Grandma Doran’s Banana Cake

My grandma, Cecil Doran, was an excellent cook and great at using up bits of this and that. I remember watching her make biscuits, pancakes, sugar cookies, and other favorites without recipes- just dumping and pouring. When she did give a recipe, it was often “a handful of” or a “blue cup of” the ingredients. I loved watching my grandma cook. In fact, I just loved my grandma. She was the kind of person that you loved being close to, with a knack for making  each one feel as if she was her favorite! Even though she has been with the Lord for almost 20 years now, I still enjoy making the few recipes of hers I do have.

I think Grandma came up with this banana cake recipe herself since the ingredients are written in unusual amounts. This is a nice, dense, moist cake. Since I’ve lived in China a while now, I decrease the sugar a bit, but it’s wonderful as written. I served it for dinner this evening when some adoption friends came by and it seemed to make a hit. I hope you enjoy it.


1 ¾ cup all purpose flour

½ Tablespoon salt

½ Tablespoon baking powder

½ Tablespoon baking soda

½ cup shortening

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs

¼ cup buttermilk (or ¼ cup milk with 1 teaspoon cider vinegar)

1 cup mashed ripe bananas

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together and beat well until the batter is smooth and creamy. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Ermine Icing

This icing used to be called boiled milk icing. I don’t know that my grandma ever made it, but we think it’s the perfect compliment to banana cake. Ermine icing is thus called because it has a soft smooth consistency. It is smoother than buttercream and not as sweet.  I think this unusual recipe might surprise you. In my recipe box, it is called “Red Velvet Cake Icing” because it’s what a “real” red velvet cake should be iced with. It makes a good cake a GREAT cake, in my opinion.


1 cup whole milk

3 Tablespoons flour

Pinch of salt

1 cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Whisk together the milk with the flour and salt in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat stirring continually until the roux is thickened. Remove from heat, cover with plastic wrap, and cool completely.

When the roux has cooled, beat the butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Then gradually add in the roux mixture, beating until very light with all sugar dissolved.

Ice the cake then try not to eat it all at once. This is very hard to resist, actually. We once had a guy eat seven pieces of it after a Sunday night dinner!

Keep refrigerated as this icing breaks down easily and quickly. It is NOT a good icing to take on a picnic!


Grandmama Dexter’s Pound Cake

Stacy’s grandmother is said to have been one of the best cooks in the world. I can’t vouch for that, because by the time I knew her she was blind and her cooking skills had deteriorated somewhat- though she kept trying. Not only was she a good cook, but she was also very hospitable. Every Sunday she would whip up a huge meal, just hoping someone would come to her house after church for dinner! And they always obliged.

Most of her recipes were in her mind and cannot be replicated, but her her daughter, our Aunt Net, stood by her side watching carefully and recording measurements to make sure we would all be able to make this famous cake. Grandmama Dexter’s pound cake recipe also comes with a good testimony. She was a hard worker and extremely independent. Though blind, she lived on her own for many years until at the age of about 92 she had to go into a nursing home. Once when we went up to visit her, Stacy shared the good news about Christ with her- that we are all sinners; that God’s standard is perfection (of which every one of us falls short); that we were hopelessly lost and without hope; until God sent His only Son into the world. Jesus led a perfect life and yet was nailed to the cross. As 1 Peter 3:18 said,  “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to deathin the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,,,” When she heard this, slow tears rolled down her wrinkled cheeks and she said, “I’ve gone to church my whole life and have never heard this.” She repented of her sins, accepted God’s gift of salvation through faith in His Son, and embraced the wonderful grace of God through her Savior.

Grandmama has been with Jesus for about 32 years now, but this recipe for her moist, flavorful pound cake lingers on! We hope that you’ll enjoy it.

But first, here is a Baking 101 Tip: These are the differences various fats make in the tastes and textures of cakes: Butter produces compact, fine-textured cakes which have less height and smaller crumbs. It also adds delicious flavor! Shortening makes cakes tall and light, as well as coarse, dry, and crumbly. Margarine creates moist cakes which are coarse and crumbly, but are not light and have larger air pockets. Oil cakes are moist, tall and light, slightly coarse, with open crumbs.)

Bring all cold ingredients to room temperature before making this cake!

