Friday, May 31, 2019

Snippy Doodle from Emma Jane's Souvenir Cookbook

I may have mentioned I’m cleaning out and sorting all the stuff in my house to sell, and this is an odd item that emerged from my grandmother’s files.

 Why odd? Well, for a start, my grandmother never cooked, so why a cookbook? Because Emma Jane’s Souvenir Cook Book (1937) includes on the title page my grandmother’s handwritten explanation:

From Mrs. B. E. Moncure, Williamsburg, Virginia

Ned [her husband, the grandfather who I never knew] took his meals at Mrs. Moncure’s house while he attended William and Mary.

Emma Jane was Mrs. Moncure’s cook at that time, and Ned knew her well.

 It is, to be polite, a very odd little book. Much of the text and the recipes are attributed to Emma Jane Jackson Beauregard Jefferson Davis Lincoln Christian, the aforesaid cook, born during the Civil War and given her name(s) by three Union soldiers who just happened to be passing through Virginia when she was born. She was in her seventies when this book appeared.

The recipes in general are heavy on the flour/butter/sugar/eggs, and most are short—from four to six ingredients—and simple. But I will admit I was intrigued (mostly by the name) by one particular dessert recipe, which is typical of most in the booklet.

Snippy Doodle


1 cup sugar
1 pound butter [yes, really]
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
½ cup milk
1 level tsp baking powder


Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla, egg, milk, flour and baking powder. [Note: nothing is sifted together. And I cheated and used a stand mixer rather than beat the batter by hand.]

Put in a shallow square biscuit pan (8” x 8”), sprinkle with brown sugar [and] cinnamon [and] nuts.

Bake slowly in a moderate oven.

And that is the sum and total of the instructions.

I decided a moderate oven would be about 300 degrees, and kept an eye on the dish while it baked. It took about 40 minutes to firm up and for the crust to brown.

As you might guess, with a pound of butter in it, it’s pretty gooey. I would recommend chilling it for a while before trying to cut it into pieces. But if you read through the recipes throughout the book, you can picture a bunch of youthful male students enjoying the wealth of sweet dishes in a boarding-house atmosphere.

What we now know as the “living history museum” of Williamsburg did not exist as such when my grandfather was at school there: the restoration of the 18th century Virginia capital began in 1926, but my grandfather was born in 1901 and would have missed it. Still, he and my grandmother visited after the Rockefeller family had provided the funds to transform the place.

Stay tuned! Digging Up History should be released by the end of June--as soon as Beyond the Page finalizes the cover (we're working on it!).


  1. I would make this for the name alone. How could you not smile as you asked someone, "Can I get you some more Snippy Doodle." You are so fortunate to have this book and bless Emma Jane for creating such a cheerful dish.

  2. I am totally with Ellicia on her comment. And I am tempted to make it also just to see the gooey texture of which you speak. It is great fun to come cross recipes and cookbooks from times past.

  3. Hm, what if you used less butter? (3/4 pound? 1/2 pound?)
    It does sound like fun.

  4. What a great little memento, Sheila! And the recipe sounds yummy, just the sort of thing to appeal to hungry young men (maybe this is the origin of Gooey Butter Cake?). If you don't want to keep it, you might ask if the William and Mary, local public library, or Williamsburg archivists would like it. And if nothing else, they'd probably appreciate a digital copy for their archives. LynneW, another librarian