Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mamie's Sour Cream Cake

From my October 2003 book journal:

Neighboring On The Air 1991
By Evelyn Birkby
Nonfiction A

This is a book about the women who broadcasted on KMA radio in Shenandoah, Iowa, beginning in the 1920s. They had 1/2 hour or hour long programs about cooking, home decoration, gardening; the domestic arts. There were listeners all over the area - the programs were a way of bringing together the rural women. The broadcasters were often in their own homes, and members of their families would walk into the room and be a part of the show. Wonderful book. These old homemakers are my heroes, my role models, from whom I learn my life's work. The preface says, "this is a cookbook, a storybook, a picture book".

And the wonderful, wonderful thing is that Evelyn Birkby is still alive and broadcasting! There is a very special webpage with many informational links. I love spending time there.

In that same month, I also read and loved a fictional book which dealt with these women, called Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg. And a few months afterwards, I read:

Up A Country Lane Cookbook 1993
By Evelyn Birkby
Cookbook, History, and Memoir A+

I could see this being used as a text to study American farming life in the years after WW II. Wonderfully informative to a reader who has a deep interest in the subject. There is a mix of indoor and outdoor life. I so love her description of seeing her husband off in the fields. Even if they aren't in contact, they are together in a deep sense. They are truly creating a joint partnership in life. This is a perfect book, accomplishing exactly what it set out to do. The Birkbys eventually left farming. She is, as they say, unsparing in her descriptions of life changes, yet she is an optimistic soul. This isn't a book that mourns the passing of a way of life, but more a memento of it. It was a wonderful life, but not easy.

The recipe is from Neighboring on the Air, and the Mamie in the name is Mamie Miller who did an afternoon program called 'Domestic Science.'

Mamie's Sour Cream Cake

Mix 2 1/2 cups flour with 2 cups sugar and a pinch of salt.

In a separate bowl, beat 3 eggs well. Add 2 cups sour cream and continue mixing.

In a third bowl, mix together 6 Tablespoons cocoa and 2 teaspoons baking soda. Add 3/4 cup boiling water, and mix well.

Then add the flour mixture and the cocoa mixture to the eggs and sour cream, and beat well until thoroughly blended together.

Pour into greased 10 x 15 pan, and bake in preheated 350ยบ oven about half an hour or until tester comes out clean. This cake is large enough for two families to share. It is delicious, and very easy to make.

My original note on the recipe card says it is great even without frosting. But today, I made a simple buttercream frosting because it is a gift for a friend who is home recovering from knee surgery.

1/2 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups confectioners sugar
Enough milk to make it smooth

Addendum: I had emailed the radio station to check on the day and time of her broadcast this month, and I just got a reply that said Evelyn Birkby was 'taken to the hospital today. They think she may have suffered a small stroke.'


  1. The cake looks scrummy. I love the way your country uses cups as measures, so sensible.

  2. Thank you for sharing Evelyn's site- my mother-in-law (also an Evelyn) was born & raised in Iowa and would have been there during these times. I know she'll enjoy reading this as well as I did - and we must get her cookbook!

  3. This looks delicious, I'm sure your friend was thrilled. I love old recipe books too. I have some that my Grandmother had at the turn of the 20th century, not very practical, but fascinating.
    Love to see your dear ewe every time I visit your site.

  4. Cait, I am just baffled when I read a British recipe. It feels like another language, which in a way I suppose it really is. :<)

    Utah Grammie, these are wonderful books. Please read the addendum I just put at the post's end.

    Carole, she was very pleased! We just got back, and she's doing okay, just resting. You'd love these books. And the pic is of a ram (wether) not a ewe. :<) I was just thinking I need to change it since the snow is really, really all gone!!

  5. Deep apologies to the ram himself!

  6. Carole, he probably can't tell the diff between humans either. :<)

  7. I do find history from a personal perspective interesting.That's the kind of stories I like seeing on PBS.-I hope my wife has some cake hiding around-

  8. Nan,
    So many times I read your posts and swear they were written by my mother, who passed away 15 years ago. Other times I read them and could swear we are twins seperated at birth. :) I love so much of the poetry, books and recipes you share. I have read the Country Lane cookbook and have tried for years to find a copy of the one about the radio braodcasts. Thank you for the link to the author. I will have to see if the books are available there. Glad to hear your snow is finally gone. Out here on the prairies of Kansas we are finally having some soft, soaking rain and the air smells delightfully of moist earth. Have a blessed Easter. Stacey

  9. I gave up sweets for Lent....but Sunday is almost here! Perfect timing for this post!! I cannot wait!

  10. This looks so delicious! Thank you for sharing all these fabulous recipes.

  11. Larry, I hope you found some cake. :<) Just last night I saw a fantastic program on PBS about the Isles of Shoals- very definitely from a personal perspective. And you'll be interested to know that the gulls cannot be harmed out there.

    Stacey, your words just fill my heart. Thank you so very much for taking the time to write. Soft rain sounds lovely.

    Pamela, I'll be interested to know how you like it!

    Kay -and thank you for coming by so often and leaving a nice note!


I'll answer your comments as soon as I possibly can. Please do come back if you've asked a question.
Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.