Tag Archives: walnuts

Itialian Cream Cake

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This cake went all the way from my home in Beaverton, Oregon, to daughter Mindy’s place in north Seattle, Washington, in my luggage and on the train!! And the only damage was that it slid one inch on the 10 inch cardboard cake circle on which I had built it! Of course, I did take some extra care in packing it to go. As I was assembling the cake, I used some Royal Icing to cement the first layer to the cardboard. Then, after frosting it, I cut 5 bamboo skewers to 5 inches and stuck them through the cake to make certain that the individual layers didn’t move relative to each other. And finally, I put the cake in a 10 x 10 x 5 cake box for transporting; the cake box I placed in my duffle bag and hand carried the duffle keeping it flat. I forgot once, placed the duffle on top of my rolling suitcase and tilted the suitcase to roll; that is probably when the cake slid to the edge of the cake circle.

There is more to this story. I hadn’t planned on making and taking a cake with me. But I talk to Mindy every weekend, and the weekend before I was to go, she mentioned that she had almost bought a KitchenAid mixer so she could make the Coconut Cake- another name for the Italian Cream Cake. So I knew I had to make it for her. After all, I make everybody who asks locally a cake, so I needed to make her favorite cake for her birthday.

This is a darn good tasty cake. I think I have only made two cakes recently that I give those qualifications; the other is the Guinness Gingerbread cake, which I did as cupcakes. Both of these cakes are moist and can easily lead to a-second-piece syndrome. I took the photo in a hurry, and my colors were not quite right so the frosting appears more brown than in real life- it really is white with pieces of nut showing through. Here is the recipe.

Italian Cream Cake

(Coconut Cake — Margaret McBryde 1976)

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 egg – separated
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 1/2 oz. coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cake Directions

  1. Cream together until light and fluffy the butter, shortening and sugar.
  2. Add and mix well the egg yolks.
  3. Into a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients alternating with buttermilk. Mix all ingredients very well.
  5. Then add coconut flakes and walnuts.
  6. Beat the egg whites stiffly with the vanilla, then gently fold them in.
  7. Grease and flour 3 8-inch cake layer pans. Divide batter evenly between pans.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
  9. Cool pans on rack before removing the cake layers and icing the cake.



  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 16 oz. (2 packages) cream cheese
  • 2 lbs. (2 boxes) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Mix butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla thoroughly.
  2. Add the chopped walnuts.

September 12, 2015, NOTE: When I first made this cake last month, I was confused about what size cake pans to use. Then I looked at Marlys’s old cake pans and discovered that the only set of 3 pans she had were the 8 inch pans with the old fashion piece that swivels around the middle of the bottom to loosen the cake bottom from the pan. They worked well, and all I had to do after swiveling that bottom piece around 360 degrees was use a knife around the vertical edges.
Since then, I talked to my friends at the Decorette Shop about using their Real Ease product to grease the pans. They said that because of its composition, it is not necessary to flour the pans after applying it. That will save a mess of bouncing flour all over the sink, so I will be trying it without flour this week.

Spaghetti Marco Polo

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Now here is a spaghetti dish with lots of earthy flavor, but not tomato or milk based. And it is easily expanded for a large crowd.

We originally got this recipe from the 1972 Julia Child television show on PBS. Since then, I have searched a lot of recipes called Marco Polo, but never found this exact recipe. It is again a case that you really can’t improve on the classic base.

When I made this recipe the other day, I was surprised at how much “sauce” it made, and how it totally covered the spaghetti. From that experience, I have a couple suggestions. One would be to not be afraid to double the amount of spaghetti to a full 16 ounces, and the second would be to not be afraid to stir the “sauce” into the spaghetti instead of leaving it on top. My memories of when Marlys made the recipe is that the spaghetti showed through on top, and wasn’t completely covered with “sauce”, and since there were four of us eating, she might have doubled the amount of spaghetti anyway.

My personal choice is not to sprinkle the parmesan cheese on the serving dish, but to put it on the table and let each person sprinkle the amount they want on their serving of the dish.