Grandmama’s Pound Cake

2 sticks butter (2 American size sticks equal 1 cup)
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs (1 at a time)
3 cups unsifted flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
First, cream the butter with the shortening; then add sugar and cream again. Sometimes I just use butter for the whole deal but the shortening does make for a nicer pound cake “crust” and adds to the rise.
Add the eggs one at a time. This is actually important so though you may just want to dump them in all at once, buck up and exercise some self-control here!
Add the dry ingredients. I’m not going to labor with showing you pictures of that process, but I did want you to see my new baking powder can. Sometimes it’s the little things! Our baking powder comes in tiny packages like this:
It is SUCH a hassle to use these tiny little packages of baking powder! But some friends were moving back to America and among the things they gave us was this can of baking powder:
Now I just keep refilling my can and I am SO happy about this. Yes, I know that this is blurry but sometimes you just have to brag a bit about God’s little daily kindnesses and provisions and this was the best photo I got. Ouch! 😉
Then add milk and extracts; mix until all is well blended. Prepare the pan with shortening and flour.
Pour in the luscious, buttery, velvety batter:
Stick into a COLD OVEN:
Notice- this oven has no bungie cord! Yes, we are moving on up and becoming very classy. Very. Well, yeah, it’s in our living room but….
Then turn oven to 325 degrees and bake for “about an hour”. Here’s the finished product:
OH MY GOODNESS! IT’S A MIRACLE! MY NEW OVEN IS AMAZING!!! Don’t buy that? Ok, ok! I made two cakes that day for my sweet husband’s sixtieth birthday party- one in the bundt pan and one in layers. This was the first time we had used this new oven that we bought used from the same friends who donated the baking powder can to our cause. Apparently, the thermostat is a bit off and my cake scorched on top. I scraped it off, covered it with icing, and it still tasted fine! But it wasn’t beautiful. Therefore, I’m sticking in this photo of the layered pound cake with chocolate icing used for Stacy’s birthday cake. While we usually eat this cake without icing (it makes an amazing strawberry shortcake), I also use it in making wedding cakes. Its moistness, density, and ease of handling create cakes of great structural integrity while the mild but distinct flavors show off many fillings, glazes, and icings to advantage.
Have a bite?
Can you taste the exquisite blend of vanilla, lemon, and almond and feel the smooth, fine texture? Mmmm….Grandmama Dexter would be proud;)
Meanwhile, here’s a bit of eye candy that was distracting me during the party, my grandson Josiah. Now THAT’S yummy!
He’s wearing the straw hat his granddaddy got for his birthday.
Then here’s the bit of eye candy that has distracted me for the past thirty-five years!
In China, men retire between fifty-five and sixty. Many of the “old men” go to the park in straw hats with their caged birds of a morning to chit chat, gamble, and just generally hang out! Our friends couldn’t resist getting Stacy his own straw hat and bird cage. Unfortunately, my photography for this whole post kind of stank- but you probably get my drift!
From China with love!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

By popular demand, we offer you our recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins! Often when we’ve had weekend events, we’ll make up huge batches of muffins that we serve for breakfasts along with boiled eggs, fruit, and yogurts. We can carry these to any location and save our friends the cost of buying breakfast out. We’ve tried a large number of muffin recipes that can be made cheaply with ingredients we can purchase locally which are not imported. One staple of our preferred muffins is that the recipes use oil rather than butter or shortening, both of which are expensive since they are imported and not commonly used in China. We also try to make less sweet varieties, since we have often heard, “Too sweet! Too sweet!” since most Chinese have not grown up eating desserts or sugary foods.

This recipe departs from our normal criteria as it contains chocolate chips, which are NOT inexpensively procured in China. A 12 oz. bag (imported) costs about $6 or $7, so we try to bring ours from America when we come or ask our friends who come over to bring us a bag or two. However, this recipe doesn’t call for many, and to be honest we often skimp on the half cup called for when making them for events frequented by mostly Chinese people, and add a few more when we are making them for “foreigners”(like us). Even though these are sweeter than most that we make, they are very popular with both Chinese and Westerners. Who can resist the combination of peanut butter and chocolate whether they’ve grown up with it or not? We have tried several online recipes for peanut butter chocolate chip muffins and never found one that we loved. So we have “tweaked” this recipe until we think it’s about right. We hope you enjoy it!

Here’s the recipe:


2 cups flour

1 and 1/2 cups sugar (I use white but I think light brown would add depth)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy both work)

2 large eggs or 3 small ones

1 and 1/4 cups milk

1/4 cup oil plus 1 Tablespoon

1/2 chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Dump all of the ingredients except chocolate chips into a bowl and mix well. Stir the chocolate chips in by hand. Prepare muffin cups by either spraying with non-stick spray or inserting muffin papers. Fill 3/4 full. (I use my handy dandy ice cream type scoop with spring handles that I bought last time I was in America! It rocks and rolls, baby!) Bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick stuck in comes out clean (except for melted chocolate). This makes about a dozen and a half standard sized muffins.

