Cooking Techniques · Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Makes Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches

An illustration from the Twenties that shows two young girls, one blonde and one with short dark hair, standing by a table in front of a window. Between them sits a pile of cheese sandwiches, and they are wrapping them with a napkin.
In this illustration from When Sue Began to Cook, Sue and Ruth Ann wrap their sandwiches to keep them from drying out.

For some reason, Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches were a picnic staple for families from the 1920s through the 1960s. I’ve seen many recipes for these sandwiches, but none that only used cream cheese and roasted red peppers (pimientos). that is, until now. Today Sue makes Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches along with her friend Ruth Ann. Sue and Ruth Ann are cooking their way to kitchen prowess in When Sue Began to Cook.

When Sue Began to Cook was a Twenties cookbook for kids by Louise Bennett Weaver. This is Lesson 33 in Sue’s year of 52 cooking lessons. If you’re just joining us, click the linked book title above to visit the first lesson and start at the beginning of the story (and recipes).

Sandwiches were easy and popular fare in the Twenties. Grab some white bread (or nut bread for tea sandwiches.) Spread the bread with anything handy plus a little butter and you have a feasible sandwich. Chopped nuts, celery, onion, cheese, and even little bits of roasted red peppers made their way into the Twenties sandwich.

This recipe calls for Creamy Salad Dressing, which Sue learned to make in Lesson 26. Click the link to see that recipe.

Sue and Ruth Ann make a dozen sandwiches, each of them working with twelve slices of bread. Although the recipe below calls for softened butter, Sue and Ruth Ann use butter right out of the icebox. Here’s how she explains it…

Sue’s Notes from Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches

After the cheese mixture was ready, we each cut twelve slices of bread very thin, and arranged it in pairs that matched so they could be fitted together. We softened the butter by mashing it down with a spoon. Then we spread one piece of bread of each pair with butter and the other slice with our cheese mixture. We used a silver knife for the spreading. Mother said that was best.

As soon as all the bread had been spread, we pressed the sides together to make sandwiches. Then we piled three big sandwiches on top of each other and cut them all across in half with a sharp knife to make smaller three-cornered sandwiches. Then we cut the other three in half. Then we each had twelve sandwiches. [Actually, they each had twelve half sandwiches, cut diagonally.]

When all the sandwiches were made, Mother gave us each an old clean napkin and had us dip it in cold water and then wring it out as dry as we could. Then she had us wrap up our sandwiches with it and put them away till we were ready to use them. [This is to keep the sandwiches from drying out in an age before plastics.]

Picnic time!

“We’re going on a picnic in the car tonight,” Mother said. “Yes, you too, Ruth Ann. I’ve already asked your grandmother and she says you may.”

“Goody!” I said, that being my favorite expression. “Are you going to let us get the lunch ready now? Oh, Mother, let us do it all!”

“Not all, just the sandwich part,” said Mother, laughing as she always does when I act very enthusiastic. “I want to have th whole lesson on sandwiches. Just one kind. You see, not many people know how to make very good sandwiches, and I want you girls to learn a few simple rules about sandwich making and never forget them.”

Here are some of the rules:

  • 1. Always use bread that is at least a day old, but don’t cut it until you are ready to use it.
  • 2. Cut the bread as thin as you can, but be sure the slices are very even.
  • 3. Always soften the butter by creaming it, but don’t ever melt it on the stove.
  • 4. Wrap your sandwiches in a damp (not wet) cloth till you are ready to use them.

Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches

A recipe from When Sue Began to Cook, by Louise Bennett Weaver
Course: Luncheon, Picnic
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bettina, Ruth Ann, Sue, Twenties recipes


  • 12 Slices white bread, cut thin
  • cup butter, soft
  • ½ cup cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp pimientos, cut fine
  • 2 Tbsp Creamy Salad Dressing
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp paprika


  • First we put our cream cheese in a bowl and creamed it by pressing it with a spoon till it was very soft and creamy. We cut the pimientos very fine with the kitchen scissors, and put them in with the cheese. Then we added the salad dressing, salt and paprika, and stirred it all together until it was well mixed.
  • After the cheese mixture was ready we cut 12 slices of bread very thin, and arranged it in pairs that matched so they could be fitted together. Then we spread one piece of bread of each pair with butter and the other slice with the cheese mixture.
  • As soon as all the bread had been spread, we pressed the slices together to make sandwiches. Then we cut them in half to make 3-cornered sandwiches. (You are cutting the sandwich in half diagonally.)
The Vintage Kitchen

Mocha Cake from 1917

Tan slice of mocha cake with frosting on white plate. Cake server sits behind it, also on the plate.
Enjoying a slice of mocha cake. Over 100 years later, the recipe still shines..

