My mother's Betty Crocker cookbook

How Betty Crocker inspired my mother and how my mother inspired my love of cooking

One of the books I inherited from my mother is falling apart. The covering of the spine has been lost, the edges of the pages are tattered and some have fallen out completely. Open the book and you will find sticky tape holding the torn and tattered pages, some of which are stuck together with who knows what. There are sections which have quite obviously been read more than others. In its heyday it was very popular. It is a Betty Crocker cookbook.

For no apparent reason, yesterday I began to crave a pineapple upside down cake. It was a dessert my mother often made and the page in her Betty Crocker cookbook lays testament to this. As soon as I saw the recipe I was transported back to my mother’s kitchen (actually kitchens, as we frequently moved houses). The recipe was still readable, despite the blotches of brown (coffee?) which had dried over the method, and the letters and words which have disappeared over time.

Reading the recipe I was a bit taken aback with the amount of sugar it required, so I thought I could tweak it a bit. And, being gluten intolerant, I would have to use gluten free flour. Armed with a list I walked down to my closest supermarket and returned with flour and a fresh pineapple. I had initially picked up tinned pineapple but, after seeing the fresh variety, decided to see if it would work.

My mother was not the best cook in the world but I have always admired her for trying. She never had a mentor in the kitchen, my grandmother also had to learn on the fly, but despite disasters my mother never gave up. And there were plenty of disasters. My mother’s resilience in the kitchen inspired me to try different, and often complicated, recipes although I’m not as brave as she was when it comes to substituting ingredients.

So, I began to put together my version of Betty Crocker’s pineapple upside cake. I cut the fresh pineapple into rings and placed them on the melted butter / brown sugar syrup in a pie dish, as I don’t own a cake tin of the right size. I substituted a combination of monk fruit sugar and coconut sugar for the sugar in the recipe and I blended the remaining pineapple with a bit of water to make the required juice. Into the oven it went.

I think it turned out pretty well, it’s not perfect but I’m sure my mother would be proud of my effort. It probably would have been better in a slightly smaller dish but I will try that next time. I just might have another look through my mother’s Betty Crocker book to see what other recipes remind me of my mother.

On a different note, but still on the topic of books, if you follow me on social media you will have read that Downingfield Press have acquired the second edition of my grandmother’s memoir, Upheaval, which I have spent the past few years updating. I’m very excited that it will come out in print in October 2025! 

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Denise Duvall

    I have been eagerly awaiting news of your Grandmother’s book, “Upheaval”. Thank you for the update. My Grandmother’s copy of the 1943 edition of “The Purity Cookbook” appears to be in the same condition as is your “Betty Crooker”. It is my most precious keepsake of hers and has provided my family with it’s Christmas cookies for decades.

    1. Avatar photo

      Thank you for reading my posts Denise! Stay tuned for further updates on Upheaval next year. I will definitely have to look up Christmas recipes in Betty Crocker.

  2. Elise McCune

    Alex, the cake that you made from your mother’s cookbook looks delicious! I’m very much looking forward to reading your grandmother’s memoir ‘Upheaval’.

    Elise x

    Ps I am sure your mother would be very proud of the cake you made.

    1. Avatar photo

      Thank you Elise. The cake really was delicious!

  3. James (Jim) Renes

    Family cookbooks have so much more meanings when one reflects on the memories of preparing, cooking and eaten favorite items and family celebrations/gatherings 🍾🥂🎂

    1. Avatar photo

      That’s very true!

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