Food

Do You Have a Secret Family Recipe?

flourless chocolate cake by food52

A few years ago, we won a very cool prize…

At Toby’s school fundraiser, a family had donated four homemade desserts for $100. And we jumped at the chance to try them out. The prize was a key lime pie, a berry crumble, an apple pie, and finally a flourless chocolate cake.

They were all delicious but the flourless chocolate cake made our heads spin. It was light yet rich, moist yet firm, and so good we ate each bite achingly slowly so the experience would last as long as possible.

The next day, I emailed the parents who had donated the cakes and asked if they’d mind sharing the recipe. Their answer? “I’m sorry, we can’t. It’s a family secret.”

A FAMILY SECRET! That description only made me want the recipe a hundred times more. (Luckily, I was able to find another great one here.)

But it got me thinking: Do you have secret family recipes? Dishes passed down from generation to generation? My family has had meals we’ve made over and over — my grandfather’s “full English” breakfasts, my mom’s chocolate chip cookies, my dad’s veggie quiche — but none are cloaked in secrecy. What about you?

P.S. How to get kids to eat vegetables, and 9 family meals we’ve loved to death.

(Photo by James Ransom for Food52.)

  1. I love this post and wish I had hours to pore over each comment.

    There is honestly nothing secret about my “famous pasta salad” except, possibly, I do make it with love, but it’s the thing I’m asked to bring to every family event. there isn’t even consistency except in the pasta and the mayo, because I just toss in whatever I feel like adding. I now take the serving portion and a separate mini portion for the host :)

  2. Beth Haven says...

    Before my mom died I asked her why relatives complained that their versions of all her things never turned out the same as hers. She laughed. She always gave them the exact recipe. But for instance her applesauce cake (a favorite) if the recipe called for two cups applesauce…she put in 2 and 3/4s. If a cup of chocolate chips was good in cookies 2 1/2 made it hers. If she didn’t Iike an ingredient she would leave it out or substitute. Non essential ingredients she felt, were/are only a suggestion.

    • Beth Haven says...

      btw…she didn’t CONSIOUSLY not tell people about her additions or subtraction to recipes. She really thought everyone baked that way. Its how I learned and how I also cook and bake.

  3. Secret family recipes were a big thing when I was growing up (in Greece), mostly because every housewife wanted to be famous for her talents in the kitchen. Luckily, my grandma and her friends always shared their recipes so I got the chance to document them from early on. My grandma was famous for her olive oil and sesame cookies (koulourakia) a recipe which you can find here: https://www.thehungrybites.com/sesame-and-olive-oil-cookies/

  4. I totally agree. It is a compliment to hear that someone likes what you made and you are happy to share the love! Taking it “to the grave” is nonsense!

  5. You gotta love it when your family has a ‘secret’ recipe that you can find on Pinterest these days :) Or one that’s better, all for free, online! Lol just don’t tell the mammas!

  6. Allegra says...

    Tbh, I don’t mind ppl not wanting to give out their secret family recipes. I mean it stings to be told no, but I’d rather the immediate disappointment than the bigger one down the line when you realize that the person whose recipe you wanted knowingly and deliberately gave you an inaccurate one. This passive aggressiveness is the worst, especially after you’d already sunk in the money, time and effort into buying the ingredients, blocking out a part of your day to make it and then being crestfallen when the dish doesn’t turn out as expected because the person withheld some key information. That is just the worst feeling.

  7. Alexis says...

    I don’t even know what it’s called – lumpia sariwa? It’s fresh lumpia made with vegetables and fish tofu. I ask for it every time I visit my grandma and now that she is in her 90s my mom makes it. I’ve been asking for the recipe but have yet to receive!
    The filling is the veggies and tofu. Green beans, carrots. Then fresh rice wrapper that we would keep in damp towels at the table. Then seaweed with fried rice noodle, scrambled egg strips, vinegar and garlic sauce, and crushed peanuts with sugar to add as you like.

