I was reminded recently that some of the most cherished recipes are those that have appeared on the backs of boxes, cans and bags. Some of them, such as German Chocolate Cake, Rice Krispie Treats and Nestle’s Toll House Cookies, have even reached the status of classics.

As is true with most recipes, over the years creative cooks have added their own special touches to these recipes, but they still belong to the "back of the box" family.

For years (especially shortly after my marriage), I clipped these recipes and had every intention of putting them in a special file. However, they usually wind up pushed back in a kitchen drawer or tucked away in a box. When I decide to make one of these classics, I am disappointed when I can't find the recipe.

In 1991, I was so glad to add "The Back of the Box Gourmet" cookbook by Michael McLaughlin to my collection. This book is a compilation of almost every "back of the box" recipe you might want. This is a book that you will probably want to add to your collection, so keep an eye out for a copy when you go to yard sales or antique book stores. You might also want to check the Internet for a copy.

Contrary to what you might think, this is not just an easy way to write a cookbook. McLaughlin did a lot of background research. Along with each recipe is a little food history.

Of course, the primary purpose of these recipes is to promote the product inside the box, bag or can. This is the same concept used by food companies that sponsor cooking contests. Many of the winning recipes from such contests have later found their place of merit on the "back of the box."

You might be surprised to learn that even some restaurants rely on these "back of the box" recipes for their "secret" specialties.

McLaughlin tells a story about one tiny Italian restaurant that garnered a lot of fame for its wonderful cheesecake. Their "secret" recipe was guarded very closely.

As the author writes, "If you knew someone, you might be lucky enough to get a contraband copy of the recipe, but you were sworn not to pass it on, not to reveal from whom you received it."

Later, it was discovered that this cheesecake, with the glamorous name "Hollywood Cheesecake," was actually one from the Kraft kitchens promoting Philadelphia cream cheese and was in wide circulation.

HOLLYWOOD CHEESECAKE

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons margarine, melted
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages Philadelphia brand cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Combine crumbs, sugar and margarine; press into bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.

Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, rind and vanilla, mixing at medium speed on electric mixer until well blended. Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites; pour over crust. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.

Combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Carefully spread over cheesecake; continue baking 10 minutes.

Loosen cake from rim of pan; cool before removing rim of pan. Chill. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Contact Prudence Hilburn at prudencehilburn@aol.com.