Spaghetti Marco Polo

(Julia Child, TV Program 1972)


  • 8 oz. spaghetti
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped black olives
  • 1/2 cup red pimento (no vinegar flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, pureed


Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the spaghetti.

Make the sauce by mixing together in a bowl the walnuts, olives, pimento, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the cooking pan put the olive oil and garlic. Stir over moderate heat. Return spaghetti to pan and toss with the oil & garlic.

Transfer to serving plate and top with the “sauce”. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serves two generously.

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While searching the internet for versions of the Hamanteschen, I ran across a second Jewish cookie that looked interesting; in fact, I first thought of it as a miniature cinnamon roll, and I do love a good cinnamon roll. I asked my neighbor Esther about it, and she gave me a recipe from one of her friends that has received rave reviews and has in the past been requested for many of those tables of 2-bite goodies.

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Back in December of 2009, the Oregonian newspaper in the FoodDay section, did a search for the best Rugelach in town. I think they state it best when they say “…we were pretty proud of our results — until we spent an afternoon making rugelach with Margaret Hasson.”

It is Margaret’s recipe that Esther gave to me, and after I made the recipe and took some to Esther to critique, it appeared that I didn’t need to change anything. So here is Margaret’s recipe.


Margaret Hasson

The Filling

  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Stir together in a bowl; refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

The Dough

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Blend butter, cream cheese and flour, either by hand or in a stand mixer. Divide dough into 3 balls. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours or until firm enough to roll.

  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons melted butter
  • Extra granulated sugar

Combine the cinnamon and sugar.

Putting It All Together

On a lightly floured surgace or silicon mat, roll one ball of dough into a 12-inch circle. Cut the circle into 16 wedges with a sharp knife dipped in flour. Place 1 teaspoon of filling across the wide end of each wedge. Starting at the wide end, roll toward the point.

Place cookies, point side down, on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush top of cookie with the Topping butter, sprinkle with the Topping sugar and cinnamon mixtuer.

Bake 22 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

Cool enouth to handle, remove from cookie sheet, dip bottoms of cookies in the Topping extra granulated sugar and place on wax paper to cool completely.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

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When I rolled my dough, it was difficult to get it all the way out to a 12-inch circle, but I did get it there. The edges at that point were starting to get feathered because they were so thin. This doesn’t really matter as they get rolled into the center of the cookie.

I have read versions of this cookie that roll the dough to only 9-inch circle, and versions that cut only 12 wedges. Each of these has a result in the size of the cookie, making it either thicker or wider. I like Margaret’s 12-inch, 16 wedge size as a nice 2-bite size.

The filling is very sticky; try to get it in the center of the wide end of the wedge so that it doesn’t come out the sides as you roll the cookie.

Chocolate Fudge

When I made this recipe for the holiday season, it quickly was apparent that I needed to work on changes to the recipe. The original recipe is at the bottom of this post so you can see it.

Mary Boese was a friend from our days in Forest Grove, Oregon. Our daughters were in school together, and our house was a gathering place for the students after school until their parents could pick them up.

The reasons I felt a need to modify the recipe is first, at one point in the directions it says to “spread into three 8 x 8 buttered pans”. Luckily, I was giving most of the fudge away so it didn’t bother me too much at that point. But, who wants to make so much at a time unless you are producing for some reason.

The second item that caught my eye was the need for 16 ounces of marshmallow cream. That is a problem; the big bottle of marshmallow cream is only 13 ounces now, and there is a small bottle that is 7 ounces. It is obvious that this recipe was originally developed around the availability of marshmallow cream, and it only came in 16 ounce bottles. As a result, we need a lot of ingredients and end up making the three 8 x 8 pans.

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I originally cut the fudge into 2 x 2 inch pieces, and that is what the photo shows- the original fudge in large pieces.

After working on the altered version of the recipe, I took it to some chocolate lovers to give me feedback on whether I had kept the good taste and all of the recipe. One thing I did in altering the recipe is to put it into a larger pan; then I cut it into 1 x 2 inch pieces; my test audience all said that they thought the pieces I took to the test kept the good taste and they liked the smaller pieces I had formed. In fact, they did not want me to make the pieces any thicker. So, I am recommending that you spread the fudge into a 10 x 15 inch pan, and then cut it into 1 x 2 inch pieces.