Some of the old recipes are the best. And others are just weird, like the jellied frankfurter-Spaghettios combination from the 1960s that pops up every now and again. Thankfully, this Mocha cake from 1917 fits into the first category. It’s a recipe I make over and over again.

In my last post I talked about the joys of reading A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband… with Bettina’s Best Recipes. If you don’t know about this cookbook, you can read about it here. This recipe for Mocha cake is one of my favorites from that book. However, it’s not my only favorite. Many of the recipes in A Thousand Ways are worth the time they take to make, especially if you cook for a small household of 1-3 people.

This particular cake serves 12. It’s designed for either entertaining (which is where it falls in Bettina’s story), or for storage. I generally pop half the cake into the fridge after using it for dessert. The other half gets sliced and put into the freezer for another day. This, of course, is assuming that you have a family the size of Bettina’s, and not four hungry teenagers who live at your house. If you live with teens, even if one of you is the cook, prepare to say goodbye to this cake in one sitting.

Ways to make it your own

A two-layer cake with tan icing sits on a white platter. The platter sits on a black and white marbled surface.
Mocha cake baked, iced, and ready for dessert time.

When I make this recipe, I usually cook the layers in my vintage RevereWare 9-inch cake pans. Although the recipe itself doesn’t tell you what size pan to use, I find that partitioning a cake into 12 pieces Is much easier with a 9-inch cake than it is an 8-inch one, even if the layers come out a bit more flat. With the addition of icing, a small piece adds just the right sweet note to end a dinner along with hot tea. You can enjoy it with coffee or milk, too, if you like.

In 1917 the term mocha didn’t mean chocolate-flavored coffee. It meant coffee, period. So this is a coffee-flavored cake. No chocolate. No cocoa. Just coffee. It’s an inexpensive cake to make because it uses the leftover coffee from the morning’s brew, if you make it a pot at a time. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups coffee total.

When the original bakers made this Mocha cake from 1917, they had access to plain coffee. If you like flavored coffees, I encourage you to try one in this recipe. This time I made it with Michigan cherry flavored coffee and it was delicious. Even the household’s non-coffee drinker loved it.

Because this Mocha cake from 1917 yields a light coffee taste in both the cake and the icing, you might want to try it with hot tea or another beverage. Trying it alongside a cup of the same type of coffee you put into the batter gives you a cake that tastes sweet, but not particularly coffee-like.

Photo showing one complete and one partial pan of cake batter. This is mocha cake from 1917. A partial teapot sits behind the pans.
Ready to go into the oven. Soon we will have cake!

Make it yourself

This is a great recipe for drop-in guests or teatime with friends. A slice also makes a good midmorning snack or a decadent breakfast treat. It’s relatively quick to make, as cakes go, and it’s pretty sturdy. This means it travels great in a lunch box to the office or schoolroom. It would pack well for a picnic. I love it with a cup of hot tea while I sit at the table pouring over the current month’s vintage magazines.

Mocha Cake from 1917

This cake delivers a mild coffee flavor. It contains no cocoa and no chocolate.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
Course: Dessert, Tea time
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cake, coffee, mocha
Servings: 12 servings


  • 2 cake pans, 8 or 9-inch diameter or whatever you have
  • wax paper for bottom of pans
  • Mixer


  • cup butter softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup strong coffee brewed
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour, all purpose I used Bob's gluten free 1 to 1 with good result
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder

Mocha Icing:

  • 4 tbsp strong hot coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar May use 2 to 3 cups


  • Prepare your cake pans by lining them with wax paper. Or, if you prefer, grease and flour your pans. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  • Separate the eggs. Set the yolks aside and beat the whites until they are stiff. Pour the whites into a bowl for later.
  • Cream the butter. Add the sugar, and cream again.
  • Add the egg yolks and mix well.
  • Add the coffee, vanilla, flour, and baking powder. Mix until combined and then beat for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Be gentle, you don't want to undo all your hard work.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 350° oven. Test for doneness by pressing the top center of the cake. If a finger indentation pops back up and disappears, the cake is done. If the indentation stays, it probably needs another ten minutes or so.
  • Let the cake cool before icing.