    I also love this onion pie recipe from my old manager’s wife. It’s become a staple at our Xmas porterhouse steak dinner:
    For a 9 inch pie:

    1 Pepperidge farm (or other) pie dough
    3 large onions diced
    3/4 stick of salted butter
    1 1/4 cups evaporated Carnation whole milk
    1 heaping spoon of cornstarch (1/4 cup might be too much)
    1 cup grated cheese (use your favorite) – I use gouda or fontina which melt well
    2 tbs of grated parmesan cheese for the finish
    Salt to taste
    Pinch of nutmeg

    In saucepan, lightly cook the onions in the butter until they start getting translucent. In a separate pan, melt the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of milk and set aside. In a third container, bring 1 cup of milk to a boil and slowly pour it in the cornstarch mixture while whisking, to avoid lumps. Add the cheese, the salt and the nutmeg, then the cooked onions. Pour into the unbaked pie dish. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and bake until it starts getting golden (10-15 minutes?)

  8. Emily says...

    I had a great aunt who made this amazing pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting. My sister requested every year for her birthday. Nobody knew how to make it. Shortly before she died, a family member insisted the recipe get written down. They watched her make it, throwing handfuls of ingredients in the bowl, guessing the measurements of everything to finally create the recipe!

  9. Susan says...

    I have quite a few “secret family recipes” mostly because I love to cook and now that I am 62 have refined and perfected many recipes. I do pass them out to people who ask politely. But I do tell them they have to follow the recipes exactly as written, using the specified pans, ingredients and temperatures or else the result will not be the same. My one ” secret recipe” i kept to myself for quite a number of years–the King Arthur Flour Gluten free chocolate cake mix.I steadfastly refused to divulge the secret until my daughter in law begged me for it. I was a bit embarrassed but quite frankly, I cannot make a chocolate cake that tastes this good so quickly and reliably.

    • Tori says...

      Susan! How sweet. Can we be friends?

  10. Allison says...

    My Grandmother used to make this amazing fruit dip.

    At family gatherings, we’d all hover around the bowl, eating as much as we could before it ran out–it was always the first thing to disappear. Over the years, she would make larger bowls (sometimes several bowls) for each holiday or event.

    Just before she died, she gave me the handwritten recipe and a basket of the ingredients as a housewarming gift. Turns out it was 90% marshmallow fluff… of course it made every fruit more delicious!

    • Susan says...

      How sad that the recipe will not be shared!!!!The sale of it could be a great fundraiser for some charity. This is what I am planning to do with my late mother’s very secret peach cobbler recipe. I have searched the internet and my vast collection of cookbooks (over 700) and have never found it. I do not know where she found it or if she made it up. Just a thought

  11. Shira says...

    I never understand the “I can’t share the recipe” comment. I would think one of the best things about a family recipe is to share it and let the love get passed around.

  12. Akg says...

    My MIL comes to visit every year for a month because my husband’s family is from Argentina, and when she comes she is nonstop cooking. She offered to hand-write all her famous recipes me and my husband love, which was so sweet, but they are just a liiittle too vague. My favorite ‘instructions’- “…put it in the oven and bake until it’s done” no temperature or time given! Or “one mug flour/sugar/oil,” any mug will do! Lol. Even if it isn’t meant to be a family secret I don’t think I could replicate them correctly if I tried. Thankfully, she is always willing to shower us with lots of yummy food whenever we see her :)

  13. Hayley B says...

    My MIL is famous among her friends for her legendary Christmas fruitcake (the secret ingredient is multiple liberal doses of rum!), which she is also famous for refusing to share. According to her, the friend who’s always bugging her for her recipe runs a bakery in town, and she swears he would then turn around and sell an inferior version of her cake (with much less rum/ingredients), make money off of the hard work and years she put into perfecting it, and worse, tell people it was her recipe! Obviously I wouldn’t be able to verify any of this so I just nod and agree with her every time she brings up the story at Christmas, ha!

    What I find hilarious though is that she’s also started doing that with a cake that *I* make for her. Every Christmas I’ll ask her if there’s anything I can bake for her and each time she’ll request the same cake — my own flourless chocolate fudge cake, for which I’m low-key famous. After our visit, she’ll have her friends over for tea and trot out my cake, which she’ll proudly announce was made by her DIL and then with much pomp bequeath one slice (and only one slice!) to each friend. She’s told me with no small amount of glee that her friends always go nuts over it and insist that they want to order it from me, to which she always proclaims, “Sorry, this cake is for family only!” 🤣🤣🤣

    • molly says...

