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Sweet Memories

Dessert recipes tell family stories

When Kentucky Living asked readers to share family recipes with stories behind them, the response was overwhelmingly sweet—the majority of submissions were dessert recipes. Sweet memories must be tied to sweet desserts.

Here are six of our favorites, and whether it’s the dishes themselves or the stories they tell, they’re so sweet you can almost taste them.

Homemade Ice Cream

Jean McGrew, member of Shelby Energy Cooperative

I grew up in Henry County on a farm that had cows and chickens. Milk and eggs were always in abundance. Plus, at the end of every May we went to neighboring Trimble County to Bray Orchards to pick strawberries, which we froze. Then, we went back there in August to get peaches to can.

Many a Sunday summer afternoon was spent using dairy products and fruit for making the ultimate treat—homemade ice cream. After church and dinner, my dad would haul out the ice cream

Jean McGrew and husband Jay Hood of Pleasureville enjoy their homemade ice cream. Photo: Jolea Brown

freezer. While Mother was in the kitchen combining the ingredients, he was chipping ice with his ancient ice pick, which I still have. And I was adding rock salt to the ice so it would melt and chill the custard-like formula.

Because the freezer tended to scoot around on the grass, I would sit on the freezer to give it some stability. A small rag rug on top of the freezer cushioned my derriere and kept the cold from encroaching thereon.

I would start turning the handle and would do so fast, probably too fast, when the turning was easy. However, it would not be long before my belabored little arm relinquished that chore to my dad as the ice cream started to form and the churning got much more difficult.

When it was almost impossible to turn the handle, the ice cream was ready. A bowl of the frigid treasure would invariably cause a “brain freeze”—a small price to pay for such a delight.

Get the recipe here

Grandma Links’ Good Ole-Fashioned Blackberry Cobbler

Dorothea Schlappi, member of Inter-County Energy Cooperative

Dorothea Schlappi dishes up some of her grandmother’s legendary blackberry cobbler. Photo: Morgan Brown

My Grandma Links’ blackberry cobbler has been handed down to me from years back. There never was a family gathering that the blackberry cobbler was not there. Our family reunions, which are held every three years now, are not complete without Grandma’s ole-fashioned blackberry cobbler.

I am the only one who brings it to the reunion. One year, I forgot to make it. When everyone saw there was no cobbler, I had to go home and make one. It seems like a part of Grandma is present

when the blackberry cobbler is there. I double and triple the recipe to make it go around.

P.S. I will be 80 in July and I keep a journal and this is one of my cherished memories.

Get the recipe here

Groundhog Cookies

Aileen Wilcox, member of Clark Energy Cooperative

My daughter Abby, who is now 20 years old, was learning about Groundhog Day in preschool. She came home all excited, telling her dad and me all about this little hog. She asked, “Mom, how come we don’t have presents or cake for Groundhog Day?”

It being February and the weather not so good, I didn’t have a lot of baking supplies in stock. However, I did have a lot of odds and ends left over from Christmas baking, a few chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, etc. So, Abby and I used a basic cookie recipe, and as we added our leftover items, I explained to her how groundhogs like to eat nuts, fruits, and if chocolate chips grew in the woods they would enjoy them also.

The Wilcox family, clockwise from left, daughter Abby, dad John, son John Mitchell, and mom Aileen, all of Winchester, enjoy a fresh batch of Groundhog Cookies. Photo: Abby Wilcox

Get the recipe here

Pecan Cake

Linda R. Hall, member of Blue Grass Energy Cooperative

We shared the cookies with her classmates for many years. When her brother, John, was born, she couldn’t wait to tell him about Groundhog Day and bake cookies with him. We had a laugh because his birthday is also in February. He is now in high school, but we also shared those cookies with all his elementary classmates.

Abby is now a preschool teacher herself, and I hope she will share this cookie tradition with her little students and maybe a groundhog or two.

As a child it was always special when my mom made her Pecan Cake. Being from a family of seven, cakes did not last very long, and we always hated to see that last piece go. Mom always made it for Christmas, and then occasionally throughout the year. When I married and left home, I was sure to take this recipe with me and enjoyed baking it often for friends and family.

Linda Hall, Nicholasville, remembers fondly her mother baking this Pecan Cake, and Linda carries on the tradition today, baking it from her mother’s recipe often. Photo: Rachel Settles

In September 1974, the Bluegrass RECC announced the Braggin’ Cake Contest. Thirty-nine members submitted recipes. From those, 10 were selected to compete. Nine of the 10 finalists brought their cakes to the contest that October day.

With cake and baby in tow, I was proud to present my cake to the judges. My 8-month-old son was not so impressed with Mom’s endeavors, and saw this as a good time to nap in his stroller. His picture was printed in the Co-op Chats monthly publication, as well as mine when I was named second place winner. I remember that day well and used the hand mixer I won for many years to come.

I still make this recipe often and enjoy it just as much each time I make it. The recipe as printed is the original one that Mom always used, but sometimes today I make an amended version, which is very good.

Carmel Corn

Lynn Thompson

As a child, I would often visit my grandparents who were tucked away on a gravel road in Whitesville, Kentucky. They were surrounded by farmland, and they had an extensive garden, barn, and at times, chickens, cows, and even a horse or two.

A bowl of Carmel Corn rests on a copy of the original recipe in her grandmother Carmel Thompson’s handwriting in a book she created for Lynn. Photo: Lynn Thompson

But one of the best things about visiting, besides learning to sew with my grandmother, was getting to spend the night and all the wonderful things she would make, including a big tub of caramel corn we would share as we sat down to watch TV at night.

By the time your visit was up, the big ice cream pail filled with popcorn was gone but, if you were really lucky, there was a spare for you to take home.

Get the recipe here

Sarah Collett, Shepherdsville, recalls her great-grandmother Dorothy surprised them with this light cake for any occasion. Photo: Anita Richter

Snowball Cake

Sarah Collett, member of Salt River Electric

Snowball Cake was always a special treat from my great-grandmother Dorothy. I always looked forward to Christmas time for this light but mouthwatering cake. She would make this special cake for someone who was ill or for a special occasion. She was very pleased to scoop this onto the dessert dishes for her family and friends. It wasn’t just for Christmas, she would surprise us with this cake any time of year.

Get the recipe here

Click here for a few more reader-submitted recipes sure to become family favorites for generations to come.

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