Here’s a treasure trove of vintage baking recipes from Simply Recipes’ favorite community cookbooks, newspaper clippings, and family recipe cards.
Community cookbooks and vintage Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks are my weakness. I have dozens. For fun I pull one from the shelf and comb through looking for undiscovered or forgotten gems, something that sounds enticing or is so outlandish that the only way to really know what it’s like is to bake it myself.
Recipes like this can take some of us back to our childhood days, times before fax machines or TV remotes. They might be recipes that your mother or grandmother or another loved one made. Some retro recipes have remained favorites over the years, while others faded to obscurity.
All of the recipes below are ones that the staff at Simply Recipes treasures enough to share with you. We hope they spark old memories or delight you with their offbeat unfamiliarity.
Here’s a quick and easy snacking cake that’s plenty appealing on its own, but the main event is surely the broiled coconut topping. You only need one bowl to make the hot milk sponge cake and the topping, so the cake comes together in a jiffy.
Get Recipe: Lazy Daisy Cake Is a Retro Dessert Ready for a Comeback
Condensed milk, coconut, pecans, and pineapple get lightened with whipped cream in this cooling Southern icebox pie. Why is it called million dollar pie? Because it tastes like a million bucks!
Get Recipe: Million Dollar Pie Tastes Like a Million Bucks
Mayonnaise cakes have been around for many decades; they’re often chocolate, like this one. The mayonnaise stands in for the butter or oil and lends a tang and tenderness to the crumb. Better yet, our mayonnaise cake boasts a luscious frosting that’s the best you’ll ever taste.
Get Recipe: Chocolate Mayonnaise Sheet Cake
In midcentury cookbooks these treats are called Chinese chews, though there’s absolutely nothing Chinese about them. Chopped dates and walnuts meet in sweet and chewy bar cookies that’ll charm everyone who tries them.
Get Recipe: Date Nut Chews
A scoop of Bisquick, an egg, a little milk, and your favorite flavor of pudding mix form the dough for these super-simple drop cookies. Add chips and you’re on your way to the best cookies in 35 minutes flat. I liked butterscotch and lemon (both pictured above) the best of the pudding mixes I tried.
Get Recipe: The 5-Ingredient Retro Cookies I’m Adding to My Daughter’s Lunch Box
The Grasshopper is a 1970s-era cocktail featuring crème de menthe and cream. Grasshopper pie takes those flavors and makes them into a filling that’s set with melted marshmallows. You can substitute mint extract if you want an NA version. Pour it into a chocolate crumb crust and top it with whipped cream.
Get Recipe: Grasshopper Pie
There’s nothing sad about this easy cake, which is really more like extra-chewy blondies with some coconut thrown in. Get it started with a few cups of Bisquick and brown sugar. As the cake bakes, it rises and then fantastically collapses to lend it a slightly wrecked appearance, giving the recipe its name.
Get Recipe: 3-Ingredient Sad Cake Is the Retro Dessert That Deserves a Comeback
Hummingbird cake is a classic Southern cake that originated in a pamphlet released by the Jamaican tourism board; hummingbirds are an national symbol in Jamaica, thus the name. The cake is indeed nectar-sweet, with mashed bananas and pineapple studding moist layers that alternate with cream cheese frosting.
Get Recipe: Hummingbird Cake
This icebox cake is a no-cook wonder that takes its flavor cues from key lime pie. Layer buttery and salty Ritz crackers with a zesty lime and condensed milk filling. The hardest part is waiting for it rest in the fridge!
Get Recipe: Easy Lime Icebox Cake
Perhaps you grew up eating or making this coffee cake, just as our founder Elise Bauer did. “A favorite family ritual growing up was this apple coffee cake on Sunday mornings,” she writes. “My father would prepare it for his six greedy kids, all of us begging for him to pile on the brown sugar streusel topping.” Elise says that her dad usually doubled the recipe to better feed their large family.
Get Recipe: Bisquick Apple Coffee Cake
Just look at this cake! Imagine what an impression it would make at a celebration. And it’s actually not that hard. The base of pound cake and the ice cream filling you can just buy; the meringue is the only part you actually need to make from scratch. Our tips and recipe will guide you to success.
Get Recipe: Baked Alaska
Sometimes called Hello Dolly bars, these Midwestern cookies are often must-haves on annual Christmas cookie trays. They’re easy enough to make any time, just for the heck of it. Baking them is mostly a matter of opening packages or cans: graham crackers, coconut, chocolate and butterscotch chips, chopped pecans, and condensed milk form the layers.
Get Recipe: 7-Layer Magic Bars
These delightful chocolate and peanut butter candies hail from Ohio, where years ago an Ohio State Buckeyes football fan conjured them up in her kitchen. Nowadays you don’t need to root for the Bucks to enjoy a buckeye…or two, or four.
Get Recipe: Peanut Butter Buckeyes
Snip doodles? They’re reputedly a Pennsylvania Dutch coffee cake that has the cinnamon-sugar appeal of snickerdoodle cookies. Stella Parks of Bravetart shared this unique recipe with us.
Get Recipe: Snickerdoodle Coffee Cake (Snip Doodles)
Raise your hand if you ever obsessed over the colorful 1963 edition of Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book. (And yes, it’s cooky with a “y” in the title.) Striking red-and-white candy cane cookies popped from the photos on its holiday pages. Unlike the Cooky Book recipe, ours has peppermint extract for that real candy cane effect.
Get Recipe: Candy Cane Cookies
I can’t think of any church gathering or school boosters potluck growing up that didn’t include this super-sweet and lightly spiced chocolate cake. It’s simply not Texas sheet cake without that thin layer of glaze-like frosting; nuts are a point of debate. What do you think?
Get Recipe: Texas Sheet Cake
Strawberry pretzel salad is one of those Midwestern dessert salad-not-salads that features Jell-O. Our recipe makes it into a pie and uses fresh strawberries and unflavored gelatin for a truer flavor.
Get Recipe: Strawberry Pretzel Pie
Ritz torte is from eastern Appalachia, and it’s alluringly unusual. To make the base, toast crushed Ritz crackers and nuts before folding them into a meringue. Bake in an 8×8-inch pan and add pillowy whipped cream on top. It’s one of those buttery and light desserts that’s also deceptively rich.
Get Recipe: Ritz Torte Is a Dreamy Retro Dessert from Appalachia
Chiffon pies date back to the 1920s. If you’re tired of the same old pumpkin pie, give this airy version a try. It’s lightened with whipped egg whites and nestled in a gingersnap crust.
Get Recipe: Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Like most beloved retro recipes, the origins of this wavy-topped St. Louis favorite are murky. What we do know is that it’s sweet and rich! A yeasted cake on the bottom meets a buttery, custardy topping for a memorable dessert. Our version uses no shortcuts, and it pays off in every single way.
Get Recipe: Gooey Butter Cake
The grandma here is Elise Bauer’s grandmother, who lived with Elise’s family when she was young. Her grandmother taught her to bake, and this cake is one of the recipes she shared over the years. It’s like zucchini bread deluxe.
Get Recipe: Grandma’s Zucchini Cake
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