Norwalk woman shares centuries old, tried and true recipes from her cookbook

Zoe Greszler • Updated May 25, 2017 at 2:49 PM

Jan Bohne loves to cook, and is quite good at it, too. Something she says is good, because her husband “loves to eat.”

When Bohne started making progress with getting her cookbook “From Vanderbiilt’s to Vaughan’s: 250 Years of Family Recipes” she said her family was “more than happy” to be her taste testers.

“I made everything in there three times to guarantee consistency,” she said with a laugh.

“My kids and family and even my neighbors have been my quality control on everything. Initially they thought it would be great and loved it. But now at the end of it, they are so sick of cake and say ‘oh, please Jan, don’t make another cookie. No more cake.’”

Bohne’s cookbook, complete with 71 tried and true recipes that are generations and sometimes centuries old “guarantees visits from the Big Bum Fairy,” as her book puts it and can be purchased at Naturally Country, 845 Lais Road, or by mail request through Norwalk First United Methodist Church for $12.

Though she enjoys cooking and perfecting recipes, Bohne said she had other things in mind when she set out to become published — family history preservation and to help her church raise needed funds for its restoration.

She said every penny will go to help the church because she was “already planning on making cookbook anyway for her children and grandchildren.”

“My mom is going to be 85 this year,” Bohne said.

“I got to thinking that most of her grandchildren have grown up out of state and they never got to learn from childhood ... I felt that if I didn’t put these recipes down now, they may be lost. They have been passed on from mother to children for years and years. When you have recipes that go back to the 1700s, that’s something you need to keep passing on and preserve. Because of the historical significance and how they came down in the family, I didn’t want them to be lost.

“The only thing I’ll say though is, don’t make the applesauce cake. It’s like a brick. You could tie someone to it and throw them in an ocean and they would sink,” she said with a laugh, adding she kept it in the book because of the its age (dating back to World War I) and because her in-laws love it. 

Bohne normally makes food that could be described as amazing, but the applesauce cake isn’t the worst thing she’s made. If she had one other flop, the Norwalk woman said it would be Jell-O from a box.

“My family will tell you I can’t make regular boxed Jell-O at all,” she said. “I can make a perfect souffle and the best ziti you’ve ever had, but I can’t make Jell-O for some reason. When I make Jell-O I always get a layer of rubber on the bottom. My husband says I don’t stand there and mix it long enough, but I don’t like it so I figure why should I stand there and mix it so long?” 

She said her best dish is probably Everglade grilled shrimp, but her chocolate cake is something special too. Both recipes can be found in her cookbook.

“My criteria for a good cake is it has to be something you can make a couple days ahead and it has to stay moist and has to have a good rich flavor because chocolate is my least favorite cake flavor. ... I also wanted a nice crumb but not too fine and not too dry.”

Bohne said the recipe, which took her “decades” to perfect has finally met all of those standards.

No matter what she’s cooking though, Bohne said she always has a a few things on hand: butter, olive oil, garlic, dark brown sugar and high quality flour - King Arthur flour.”  

For those who would like to try a few of the end products from Bohne’s cookbook, she will be offering free samples at Naturally Country Saturday. The shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

* * *

Chocolate cake 


• 2 cups sugar

• 2 cups flour

• 3/4 cup cocoa powder

• 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

• 1 tsp salt

• 2 eggs

• 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

• 2/3 cup oil

• 1 cup buttermilk

• 1 cup boiling water

• 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large bowl mix together the first five ingredients, then creating a well in the center. Add eggs and baking soda to well. Pour vanilla directly over the baking powder to dissolve it. Add oil and buttermilk to well of ingredients. Mix well, slowly and gradually adding boiling water. 

Coffee lovers may choose to mix in espresso powder.

Batter should be thin and watery. Pour into three greased and lined cake pans or large bundt pan. Bake until done and cooked through.

Norwalk Reflector Videos