Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Orange Crunch Cake

The recipe for today is a delicious cake that’s great for spring. My son loves this cake, and he requested it for his birthday cake for years. He’s recently expanded his horizons a bit and tried some new and different birthday cakes, so it was fun to make this one again. Our whole family loves this Orange Crunch Cake (we sometimes also call it Sunshine Cake because it tastes like sunshine after a long Minnesota winter) and this year we had it for a family gathering on Easter Sunday, additionally celebrating what would have been my father-in-law’s 100th birthday. I did a Google Search to see if the recipe was still out there anywhere and I found that it’s still on the Betty Crocker website, but it’s just a little different. You can find that recipe here. It’s a great cake for a celebration, but seriously, it’s great anytime. It’s unbelievably good!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Orange Crunch Cake

Crunch Layer:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted (I used butter)


1 package yellow cake mix

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup orange juice

1/3 cup oil (I used canola)

3 eggs

2 Tablespoons grated orange peel


1 can vanilla ready-made frosting

1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

3 Tablespoons grated orange peel

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (I use a bit more than that – about the same as the orange peel)

11 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained, or 1 orange, sectioned

Mint leaves, if desired

Grease and flour two 9″ or 8″ round cake pans.

In a small bowl, combine crunch layer ingredients until crumbly.

Press half of the crunch mixture into each prepared pan.

In a large bowl, blend cake ingredients at low speed until moistened; beat 2 minutes at highest speed.

Pour batter evenly over crunch layer.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans.

Cool completely.

In a small bowl, beat frosting until fluffy; add whipped topping and beat until light and fluffy.

Fold in grated orange and lemon peel.

Place 1 layer crunch side up on serving plate; spread with 1/4 of frosting.

Top with remaining layer crunch side up.

Spread top and sides with remaining frosting.

Arrange orange sections on top.

Garnish with mint leaves.

Store in refrigerator.


The crunch layer: graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, butter, and nuts. How can that be bad?


You can see the flecks of orange peel in the cake batter. I never get the two layers exactly even – one’s always bigger than the other.


The round pans that I have are from years ago and have a flat bar on the bottom that you can run around the pan and it makes the cake come out with no sticking (you can kind of see it in the pic above), but I still spray the pans with non-stick spray. I hope that makes sense, but you should grease and flour the pans.


This is why we also call it Sunshine Cake – the orange and lemon peel – sunshine!!


These two crunch layers are SO good. Don’t forget to put a few narrow strips of waxed paper around the bottom of the cake so when you’re done, you can pull them out and keep the cake plate clean.


Ha – you can decorate with more oranges than this, but this cake had to travel and I didn’t want them to move. More around the bottom would be nice, and more mint leaves around the bottom would also be nice.


I did put just a little piece of mint on top – so pretty!


Excuse the cell phone pic of the cut piece, but I didn’t have my big camera with me at the time we cut into the cake. You can see the delicious crunch layers on the inside of the cake. It’s so good. It’s just the most delicious cake that tastes like a bite of sunshine in your mouth. I highly recommend that you try this cake. It seems like a lot of steps, but it’s really not difficult. You and your family will love it! I’m pretty sure someone in your family will request this one for their birthday and you’ll be making it for years. You’ve been warned.





Grandma’s Slippers and Keeping Cozy with a Bed Buddy

Both of my grandmas knit slippers for us when we were little. That particular slipper pattern was lost until I found one of the patterns for the slippers while looking for a totally different knitting pattern, and I immediately printed it off for future use. This is a great project to start on if you’re just starting to knit. It’s very easy, it doesn’t take a lot of time, and I love the practically instant gratification of making these. Springtime is sometimes still pretty cool in Minnesota, so I decided to make some of these for my girlfriends – just something to get cozy and snuggle with. We needed some of Grandma’s Slippers and to keep cozy with a Bed Buddy. I know what you’re thinking, but these bed buddies are not of the human kind – they’re made with fabric and filled with rice or beans, and heated in the microwave to keep your tootsies toasty. I think my aunt originally gave us the idea for the bed buddies, and I usually make several of these for the fall and winter season. They’re great for putting under the sheets on a cold winter’s night, for putting on sore muscles, or for just having in your lap when you need a warm snuggle. We have work to do here, so let’s get on with it.

