From 1923: Fudge Squares


When I saw The College Woman’s Cook Book, I knew I had to take a look. The title really called out to me. I mean, I’m a woman, and I’m about to start a PhD program (next week… eek!), so I know a little bit about college. It just makes sense, right? I thought so. I wasn’t sure what to expect: Would this be a book of recipes for women to take to college to cook with friends? Was it convenience recipes for busy students?

Turns out, this is a book that was put together by women who attended college, most at Northwestern University, who then went on to be housewives and test and use recipes themselves. There had to be some kind of old-fashioned, old-timey twist, right? But, in any case, these women did go to college in a time when very few women did.

What I found most shocking as I read more about this subject, though, is that women didn’t actually even go to college in equal numbers to men until 1980… 1980! I feel almost lucky that I was born so recently that that’s a foreign thought to me. Nowadays, no matter your gender, the expectation is that you go to college. How things change!

So, what are we cooking? Fudge squares from The College Woman’s Cook Book published in 1923.


So, since we’re talking about college, I have to admit something: I’m terrified about starting my PhD program next week. It’s the biggest things I’ve ever done, and it’s brand new, so I’m just kind of freaking out a little. But, you know what makes me feel better when I’m out of sorts? Chocolate. And, luckily, these fudge squares fit that bill – warm, sweet, gooey, delicious chocolate.

So, let’s go into the kitchen to make some history!


Here are our ingredients: Butter (I’m using salted), sugar, one egg, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, flour, milk, vanilla, and walnuts.


Step 1: Melt the butter and then pour it into a mixing bowl that’s you’ve measured the sugar into.


Step 2: Cream the butter and the sugar together with an electric mixer (technology!) until they mix together enough that they look like snow.


Step 3: Add in the egg, and beat it with the mixer.


Step 4: Add in the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.


Step 5: Add in the milk. At this point, using an electric mixer got too messy, so I just used a rubber spatula the rest of the way!


Step 6: Then, add in the flour!


Step 7: Add in the vanilla and stir everything together. You should have a nice, rich batter by now. And, here’s where you’d add in the walnuts if you aren’t me. I forgot. They were sitting right in front of me on the counter, and I completely forgot to put them in. I didn’t even realize until the fudge squares were nearly done baking. So, sorry about that. This is one of the many reasons I’m a historian, not a cook. Optional walnuts for all!


Step 8: Butter an 8×8″ baking dish. You can see that I always use foil. It’s inexpensive, and it makes cleanup a breeze! Once your dish is buttered, pour in the batter and spread it out so it’s flat.


Step 9: Bake the fudge squares in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Then, let them cool nearly completely before cutting them and devouring them!


Final step: Go ahead, devour them. We did. My husband and I ate nearly the whole tray in one sitting, and then I went back and polished off the rest later. I’m nervous about starting school, so it was okay for me to do that. And, don’t you tell me any differently!

I’m doing this for me, though. Learning, reading, and writing have always been my passions, and now I’ll be doing those every single day on my way to publishing books or being a professor at a university. The process will be long and hard, but it will be worth it through and through.

As I’m thinking about it, I’m also doing this for the women I read about through history each and every day. Take the women in The College Woman’s Cook Book, for example. They went to college, but the expectation for them afterward was to stay at home and care for a family. And, they were in an incredibly small minority of women who went to college, at all! Education wasn’t “wasted” on most women long ago. But, look at us now. Look at me now. Oh boy… deep breath… I can do this!

From 1923: Fudge Squares

  • Servings: Makes one 8x8 pan
  • Time: 45-50 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 3 Tbs. salted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, optional


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8×8″ square baking dish.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream the melted butter and the sugar. Then, add the egg and beat everything together.
  3. Mix in the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Then, mix in the milk.
  4. Stir in the flour until a smooth batter forms. Then, add in the vanilla and the optional walnuts.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool before cutting into squares.

From 1895: Orange Water Ice


I mentioned before that when I was a kid, my brother and I were really interested in the Titanic. So, my parents took us to see the traveling Titanic exhibits that made their ways up and down the east coast. One summer in particular, we went to Atlantic City, New Jersey to see a traveling exhibit that included a piece of the Titanic’s actual hull that was brought up from the ocean floor! And, of course, since we were in Atlantic City for that exhibit, we spent some time on the beach and the boardwalk, too.

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From 1876: Apple Snow


Okay, stop the presses again. If I thought I made the best cake ever a few posts ago, I’m certain now I’ve made the best dessert ever! Of, course, this is relative. If your favorite dessert is chocolate pudding, you’ll most certainly disagree with me. But, as someone who likes light, creamy, not-overly-sweet, yet rich and flavorful desserts, I hit the jackpot with this recipe! So, what on earth is “Apple Snow,” you ask? It’s homemade applesauce folded together with light meringue and topped with whipped cream. Talk about unique! It really does taste like apple snow – soft, light, airy, nearly melts in your mouth… ah!

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From 1910: Applesauce Cake


Stop the presses! This is the most delicious cake I may have ever made. It’s a moist, decadent, chocolatey spice cake. It tastes like a warm hug, and it smells like Christmas. And, it was the easiest thing in the world to make. I’m not letting you go anywhere until you try it for yourself! Okay, I can’t really do that. But, I can confirm that in 1910, people knew what they were doing with cake!

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From 1906: Oatmeal Cookies


It was the year 1906. American hero Teddy Roosevelt was President of a country plagued with problems – landslides, earthquakes, murders, segregation, and race riots. But, he was also President of a country focused on making progress. And, though 1906 did little to help the social and environmental issues facing Americans, it did contribute greatly to technology and American placement at the forefront of technological advancement. You see, in 1906, Orville and Wilbur Wright were finally granted a patent for their flying machine. After years of research, experiments, test flights, successes, failures, and arguments over the issue of a patent, this was a major victory. And, it set the stage for aircraft development, which might be one of the most significant technological developments in history.

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From 1919: Cornbread


It was the year 1919 – the height of the Progressive Era, which was an era that started in the 1890s and ended abruptly with the stock market crash of 1929. It was an era marked by industrialization, urbanization, commercialism, mass production, and… well, progress. America changed significantly and rapidly during the Progressive Era. It went from a country where people developed small, rural villages and lived off of the land and what they could produce themselves to a country ruled by factories and mills where people flocked to the cities and bought their massed-produced food, clothes, and goods from big-box stores.

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From 1892: Lemon Rice Pudding


It was the year 1892 – right at the end of the Victorian era. Ever drive past a gigantic, old house with a large porch, a number of turrets and chimneys on the roof, and a rounded, tower-looking room on one side? Did you say, “Wow, look at that old Victorian?” That’s referring to the Victorian era, which was the time that Queen Victoria ruled over Great Britain from 1837-1901. Even in the late 1800s, America was learning who it was, so its culture very much still reflected what was going on in Britain. And, it was the Victorian era in Britain, so that carried over across the pond.

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From 1900: Simple Lemon Cake


It was the year 1900. William McKinley was elected to serve his second term as President of a country with forty-five states. The average income was $438 per year, and the average American home cost about $5,000. Women wore long dresses, and puffed or layered sleeves were most fashionable. Men wore suits, vests, jackets, and ties even in the hottest weather. Everyone wore hats. Kodak released its $1 “Brownie” cameras, which introduced the public to the snapshot. There were no televisions or radios, so people read a lot. And, when they needed to get somewhere, they took steam engines, ships, bicycles, or horses and buggies. In major cities, electric lightbulbs lit the streets, but for the most part, gas lamps were the only source of light after dark.

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