Revisiting the Diary Years: Grandma’s Sunbeam Mixmaster Mixer and her Molasses Cookie Recipe

molasses cookiesIf you are looking for a hundred-year-old recipe, come back next week. This week, I’m revisiting the early days of this blog – and including a 70-year-old recipe for Soft Molasses Cookies to boot.

I began A Hundred Years Ago in 2011 to post my grandmother’s diary entries a hundred years to the day after she wrote them. My grandmother, Helena Muffly [Swartz] kept the diary from 1911 to 1914 when she was a teen living on a farm near McEwensville in central Pennsylvania. After I posted all the diary entries, I reinvented A Hundred Years Ago to its current focus on food. Today I’m going to go back to those diary years —

When I was a child, I lived about a mile from Grandma – and most of her other grandchildren also lived nearby. But one of Grandma’s daughters lived in the Philadelphia area with her husband and three children. It was always a special occasion when those cousins visited.

I recently received a comment on a post I did about Grandma’s cookies from Pat Donaldson, one of my “Philadelphia” cousins. She then followed up with an email. She wrote:

I too remember Grandma’s cookies fondly. We’d come to visit, and her cookie jar would always be full, with either Molasses or Peanut Butter cookies. The Molasses cookies were soft, with a dark crinkly top, and the Peanut Butter cookies had the trademark cross-hatching on them. We’d eat the cookies as we ran in and out of the house playing tag.

Later, when we were grown and attending a wedding we talked about those cookies and found how scarcely they were given out to our cousins, who would have to ask for just one very politely. They were scandalized that we just reached in and ate them! But we were only there one weekend a month, and Grandma never said a word about our cookie habit – just kept the cookie jar full for us.

After her funeral, we were all given a chance to take home one item to remember Grandma by. I chose her Sunbeam mixer, which came with a little cookbook. The mixer was a Sunbeam Mixmaster 10, which was sold around 1950. Since I was in college and needed a mixer, that’s what I chose.  It lasted quite a while – decades at least.  The recipe book came with the mixer

Inside the cookbook I found recipes for molasses and peanut butter cookies. I’m not sure about the peanut butter cookies – but the molasses cookies have an “X” next to the recipe, and I’m fairly sure they’re the ones Grandma baked. I’ve scanned the pages from the recipe book. The Sunbeam cookbook is still a bit recent for your food blog – but the cookies can be eaten any time.

p.s.: One year when we were visiting we went exploring in the attic, and found Grandma’s cookie stash. She must have baked dozens and dozens of them, and they were all sitting in a box waiting to go into the cookie jar as soon as we emptied it. That solved the mystery of how Grandma’s cookie jar could always be full, when we never saw her baking cookies!

Here’s the first page of the little cookbook that came with the mixer::First page of cookbook with photo of a Sunbeam Mixmaster Mixer

And, here’s the recipe in the cookbook (with Grandma’s “X” marking it as a recipe she had made):

molasses cookie recipe
Source: Cookbook included with Sunbeam Mixmaster (circa 1950)

Of course, I had to try Grandma’s (i.e., the Sunbeam Mixmaster Cookbook) Soft Molasses Cookie recipe. The cookies turned out wonderfully. They were soft and chewy with just the right mixture of spices and raisins. Making the cookies with a mixer was very 1950’s, but the cookies are definitely a wonderful, traditional, soft molasses cookie that brought back fond memories of Grandma, her kitchen, and wonderful times playing with my cousins.

64 thoughts on “Revisiting the Diary Years: Grandma’s Sunbeam Mixmaster Mixer and her Molasses Cookie Recipe

  1. I think it’s interesting how we all seem to remember our grandmother’s cookies, rather than the other things she made! I do remember very good lemon meringue and banana cream pies but it’s the cookies that really get me nostalgic!

    1. I’m humbled how you remember my grandmother and her cookies all these years after the diary posts ended. I have really enjoyed getting to know you via our blogs.