      This is hilarious & wonderful!! xoxo

    • Hayley B says...

      Actually I’d be more than happy to share the recipe with her, but she’s never asked! I guess because she feels so strongly about sharing her fruitcake recipe, she assumed I’d feel the same? Also I think she’d prefer to have me make it, coz food always tastes yummier when someone makes something for you out of the love in their heart. The intention of the baker/cook in spreading joy always comes through in their creation ❤️

    • JoanieO says...

      That’s such an act of love – building you up and showing you love and respect through food!

  14. freya says...

    my wonderful piano teacher i had growing up would make the most amaaaaazing brownies for our recitals. i finally worked up the nerve to ask for the recipe and turns out it was duncan hines mix! haha

    sometimes knowing how much the person who bakes something loves you makes it that much more delicious.

  15. Emie says...

    My grandmother always said her mission in life was to feed people and she spent every day doing just that. She had several restaurants over the years in KY and everything was made by hand. She even fed people during the depression whether they could pay or not. Her bread was famous and was made in a 5 gallon bucket…. trucker’s would “reserve” bread on Friday’s so they could take it home to their families for the weekend. She cooked a lot by feel (biscuits) and intuition and tasting along the way. She always shared her recipes but nothing tasted the same as when she made it herself. Love really is the secret ingredient. Sadly, when she passed, my mom didn’t think to grab her recipe box. Later on, when we did think about it, we found out her 2nd husband had given it to her caretaker. So sad that so many of her recipes are gone for good.

  16. Michelle says...

    My BOYFs mother was reacting to news that he had given me the family’s German Potato Salad recipe. (She hadn’t met me yet). Mom: “You gave her the SECRET recipe!”
    BOYF: Which part of it is secret, mom?
    Mom:
    Mom: “The mayonnaise.”

    Five years later we still laugh about that every time we make it!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Hahahahq

  17. My great grandma famously shared all her secret recipes with my mom and her sisters. The recipes however, never quite tasted the same. To their dismay they discovered she omitted one or two key ingredients in every single recipe. It sounds odious, but her intention was that you could only eat these amazing things at her house so the kids were always motivated to go visit her :) She did take all her secrets to the grave, oh well!

  18. Catherine says...

    Yes, my paternal grandmother had a secret recipe for a steamed cranberry pudding served only at Christmas time. When I asked her for the recipe, she did give it to me with the proviso, “We don’t give this out, you know”. Later on, she did say that perhaps she’d been too protective of the recipe. She was a wonderful cook and hostess. After she died, I got her recipe box full of handwritten recipe cards. I typed out all the recipe cards in to the computer, printed a master copy, and then had that copied and bound to distribute to family members. I could actually taste some of the recipes as I typed them! And the recipe cards indicated from whom she’d received the original recipe (including the cranberry pudding!).
    I also did the same thing with my maternal grandmother’s recipe binder. She was also a wonderful cook. And fortunately, that grandmother was still alive at the time, so I was able to give her a copy of the typed recipe book for Christmas.
    I found the recipe cards to be a real historical record of my grandmothers’ friends and also of the places where they had lived.

    • anne says...

      That’s so lovely :) One thing my in-laws do is color copy the original recipe with the Grandmother/mom’s handwriting and then laminate and hand out. It’s really special.

  19. Anna T says...

    One of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received was a scrap book full of favourite recipes from my team members in Germany. I was leaving and it was my farewell gift. Each of them chose their favourite recipe, many of which had been handed down within their own families. 40 amazing recipes a lot of which I still cook to this day, more than 17 years later. A truly amazing gift.

    • JoanieO says...

      One of my good friends made this for another friend on the eve of her wedding. Although we’d all been living away from our parents, it was a lovely way to prepare for her new home and she still talks us about each of the recipes each friend submitted.

