Posted by: marthabernie | September 26, 2014


My Aunt Laura was my mother’s oldest sister.  Born in 1901, she was the first child to survive for Eli and Inez (McMenus) Shank.  A baby boy had been born the year before and died at birth from arriving too prematurely.  Laura was also born prematurely, and the country doctor who delivered her told her mother and grandmother (Lydia Margaret Massie Shank) that the baby would not survive.  He advised that there was no point in trying to feed her due to her size and early arrival.  Paying no heed to the doctor, they wrapped her warmly and put her in a shoebox in front of the fireplace for additional warmth.  They then proceeded to feed her with a medicine dropper.  That was 1901. Not ony did Laura Leona Shank (McGrew) survive, she grew to be the largest of her siblings (brothers included) and lived to be 97 years of age!

The following recipe came from her 1928 recipe book and was sent to me by her daughter, Eleanor McGrew Brumm.  Laura called it Julia’s Sour Cream Chocolate Cake, so it must have come from someone named Julia!  Might have been one of the aunts or neighbors, as there were several Julia’s in the area.


Mix together 2 tablespoons powdered cocoa, 1 cup sugar, 1-1/2 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 eggs beaten lightly, 1 cup thick sour cream mixed with 1 tsp soda, and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Bake at 350 about 25 minute or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Square 9 x 9 pan.  The baking time and temperature are approximate since Laura lived on her husband’s family farm (once the farm of Morton McGrew) until well into her 90’s, and she had no temperature gauge on her wood cook stove.  Everything was done by “feel”.



  1. YUM! It’s always nice to have an Aunt Laura!


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