      1. I loved your posts about your Grandmother, in part because they helped me think about my own grandmother and the sorts of experiences she might’ve had when young. You and I have been “together” as bloggers for a long time now–and may we continue for years to come!

        1. It’s amazing how quickly the years have flown by. I’ve been blogging for 8+ years now. I can’t remember when we found each others blogs, but we’ve probably known each other for 7 or 8 years.

          1. I started blogging in 2013 and I think I found your blog early on so it’s been almost 6 years. Hard to believe! And hard to believe what good friends I’ve made in the process–including you!

    1. I’m so glad that my cousin sent me the comments about Grandma, her mixer, and the cookies. It is fun to revisit the diary years.

  2. During the 80’s, I “rescued” three vintage Mixmaster’s from Thrift Stores and use them exclusively. I love their bullet-shape design and one set has Vaseline Glass bowls! I’ve got the recipe books that came with them too, since it seemed that these donated mixers were barely used by the original owners, who had passed on. I’ve made these exact cookies for at least 30 years and they are the MOST REQUESTED COOKIE that I bring to work! Both men and women like them, which is unusual for a cookie, cause most men that I personally know, find most cookies “too sweet”. They are perfect with that first, second and third cuppa Joe!

    Lovely story. Such a nice way to start my Sunday morning…at work. (groan)

    1. Your comment makes me realize just how special this recipe is. It’s quite an endorsement. I love how you found almost new Mixmasters at thrift stores. It’s amazing how often there are barely used high-quality items at thrift stores and flea markets. I hope that you had a good day at work.

  3. Oh yes, I remember seeing that mixer in grandma’s kitchen,only I see myself standing beside her as she whipped up soft fluffy mashed potatoes! Honestly I don’t remember grandma’s cookies but her pies were to “ die for”! Now Grammy was the cookie maker,and she just used a hand held mixer. The cookie recipe is very close to the one I make and are so good!

    1. I don’t think either of my grandmothers made cookies! They both made birthday cakes and one made deep dish peach cobbler, but no cookies.

  4. This is a charming story that makes me happy. What a treasure that old mixer turned into and how wonderful that you have a recipe like this one to share with us all. I adore the flavor of molasses. I see some cookies in my future.

    1. It’s amazing how the opportunity that Grandma’s grandchildren had to select items from her home to remember her by are still creating wonderful memories and stories. My cousin Pat shared her memories of the Mixmaster mixer in today’s post. I selected Grandma’s ironing board at the same time – and am still using it. I did a post on the ironing board several years ago.

  5. How special that you have your grandmothers diary from so long ago! I came to the party late, so didn’t realize how your blog started. I’ll have to go back and check into some of those old entries!

    1. I originally started this blog to post my grandmother’s diary entries a hundred years to the day after she wrote them. She’d kept the diary for four years. When I started this blog, I wasn’t sure that I’d get them all posted – but the years went by quickly and I really enjoyed blogging. After I posted the last diary entry, this blog ended for six or eight months; but I really missed it, so I eventually reinvented it as a blog focused on food and related topics from a hundred years ago. . . .and the rest is history.

    1. I also loved that part of my cousin’s story. When we were children, Grandma lived in a ranch house that she and my grandfather had built on the farm of an uncle – and it had the most wonderful, beautifully organized attic with lots of shelves. It would have been the perfect place to store cookies.

  6. What a beautiful and heart-warming story! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Our memories of our grandmothers, and their foods, contribute so much to who we become as cooks (or bakers) in our own kitchens.

    1. Food, and the recipes of our ancestors, do so much to connect one generation to the next. I find it fascinating how recipes are adapted across the years to accommodate changing technology, and changing food availability and preferences.

  7. I read your last blog all the way through to the end (while you were writing it). This is a wonderful story to add to it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. It wonderful to know that you enjoyed reading Grandma’s story as it unfolded day by day. I really appreciate all your support over the years. It’s been fun getting to know you via our blogs.