Here is the pattern as I made it:

Grandma’s Slippers

(Very Easy Knitted Slippers)


One skein of heavy worsted weight yarn

#10 knitting needles

Tapestry needle


CO 32 sts

1st row – K (right side = RS)

2nd row – K10, P1, K10, P1, K10 (wrong side = WS)

Repeat these two rows until the piece measures 6 inches

On WS – P11, K10, P11

On RS – K

Repeat these two rows for 3 1/2 inches.

You should now have a rectangle. Leave about 24 inches of yarn to sew seam and cut.

Thread yarn through tapestry needle and slip through the stitches with the tapestry needle.

Tighten to bring all the stitches together tightly.

Sew the top of the slipper (the 3 1/2 inches of stockinette stitch).

Remember to sew from the right side of your work, you get a nicer/neater looking finish that way.

Sew back of slipper.

You can decorate with a knitted or crocheted flower or a pom-pom if you like, or leave it plain.


You have to start somewhere – cast on!


Here is a shot of the first part. The middle section will be the bottom of the slipper eventually, and the straight edge on the end will be sewed up for the back seam of the slipper in the end. Here is where you can make the slipper larger or smaller depending on shoe size. These are for a medium-sized foot.


The second part is at the top in a stockinette stitch. This will eventually be the toe.


Run the tapestry needle through the stitches, pull it tight, and sew up the toe section. Finally, sew up the back seam.


I put pom-poms on my slippers. Here’s how I do it. I used 3 colors of yarn on these, so I took all 3 at once and wrapped it around an old magnet (or anything that will make the pom-pom the right size) 30 times (that makes 90 total). I used a doubled piece of yarn to tie around the middle of the loops tightly.


Then I cut the loops and trimmed it to the size I wanted. You can make the pom-pom as big or as small as you want it to be. Shake it out and attach it to the front of the slipper. I try to make the yarn I tie the pom-pom on with, long enough to be able to tie it in a bow underneath, then the recipient can take them totally off if they prefer. You can also tie them on in a knot so it’s more permanent.


Here is the finished product – so cute and so springy!! These would make a great gift any time of year – just change the color accordingly: Red and green for Christmas, red and pink for valentine’s day, spring colors for Easter, red, white, and blue for 4th of July (some people like to keep their AC on too cold and slippers may feel good in the summer), fall colors for Halloween or Thanksgiving. You can find videos for learning how to knit online, along with numerous sites that will help with stitches.


Now for the Bed Buddy. I used fleece for this one, but you can use any fabric that’s comfy and cozy: old clean socks without holes, old clean towels or wash cloths, flannel. Anything that is cozy will work. When cutting the fabric, I’d say about 8″ x 5 ” is an approximate size for these. I have also made some about 4″ x 4″ for hand warmers, which are also nice this time of year or for putting into coat pockets in the winter. Cut out the two pieces of fabric and sew up 3 sides with right sides together, using about a 1/4″ seam. Trim the two corners close to the stitching so there will be nice sharp corners when you turn it right side out. Turn it right side out.


Fill about 2/3 full with rice or beans (I always use rice). Fold over the top 2 edges and sew, making sure to really get the seam close to the outside edges so none of the rice escapes. I always backstitch a few stitches at each end. You can also use a whip stitch and hand sew it closed. To microwave – I would start at 1 minute and go up from there depending on how warm you want it. You want it to be warm, but not to burn – and believe me – it can and will definitely burn if in there too long. Burnt rice does not have a pleasant smell, and if the rice gets too hot, it isn’t pleasant to burn your skin, either. Warning – sometimes the rice is a bit damp and it may take several times heating to get the moisture out. I have also seen some people make washable covers for these, but I would rather just make new ones every year or two.


