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As I remarked in Part 1, Bettina—the housecoated heroine of A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband—is herself the form and model of womanly perfection. But do not think for one minute that her life is free from calamity. Heavens, no.

Remark the opening of Chapter 19, “Bob and Bettina Alone.” That’s a rather grim title, no? As well it should be. After a long day of singing to her canned goods and dancing with the carpet sweeper, Bettina’s world plunges into darkness.

“Why, Bob, look at the front of your Palm Beach suit!” exclaimed Bettina, after she had greeted Bob at the door. “What in the world have you been doing?”

“Pretty bad; isn’t it!” said he, ruefully. “Frank Dixon brought me home in his car, and he had some sort of engine trouble. We worked on it for awhile, but couldn’t fix it, so he phoned the garage and I came home on the street car. I must have rubbed up against some grease. Do you suppose my clothes are spoiled?”

“No-o,” said Bettina, slowly, “not if I get at them. Let me see; what is it that takes out auto grease? Oh, I know!”

Of course you do, Bettina. Of course you do.

After a trauma like that, a man sure as hell needs comfort. Feed him . . .

Bettina’s Dutch Apple Cake

As in Part 1, here is the recipe more or less at it originally appeared—followed by my own notes on the process.

1 cup flour

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp butter

1 egg, well beaten

 cup milk

1 sour apple

2 tbsp sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

Mix flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in the butter. Add milk and egg. Mix well. Spread one-half an inch thick in a shallow pan. Pare and cut the apples in lengthwise sections. Lay in rows in the dough with the sharp edges pressed lightly into the dough. [Spread the other half of the dough over the apples.] Mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Bake thirty minutes in a moderate oven. Serve with lemon sauce (recipe follows).

Lemon Sauce

½ cup sugar

tsp salt

1 tsp flour

1 cup water

1 tsp butter

2 tbsp lemon juice

Mix the sugar, salt, and flour well. Add the water slowly, stirring with a whisk. Cook seven minutes. Add the butter and lemon juice. Serve hot.

Franklin’s Notes

Bettina’s recipe is supposed to serve two. Probably she would have called it “dainty.” She calls almost everything “dainty.”

I, on the other hand, was looking to serve my un-dainty panel of four husbands (plus me, the dainty cook). (For a full description of the panel, see Part 1.)

Looking over the ingredients, I felt sure the cake would fit in what my grandmother and Beatrix Potter called a patty pan. This is a baking tin shaped like a pie dish, but usually of quite small capacity—sometimes little more than a cup or so. My grandmother’s patty pan would have held a single jumbo muffin. Dainty.

Bettina doesn’t specify what sort of pan to use, but it didn’t seem possible that she could have meant to use the 6-inch by 6-inch baking dish that I use for small batches of brownies. That little scrap of dough wouldn’t stretch to fill the bottom.

I decided, therefore, to double Bettina’s recipe and put it in the 6-by-6 pan. Then every husband could have a mouthful. I’d also double the lemon sauce.

Well, guess what?

The cake was beautifully puffed and appealingly golden brown. It filled the pan nearly to the rim. It was also far too thick. The dough—which itself has little in the way of flavor—is meant as a mere delivery system for the apples and the spice, the sugar and the sauce. When it’s that thick, you notice how bland it is. Had I used Bettina’s proportions and the same pan, it would have been close to perfect.

Close to perfect, because three of five husbands noted the cake tasted good but was a smidge dry. Not surprising, given scant amount of moisture and fat in the mixture.

The remedy, which I recommend, is to make lavish use of the lemon sauce. Don’t drizzle it delicately, in the modern fashion. Drench each slice of the cake. Drench. Yes, it’s basically sugar syrup with a whisper of lemon. That’s the point. Drench!

Other Notes

A few other notes, potentially of use especially to inexperienced bakers.

You may notice that one sentence of the cake recipe is in brackets. I added that one myself, as Bettina tells you to spread out one half of the dough but never tells you what to do with the second half. (So there, Little Miz Perfect! Ha ha ha!)

To “cut in the butter” is to put the chilled bit of butter into the bowl with the flour mixture, and slice it into tiny, tiny fragments using either two knives or—my preference—a useful hand-held gadget called a pastry cutter. (This is how many classic baked goods start, including American pie crust, shortbread, and some species of biscuit.) The butter must be ice cold when you begin, and you should work calmly but briskly. When the cutting in is finished, what you’ll have will be a dry mixture that looks kind of like coarse cornmeal or crumbs.

For the sour apple, try a Granny Smith. Don’t use an apple that bakes into mush, like a Macintosh. In fact, don’t use a sweet apple of any variety—because unless you have the candy cravings of a four-year-old child, your teeth will recoil in horror. You need the tartness of the apple to counteract all the sweet, sweet, sweet.

A “moderate oven” is somewhere between 350 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit. I split the difference and used 365 degrees, so the sugar would melt and the dough would rise.

The Verdict

Five out of five husbands on the panel were pleased, with some reservations about the thick and somewhat dry cake layer. There was particular praise for the overall flavor, a cross between a coffee cake and a sweet roll. Because the cake was so sweet, all felt that the dainty portions—about the size of an average brownie—were really just the right size. Every husband said he’d be happy to see it again.

From the cook’s point of view, it’s a quick recipe with a good yield that uses surprisingly few ingredients. If you need to throw together a dessert in a hurry and on a budget, you could do far worse.