Mocha Icing Instructions

  • Mix the 1 tsp vanilla with the 4 Tbsp coffee.
  • Add the powdered sugar slowly until the mixture is thick and spreadable. You may need as much as three cups (even though the original 1917 recipe only called for 1 ½ cups).
  • Spread over one layer and place the other layer on top. Spread the icing on the top. Depending on the size of the cake, you may also have enough for the sides.

If you enjoyed this and would like to try another vintage cake recipe, this Many Layered Jam Cake from the Twenties is addictive and oh-so-sweet.

Parties and Visits · The Vintage Kitchen · Vintage Entertainment

Plan a Summer Automobile Picnic

Family of five enjoying a picnic outdoors in the 1920s. Mom unloads the hamper while little sister enjoys a drink, little brother munches a sandwich, and dad talks to big sister, who sits with a warm cup of coffee or tea.. She holds a teacup in her hand and an insulated Thermos bottle sits in front of her.
Ah….. enjoying the great outdoors and meal at the same time!

Wide automobile ownership brought the great outdoors within reach of a whole new audience. Previously, people could go as far as the local streetcar, the interurban, or the train could take them. Or they could ride a horse if they had one. For short excursions a bicycle would work well. But nothing beat an auto when you wanted to plan a summer automobile picnic an hour or so away from home.

Taking off in your auto

The automobile picnic actually became a term on its own in magazine articles. With the extra space afforded by the car, owners could pack it to the windows and take practically every luxury with them when they headed out for their nature dinner.

When you think of supplies, you may want to use fabric shopping or tote bags instead of hampers if your car space is small. Bags can be hung from the clothing hooks or tucked into places that a large hamper will not go.

The prepared picnic addict kept a special shelf of supplies, plus more hidden away in the automobile trunk. If you wanted to pull a picnic together on short notice, you needed a few items on hand. Here is a bona fide Twenties picnic list that will help you plan your summer automobile picnic.

Supplies that make easy work of the picnic lunch

Wherever you store your seasonal things, you should have these available:

  • Paper plates
  • Tablecloth
  • Napkins
  • Cups
  • Doilies
  • Empty cracker boxes
  • Rolls of paraffin (waxed) paper
  • Strong market bags with handles (paper or burlap are good materials. Today I’d suggest a reusable fabric shopping bag. The Twenties picnicker would have loved such a light and useful item.)
  • Thermos bottle
  • Lemonade pail (a covered/lidded pitcher with ice makes a good, sanitary substitute.)
  • Picnic hamper

… And the shelf-stable food

These are the foods that should sit on a picnic shelf of your pantry so you can throw together a great vintage summer automobile picnic in a short amount of time:

  • Stuffed olives (or simply jarred olives. They really don’t need to be stuffed.)
  • Jellies (grape, strawberry, mango…whatever your family loves)
  • Grape and pineapple juice
  • Mixed pickles (these are different vegetables all pickled together like small onions, carrots, cauliflower, tiny peppers… and they often would be home canned in small 8-ounce jars for portability and cost. Check the Ball Blue Book if you want recipes (Amazon link; look for it wherever canning supplies are sold), or take a look at this Hot Pepper Mix of pickled vegetables from the Ball website to get an idea.
  • Pickled herring — sh! This is great on crackers as an appetizer. If you like pickled herring, that is.
  • Potted ham or chicken (This was an early solution for canned meats. Substitute a can or two of whatever meat you like canned. You can still buy potted meat. You may or may not like it. Think Spam.)
  • Canned soups
  • Boxed cookies
  • Boxed salted and plain crackers (This is calling for saltines and.. say.. an unsalted cracker like… do we still have those? I can’t think of any. If you know of an unsalted cracker on the market please let me know in the comments.)
  • Pimientos (This was the Twenties cook’s solution to adding color and nutrition of various meals. Roasted peppers in everything! They kept better this way than in the refrigerator and fresh.)
  • Canned salmon
  • Canned tuna
  • Prepared salad dressing
  • Sweet wafers (These are very thin cookies often used to decorate desserts. You may be able to find them in the grocery with the Italian cookies. Look on the top shelf. Pizzelles are a type of sweet wafer. If you happen to have an ice cream cone waffle iron, a small flat waffle cone makes a great wafer. I do, because gluten free ice cream cones are few and far between.)