  20. Meredith E Heifler says...

    My mom makes Turkey Gumbo the day after Thanksgiving. My granddaddy made peach ice cream- I can’t find the recipe. My stepmom has this wonderful mashed carrots. You boil them, add crushed garlic, velveta or cheddar cheese, and a ton of butter.

  21. This is hardly a recipe, but it’s a crowd pleaser and one of the dishes my father mastered: pepperoni and eggs. Fry 4 to 6 ounces of sliced pepperoni in a large skillet over medium heat until it begins to get crispy. While it’s cooking, beat 6 to 9 eggs (3 eggs per person…trust me!). When the pepperoni is crisp, turn up the heat a little, add the eggs, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until they reach the level of firmness you like in a scrambled egg.

    • Chandra says...

      Trying this tomorrow! Thanks!

    • Shira says...

      I make a matzah brei that’s very similar to this, but I use salami instead of pepperoni.

  22. Cherie says...

    We love our chips and salsa in Texas and I make a Shrimp and Avocado Salsa that looks beautiful and tastes so good that I’ve even caught friends who “don’t eat seafood” eating it heartily. People can’t quite figure out the “secret” ingredient that makes it so wonderful. It’s……….ketchup. :)

    • Kate says...

      Ketchup! Did not see that coming 😮

    • Nicole G says...

      That sounds amazing! Can you please share the recipe??

  23. Kelly says...

    I have my great grandmother’s “Cheap Gingerbread” recipe, scrawled in her handwriting on a piece of brown paper. It’s a recipe that’s never been shared outside of our family. My daughter-in-law loves this cake. On their wedding day I had a copy tucked in my purse and presented it with a flourish after giving them a toast. We still laugh about it…six years later.

  24. Mo says...

    Growing up, my mom would make her mother’s (secret family) cheese dip recipe. Even I didn’t know what was in it, and she would joke that she’d give me the recipe on my wedding day. I ended up getting married at 19, and it’s a running joke that I did it for the cheese dip recipe (which she did give me on the day of!). It’s not true, of course, but it certainly was a nice bonus!

    • Kate says...

      But you’re keeping it secret? 😢

  25. Anna says...

    My grandparents owned a drive-in in Sedalia, Missouri that was famous for something they called the “Guber Burger” – it was a regular burger with peanut butter on it! It sounds weird but is sooooo delicious. The secret ingredient is Peter Pan smooth peanut butter, because it has to be oily enough to melt on the patty.

    • Amy says...

      Oh my gosh! I’m from Missouri too – your grandparents are legendary! What a small world

  26. Emily says...

    I had a friend who once told me, you never really die if people still cook using your special recipes. I think this is true. Every time I make a shared recipe that I received from someone who is no longer with me, I think about them and remember them and the times we shared. It is one way to honor the special people who have been important in my life. And I happily share their recipes and stories with others.

    • Mona says...

      Nicely said, Emily, and so true! So many of my recipes come from my beloved relatives and friends, some no longer with us. Such sweet memories every time I make them!

    • Kate says...

      Sweet

  27. LPD says...

    No secret recipes in our family. (Never understood that approach. Why not share the wealth?)

    To that end, I recently created a family cookbook for my daughter’s 26th bday: recipes, cooking tips, old newspaper clippings, letters, and photos … primarily from my mom, who was an outstanding cook, but also from friends and extended family.

    Hope it will inspire the next generation.

  28. Jessica Brown says...

    I have a secret chocolate cake recipe that I’ve made for nearly a decade now. I call it my “secret weapon”.

    Just a few weeks ago my oldest was at his girl friends house and was eating chocolate cake after supper. “Hmmmm…. that tastes an awful lot like my mom’s secret weapon, can I see the recipe?”

    I got a text a few minutes later with a picture of the popular recipe and the message “caught”.

    So fun. Won’t stop me from making it…

  29. Kate says...

    My mother in law was a fabulous cook and people asked her for her recipes all the time. She started eating her own dishes every time she was invited to a dinner party. It drove her nuts. She had a recipe for artichoke soup that she then refused to give out and everyone wanted it. She passed it to me with the promise that I’d never share it. I’ve kept that promise but I sure wish she was still here to make it for me!