Take a look at this moist bundle of deliciousness up close! They smell great and taste best right out of the oven. But my girls find that if they microwave them for 15 seconds they can recreate that warm melty yumminess!

There are few jobs that Grace and Hope can do in China to make pocket money- no yards to mow, no babies to sit! Handcrafts pay little since labor costs are so low. They, however, have hit on a niche business by making muffins and selling them. Many of our friends place special orders for the varieties of their choice- banana, cinnamon nut, poppy seed, zucchini, apple, pumpkin (made with fresh pumpkin that they cook and puree themselves since canned pumpkin is rarely available), and the above peanut butter chocolate chip muffins. Sometimes folks that come to our home for study request that the girls make large batches that they divvy up into bags of ten for purchase by individuals in the groups. We don’t have a recent photo or a good one, but here is one taken last year with a mobile phone on the first day of their “business” giving out samples of their wares! Grace is about a foot taller now and both girls have become more young ladies and less little girls. But it does give you an idea of the beginning of their Guangzhou muffin dynasty!

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

This recipe comes with a couple of fun family stories!

When I was pregnant with Jason, I was on bed rest for a number of weeks so friends at our church brought our family meals. One dear lady not only brought dinner once a week, but she brought jars of homemade soups to use for lunches along with homemade pimento cheese and the most wonderful loaves or rolls of whole wheat bread. Week after week for months she came, with her bounty to keep us fed during this difficult time. What a precious gift from the Lord it was to have a sister in Christ who showed His love to us in such practical ways. This recipe is from that friend in Austin, Texas, whose kindness has provided a wonderful memory for our family of the continuing grace of God in our lives! I’ve lost track of Donna Wilson, but God has not. I pray that He is continually rewarding her for her kindness to us and to others in the Body of Christ!

The second story regarding this recipe happened in 1990- the year our family took a 3 week, 5000 mile trip hauling a pop-up camper to see all the major national parks out west. (When we got home, I said I was going to write a horror story called Three Weeks in a Pop-Up, but that’s  a story for another day!) As I remember, our entire trip cost about $1000, so you can tell that we traveled very frugally, even for 1990! Participants on this trip included Stacy and me, plus our five oldest children ages 11-1, and my mother-in-law. (And she is NOT the reason the trip was a horror story. She was a lovely lady and I loved her very much.)

This was an exciting trip for our children, as you can imagine. What kids would not be thrilled to see Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, or the big trees at Sequoia? We knew that they would want to have souvenirs of the trip, but souvenirs just weren’t in the budget. So for months before we left, our four older kids made loaves and loaves of this bread and sold it, hot out of the oven, to friends and neighbors to earn their own souvenir money. Joy was 11; Chad was 10; Jeremy was 8; and Jason was 6; but they could all make this bread by themselves from scratch, which should show you how easy it is! They pooled all the money they made from baking/selling bread, then split it equally and used that money to purchase mementos of that monumental journey. Most of their purchases have gone the way of the tee shirts of yesteryear, but memories of mixing and kneading the dough, pulling fragrant hot loaves of bread from the oven, and carrying them around the neighborhood in their little red wagon live on!

Enjoy this healthy, delicious treat! And don’t forget to make precious memories with your children as they grow!


2 cups hot tap water

3 packages or scant 3 tablespoons yeast

½ cup honey

2 teaspoons salt

1 lightly beaten egg

½ cup oil

6-8 cups whole-wheat flour

Mix the honey and salt into the hot water; then add yeast; stir; let sit until foamy. Stir in the egg and oil. Add 2 cups of flour and stir until all lumps are out.  Add another 2 cups and stir well. Then add one cup at a time until you have a light but not-sticky dough. Flour the shelf lightly (or use your dough hook on your mixer); knead dough for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Add more flour to the shelf if the dough is sticking.

Put dough into a greased bowl; flip it over so the top is oily; cover with a clean towel and let sit about an hour until doubled.

Grease bread pans. Don’t use oil but rather use shortening or butter. Shape the bread into loaves and put into the pans. Let rise about another hour until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375. When loaves have risen, put them in the oven for about 35 minutes. To see if they are done, thump the top with your flat hand. If it sounds hollow, it’s probably cooked through. When done, remove from oven; butter tops; and remove from pans. Let it cool- or eat it right away while it’s hot- it’s up to you!