Let’s not forget the refrigerator!

Lest you think that everything for your picnic needs to come off the longterm storage shelf, you will find a few items in your fridge to spice up your day:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Home-made salad dressings
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Cold boiled potatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Celery
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Young onions (we would call these spring onions or green onions or scallions.)
  • Lettuce
  • Lemons
  • Fresh fruit

Of course you won’t use all of this! This is your store from which you pull all the things you need for the ultimate picnic. Maybe you have a fresh loaf of bread on hand. You can make tuna sandwiches, or chicken salad sandwiches. You can have hard boiled eggs (transport them cold in the shell and let everyone peel their own), or you can make deviled eggs (transport them filled and facing each other, wrapped in plastic or waxed paper. Unwrap them, twist them apart and each person has two deviled eggs!)

Pull some fresh fruit, some cookies, and pack a drink and you’re done! See how easy this can be when you have supplies ready and on hand? Not every picnic needs to be fried chicken and corn on the cob.

Note: if you are fixing anything with mayonnaise, please keep it chilled in a cooler until it’s consumed. Warm mayo, while it probably won’t kill you, is less than tasty on a sandwich or in deviled eggs.

Add a Sweet Surprise

If you like, and you have the time and the equipment, you can make up two quarts of ice cream a bit ahead of time, pack the container in a cooler with ice, and tuck it into the car for after lunch or dinner. Even simple vanilla made with milk, half and half (light cream), sugar, and vanilla tastes heavenly when it’s fresh.

Traditionally, of course, this could be made in the kitchen sink: fill the sink with ice and enough kosher or rock salt to make it even colder, and place a metal bowl into the sink with your prepared ice cream mixture. You should have enough ice to make the bowl cold. Start stirring. Stir until you think your arm is going to fall off, and then stir some more. Switch arms. Hold the bowl steady and stir with your other hand. Every now and then you’ll need to scrape the stuff off the sides of the bowl so new unfrozen stuff can take its place. Is this easy or quick? Nope. But I hear it works if you have no other alternative.

Don’t forget the auto supplies!

Filling your car with picnic-ready equipment will ensure that you’re always ready for a trip. Consider these additions:

  • Canned heat, stand, and pan to fit on it. (I keep my canned heat on the pantry shelf because my car gets really hot in the summer. You may want to, as well.)
  • Charcoal, in case you find yourself at a park with usable grills.
  • Toy pail and shovel for each child, especially if you are going where there is sand. Or rocks. Or loose dirt. Or leaves.

Two tasty on-the-go meals

Here are two options for picnic meals, Twenties style. Each of them can be made largely from the ingredients made above, with some additional items that you’ll notice. Substitute wherever you like. Plan your summer automobile picnic to make yourself happy. This is your picnic.

A Fireless Meal

For those days when you can’t fire up the park grill, here’s a menu that you can pack and go:

  • Potato salad (using those cold boiled potatoes from the fridge)
  • Eggs stuffed with Ham (minced ham + a little mayo in a hard boiled egg white. Use the yolks, or not.)
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes
  • Nut bread sandwiches (nut bread sliced thin; two pieces held together with cream cheese or butter)
  • Lemonade
  • Cookies (fresh or from the shelf)
  • Sliced fruit in Raspberry Jelly (this is probably calling for sliced fruit in something like raspberry jell-o)

An Automobile Lunch

  • Hot Buillion from the Thermos Bottle
  • with Salted crackers
  • Sandwiches of cream cheese and maple sugar with graham bread (this is a sweet sandwich to balance the soup; graham bread is whole wheat bread.)
  • Vegetable salad (prepared fresh or steamed cold veggies with a little salad dressing to perk them up, whatever you have)
  • Sweet pickles
  • Chocolate cake
  • Iced Tea

Neither of these will take a huge amount of time to put together if you already have most of the ingredients. And they are substantial meals for on the go. Use these, or rely on favorite foods when you plan your summer automobile picnic this year.

If you’d like an option for more of a tea-party picnic than a traditional picnic, you might like my entry on creating a summer porch party. These recipes require a bit more care in packing but they are just as tasty.