American Recipe
Project Blog

Food, Family, History

Viewing Category: Desserts »

Aunt Mary’s Zucchini Cake

Oct 19, 2014 | Posted in: , , | 1 Comments



Lately, I’ve been craving this wonderful zucchini cake my Aunt Mary made once when I was up at her and my Uncle Mike’s house in New York State near Batavia. Up there, in farm country where highways are long and flat, and fields are green and lush with vegetation in spring and summer, fresh zucchini is in abundance, ripening in the sun and collected by the bushel. I am quite sure that my version will not rival Aunt Mary’s due to the lack of quality in my produce alone, but it doesn’t matter. For me, making this cake is about remembering some amazingly fun meals we had together in her  kitchen and on the big sunny back porch at their house which looks out over what used to be the potato field (now overgrown) on the farm where my father and Uncle Mike grew up. It’s about remembering those dinners that stretched long into the summer night because the sun wouldn’t set until 9pm, and the conversations that were had around the kitchen table before and after.

My Babcha’s house was next door to Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary’s – the original farmhouse where my father, uncle and their two sisters grew up. When my Babcha still lived there it was easy for her to come over for dinner to my Uncle’s and I remember  her razor sharp wit which she used to “zing” whoever came into her line of fire during the course of conversation. She was a regular firecracker, both kind and outspoken, and even when she was older, she could light up a room.


Ugh. It’s not just the cake. Honestly, the cake doesn’t even fit the real criteria for this project because I’m not sure how many generations it goes back. It’s just that for some reason, the taste, the smell, the recipe card with my Aunt’s familiar handwriting which has been on countless cards and notes of well-wishing over the years, all of it just pulls me into a wormhole that takes me straight to those warm summer nights in upstate New York, watching my parents, Aunt and Uncle and Babcha engage in conversational fireworks on the porch looking over the potato field. And I guess that’s what food like this is all about anyway.


Aunt Mary’s Zucchini Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 lg eggs

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I used more)

3 cups shredded zucchini

1 cup nuts (optional)


Bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes.

13 x 9 greased pan


Sour Cream Frosting

2 1/2 cups 10x sugar (confectioners sugar)

1/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup margarine

3/4 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp salt

Blend together mix well


Elaine’s Pumpkin Cookies

Nov 22, 2013 | Posted in: , , , , | 1 Comments

IMG_3809 (1)


1 cup sugar, 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1/2 cup shortening (CRISCO) solid   (MIX TOGETHER)

2 cups all-purpose* or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder*
1 teaspoon baking soda*
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt*
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup nuts  (optional)

Heat oven to 375,  Mix sugar, pumpkin, shortening.  Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Stir in raisins and nuts.

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake until light brown 8 to 10 min.  Immediately remove from cookie sheet, cool.  Spread w/Light Brown Glaze.  About 4 dozen cookies

*If using self-rising flour, omit baking powder, baking soda and salt.


1/4 cup margarine or butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Heat margarine in 1-1/2 quart saucepan over medium heat until delicate brown.  Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Stir in milk until smooth.

Pumpkin Cookie Post #2 – The Cookie That Never Was

Nov 21, 2013 | Posted in: , , , , | 0 Comments

Elaine and Kerrin-164 copy Elaine and Kerrin-165 copy Elaine and Kerrin-163 copy Elaine and Kerrin-167 copy Elaine and Kerrin-209 copy Elaine and Kerrin-159Elaine and Kerrin-207Elaine and Kerrin-234


To close out our Pumpkin Cookie narrative for our Pie-Tacular, we traveled to Moatsville, West Virginia for (full disclosure) one of my best friend’s weddings. Elaine McMillion, the bride-to-be had mentioned in her submission that this family recipe (Pumpkin Cookies), a Thanksgiving staple, would be made for and served at the wedding, but as it turned out, it was not to be. This bride, who spent the week before the wedding in about three different states, bought the ingredients but never had time to actually get them ready.

I had so much fun (unofficially) photographing this wedding, and the epic dessert table, which included contributions of family and favorite recipes from friends and family alike, that this could hardly be called a loss. It was really touching to see all these people contribute their own little sweet to the dessert table, as a little gift to the bride and groom for guests to enjoy. I toted my own family oatmeal choc – chip walnut cookies from Boston, because I remembered they travel well (my grandmother used to mail them to me in a box when I was in college) and although I make them a bit differently, the result of a delicious, well-traveled cookie, I am happy to report, is the same.

Pumpkin cookies are still a family recipe that is part of the narrative of this now (expanding) family – the sentiment of their presence existed at this wedding even where the cookies themselves did not.

Stay tuned for a video about a traditional apple pie and much more in the coming days! Thanksgiving is almost here!

Grauel/Herec Family Oatmeal Choc-Chip Walnut Cookies

2 sticks butter

1 1/2 c. brown sugar

2 c. flour

2 c. quick cooking oats

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking soda

large pinch of salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup choc chips (chunks are better)

1 cup chopped walnuts

-Preheat oven to 350

-Cream butter and sugar together

-Add in vanilla, egg

-Combine dry ingredients in a bowl (except choc chips and walnuts)

-Mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients

-Stir in chips and walnuts

-Drop by rounded teaspoons on cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes

Pie-Tacular Post #1 Pumpkin Cookies

Nov 12, 2013 | Posted in: , , , , | 0 Comments

For part one of our first Pie-tacular post, we visit the incomparable Ms. Elaine McMillion in Elkview, WV on what is nearly the eve of her wedding! Elaine’s family recipe is an Appalachian classic – Pumpkin Cookies. She had this to say about the recipe

To make this “pumpkin” cookie recipe you need a little bit of pumpkin and a lot of lard and love.

I don’t really know if this cookie has “ethnic” roots but you can find it in some bakeries scattered in Appalachia. It probably came out of a cookbook during wartime.

However, it’s special to me because this is the cookie my family makes every year around Halloween and Thanksgiving. It’s one of those cookies that you end up eating too much of while baking!

The cookie is very moist and thick. Less like a cookie and more like cake. And the icing is thick and super sweet. The icing requires patience to get it to the right consistency without burning the milk.

This has always been a cookie we have made as a family together or have made as a gift to others. When I was little, I would take a whole bag of them to school and share with my classmates. Now on November 17, I will be taking them to my own wedding and sharing them with friends and family there!”

Expect post number two (including the recipe deets) on this history-making family recipe next week, after we’ve hopefully had the opportunity to sample this one in person!

IMG_3809 (1)

Catching Up With Contributor Emily Hull

Sep 15, 2013 | Posted in: , , , , , | 0 Comments


Hello All!

After a summer hiatus, The American Recipe Project is back! We are cooking up new segments, interviews, and help from our friends at contributing institutions. We thought we would begin by a recap on the summer recipes from our wonderful blog contributor, Emily Hull. Emily  and husband Matt are expecting baby Madeleine Ann any day now! Check out her namesake recipe (pictured above) and two other gems from Emily’s archives via the links below.

Oh Baby!

Marcias Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Ice Cream (never too late for ice cream!)

Enjoy everyone!


Page 1 of 3123