And By the Way . . .

Bob’s Palm Beach suit recovered fully, though Bettina does not condescend to tell us what she used to get out the auto grease. Bettina triumphant, yet again. Because she is Bettina.


Be sure to get your full serving of Bettina: Read “The Coy of Cooking: Adventures with Bettina (Part 1).”

About The Author

Franklin Habit has been sharing his brainy and hilarious writing and illustrations with the knitting world since 2005.


  • I remember getting bicycle grease on my slacks back in the dark ages and my grandmother recommending naphtha to remove it. Betcha Bettina did that too.

    • Entirely possible! Or, being Bettina, perhaps she just looked at it disapprovingly and it ran away.

  • So happy this is a recurring feature!

    • Thank you! Considering that she gave us one thousand ways to please a husband, we couldn’t pick just one.

  • Boy, this sure beat starting my day by reading something like, say, the news. Hilarious.

    • I figure if she could get auto grease out of Bob’s suit, we can get the world spinning the right way again. The Spirit of Bettina dwells in me.

  • So, I could’ve used a comma after “spread one-half”. Without your note, I would’ve just patted all of the dough really thinly in the pan, half an inch thick.

    • She was a genius in the kitchen, but she was a washout as a copy editor.

    • That’s also how I read it. Not half the dough- all of the dough a half- inch thick. That would make for a very different cake, I imagine. Sounds yummy either way.
      Thants Franklin, for a glimpse at a time when women’s (and men’s) lives were very different- our values and our ideas about what constitutes marital bliss have changed considerably, and I am grateful.

    • Ok, that’s how it reads to me, too. Maybe that’s why Bettina didn’t say what to do with the other half of the dough….

      • Yep, that’s how I read it also. It does sound like an easy recipe to satisfy a sweet tooth.

  • Am I missing something or does the recipe leave out the amount of cinnamon?

    • It’s 1/2 tsp, by the way.

    • Goodness. I’ll have that taken care of. Thank you for catching it! Bettina would not approve.

  • My grandmother was married in 1922 and she made a cake like this but spread the entire dough in a 8 x 11 pan (estimating the size) and then had the sliced apple standing in rows sprinkle with cinnamon and baked until the bottom was almost burnt and the cake was dry. Not recommending it but that was my grandmother’s go to “apple cake” for picnics and such.

    • Oooh. I’m intrigued at baking it until the bottom was done to that extent – I think it might give the crust itself more character…

  • This is so much fun! Do you think for it’s time it was meant to be read completely straight, or was it even slightly tongue in cheek then?

    • That’s such a good question. Comparing it to other similar works from the time, I think it was written in earnest. Now – whether the target audience at the time *read* it earnestly and tried to imagine themselves as Bettina, or whether they at least occasionally rolled their eyes at her, that’s another matter…

  • I’m thinking a simple syrup sauce with Lemoncello. I’m thinking Bettina would need to hit the sauce after being so damn perfect!

    • You just *know* there were things under the surface we never hear about. You just know it.

  • I’m in the spread half an inch thick camp. Reasoning – cutting the butter in is more like a pastry crust, for cakes you usually cream the butter. It’s a sweet pastry crust/cake mashup. Also, thinking like the Edwardians, the Dutch were the epitome of thrifty, so make that dough stretch!
    If I had an apple I’d try it right now, but it’s a half hour to the grocery store, and I have linens to starch….

  • The Bettina posts are the stuff of greatness, Franklin!

    Pity we’ll only get three…(hint-hint, wink-wink, nudge-nudge).

  • I love this serial guide to life! Thank you – I enter my day smiling…

  • Bettina through your looking glass makes my day! What happens to her after she has five kids? I want to know all about her!

  • Love the daily trevails and joys of Bettinna! Franklin, your commentary is priceless.

  • I’m chuckling over the description of working “calmly but briskly” when cutting in the butter. I imagine Bettina was always the epitome of coolness under fire, but me? No, not quite. Picture a woman with wide eyes, fly away hair and a flour dusted shirt “briskly” cutting in butter while at the same time reading emails and checking her ever growing to-do list.

  • My farm wife grandmother had a jar of carbon tetrachloride (carbon tet) that she used to get grease out of Grandpa’s overalls from working on the tractor. I am never without a bar of Fels Naptha soap beside my washer for today’s greasy stains; just moisten the bar of soap and scrub it on the offending stain, wash with like-colored clothes. I’m sure Bettina used one or the other since it was so much easier to buy caustic chemicals in the “good old days.”

    I foresee a Dutch Apple Cake with lemon sauce in my near future. I’m with those thinking you’re to spread all the batter a half-inch thick in your pan so the lemon slices jut out and look pretty.

  • Lovely styling of the cake posed on pretty china, on a crochet tablecloth.

  • Thank you, Franklin. Always a pleasure!

  • Thanks so much for the second instalment, much more fun to read than the rather dry scientific report I’m currently editing….methinks an apple cake and lemon sauce might just be on the cards this weekend. Keep up the fine work Franklin!

    PS – would a Braeburn apple be a good choice, they seem to have that sweet/acid balance just right.

  • This sounds an awful lot like my Mom’s Dutch apple cake. I lost her recipe, so I will give this one a try! Thanks Franklin, I loved reading about Bettina.

  • I’ve had this cookbook for sometime and I just love these posts. I just ordered the second book from Amazon. Thank you Franklin !

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