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Grandma’s Plain Butter Cake

A plain butter cake, from a time when cookbooks would fit four recipes per page and eating butter was normal. It isn’t fluffy. It is dense, buttery, rich and breaks into thick moist crumbles.

Plain Butter Cake

I am calling the cake Grandma’s cake really because I got the recipe from a 1938 Watkins Cook Book. This isn’t my grandma’s recipe or anything and actually my friends’ first reaction was calling it a “mom cake.” I served it next to tea. “It’s good, it reminds me of my mother’s cake. It’s a very mom cake.”

A thing about old cookbooks is they don’t pamper you at all. No big photo nor step-by-step images; no serving suggestions or insightful tips. They cram 4-6 recipes per page and present the instructions in little dense paragraphs. You need to understand instructions like “roll up like jelly roll,” “blend all ingredients like pie crust,” “soak gelatin in 1 pint cold water, later dissolve in boiling water,” and “add flour mixing with little oil, then tomatoes after putting through sieve.”

Still, there is something refreshing about having recipes treated so nonchalantly. Like someone telling you: “don’t fuss about it too much and just do it”

Plain Butter Cake

Grandma’s Plain Butter Cake

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

A plain butter cake, from a time when cookbooks would fit four recipes per page and eating butter was normal. It isn’t fluffy. It is deliciously dense, buttery, rich and breaks into thick moist crumbles.


  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour (I used jovial's einkorn flour)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream butter, add sugar gradually, blend thoroughly.
  3. Beat eggs well, add to first mixture.
  4. Mix flour, salt and baking powder, combine alternatively with milk.
  5. Lastly, add vanilla.
  6. Bake in buttered layer tins, 25 minutes.*


I wrote the instructions as came in the book. Households didn't have electric beaters back then so I imagine you could facilitate the process by just mixing dry ingredients, beating wet ingredients separately then adding them together.

* I baked the cake in a round, 9.5 in pyrex

* I drizzled Hammond Farms' cajeta but it seriously doesn't need it. It is sweet and gloriously delicious on it's own.

Plain Butter Cake

fun fact: I got the cookbook at the Spring Antique Mall for $8. Back in 1938 this book was sold for $1.50 which is equivalent to $25.30 right now. That’s kind of like I made $17.30 dollars! ;P but shhhh don’t quote me to economists.

Hi! Thanks for reading! I’m a certified nutritionist exploring the local & sustainable foods scenes in The Woodlands and Houston! Keep in touch and follow me! As of 2017 my sister and I just opened an outdoor dessert café – check it out! I couldn’t be more excited!


  1. when my family was young, I used this recipe whenever I needed to make a cake. It can be used many ways. I even loved eating the batter, which is not a good idea these days.

  2. This looks so good! I will have to make it sometime soon!

  3. Such a great, simple recipe and it looks amazing. I love old cookbooks, too – always a treasure house of other cooks and kitchens, aren’t they? Thank you for sharing this, I’m putting in on my must-make list!

    • Thank you Paul!! I know, right? They’re the next best thing to actually finding your grandma’s recipe collection. And I say this bitterly because my grandma’s handwritten collection got lost among distant uncles and aunts!

  4. This looks so delicious! I LOVE how no-fuss this is! Baking back then was easy, people have just recently started to complicate it, so I really like how you’ve brought to attention how easy baking really is! This looks absolutely divine!

    • Thanks for stopping by!!:) We’ve definitely made cooking too fussy now! I got another cookbook from 1913 that expected housewives to cook four course dinners AND dessert all from scratch, with just a page and a half to explain the whole process… and of course way less kitchen tools, not to mention no dishwasher!

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