    • Anna says...

      This has happened to me with my in-laws! Love that they like my recipes but then I never want to make/eat them when they’re often served to me.

  30. Ellen says...

    My super power not-so-secret recipe is my Maw Maw’s pie crust. Y’all. And I’m beyond happy to share because everyone should benefit from this genius!
    For a double crust-
    2 cups flour (run your fork through your flour to “fluff” it so you don’t end up with a too-heavily packed cup)
    1/2 tsp. salt
    In a Pyrex measuring cup–
    1/2+ cup of canola/veg oil
    1/4+ cup of cold milk
    (I’m putting the + because I’ve found in recent years the need to add a smidge more of each to wet all the flour.)
    Pour the wet ingredients into the flour, then *this is very important for some reason??* mix it all together with a FORK.
    When the dough is combined, roll out half with wax paper. Flip it into the pie pan, then roll out the other half in the wax paper, setting aside until you’re ready to top your pie.
    That’s it! No vodka, no butter, literally just four ingredients and just enough technique to make people fall madly in love with you/your pies.

    • CJ says...

      You have inspired me to add “make a blueberry pie” to my weekend to-do list! Thank you kindly!

    • Kate says...

      Thanks for sharing

    • Megan says...

      This is my mom’s pie crust recipe. No idea where it came from because my grandma does not use it. But it’s foolproof and so so easy.

    • Emie says...

      Thanks! I’ve added this to my recipe box.

    • Heidi S. says...

      This is my dads pie crust! It’s the BEST. we use a full teaspoon of salt (and that way the recipe “counts down” from 2, 1, 1/2, 1/3).

  31. Nancey says...

    My Grandmother Anna was such a great cook, I would beg her for some of her recipes, chicken soup, cabbage and noodles, pot roast, Pork chops and peas, they sound so simple but the way she made them was just incredible. She’d always say NO! but then later when I least expected it she would whisper to me ‘Meet me in the kitchen at (whatever time) and we can make (special dish)’ then it would seem so secret and special! I still make all of her recipes, they are divine. BTW- the secret to her Pot Roast is Gingersnaps, you know the old fashioned hard ones that come in the box? yup, just Gingersnaps, probably like 6 or 7 of them, they melt in the sauce and it’s the best pot roast I’ve ever had. ever.

    • Karen says...

      That’s how my grandmother-in-law made her sauerbraten.

  32. Kirsten says...

    Our family has a “secret” recipe, but not in the intense, bring it to your grave way (what is that even!!?!). My mom’s mom’s famous peanut butter bars. You could only get the recipe when you got married (it was the “dowry” – boy or girl, didn’t matter). True to form, my aunt brought a typewritten card with the recipe on it to my wedding :)

  33. CB says...

    Here is my flourless chocolate cake recipe. I make it for Birthdays and always make it for Easter. I also top it with chocolate ganache and raspberries. So delicious and tastes even better as the days go on – and is even better after 20 seconds in the microwave.

    250g (9oz) dark chocolate chopped
    100g (3.5oz) caster (superfine) sugar
    100g (3.5oz) butter cubed
    125g (4.5oz) of almond meal
    5 eggs seperated

    Pre-heat oven to 180c (350f)
    Place chocolate, sugar and butter in a heatproof bowl and sit over a saucepan of simmering water till melted
    Trasfer melted chocolate mix to a large bowl and almond meal, then beat in the 5 egg yolks one at a time
    In a seperate bowl mix the 5 egg whites until stiff peaks form- then gently fold in to the chocolate and almond mix gently with a metal spoon – figure eights to keep the air in the mixture
    Bake for 40 minutes (test after 35)
    You can dust with icing sugar or melt chocolate over the same bowl over sauce pan method and add a little cream or butter to make it pouring consistency.
    Recipes are for sharing – Enjoy !

    • SK says...

      Hi CB! This is so similar to version 2 from Jill Dupleix. She uses 250g chocolate; 150g sugar; 150g butter; 100g almond; 5 eggs. The method is the same. Now we just need a chocolate loving recipe tester to taste test all three variations! Regardless of the tweaks – it is a fantastic flourless chocolate cake!

