed and Breakfast Cookbook” by Kitty and Lucian Maynard with this favorite from The Frederick Fitting House, Bellville, Ohio. Every time she serves it to guests, they ask for the recipe.

Dutch babies with fresh strawberries

2 tablespoons butter

2 eggs

½ cup milk

½ cup all-purpose flour

Dash of salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups sliced strawberries or other fresh berries, sugared

Confectioners’ sugar (powdered)

Vanilla yogurt (or cottage cheese)


Using a 9-inch glass pie baking plate, melt butter in plate in a 425 degree oven. In mixing bowl, beat eggs and milk together. Add flour, salt and nutmeg; mix well, leaving mixture a bit lumpy. Remove the pie plate from the oven and pour mixture into it. Bake 12-15 minutes. This will rise dramatically on the sides. Remove from oven and slice. Top with sliced strawberries; sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Place a dollop of vanilla yogurt in the middle and sprinkle yogurt with nutmeg.

Note: To this “good, easy and impressive dessert”, Lindsay adds a shot of cassis or any orange flavored liqueur, or a liberal “drop” of Fiori di Sicilia to the berries.

A reader recently sent me a letter asking for David Letterman’s Mom’s recipe for French onion soup. It had once been featured here but the reader had misplaced it. It’s a good thing the book, “Home Cookin’ With Dave’s Mom!” is still within reach so the reader can continue to prepare and enjoy it as in the past.

Also please remember to include your name and way to reach you when sending requests. Grazie!

Unforgettable French onion soup

6 cups beef broth

2 large onions, thinly sliced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

½ cup sliced almonds

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

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2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 cups homemade or store-bought croutons

1 ½ cups shredded Swiss cheese, or 6 ounces sliced

In large saucepan, over medium heat, combine beef broth, onions, mushrooms, almonds, butter, sherry (if you like) and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until onions are tender. Ladle soup into 4 microwave-safe or broiler-safe bowls. Top with croutons and cheese. Cook in microwave or under the broiler until cheese melts. (Allow about 2 ½ minutes on high power in the microwave.) Note: Don’t leave out the mushrooms and almonds — they make all the difference.

Makes 4 main dish servings.

Note: Apparently Dorothy Letterman discovered this recipe in The Cider Press, a newsletter featuring the Beasley Orchard in Danville, Indiana.

Penny Tjugum recently shared a doughnut recipe that belonged to Mayme Lang, a distant relative of her husband, Don. Whenever Trinity Lutheran Church on Winnebago Street had a bazaar and bake sale, Mayme’s doughnuts sold out immediately. Penny would learn later that Mayme started frying doughnuts for the family at the age of 10 when her mother became ill and through the years that amounted to thousands. The recipe was passed on to the Tjugums by Mayme who continued making them for the Keen-Agers Senior Center to serve with “country coffee.” When she celebrated her 100th birthday, she referred to herself as a “Trinity antique”, while members of her Trinity family called her “a treasure.”

Mayme’s doughnuts

3 eggs, beaten

2 cups sugar

½ cup margarine

½ cup melted lard

2 cups buttermilk (I use Kemp’s)

4+ cups flour (an old-fashioned sifter full)

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons nutmeg

Mix first five ingredients in the order given. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and nutmeg. Add to mixture. Roll dough onto well-floured table. (Add flour if needed to roll.) Roll one-half inch thick: cut with doughnut cutter. Fry in Oscar Mayer lard until brown. Turn and brown other side. Remove, drain, and place on cookie sheet to cool. When cool, dust with regular sugar or powdered sugar. As soon as they are cool, seal in plastic bags and freeze if desired.

Mayme signed the recipe “Good Luck!”

And last, but never least, here is an excellent after school cookie from “Food Editors’ Favorites.” It won a ribbon in a Minnesota State Fair and submitted by food editor Eleanor Ostman, St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Everyday cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup crispy rice cereal

1 cup quick-cooking oats

1 cup shredded coconut

½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugars, and oil. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well so oil doesn’t separate. Add flour mixed with cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Stir in rice cereal, oats, coconut, and nuts. Drop by teaspoonsful onto ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake on lower oven shelf 5-6 minutes. Move to middle of oven and finish baking until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t become too brown. Remove from sheets and cool.

Recent request: Favorite fall recipes

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at greenbush4@aol.com.