I also decided to do away with the marshmallow creme; it is sticky and it is not necessary for the marshmallow to be in a creme state. So this it the final results of my changes.

Chocolate Fudge

(Mary Boese 1983, modified by Errol Crary 2014)


  • 5 oz. miniature marshmallow
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 5 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 oz. evaporated milk
  • 2/3 cups chopped walnuts


  • Combine in a large bowl the marshmallows, chocolate chips, butter and vanilla.
  • Boil sugar and milk together for 9 minutes. Pour over ingredients in large bowl. Beat until almost set. Stir in nuts.
  • Spread into 10 x 15 x 1 inch buttered pan. Allow to set up in refrigerator.

Using marshmallows instead of the creme means you need to beat the mixture that melts everything together a little harder, but it works.

You may use pans other than the 10 x 15 that I recommend; the results are just thicker fudge pieces. For example, a 9 x 13 pan would make pieces about half the depth as an 8 x 8 pan, and in the photo you can see the depth of an 8 x 8 piece. Everyone said that the 2 x 2inch pieces made in the 8 x 8 pan were too big, and most people cut them into fourths.

Here is Mary’s original recipe:
Chocolate Fudge
(Mary Boese 1983)
16 oz. marshmallow creme
36 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 lb. butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
15 oz. evaporated milk
2 cups chopped walnuts

Combine in a large bowl the marshmallow creme, chocolate chips, butter and vanilla.

Boil sugar and milk together for 9 minutes. Pour over ingredients in large bowl. Beat until almost set. Stir in nuts.

Spread into three 8 x 8 buttered pans. Allow to set up in refrigerator.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

This is an very interesting cookie and recipe; it is sort of a BOGO thing. Mexican Wedding Cookies ((Polvorones) and Russian Tea Cakes are almost the same recipe; the only difference in the way I make them is in the type of nut flour I use and the shape into which I make the cookie. Notice that I said “in the way I make them”; a lot of other peoples’ recipes do not make any difference in the two. My basic recipe is a Short Bread cookie dough, with nut flour added; there is no leavening or egg in the recipe. You will find other recipes that add egg to the basic Short Bread, and do not differentiate on the type of nut flour. In most cases, these are all called Mexican Wedding Cookies. I have seen recipes that use pecans, walnuts or almonds, all calling them Mexican Wedding Cookies.

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A Short Bread recipe is fairly simple and short; it contains fat, sugar, flour and flavoring. This recipe adds the nut flour to make the cookies. For Mexican Wedding Cookies, the nut flour is ground pecans, and for the Russian Tea Cakes the nut flour is ground walnuts. The second differentiation I make is in the shape of the cookie; while I leave the Russian Tea Cakes as balls, I roll the Mexican Wedding Cookies into crescents. I have seen Mexican Wedding Cookies that make them as a ball that looks exactly like the Russian Tea Cakes. This picture is my Russian Tea Cakes.

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So, with this recipe, you can make either Mexican Wedding Cookies or Russian Tea Cakes, and if you want to interpret the recipe in your own way, feel free. You may make your cookies with any nut flour you want, and you may shape your cookies any way you want. I am only showing you the way I learned.

The nut flours are easy to make; they do not have to be ground to a powder, but just enough to be easy to handle in the dough. The way I make mine is in a food processor. I have found that it is best to run a knife through the nut halves a couple times before putting them in the food processor so the projectiles the spinning blades throw do not have as much mass; it scares me to hear the nut halves hit the side of the processor bowl. I think once when I did just dump the halves in the processor, I actually cracked a piece of the plastic of the processor bowl. Once in the processor, just pulse it a few times; there will still be a few discernible pieces, but for the most part you will have a fine enough grind to make the nut flour.