  34. Tricia says...

    I have never understood secret recipes. I am always happy if someone wants a recipe of mine and am always happy to share. They are family recipes not a restaurant recipe that you don’t share so people will come to your restaurant to have it.

  35. Iris says...

    Our secret family recipe is a flourless chocolate cake too!

  36. Julie says...

    My dad makes a “secret sauce” for grilled chicken. We’ve called it a “secret sauce” ever since I was a kid. I’m pretty sure it’s just a magical combination of everyday ingredients (like ketchup and vinegar), but my husband recently asked him for the recipe and he said no! So now we always joke with him that we are going to film him making it :)

  37. Megan says...

    My husband makes all sorts of Mexican food (he’s 1st gen Mexican/Honduran) – taquitos, aguas frescas, sopas. The rest of my family is always asking for the recipe when I post his bomb dinners on insta, but it’s all in his head and learned passed down from his family, and from his father’s Mexican restaurant! It would be great to have it written down some day, but also, it’s tradition to pass it down through learning with your hands. I look forward to my son (and other future children) learning this hands on from their dad :)

  38. Brooke says...

    Theres a co-op in town and an older lady Sherry would make the most INSANE chicken salad. I’m a vegetarian and I would eat it lol! It was a secret recipe and would sell out everyday. She no longer works there and my husband and I will forever dream about it for the rest of our lives!

  39. CW says...

    We don’t have secret recipes, but I have a few videos of my mother making her signature dishes. People of her generation don’t use recipes, they learned it either by learning aside someone who was cooking it, or by cooking it again and again until they are satisfied. Writing down is tedious (because they are mostly Chinese cooking that involves a lot of work), and by recording her in action, we will be able to retain not only the techniques, but part of my aging mother’s essence: her voice, the way she talks, her laughters, her face. I have started asking my 10 years old children what are their favorite dishes, and started writing and collecting the recipes for them, because I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer early this year. I hope I can still be around for another 10 years, to raise their younger siblings, to be there to cook the special food my mother made for me when I had menstrual cramps, or when they need a little comfort or encouragement. Cooking for someone can achieves that, and delivers more than we thought to the receivers. If I am not around anymore, I hope they can have a piece of their childhood memories, part of my love, that when they cook and eat the food, they found themselves home and loved, again and again.

    • Amy - Portland, OR says...

      Yes! My Chinese mom never writes down anything and is not all that descriptive when I ask for amounts. I have tried taking notes, but I love this idea of video! Thanks for this tip!

      Sending you the best wishes for your health. I can hear the love in your words about this connection with food, your mom, and your kids. I’m sending you warmth and connection – that same feeling you get when you share a warm bao with a loved one : )

    • sarah morabito says...

      oh CW, your comment is so touching and you are in CoJ prayers for sure. How beautiful your connection is to food, family and generations.

    • Michelle says...

      Sending you love and saying prayers for your health. Your children are so blessed to have such a loving and thoughtful mom xx

    • Kimberly says...

      The very best of wishes to you throughout your breast cancer journey. Your post makes it clear that you are an amazing mother. Your care and thoughtfulness ensures that you will always be a part of your children’s lives.

  40. Anneka says...

    My grandmother’s secret brownie recipe turned out to be ghirardelli. She finally disclosed it after we nagged her about getting the recipe for years! Still the best brownies, IMO

    • Kathleen Stewart says...

      That is MY secret recipe LOL!

    • Ryal says...

      OMG, me too….the dark chocolate one!

    • Sarita says...

      My secret recipe too…hahaha! But I do a homemade frosting and it really elevates it!

  41. Lauren E. says...

    I really hate that answer!! Food is meant to be shared, right? Unless you somehow make money from your recipe I don’t know why you wouldn’t share it.

  42. Susie says...

    I have a secret salted chocolate chunk cookie recipe and a zucchini bread recipe. Everyone loves them and it’s what keeps people wanting to stop around for a cuppa so I keep it secret!
    I’ve also just nailed the perfect balance in a chilli oil and spicy Asian sauce! As the first of my family who really loves cooking I plan to make these family secret recipes that I’ll share with my kids!

