The Deliciously Dirty Pages

This is the first installment of a new feature on to feature old, tried and true, family favorite recipes handed down through the generations. And where are they found? On the dirtiest, most stained pages of beloved old cookbooks.

These aren’t The White Pages. They aren’t the Yellow Pages. They are the Deliciously Dirty Pages, where good cooking and memories of great cooks are forever preserved.

This writer has a collection of old cookbooks, ranging in age from 40 to 70 years old, which were used by her mother. She kept the cookbooks and has beautiful memories of making those favored recipes, as well as spilling ingredients on the pages.

The theory is the dirtier the page, the better the recipe.

Each Wednesday, JustMelanieW will feature these culinary wonders, sure to still please because they have been made many times with great success – again, identified by being on the dirtiest pages of these archival hard copy treasures.

We would also love to share your family favorite recipes from your own Deliciously Dirty Pages. Just send them to And if you want to share pictures of the end product, or your family making it, or a picture of the dirty cookbook pages where the recipes were found – please send those my way as well!

Some of our greatest memories come from the kitchen . . . and those Deliciously Dirty Pages.

Today’s featured recipe: Rocky Road Cake

This recipe was contributed by Betty Mannlein back in 1974, when the St. John’s Christian Women (rural Clearwater, Nebraska) created their beautiful cookbook. It is found on Page 40 – which my mother knew by heart.

Mom believed that all meals, regardless of how busy we were, needed a meat, potato, vegetable and dessert. That dessert could also carry over to the next day’s coffee time for the men working on the farm, so she always said to “double it up.”

Many times, she would call from the milk barn and tell me, after I got out of school, “to whip up Betty’s Rocky Road Cake on page 40.”

The recipe had been made so many times, the spilled cocoa and buttermilk made the page almost crunchy so it would create it’s own bookmark of sorts.

This one was always a family favorite and was often found on the potluck tables at St. John’s.

And it’s so easy to make, even a kid couldn’t screw it up back then.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Rocky Road Cake by Betty Mannlein

2 cups flour

1 ¾ cups sugar

4 tablespoons cocoa

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1 teaspoon soda

½ cup salad oil

½ cup oleo (in today’s world, use butter)

2 eggs

½ cup buttermilk (but here’s the weird trick, use 3 tablespoons of buttermilk and then add water to make ½ cup)

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, salt. In a saucepan, combine water, salad oil and oleo. Boil and pour into the flour mixture. Beat until smooth.

Add the eggs, buttermilk and soda, beat well. Pour into an 11×13-inch greased pan. Bake for 18 minutes at 400 degrees.

Now it’s time for the frosting:

½ cup oleo

¼ cup cocoa

1/3 cup buttermilk (again, do the same trick, using 3 tablespoons of buttermilk and then add water to make 1/3 cup)

Bring to a boil. Add one box of powdered sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla and ½ cup of miniature marshmallows. Then add ½ cup of chopped nuts. Spread on the cooled cake.

It should be noted that back in the 1970s, powdered sugar commonly came in boxes whereas today it’s mostly sold in plastic bags. The one box of powdered sugar equates to about one pound.

And if I remember correctly, this cake was delicious with vanilla or chocolate ice cream on top, for a little extra indulgence.

I encourage you try Betty’s masterpiece as soon as possible.


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