Living & Eating on Long Island's East End 

                   Vintage Recipe - Old East Hampton Cake

My name is Monique.
I'm a 2-time Emmy Award winning TV Producer.
Having been in the business for over 20 years,
I always wanted a website where I could share my thoughts and interesting information, so 
here goes.

Last year when I got married, I moved out of New York City to the East End of Long Island, to ...wait for it...The Hamptons.

Now before you roll your eyes, there's more to the Hamptons than mansions and celebrities.

The Hamptons have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, miles of productive farmland, plus a rich clamming history that continues to this day.

When I moved out east and realized I was surrounded, not just by the bounty of the sea, but also local farms and vineyards, I couldn't wait to explore and sample my new environment.

That's what this blog is about.  Living, exploring, discovering, news, food, history and sharing those experiences.

You'll notice that my blog is a little of this and a little of that, kind of like a potluck meal.


A good friend lent me several of her vintage cookbooks recently because she knows of my interest in old East End recipes.  One of them especially caught my attention because of its date, 1939. Here I was finally going to see some truly classic recipes from days gone by.

Called the "Home, Sweet Home Cookbook", the recipes were arranged by the LVIS or Ladies Village Improvement Society of East Hampton founded in 1895. "Oh, how cute",  I thought to myself. That sounds so dated, a ladies group to keep the women occupied planting flowers or something, while the menfolk did the  important stuff. Imagine my surprise when I learned the LVIS did much more back then and still exists to this day!

Their mission on their website says it all: "The purposes for which the Society is formed are for the maintenance and preservation of historical landmarks and for the maintenance of ponds, parks, greens, and trees in the Village of East Hampton and vicinity, as well as for charitable and educational improvement and the advancement of the general welfare of the said Village of East Hampton and vicinity.

Back in 1895, Main Street and the area around the just constructed LIRR station was unpaved and dusty. 21 East Hampton women decided to organize and tackle these and other problems as the town was growing.

                                                 Courtesy East Hampton Library

The Ladies Village Improvement Society was thus formed and began raising funds to water down dusty Main Street, sweep the crosswalks, clean the station area and install oil lamps on Main Street. Fundraising events included a New Year's Eve Supper, an LVIS Fair and the first LVIS cookbook, "The Way We Cook in East Hampton" was introduced.

In 1907 the ladies focus expanded to include maintenance for both the village trees and greens. By 1925 the LVIS advocated for village zoning, the prohibition of gas stations on Main Street and the elimination of billboards in town.

In the 1950s the LVIS began their Scholarship program. The organization has been instrumental in the establishment of the Village Planning Board and the listing of areas of the village on the National Register of Historic Places.


In 1987, the LVIS
rehabilitated the Gardiner “Brown” House (circa 1740) at 95 Main Street in East Hampton, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It houses the LVIS offices, their Thrift Shop and Book Shop.

From 21 East Hampton founders, membership has now grown to 365 volunteers who address the original mission’s four concerns: Preservation, Conservation, Education and Beautification.

Back to the cookbook. The copy I had was the 1939 version. It had been updated, but not by much. There were some newer dishes like spagetti and gnocchi, which had to be considered pretty exotic back in the 1930s, but most of the recipe book is dedicated to more traditional late 19th / early 20th century American fare like soups, puddings and game, but it also showcases many traditional East End Long Island dishes like seafood chowders and clam pie.  

Because I love baking, I decided my first recipe out of the book would be a cake or
cookies, so I scrolled through the book and settled on Old East Hampton Cookies. In the book the recipe is described as being handed down from the early days of the village, so I was eager to try it.

Now recipes from the old days are very different from the ones of today where everything is described in exact amounts and increments. Old recipes go on the assumption that the reader knows their way around the kitchen and kind of leaves a lot up to them. So I was prepared to wing it, but neverless there seemed to be something missing from the ingredients list as I read the recipe: 

"OLD EAST HAMPTON COOKIES - 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup butter, 1 cup very thick sour cream. Stir 1 teasp. soda in the cream and beat well. Large pinch of salt, 2 teasp. nutmeg, 2 eggs. Roll soft and bake in hot oven. Raisins may be put on top if desired. This recipe is one used in the early days in the village and has been handed down for several generations in Norman Barn's family. It came from his grandmother Madison Huntting's family.     Mrs. Norman W. Barns"

That's it. That's all you get from this recipe. No oven temperature and no instruction on how long to leave it in for. I figured that can vary based on your oven temperature, so I wasn't concerned, but an ingredient still seemed to be missing which I couldn't quite put my finger on. 

One Saturday afternoon last month I was baking a bunch of cakes and cookies for the upcoming holidays and I thought , "lets make those East Hampton cookies."  I gathered the ingredients and began mixing everything together. Boy, was I surprised when the consistency of the cookies turned out like thick gravy. I checked the ingredient list again just to be sure and even called my husband into the kitchen to make sure I hadn't done something wrong. He looked at it and said what I was thinking, "You need flour".  The recipe didn't call for it, but there was no way I could roll this out, it was too wet. So I added about 2 and 1/2 half cups of flour ,which ended up making it more of a cake batter. 

So goodbye Old East Hampton Cookies and hello Old East Hampton Cake.  I baked it at about 350 degrees for almost an hour, until the toothpick came out clean. The batter made two cakes and you could either make a double layer cake, but I decided to make two single layer cakes to give more people the opportunity to try it. 

On one cake I first spread a layer of rasberry jam, then topped that with real whipped cream. That one was amazing, the hubby couldn't stop eating it. The cake has a mild spice cake flavor with the subtle tang of the sour cream. The rasberry filling and whipped cream frosting was perfect because it didn't overwhelm the cake's simple flavors.

For the second cake I made a simple lemon-vanilla frosting which again highlighted the spice cake's sour cream flavor without overdoing it. I served that one during a dinner party and one of my guests actually asked if she could take a slice home with her, she liked it so much.

So thank you to the Ladies of the Village Improvement Society of East Hampton. I have also recently gotten my hands on a newer edition of their cookbook, "The "70th Anniversary Cookbook" circa 1965, so I'll be sampling a lot more of the ladies' recipes down the road.

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