Here they are – a cozy kit for spring. Snuggle up with these tootsie toasters, a cup of tea, and a good book on a rainy April day and enjoy the spring. These would make an excellent hostess gift, Mother’s Day gift, graduation gift, birthday gift, or even a gift to just say “I’m thinking of you”!




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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everybody!

I appreciate each and every one of you, dear readers!


Thank you so much for reading Plenty Sweet Life!!


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Easter Treats

Here are some past posts for Easter Treats that I think you’ll enjoy! Try them all!

Hopping Bunny Rolls

Hopping Bunny Rolls

Easter Bark

Easter Bark

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


Hot Crossed Buns

Iowa Ham Balls

Iowa Ham Balls






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Vegetable Casserole

This is Easter week and I just had to share an Easter photo of me from when I was about 5 years old. Back in the day, you had to have an Easter hat (although this one looks like a headband with silk flowers on it) and white patent leather shoes to wear to church. Too bad the dress is covered up and we can’t see what that looked like. I love the little spring coat – I wish I had one like that now!


I loved Easter when I was a kid because there were arts and crafts involved: dyeing and decorating eggs, decorating an egg tree, and making paper Easter bunnies. There were things to bake like hot crossed buns and coconut cakes, cartoons to watch like “The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town“, movies to watch like “King of Kings“, amazing and incredibly fragrant Easter lilies to smell, and then there were the baskets that the Easter Bunny left for my sister and me to find on Easter morning. It was always so hard to wait until we got back from church to be able to eat the treats and have the big Easter dinner. Sometimes we would go to Grandma and Grandpa’s church, but the church we attended regularly made Easter morning special by having a sunrise service where they would black out all the windows, having a big black curtain across the altar hiding the cross on the front wall covered in white paper. Then when it was time for the church service to start, they would play a very loud ripping sound imitating the tearing in half of the curtain in the temple in Jerusalem when Jesus died (I hope I have that right), and there would be the white cross gleaming in the front of the church after the black curtain was pulled aside. It was very loud, very exciting, and very inspiring!

Today’s recipe is the kind of thing Grandma used to make a lot for holidays like Easter – a new and exciting vegetable dish, even though it’s basically frozen vegetables doctored up a bit. I think she was trying to make vegetables more interesting, but unfortunately, I still don’t think Grandpa liked them very much. This Vegetable Casserole is another really easy side dish that’s quick to make and easy to take to any gathering. You could even make it a day or two ahead and have it ready to go. It’s one of those dishes that’s great because it’s so nice and easy, and on a holiday there’s a lot to do to put on the big dinner. I know that’s what Grandma was thinking when trying this one for the first time.


This is a good one!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Vegetable Casserole

Boil or microwave partially and separately:

1 bag of frozen crinkle cut carrots

1 bag of frozen chopped broccoli

1 bag of frozen cauliflower flowerets

Place in casserole (I lightly sprayed the casserole with non-stick spray for easy clean up).


1 onion, sliced

Mix together:

1 can cream of celery soup

1/2 soup can milk

1/4 cup sugar

Add to vegetables – I mixed them all together before putting into the casserole.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.


The sauce for this casserole is very simple. I had my doubts though – sugar? In vegetables?


Putting it in the oven doesn’t really change anything expect the sauce. It makes a nice sauce in the bottom of the dish.


It’s so easy, so good, and so pretty!


I truly had doubts about the sugar thing, but it’s amazing how tasty it is! This is delicious! Try it! Save yourself some time and make this very easy, very good side dish. This one is so quick and easy, it will give you more time to enjoy things like Easter videos, Easter Bunnies, and chocolate eggs.



Coconut Cake

The recipe for today comes from my sister, who makes this Coconut Cake a lot. Everybody who tries it absolutely loves it!! It was originally from the Kraft Foods website, and while I couldn’t find the exact recipe that my sister used (she had printed it out and it’s dated 2005 – she’s been making this cake a long time!), you can find a similar recipe here. I modified my sister’s recipe for this post to make cupcakes instead of one big cake. This recipe is totally right up Grandma’s alley and I know she would have loved this one: it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s delicious, and you can have all the ingredients on hand and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Coconut Cake

Prepare as directed on package:

1 yellow cake mix

Stir in:

2/3 cup coconut (7-oz. bag, divided – keep 2 cups for later)

Bake as directed.

