A Family Heirloom Cookbook Christmas Gift
by Mary Emma Allen
Mary Emma Allen

I'm frequently asked for information about creating heirloom cookbooks to preserve family recipes. Recently a reader said she was making a family recipe scrapbook for her sister as a birthday gift and wondered if I had any suggestions. 

Another reader mentioned she was compiling a recipe book to give as a wedding gift. I also heard from someone else who wanted to collect family recipes as an anniversary gift for her parents.

With Christmas approaching, a family heirloom cookbook/scrapbook would be a grand idea as a gift for someone special in your family. Or make copies to give as your gift to several family members.

Rewarding Project

I found preserving our family food heritage, by collecting recipes and creating an heirloom cookbook, a rewarding project. My daughter, husband, and I, with the assistance of two cousins, developed a cookbook for the Allen family.

We thought this an interesting way to save the family recipes and stories associated with them. It's another method of recording one's family history.

This project took a year after it was announced at the annual reunion. Some people readily sent us recipes; others had to be reminded. Some were reluctant when they learned we'd like the stories accompanying the recipes or occasions when they were served.

They weren't reluctant to participate, only thought they couldn't write that well. So we encouraged them to tell us about the recipes and we'd jot down their memories.

When we had collected the recipes, my daughter typed them into a recipe book format. She printed the sheets and we photocopied them.

Hubby and daughter designed a cover and laminated it. We took the covers and photocopied pages to the print shop where they put the books together with comb binding.

(We now have one of these machines so can bind the next cookbook we're creating of recipes from my side of the family.)

Add Scrapbooking Techniques

We didn't put photos or illustrations in our cookbook; however, this can be done to add interest. With scrapbooking so much in vogue these days, use some of these techniques to add interest and uniqueness to your project.

I find it of great value to save family recipes. They tell the culinary history of a culture and a family. Some recipes relate modern day habits and traditions; others might date back to great grandparents or beyond. They bring together fond memories of several generations...and make delightful gifts.

Have fun with your project...there are so many ways you can develop it.

A Family Recipe

CHOCOLATE CAKE IN THE PAN - This is quick-to-make and doesn't leave numerous bowls to clean up. Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt into a greased 8-inch square cake pan. 

(I often use 3/4 cup sugar.)

With spoon, make three depressions in the dry ingredients. Put 1 teaspoon cider vinegar in one hole, 1 teaspoon vanilla in another, and 5 tablespoons vegetable oil in the third. Spoon 1 cup applesauce over all and mix gently until smooth.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30-35 minutes until cake tests done.

(c)2003 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen teaches scrapbooking classes as well as those for compiling a family heirloom cookbook. She's been writing cooking columns for 40 years. Visit her web site:; e-mail:

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