  8. What a sweet story and I’m hungry now for a molasses cookie! I have my mother’s 1950’s Mixmaster stored away. It still runs, but compared to the big, heavy Kitchen Aid….it is too wobbly! I would like to donate it to a museum. How fun to know that your grandmother’s was put to such good use, too.

  9. Great story and I do miss your grandmother a bit. Hope things are well with her back in 1919. And those cookies look like something I need right now. Unfortunately, molasses doesn’t seem to be on sale at all in my country.

    BTW, I still have my grandmother’s mixer. She was born in 1912, so a bit younger than yours. It worked fine last time I tried it. I mostly use a hand mixer these days, or even a hand whisk, but for sponge cake it’s indispensable. Its brand name seems to be Spinner, and I think it was produced in the 1960s. I’d like to post a picture of it, but seems I can’t do it here.

    1. It’s too bad that molasses isn’t available where you live. Even though I don’t think that molasses is nearly as popular as it once was, it is still easy to find in stores here. I don’t know how to post photos to comments – though other people have occasionally done it on this blog, so there must be a way.

    2. It’s too bad that you can’t buy molasses where you live. I think that molasses is less popular here than it once was, but it is still widely available. I’ve never heard of Spinner mixers, though it sounds like the perfect name for a mixer. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to post photos to comments.

  10. What a treat! I love revisiting Helena here, and the follow-up post from your cousin shows that you both have an affinity for writing and archiving and sharing! Molasses and peanut butter cookies are still my favorites 🙂 I am pretty sure my mom had that Sunbeam, as she married in 1950. I inherited it when I moved to NYC, and finally gave it up for a Kitchen Aid in the late 1980s. It was almost like trading in a car. Except I didn’t own a car until 2001, and now I am doing just that, trading in my 1998 Subaru . . .for my parents’ newer model! A bit off topic, but I guess I just got rolling there 🙂 And now I’m hungry for molasses cookies!

    1. I like your analogy- even if it is a bit off topic. I think that you were one of the early followers of this blog. I so appreciate your support. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you as a fellow native of Pennsylvania, as a talented artist, and as a blogging friend.

      1. I did discover Helena’s diary/your first blog, along with a few others here that I recognize. Thank you for the acknowledgment! I recently drove not too far from your homestead. It’s so nice to get off the interstates and see what’s still around from our memories.

        1. That’s really strange. I don’t know why you had problems. At least you were able to post this comment, so hopefully the issue has been resolved.

  11. Wonderfully sweet post, both in story and recipe! I have had molasses cookies on my ‘to bake’ list for quite some time now. What am I waiting for? These look delicious!

    1. If you’ve been thinking of making molasses cookies, I think that you’d like this recipe. The cookies are easy to make and very tasty.

  12. Omg, takes me back! My grandma had s bottomless cookie jar, too, that was never empty! Between my seven cousins and I, we did our best to empty it, too. Hmmm, wonder where she kept her stash? 😊

  13. My mother had a Sunbeam Mixmaster, although I don’t remember hers having a juicer. That certainly looks like what’s on top of this one. Maybe it was an “extra” that could be purchased, or there may have been both plain and fancy models. I’m not sure if that recipe was the one she used for molasses cookies, but they look identical. As I recall, hers were just slightly cake-like, and they were delicious. I have some molasses hanging around, and four days of rain ahead of me. Maybe it’s time to do some cookie baking!

    1. Zowie! I can’t remember another blog post, recently, that’s generated such a HUGE response! Well done, Sheryl, well done! 🙂

    2. I agree – I’m so glad that my cousin shared her memories and the recipe. It’s fun to remember stories about our grandmother and her times.

  14. I find myself salivating at this post as my own Grandma used to make very similar cookies. i can still remember the soft warmth in my mouth. Thank you for stirring up such a lovely memory.

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