Cooks’ Exchange: Sweet memories of Girl Scout days –


It might be the beginning of September, but summer thoughts from the past continue to stir fond memories of my Girl Scout days back in the 1940s and overnight outings in the woods at Camp Brandenburg.

In a recent conversation with a reader, we reminisced about our Girl Scout days including selling crispy molasses cookies in stapled bags for 50 cents a dozen in familiar neighborhoods, attending a week in the woods, sleeping in tan canvas tents for four, and attending meetings as members of Mrs. Derra’s St. Bernard’s Girl Scout troop while proudly wearing our green uniforms with all the trimmings.

Many thanks to Christy Gibbs, chief marketing officer of Badgerland’s Girls Scouts of America, from whom I’ve recently learned more about the camp made possible in 1942 by the Brandenburg family who donated 178 acres of property near Dane County’s Springfield Corners and Middleton with Lake Katrine complementing their generous offering.

How well I remember early morning hikes sweetened by wild black raspberries picked along the way, learning to recognize what nature and a small lake offered along with so much more including the many bonfires we sat around at night telling stories and singing songs.

To learn more about what Camp Brandenburg offers throughout the year — including a main lodge, hilltop cabins, treehouses, picnic shelters, grassy fields and more contact Badgerland’s Girl Scouts of Wisconsin at their website: or email, or call 800-236-2750.

A request for Grandma Kessenich’s molasses cookies that Strand’s Bakery on Atwood Avenue baked for Girl Scouts prompted my memories of Camp Brandenburg. It was featured in my Aug. 4, 1993 column.

Strand Bakery Girl Scout cookies

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 cup shortening

1/3 cup dark molasses

1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water and allowed to cool

Sift together:

3 ½ cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

Blend in order given. Chill and roll 1/8 inch thick. Cut out with round cookie cutter. Sprinkle with sugar and water to form cracks. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or 375 degrees for 12 minutes. Need not grease pan, but remove quickly.

Note: Instead of rolling out dough and using a cookie cutter, another possibility is chilling dough, then roll into walnut-size balls, pressing each down with a glass dipped in sugar. Sprinkling with water is not necessary. These should bake to about 3 inches in diameter, so space dough accordingly. Bake at 375 degrees. Additional sprinkling of sugar can be added upon removal from oven. Cool on rack and store in tight-lidded glass or tin container.

September welcomes other seasonal recipes, one using fresh sweet corn from Mike Repas with a “neat trick” for cutting corn: use a Bundt pan, place the small end of the ear in the hole and slice kernels. The pan will catch all the kernels No mess. No waste.

Fresh corn salad

5-6 ears of fresh sweet corn, shucked and silk removed

1 small red onion, about ½ cup finely diced

3 tablespoons each of cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

½ cup fresh basil leaves, julienned

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add corn and boil for 3 minutes. Drain corn and immediately immerse in ice water to stop the cooking. When the corn has cooled, cut kernels from the ears with a sharp knife. In a large bowl, toss corn kernels with the red onion, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Just before serving, mix in the julienned basil. Serve the salad at room temperature (best) or slightly chilled.

Seasonal apples are also in mind.

Also received a favorite Swedish recipe from Laurine Carstens describing it as being more like a cobbler than a cake that she discovered in the “VASA SVEA Lodge No. 253” cookbook, published in 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Easiest apple cake

½ cup sugar

1 scant cup flour

¼ pound of butter

Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and slice apples. Place apples in a baking dish; sprinkle flour and sugar over the apples. Place the butter sliced with a cheese slicer to cover the flour. Bake for 25 minutes or until the apples are soft and the cake is a golden color. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Note: Carstens adds a bit of cinnamon when she makes this.

Another apple recipe, referred to as a “dump cake”, arrived from Ruth Ann Phillips, Madison.

Blushing apples (dump cake)

6-8 apples, peeled and diced

¼ cup sugar

3-ounce package strawberry Jell-O

1 yellow cake mix

1 ¼ cups of water

8 tablespoons of butter

Spread apples in a 9×13-inch pan. Layer in sugar, Jell-O and cake mix; and sprinkle water over top. Cut butter in tiny pieces and scatter over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Ellie Ninemeier remembers making a “tunnel of sugar plum cake,” a delicious dessert calling for a package of “one layer size vanilla buttercream frosting mix.” The cake also calls for candied cherries, almonds, and coconut which, mixed with frosting, settles into the center of a Bundt cake.

Ninemeier wrote because she can no longer find a one layer size vanilla buttercream frosting mix and is looking for ideas on where to find a mix or what to substitute.

Online several vanilla buttercream frosting mixes are available though all in larger sizes including mixes from Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Wilton.

The recipe appears here as featured on where it was posted from a 1968 Pillsbury’s Best Flour insert. The blogger who posted the recipe used half a package of Pillsbury’s Purely Simple frosting mix.

Tunnel of sugar plum cake

1 ½ cup soft butter

1 ½ cups sugar

2 ½ cups all-purpose Pillsbury Best Regular flour

1 cup chopped candied cherries

2 cups slivered almonds

½ cup flaked coconut

½ cup golden raisins

1 package Pillsbury One Layer size vanilla buttercream frosting

1 4-serving package instant lemon pudding mix

10-inch tube cake pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter in a large metal bowl with mixer on high speed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, gradually adding sugar; continue creaming at high speed until light and fluffy. By hand, fold in flour, cherries, almonds, coconut and raisins; then fold in frosting mix and pudding mix. Pour batter into well-greased Bundt pan or 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 60-65 minutes. Do not invert. Cool 2 hours, then remove from pan. Cool completely before serving.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at