Mexican Wedding Cookies and Russian Tea Cakes


  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup nut flour


  1. For the nut flour, measure out the desired type of nuts, cut any large pieces, then finely grind in food processor or blender. I use pecans for Mexican Wedding Cookies and walnuts for Russian Tea Cakes.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. In large bowl with electric mixer beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until blended. On low speed, beat in flour and nut flour just until blended.
  4. Roll Tablespoons of dough into shape; smooth 1-inch balls for Russian Tea Cakes or crescents for Mexican Wedding Cookies. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets
  5. Bake 10 minutes or until firm (cookies may crack slightly).
  6. To Coat: put confectioners’ sugar into a wide bowl. Add hot cookies, a few at a time and toss carefully to coat. Remove with a spoon to wire rack to cool. When cool, roll again in confectioners’ sugar.

There are a couple tricks I should mention when making the crescent Mexican Wedding cookies. To roll out the Tablespoon of dough into a cylinder, I found that the best method was to roll across my bottom hand in a 45 degree direction, with my top hand doing the motion from little finger to first finger and back again. When I rolled at 90 degrees, the ending shape was wider in the middle than at the ends and didn’t make as nice a finished cookie.

Notice that the recipe says to remove with a spoon to the wire rack. If you try to pick the crescent up with your fingers, there is a good chance that it will break into two pieces. The spoon does not put any pressure against the legs and seems to save more cookies that when just using your fingers.

Once when I was making Mexican Wedding Cookies I rolled the unbaked crescents in the confectioners’ sugar before baking, and then again when they came out of the oven and were hot. This worked quite well. After all, the object is to get as much powdered sugar as possible on the cookies, isn’t it?

Rocky Road Cookies

We are all familiar with the tastes of rocky road- it has chocolate, marshmallow and nuts. These cookies combine all those without hiding the marshmallow. Normally, if you cooked the marshmallow it would melt into the other ingredients; in this case, it is preserved as part of the look of the cookie.

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Rocky Road Cookies


  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • Cooled chocolate mixture
  • a bag of miniature marshmallows


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt over low heat the chocolate morsels and butter. Cool before starting rest of recipe.

Mix together and beat well the eggs, granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Stir in the nuts and cooled chocolate mixture.

Drop by rounded teaspoons about 2″ apart onto un-greased baking sheet. Press a marshmallow in the center of each cookie. Bake about 8 minutes or until no imprint remains when touched with finger. Immediately remove from baking sheet.

Option: This dough may be put into a 15 x 10 x 1″ jelly-roll pan and baked as bar cookies. Sprinkle the marshmallows evenly over top of cookies in pan. Bake in 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

The recipe is simple and straight-forward. All I can add is that it makes a lot of cookies- I would say over 5 dozen at the teaspoon size.

Magic Cookies

There is probably few cookies that are as rich as Magic Cookies. When I asked the daughters what cookies they wanted me to bake for the Holidays, Magic Cookies was easily the first choice of all.

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In many senses, Magic Cookies are a lot like a candy bar; there is the chocolate, the coconut, the condensed milk and the nuts with just enough other ingredients to hold each Magic Cookie bar together.

Magic Cookies


  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup (6 oz pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 1/3 cups (3 1/2 oz.) flaked coconut
  • 15 oz. can Eagle Sweetened Condensed Milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees In a 13 x 9 x 2″ pan, layer ingredients evenly in the order given; butter, crumbs, nuts, chocolate morsels, coconut and milk. Bake about 25 minutes or until lighty browned on top.

Cool in pan about one hour before cutting into bars.

This recipe is so easy that I really don’t have any hints or suggestions.

Kookie Brittle

The irregular shape of the pieces of Kookie Brittle invite you to take the size piece that will be just right. One size does not fit all when eating cookies.

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As you might sense, I like to make drop cookies. Kookie Brittle defies that bent. It is a short bread pan cookie that after cooking, you break into pieces – no cutting nice even pieces with a knife. In many ways, being a pan cookie means it is very easy to make; it all comes together at once.

Kookie Brittle


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend butter, vanilla and salt together well. gradually add sugar, flour and chips.

Press evenly into un-greased 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over top. Press firmly into dough. Bake 25 minutes or until browned. Cool and break into irregular pieces and drain on paper towels.

