Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Great Grandmother's Recipe Book

My great-grandmother, Annie O'Toole, was a remarkable woman.  She lived in Wilkes-Barre, Pennylvania and was the light of my mother's life, just like my grandmother, Helen, was the light of mine.  Annie was not educated beyond the third grade (as you can see from her spelling and handwriting), but she was very wise.   She kept a spotless house, even with six children and Uncle Johnny (her brother in law) living there.

I am told that she was a fantastic cook.  This must have skipped a generation, because her daughter, my Nana Dunn, was a terrible chef.  Her burgers were so over done that the National Hockey League could have used them at center ice.  My mother has the cooking gene.  I have Nana O'Toole's periwinkle blue bean pot.

Annie's recipes were written in an old pay booklet that must have been from my great grandfather's employer.  He worked in a lace mill as a weaver.  That's her book scanned above, open to the Old Kentucky Nut Cake recipe and signed with her name.  I noodled around on the Internet and found the same recipe with more modern measurements instead of her quaint "coffee cup full" directions.  I kind of like her non-precise recipe better.  I am proud to have been named after her. 

Old Kentucky Nut Cake from


  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped walnuts


  1. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Combine milk and vanilla, and add alternately with flour mixture to egg mixture. Fold in nuts. Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13 inch cake pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.                at she didn't go too far beyond a third grade eduation.

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