Madge Prewitt’s Apple Cake Revisited

Our friend Rich and I picked apples yesterday at his family farm near Luck, Wisconsin. Rich now uses his old home as a hunting shack, so most of the time there is no one to disturb the deer that, as Rich says, “give the tree a haircut” on those years when it bears fruit. They do a good job, too. Any apples within reach of a hungry deer disappear when they are ripe.

With Rich’s step ladder and and an apple picker loaned to us by a neighbor, we were able to harvest the apples the deer could not reach. Our prize was a lovely red giant nearly five inches in diameter that Rich managed to snag from a branch near the top of the tree. We drove home with more than two bushels of apples in bags and boxes to share with friends and neighbors.

While Rich and I were gathering food, Jerri was busy making her favorite apple cake with Haralson apples from another friend’s tree. She had found the recipe for it in the Louisville Courier Journal many years ago when we lived in Murray, Kentucky.

Jerri enjoyed the food column in that excellent newspaper very much and tried many of the recipes. One of the best was for a moist apple cake contributed by Madge Prewitt. Mrs. Prewitt died June 3, 2009 at the age of 90 at Corbin, Kentucky, but we shall remember her always for her delicious cake.

In the course of baking this cake for over forty years, Jerri has made two small adjustments that we think make a great cake even better and more foolproof. Apples are falling off the trees right now. If you see an apple tree that you think needs attention, stand up straight, put a smile on your face and ask the homeowner if you could pick a few apples to make Madge Prewitt’s Apple Cake. Offer to share a couple of slices, and you may well get an enthusiastic “It’s a deal!”


For the cake:

3 1/2 cups chopped tart apples
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. each cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves
1 cup English walnuts

For the glaze:

1/2 stick melted butter or margarine
1 T hot water
3/4 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar.


Do not peel the apples. Just wash and quarter them and remove the cores. Chop the apples into a quarter-inch dice. Combine the sugar with the apples in a large mixing bowl and set it aside. Sift together the flour, salt, soda and spices. Chop the nuts into quarter inch pieces, put them in a small bowl and stir a little of the flour mixture into them.

Grease and flour a nine-inch tube pan. Preheat the oven to 375º and melt the butter.

Stir the melted butter into the sugar-apple mixture. Beat the eggs until they are lemon yellow and stir them into the mixture. Blend the dry ingredients into the apple mixture and stir the walnuts in last of all.

Turn the batter into the prepared tube pan and bake for about an hour. Ovens do not all bake the same, so check for doneness at fifty-five minutes. A toothpick inserted halfway between the tube and the outside of the cake should come out clean. Take the pan from oven and let it cool for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Use a knife to release the cake from the sides of the pan and central tube, then carefully tip the the cake onto a plate and allow it to cool to lukewarm.

To make the glaze, beat the melted butter or margarine and hot water into the sifted sugar and drizzle the glaze on the warm cake.

NOTES: Mix the batter by hand to preserve the texture of the apples.

The cake needs to be quite warm but not hot when you remove it from the pan. If the cake is too hot, it may break when you tip it onto the plate. If this happens you may have to eat the damaged part and explain to your guests that you couldn’t wait to taste this delicious cake.

An earlier version of this recipe appeared in “Courage in the Kitchen” on August 26, 2012.

Gladys Salter’s Brown Sugar Cookies

According to my sister Patsy, my mother would have enjoyed coffee and cookies or whatever else was available when she visited Gladys Salter at her home a short distance east of Hayward off Highway B. According to my sister Barbara, “Gladys was a tiny lady, didn’t like social events and lots of people around, but she loved Mom and got along well with Patsy” who would take her to the Winter Greenhouse every spring where she bought plants for her garden.

My mother must have enjoyed these cookies, since she copied out the recipe. Patsy remembers that they were drop cookies made with a sticky batter.

The recipe is written on a two-by-four-inch scrap of paper cut from an office form. The yellowed paper is almost brown, which seems appropriate for a brown sugar cookie recipe. The scrap contains only part of the original form. All that remains of “WHILE YOU WERE OUT” is the “OUT,” but the spaces to record the important information are still there: “FROM,” “TO,” an address and phone number.

The complete form must have been designed to make it simple for telephone receptionists to assist the sales staff, since there are several boxes below the names, among them “REPORT AS BUSINESS OF,” “RECEIVED” and “REORDER” and “PASSED.” If a customer were calling to reorder a product, the slip could be forwarded to a shipping clerk who would presumably fill the order and pass the form to the sales representative.

Gladys’s recipe survives because people still used scratch paper when my mother wrote it down. Today, with automated office telephone systems, there are no note pads or even receptionists. Recipes are exchanged via email, but I wonder if, fifty years from now, you will be able to find an email sent today.

Like many recipes that my mother and her friends exchanged, there are no instructions on how to actually make the cookies beyond the phrase about dissolving the soda in hot water. That note may have been added because dry ingredients are more commonly sifted into the liquids. Homemakers like my mother knew how to make cookies so instructions were not really needed, but maybe there simply wasn’t room to include them on the little scrap of paper.

If you follow what I did and don’t overbake them, you will end up with a nice chewy snack or dessert.


1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup lardBrown Sugar Cookies
3 large eggs or 4 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 T boiling water
3 – 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins plus 1 tsp. flour


Cream the sugar with the butter and lard until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs or egg yolks one at a time until they are thoroughly combined, then beat in the vanilla and dissolved soda.

Preheat the oven to 350º and grease two baking sheets.

Put two cups of flour into a sifter with the flour, baking powder and salt and sift the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture by thirds. Stir thoroughly after each addition. Sift additional flour into the batter until you have a firm but not dry batter.

Mix the walnuts and raisins together with a teaspoon of flour and fold them into the batter.

Using two teaspoons, drop heaping teaspoonfuls (about a tablespoon) of batter two inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake ten to twelve minutes until the cookies are browned on the edges. Let the cookies cool two or three minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring them to wax paper to finish cooling.

NOTES: Quite a few of my mother’s recipes give the option of using egg yolks instead of whole eggs. Recipes for seven minute frosting and meringues, for instance, use lots of egg whites, so egg yolks were often available. If you are using only egg yolks, you may need less flour. Be careful to add it in smaller quantities as the batter begins to get stiff.