    • Sally says...

      We have a secret family recipe for Swedish meatballs and gravy. (They’re from IKEA but you don’t really want to tell your dinner guests that so “it’s my husband’s Swedish grandma’s secret recipe!”)

  43. Christan says...

    My family has an amazing spoon fudge recipe. Soft and delicious right from the pot and even refrigerated.
    My uncle was gifted the secret family recipe from my grandmother and his siblings swear he gives them all altered recipes as none can make it like him.
    He promised he gave me his real recipe but over the years I have altered it too (especially when friends ask for the recipe!)

  44. SK says...

    I’ve been making a flourless chocolate cake for years and am always asked for the recipe, which I happily share. It is from Jill Dupleix (an Australian food writer), who modified an Elizabeth David recipe. I just searched online for it and found that there are two versions – one with 1 tbsp of espresso and 1 tbsp of rum/brandy (the one I make), and the other with no espresso/rum but an extra 50g of chocolate. I will now try it with espresso/rum AND the extra chocolate!

    This is what Jill has to say about the recipe: “I swear I will put this classic French flourless chocolate, coffee and almond cake in every cook book I ever do, just in case there is one person out there who doesn’t already know it. I first came across it in Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking, immediately doubled the chocolate content and have been pathetically grateful ever since.”

    Here is the link:
    https://app.ckbk.com/recipe/oldf83482c15s001r008/chocolate-espresso-cake

    In case the link doesn’t work:
    Ingredients:
    200 g (7 oz) dark, bitter chocolate (couverture), chopped (min 70% cacao)
    1 tbsp strong espresso coffee
    1 tbsp rum or brandy
    150 g (5¼ oz) caster sugar (fine, granulated white sugar)
    150 g (5¼ oz) butter (unsalted)
    100 g (3½ oz) ground almonds or hazelnuts
    5 eggs, separated
    icing sugar for dusting

    Method:
    Heat oven to 180°C (350°F). Melt the chocolate, coffee, rum or brandy, sugar and butter in a bowl sitting in a pot of simmering
    water. (You can do this in the microwave.) Remove from heat and stir until well mixed.
    Add ground almonds and mix well. Beat in the egg yolks, one by one. Beat egg whites until stiff and peaky, and stir a couple of spoonfuls into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, before gently folding in the rest.
    Turn into a buttered and floured 20 cm (8 in) round or square cake tin, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Leave to cool before removing from tin and don’t worry if the crust falls and collapses. That’s perfectly normal, if not desirable. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

    Jill Dupleix, Old Food, Published in 1998.

    If you make the cake and like it, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE share the recipe and tell everyone it’s from Jill and Elisabeth.

    • Emma says...

      From your experience, do you think it’d be better to bake this in a springform pan?

    • SK says...

      Hi Emma, I usually make it in an ordinary cake pan – well buttered and with a dusting of cocoa powder. Once it’s cooled in the tin, just run a spatula around the edge and remove. It’s very forgiving. If you want a more fudgy texture remove from the oven after 40 minutes; leaving it in longer makes it a bit more cake-like.

  45. Keri says...

    My Grandma has given me a lot of her recipes, and I have a few of my mother-in-law’s…but I don’t think they are secret. But they are full of memories.
    I do however, have the secret recipe for the Caesar salad dressing from a local restaurant that people go mad for. I have to tell people its a secret when they ask for the recipe.

  46. Quyen Nguyen says...

    ‘Family Recipe’ in my family means…store bought, boxed mix, etc!

    • Ali says...

      Hahahah this is so great!

  47. Emma says...

    My mother’s apricot biscotti recipe is fiercely guarded. The real secret is that it came out of a Betty Crocker magazine years ago, but we refuse to let those who ask know that.

    • Kate says...

      You inspired me to google the recipe. . No luck, but I found BC’s recipe for Cranberry Orange Biscotti, so thank you for that!

  48. SeattleDebbie says...

    More brown sugar than white?

  49. vanessa says...