Cool 10 minutes.

Remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely.

Pour into medium bowl and mix with wire whisk:

1 cup cold milk

1 small package (4 serving size) White Chocolate Instant Pudding & Pie Filling

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Beat with whisk until well blended – mixture will be thick.

Gently stir in:

1-8 oz. tub Cool Whip, thawed

Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

For Cake:

Place 1 of the cake layers on serving plate; spread top with 1 cup of the pudding mixture.

Sprinkle with 3/4 cup of remaining coconut; cover with second cake layer.

Spread top and side with remaining pudding mixture; press remaining coconut into pudding so entire cake is covered with the pudding mixture and coconut.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Store leftover cake in refrigerator.

For Cupcakes:

Frost top of cupcakes with pudding mixture and top with coconut.


This doesn’t look like a lot of coconut, but it really makes a difference in the batter.


I made the cupcakes instead of cake, but cake would be even faster to make!


I just had to show these pretty little cupcakes!!


First I put on a HUGE amount of the pudding mixture – there’s a lot of it if you’re not making a cake. Then to top it all off – the coconut! I put a lot of that one top, too, just because I love coconut!


Because it IS Easter, after all, I added some eggs for decoration. You could use any kind of eggs or jelly beans for this – go crazy! Kids would love to help decorate the cupcakes.


My intention, when deciding to make cupcakes instead of a cake, was to send these to work with my husband. Well, that’s not happening because there aren’t enough left. Let’s just say they went over well. The cupcakes turned out absolutely beautiful and I can see why everyone loves this cake!!! This one is perfect for any time you need a quick and delicious dessert to take anywhere! Go ahead – be the hit of your Easter gathering – and bring this beautiful cake (or cupcakes).



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Peanut Cookies

This recipe also from the tiny book that came from my sister’s house. There are so many good recipes in there – we’ll have to try them all! (I just love that these recipes were typed out on a real typewriter!!!) This is another one that used oatmeal – seems we’ve tried several of those lately – and again, corn flakes. That means they’re good for you, right? I mean, how bad can they be? They have oatmeal. They have corn flakes. They have peanuts. What more do you want? I won’t tell anyone that they’re good for you, if you don’t. You could practically eat them for breakfast. Hmmm. That gives me an idea . . .


These are really good!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Peanut Cookies


1 cup butter

Combine with:

2 eggs

Mix together dry ingredients:

2 cups brown sugar

2 cups flour

1 cup peanuts

2 cups oatmeal

3 cups corn flakes

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

Combine with:

Butter and eggs

Drop by spoonfuls on cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.


These ingredients are so healthy and good for you! Ha!


The dough is a bit crumbly, but . . .


I used my trusty scoop and they actually held together well.


You can see how full of goodies they are!


As my husband says – a stack fits right in your hand, so that means they’re just right with a glass of milk. But maybe not for breakfast.


My husband loves these, and so does my son, but my son feels they’d be better if the peanuts were chopped and not whole. Feel free to do it either way, because either way, they’re delicious! And don’t forget – they’re good for you, too!! I guess we’d better not eat them for breakfast. They’re not THAT good for you.




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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!



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Irish Soda Bread

I am not Irish, but my husband, my kids, and my in-laws are. Several years ago, we were at my sister-in-law’s house for dinner on St. Patrick’s Day and she served the most delicious corned beef and cabbage stew. This stew has become one of my family’s favorite traditions. A few years later, I found this wonderful recipe for Irish Soda Bread that goes great with the stew. I think it came from a local TV show, I’m not really sure. What I am sure about is that this bread has, also, become one of our favorite traditions. It’s so good warm from the oven with a bit of Irish butter melting over it and dribbling down your arm. I think it would also be delicious toasted with some homemade jam, but I’ll never know. The bread doesn’t last that long. We usually have 5 people (our family) here for dinner on or around St. Patrick’s Day, and I make 2 of these loaves of bread. There is NEVER any left. Ever. This bread is easy to make and is absolutely delicious.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Irish Soda Bread

Mix together:

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup sugar

Rub in:

2 Tablespoons butter, softened


1 cup raisins, washed and drained


2 cups buttermilk

Spoon sticky dough onto floured bread board.

