Grandma’s Baking Recipes

back2When my grandmother died, seven years ago, one object I took from her home to mine was her book of baking recipes. Grandma was a good cook, but a passionate baker. She loved trying out new recipes, and the book I inherited is full of traces of sugar and flour. Whenever there was a family party, she would proudly carry in several huge, delicious confections and spoil us all with the results of her latest experiments. What I remember most fondly, however, are her simpler cakes: poppy tart, Baumkuchen (layered cake?) and cheesecake. She encouraged my sister and me to start baking ourselves, and we began doing so when we were no more than 9 and 7 (and yes, that included dealing with the hot oven).

The baking book is from the 1970s, I guess, and it is comfortably old-fashioned. There is no thought whatsoever of calories, and very little of using wholemeal products. No mention is made of cake mixes and batter mixes. Instead there are loads of classic German and international recipes for cakes, tarts, pies and cookies. Some of them are too rich for present taste, but the great majority holds up very nicely.

What is my grandmother’s legacy beyond the recipe book itself? I still bake cheesecake using her recipe, and I have never come across a better one. I am not afraid to try new recipes, although nowadays I do more cooking than baking. I never ever use ready-made mixes and batters, mostly because I know how incredibly fast I can mix the fresh ingredients myself. I love the sensuous experience of touching ingredients with my hands, be it kneading yeast dough or peeling almonds. By now my older nieces have started baking, and I hope that the cheesecake will delight another generation.

What recipes or other traditions have been passed through the generations in your families?

16 thoughts on “Grandma’s Baking Recipes

  1. AndyR

    When I was a kid, Christmas at Grandma’s meant lutfisk (yuck!). We kids didn’t like the stuff (a white fish in a white sauce) so my mother would bring a ham loaf. Now we do ham loaf for Christmas. My mother taught me to make it and I taught my niece or one of my cousins can do it.

  2. Victoria S

    I can cook like no-body’s business, but bake…I am the worst! I don’t have the touch for baking and I applaud anyone who does. I am so bad, that even though we host Memorial Day Barbecue, Thanksgiving Dinner and Christmas Breakfast( which I prepare for approx 60-80 people from scratch) I have been asked not to bake again, and desserts are ALWAYS provided by other family members.
    A tradition I have started is my 11 year old niece and 6 year old nephew help me cook dinner, and yes it also includes a hot stove. The 11 year old has been helping me for about 4 years now, and is quite an accomplished sous chef. :) I love being in the kitchen with them, and they love the idea that we are eating something that came from their hands. The 6 year old is more enthusiastic than helpful right now, but with time I have high hopes for him also. Besides… I am getting older and am gonna need help for those huge dinners I prepare. :)

  3. Caryl


    Can you share your cheesecake recipe? I cannot be persuaded to like cheesecake, but all my family does and I’d love to have a recipe that brings me over.


  4. MarissaB

    Yes, please, Rike. Share your cheesecake recipe with us. Unless, of course, it is a family secret.

  5. Cora

    We don’t have that exact cookbook, but very similar ones from the 1960s and 1970s.

    I enjoy cooking and baking. When I bake, most of it is based on recipes from my mother and other relatives. I sometimes make an almond cake based on a recipe from a great-aunt from Eastern Prussia.

    When cooking I use some of my mother’s tried and true recipes (e.g. the curry that used to be served on the steamers of the North German Lloyd shipping company and came directly from one of their chefs), but I experiment more, because my parents’ taste is more traditional than my own. On the other hand, I share some of my recipes with my mother.

    We do have one traditional family recipe passed down through the generations and that is the recipe for herring salad (you know, the salad with beet root that looks pink) which we always have around Christmas time. The recipe came down to us from my grandma and she certainly didn’t invent it either. The portion is enough to feed a small army or a very large family, so we have cut down the amounts and eliminated the eight boiled potatoes (which are basically filler) altogether. A big bowl of the stuff still lasts from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Night.

  6. Rike

    I will gladly share the recipe, but am awfully busy this weekend, and translating recipes isn’t easy. Please check back in a few days’ time!

  7. Ellen AAR

    I love to bake and my grandmother left me a chocolate sheet cake recipe that is delicious. We make it often for special occasions. I love cheesecake, but never had any luck with it until I tried the one in Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Cake Bible. The secret is to bake it in a water bath.

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