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English Fruit Cake

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So, this is the first real recipe out of Hermena’s cookbook.  It was not part of the original cookbook but instead, she apparently cut it out and glued (pasted) it in.   She even used her pinking shears to cut the edges – and I remember those shears in her kitchen when I was a kid.  (I also now have a new pair in my sewing room that I use – predates serger sewing machines and clips a curved seam like magic!)

Because baby Eleanor and I are now gluten free, I’ve updated the recipe and made it gluten free (gf), too.  And it still tastes yummy.

And my husband loved it.  You should know that he HATES bananas.  He tried this voluntarily even though I thought he might be ill for doing so.  I never intentionally trick him into eating something I know he doesn’t like.  So was very surprised at his trying it AND liking it.  That should be sufficient testimony that this is a very yummy recipe!


So, while this may be CALLED fruit cake, it really seems to me to be more of a banana bread with fruit in it.  In fact, because of the stigma attached to fruit cakes, I would not tell anyone what the real name is if you make it.  🙂

That said – what IS a fruit cake?  It is a cake made with chopped candied fruit (maraschino cherries) and/or dried fruit, nuts, spices and sometimes soaked in alcohol.  It is an old timey recipe and this combination is for a reason – to preserve fruit to eat later.

Long ago, before electricity (or even the internet!) storing food was a problem.  Drying fruit worked well but… so does making candied fruit – which is fresh fruit boiled in a sugar syrup – trading the water in the fruit for sugar.  High concentrations of sugar prevent bacteria and mold from growing – so the fruit is preserved.  With the developement of sugar plantations in the Caribbean in the 1500’s following the western discovery of the new world, sugar suddenly became plentiful and so much cheaper – allowing many more people to preserve their fruit in this manner.

Along these lines, rum is often frequently used in fruit cake.  Rum is made from sugar cane juice (sugar cane is a grass – the juice is squeezed out and the sugar is extracted from the juice – so yes, sugar is just grass juice) and because alcohol also stops bacteria and other creepy crawlies from doing their thing on food, it also was an excellent means of food preservation.

So, you combine a whole lot of candied and dried fruits with a flour dough and then soak them in alcohol and you then have an excellent way to preserve food all winter long.  Makes you appreciate your local grocery store a bit more now doesn’t it!

English Fruit Cake

On to the recipe…

If you aren’t gluten free, you don’t need to worry about this, but if you are, this is the flour mix that I used.

GF Flour Mix – makes 3 cups

2 c white rice flour

2/3 c potato starch flour

1/3 c tapioca flour

1 t xantham gum

English Fruit Cake – updated

1/2 c coconut oil
1 c sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 c. mashed bananas)
2 c flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 c nuts, chopped
1/2 c chocolate chips – mini works better
16 oz jar stemless maraschino cherries – chop 2/3 of the jar (about 1/2 c) and slice the remaining in 1/2


Cream together coconut oil and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add bananas.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and add to batter.

Fold in the nuts, chocolate chips and chopped cherries.

Pour into greased angel food or bunt cake pan.  Top with cherry halves.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.


It really came out well, not terribly tall, but yummy still.  Mini chocolate chips will work better – the big ones sank down to the bottom of the cake.  Still good though!  (I made the first one without adding the cherries to the top – I like the extra ones showing better!)


The second version of this cake baked a bit long… and got a bit dark.  Ah well, tasted yummy so no matter!

So, I hope you enjoy this first of many recipes from my Grandma’s cookbook.  Have a lovely day!


Gram’s Cookbook – Page 2

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My Great Grandmother, Edna Loveless, was born in 1894.  In 1916, the date written on the inside cover of this cookbook, she was 23 years old.  Just for some perspective, a 23 year old today would have been born in 1988…

Back in the early part of the 1900’s, life was a tad different than it is today.  First, women in most states, still did not have the right to VOTE.  Can you, as a woman, imagine being denied this fundamental right simply because you do not possess a Y chromosome?  (Or , based on the color of your skin?  But, we know that that sadly took much longer to be put to rights…)

During the beginning of the twentieth century, as women’s suffrage faced several important federal votes, a portion of the suffrage movement known as the National Women’s Party and led by suffragette Alice Paul became the first “cause” to picket outside the White House. Due to this manner of protest, suffragists were subject to arrests and many were jailed.[43] In 1918, Congress passed what became, when it was ratified by sufficient states in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting.