Mold dough into a mound (I give it a couple – but only a couple – of “kneads” to make it more of a loaf) and slide onto a floured baking sheet – this is tricky as it’s still sticky.

Cut an “X” into the top of the loaf.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Bread will sound hollow on top when done.


There really aren’t a lot of ingredients. That’s the beauty of it – a quick and easy recipe.


The dough will definitely be sticky before turning it onto a floured surface.


Once you have the loaf on the baking sheet, cut an X in the top of the loaf. This is apparently to let out the devil and protect the family (this according to many internet sites). I’m sure it also has something to do with making the loaf bake more evenly.


Once it’s out of the oven, it’s golden brown and crusty.


It’s absolutely imperative that you load up the warm bread with butter – Irish butter if possible.


Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the butter dribbling down your arm. I know that this isn’t exactly the way they make soda bread in Ireland, but it’s the recipe that we love and make every year. It is delicious and you’ll love it, too. Bake up a wee bit o’ soda bread and enjoy St. Patty’s day!







Chocolate Rose Cake

Today is my mom’s birthday! And that means only one thing – chocolate birthday cake. This year I went with a chocolate cake mix for the cake. I know, I know, it’s shocking that I used a mix. My kids were absolutely flabbergasted!!! But we went to celebrate a bit early over the weekend, and this was going to be a busy day – we painted her living room, dining room, and entry. In addition to that, we brought birthday dinner, presents, and cake! Birthdays were always a big deal to my mom and therefore, her children, and grandchildren, too. This is a photo of the birthday girl when she was about 8 years old. It’s so cute – I just love it!


I don’t know if she was a chocolate fanatic when she was this age, but she sure is now! This birthday cake should satisfy her never-ending craving for chocolate. There can’t possibly be a more chocolaty cake and frosting than this one. I’ve been making this fudgy frosting for a few years, and I’m so sorry, but I can’t remember where I found the recipe. You can find a tutorial for making the roses on the blog

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Chocolate Rose Cake

For cake:

Two layers of chocolate cake, either using a mix or the recipe of your choice.

For Chocolate Frosting:

3 sticks butter, melted

2 cups cocoa

8 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 Tablespoon vanilla

Melt butter and stir in cocoa.

Alternately add powdered sugar and milk.

Beat on medium speed.

Add more milk, if needed.

Stir in vanilla.

Makes about 6 cups.

This needs to be a bit stiff for the roses.

I used a Wilton 1M tip and a disposable piping bag to make the roses.


Use strips of waxed paper under the bottom layer to keep the plate (or in this case, the cardboard) clean when frosting the cake.


After using some of the frosting as a filling between the layers, put on a thin layer of frosting covering the entire cake. This helps the roses stick to the frosting instead of the cake, which has crumbs on the surface, making the roses likely to fall off.


I always keep a package of disposable piping bags in my cupboard, because I hate to clean out the plastic re-useable bags. Cut the tip of the bag large enough for putting the tip into without popping it out of the hole.


Put in your frosting, twist the top shut, and off you go. You can always practice on a plate or piece of parchment paper first, so you can get used to the feel of the bag.


Make the roses as big or as small as you want and just fill the surface with roses. Don’t forget to remove the waxed paper before serving! If you want to know how to make the pretty glass pedestal, you can check my post about that here.


If you find that you have some holes, just fill in with frosting any way you can. This really isn’t very hard to do, and it’s so beautiful and so special.


It went over well – it was a big day and we were pretty tired after all of the painting, but no body, especially my mom, was too tired for cake. This cake is so beautiful and chocolaty and fudgy – just perfect for the special chocoholic in your life! Happy Birthday, Mom!!





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