The Deliciously Dirty Pages

This is the latest installment of a new feature on to showcase 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 is featuring 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 recipes: Old-school cakes

As a kid, I remember my mom making cakes which we’d now consider being old-school. They included ingredients which I honestly don’t see much in today’s cake world. Ingredients like rhubarb and applesauce.

I think my mom and grandmas always made these types of hearty cakes because they utilized things they already had in the yard – perennial rhubarb and apples from the trees which they turned into canned applesauce to house all winter.

The smells from these two cakes were amazing, with the scents of warm flavors permeating the house.

Just writing about them had this writer assembling the ingredients for at least the applesauce cake because rhubarb is obviously not in season and there was none put away for the freezer in this household. But back in my mom’s world, she always made sure to cook down rhubarb and freeze it, so it could be used all year round.

These recipes are found nearly side by side in the Pope John Cookbook, pages 36 and 37, with plenty of stains left behind due to the many times the pages were accessed.

Rhubarb Cake by Mrs. Bruce E. Staashelm

½ cup shortening

1 ½ cups brown sugar

1 egg

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups rhubarb


½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup chopped nuts

Cream shortening and sugar together. Add egg and beat well. Sift dry ingredients together and add alternately with buttermilk. Add vanilla. Cut rhubarb in fine pieces and add to batter. Pour into 9×13-inch pan and sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Apples may be substituted for rhubarb.


Applesauce Cake by Mrs. August Kerkman

½ cup shortening (soft)

2 cups sugar

2 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ teaspoon soda

1 ½ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon allspice

½ cup water

½ cup nuts

1 cup raisins

1 ½ cups applesauce

2 eggs

Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice together. Cream shortening and sugar together. Add sifted dry ingredients, water, nuts and raisins. Beat. Add applesauce and eggs, beat. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.

Then make the caramel frosting:

1/3 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

¼ cup milk

2 ¼ cups powdered sugar

Heat butter and brown sugar together and cook two minutes. Add milk and cook until mixture comes to boil over medium heat. Cool to lukewarm. Beat in powdered sugar slowly. Beat until creamy and spread on cooled cake.

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