From the Wikipedia site.

Cars were also in their early years… with Model T’s not coming out until the late 1920’s…  This is the Benz Patent Motorwagen, built by the inventor of the modern automobile, Karl Benz, in 1885.

A photograph of the original Benz Patent-Motorwagen, first built in 1885 and awarded the patent for the concept

But, back to the cookbook.

Gram's Cookbook Cover

Ready Reference Recipe Book.  Written inside the cover is what appears to have been the price – 75 cents.  The book was blank, with lined pages with tabs on them – apparently to list what recipes are written on what page.  The rest of the pages are blank, with the page number in the top corner.

Inside of Cookbook Cover

My mom and I were talking about this cookbook… and why Gram had it.  There are several curious aspects to it – namely that the recipes all have names written below them and they’re all written by different people.  Mom remembered that Gram was married in 1918… and we think that this is the “wedding shower” cookbook.  So, Gram would have bought or been given the book (maybe by her mother?) and then given it to different married women that she knew so that they could give her a recipe to use in her new married life.

People still make wedding shower cookbooks – but most are written on recipe cards and then assembled – not written into a blank book just for that purpose.  And, how often do we refer to those modern books?  It looks like this book actually got a bit of use by Gram…

Page 2 - Chicken Bisque

There are 15 pages with recipes written on them – so I will post one per week for over 4 months!   Not a full cookbook, but enough to get a perspective on the foods made by the women of Kansas in the early 1900’s…

So, I will write out the recipe as written, and then, if it is reasonable according to my tastes now, tell you how I made it, with modern recipe written out, and what I thought of it.

Original Chicken Bisque – by Gertrude Hackler

Joint the fowl and cover with cold water, one quart for each pound.  Put in a large minced onion and three stalks of clery, minced fine.  Cover and cook slowly until you can slip the  flesh from the bones.  Let all get cold together; skin, take out the bones and meat, and chopp the latter fine.  Return the soup to the fire and heat in another vessel a cupful of milk (dropping in a little soda).  Thicken this with a tablespoonful of butter rubbed into a teaspoonful of flour, add a tablespoonful of minced parsley.  When the soup has reached a fast boil, stir into it the chopped chicken with a cupful of cracker crumbs soaked in warm milk; boil one minute, beat in the milk and butter and pour out.

As this seemed like a “reasonable” recipe, I decided to give it a try.  There is an updated version of the Chicken Bisque at CopyKat Recipes….

Crockpot Chicken Bisque-ish

1 whole chicken

1 onion, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

red pepper, diced

Italian seasoning


1/4 c flour

2 T. butter

frozen peas

shredded carrots

1 c. quinoa

Put celery, onion, pepper and Italian seasoning into the crockpot and add enough water to nearly cover the chicken.  Cook on high until the chicken comes off of the bone easily.  Separate the meat from the bone and skin, shred the meat into bite sized pieces.

On the stove, in a large soup pot, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter.  Add in 1/4 cup of flour – cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the boiling (or very hot) chicken broth from the crock a bit at a time, stirring the entire time… eventually add it all and cook until it starts to get thick.  Add back in the chicken and veggies.   Stir in any veggies you have hiding in the fridge – I had green peas and carrots.

But, my bisque never bisqued for some reason… so in a desperate act to thicken it up, I added in 1 cup of uncooked quinoa and cooked until the quinoa was done.  That did the trick…

It tasted OK, not super spicey, but OK.  My husband liked it, said that it was very filling.   We love quinoa, so it was a nice addition.  I’ll probably make the quinoa chicken soup recipe again, with more spices added to it.

I hope that you liked week one of Gram’s recipes… next week, it’s Breads!