I was surprised that the directions do not cream the butter and sugar, but add the sugar later with the dry ingredients. I think this might make mixing of the dry ingredients into the dough slightly more difficult, and I doubt if the order is necessary.

The dough is very stiff when mixing is finished; it is almost the consistency of clay. It takes considerable effort to push it out into all areas (the corners) of the pan. If you are having trouble getting the dough spread evenly into the pan, put it in the hot oven for just a minute; it will soften and spread easier.

Do try to get the dough even in the pan. I find that many times the cookies have cooked slightly unevenly with one end or corner getting too brown. You might also want to watch the cooking time- 25 minutes might be a couple minutes too long.

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies

For the last few days, I have been wanting a chocolate chip cookie. I even looked at them when I went to the store. But, for me, I have not seen an improvement over the original Toll House Chocolate Chip cookie. Marlys has recipes for versions of chocolate chip cookies with oatmeal, and others like Mrs. Fields, but they don’t seem to add anything for me. Then, I noticed this recipe in her book- Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies, and I decided I had to investigate it. So, here it is.

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Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make sure oven rack is in the middle.

Cream shortening, butter and both sugars together in large bowl. Add egg and vanilla.

In small bowl mix together flour, salt and baking soda. Beat into large bowl in two batches. Stir in chocolate pieces and nuts.

Divide dough into 4 pieces to make 4 cookies. Form 2 cookies 1/2″ deep (center slightly lower) on upside down cookie sheet. Bake one pan at a time for about 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes and remove gently. Centers will be soft but will firm as they cool.

So the recipe makes just four cookies! I think the “upside down cookie sheet” means that you do not want edges on the pan you are using to bake the cookies. I use the sideless air bake cookie sheets, and then the silicon mats, and didn’t have any problem. I did leave the cookies alone for the 5 minute initial cooling; I didn’t try to take them off the pans. At the end of the 5 minutes, I slid the silicon mats onto the cooling racks being very careful to not bend them. I don’t know how to remove them from the silicon mats before they have completely cooled; that would require a very big pancake turner.

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Before they were baked, the cookies were about 6 inches in diameter. The sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper gives you a scale for their size. They spread while cooking, and added about an inch to their diameter. The finished cookies are a good 7 inches in diameter.

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When I ate one of the cookies, it was crusty, and not a soft cookie. I think the cooking time could be a minute or two less. The cookies continue to cook on the cookie sheet while they are out of the oven and cooling for that 5 minutes.

While the recipe in general is a smaller quantity than the Toll House recipe, it is different in that it uses some shortening. That should make the dough stiffer, and with less spread then a recipe that uses all butter. I guess with these big cookies, one doesn’t want too much spread or they could be running off the edge of the pan. This is a recipe that you make for a child to be a surprise when they want a cookie.

Banana Tea Bread

Marlys could never stand to have any brown on her banana skin; I could eat them until the meat got mushy . Then they were too ripe for me. This time of year, with the warm weather, I am discovering that I need to buy a smaller hand of bananas, but more often in order to have bananas on hand. I like to have bananas both as a snack, and to put into my salad, like into Monkey Salad.

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Banana Tea Bread is another sweet bread, much like Zucchini Bread and Steamed Bread Pudding. It is good just sliced as a dessert.

So, if you have bananas that you don’t feel like using as a snack, or in another recipe, make Banana Tea Bread with them.  And it is therapeutic since you can take out some aggression on the bananas when you mash them.

Gracie Damon was Marlys’s neighbor when her father was stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Station.

Banana Tea Bread

(Grace Damon 1950s)

  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten well
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add eggs. In a separate dish, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

Add dry ingredients alternately with mashed banana. Add walnuts. Pour into well greased loaf pan and bake at 350°F about an hour.

I found that it took 1 1/2 bananas to make a cup. Those bananas were about 7 inches long.

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I am getting mixed signals about sifting flour, and thus sifting all the dry ingredients together. My recent readings have said that modern flour is manufactured such that it doesn’t contain lumping.  I have stopped sifting my flour and dry ingredients together on recipes that I have made more than a couple times, and I don’t see any problem.