    My boyfriend is obsessed with adding paprika to everything (savory) and he is also has a massive sweet tooth. At the beginning of the pandemic I, like countless others, baked banana bread. As he was shoving a slice of fresh, warm, buttered banana bread in his mouth I asked him to guess my “secret ingredient.” (There was no secret ingredient, I’m just a trickster). Finally after many guesses I revealed: IT’S PAPRIKA! He literally almost choked from laughing and we are still laughing about it :)

  50. Kat O says...

    My mother has perfected a peanut brittle recipe that has made her a minor celebrity around Christmas time. Not even I know the recipe!

  51. For my bridal shower, my sister had everyone bring me a favorite recipe and provided them with a blank card. Almost 15 years later – and I still use these in heavy rotation – and they are all hand written – my Aunt Darlene’s secret brownie recipe {it’s involves Bisquick}, my best friend’s Floridian grandmothers key lime pie, Uncle Roger’s BBQ sauce, my college roommates spinach dip, etc… whenever I’m really missing one of them {especially these days!} I love thumbing thru and picking a recipe….. Also, a few years back, on Christmas my grandmother gave me her mother’s recipe box… so I hold a lot of special family recipes in my kitchen – and every so often, an aunt will call me a need me to reference one of Grammie Jo’s recipes! It’s such a sweet way to remain connected. {but I haven’t tried the Tuna Jello recipe yet…..}

    • Eileen says...

      You’re joking! LOL!

    • Heidi S. says...

      My mom did the same thing for me at my shower. It’s so special to have my grandmas “Tang Pie” written out in her hand writing.

  52. Tammy says...

    I am small-time famous for my salted chocolate chip cookies. They are the reason my husband married me and were also the favours at our wedding. People are always so hesitant and careful when they ask me if I’m willing to share the recipe, but I don’t believe in keeping incredible cookies from anyone! I not only share it, but also send all my tried-and-true tips on how to make them. (Always salted butter, unbleached four doesn’t work, and take them out when they still look undone, but leave them alone on the pan for a bit before moving them.) People always text me or tag me in their posts when they make them. I love that warm, delicious cookies (my favourite food) make them think of me.

    • Alisha says...

      Can you share the recipe with me?!

    • Julie T says...

      ME TOO!!<3

    • Chika says...

      Me three, please share!!!

    • Liza Sherbin says...

      Can you send them to me too? Thank you!

    • Melanie says...

      Please share!! Would love to make these!

    • JR says...

      SAME! The people demand the recipe :)

    • Alli says...

      Me too, me too!!!

    • ally says...

      Me also, please! :)

    • Tammy says...

      A bleated response! Here is the recipe. Happy baking to all!

      Tammy’s Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

      1 ½ cups salted butter, room temperature
      1 cup sugar
      1 cup brown sugar
      2 eggs
      1 tsp real vanilla extract
      1 ½ tsp baking soda
      3 ½ cups all-purpose flour (NOT unbleached)
      150 grams dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (1/2 a BIG chocolate bar)
      150 grams milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
      Maldon Sea Salt Flakes

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
      2. In a stand-mixer, cream together butter, sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
      3. Add baking soda and mix. Add flour and mix. (I wrap a clean tea towel around the top of my stand mixer and mix on low, so none of the flour escapes.)
      4. Add chocolate and stir.
      5. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto cookie sheets. Sprinkle some sea salt flakes on top of each cookie. Bake for 9 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheets for at least five minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

      Here are my secrets to making these cookies:

      – Don’t bother with unsalted butter. I know I already specified salted in the ingredient list, but if you want these to be great, now is not the time to be concerned with your sodium intake. It adds some serious flavour.
      – Same goes for the Maldon Sea Salt Flakes. These are not cheap, but splurge on one box and it will last you a long, long time.
      – Resist the urge to cook them longer. Trust me! But don’t skip the part about letting them cool on the pan for a bit before transferring.

    • Anna T says...

      Thank you so much. I will definitely try the recipe.

    • Emie says...

      Thanks so very much for sharing your recipe. I can’t wait to try them!

  53. Zara says...

    The best chocolate cake I ever had was at Taberna da Rua das Flores in Lisbon (it’s a must, if you’re visiting Portugal!). It looks similar to the feature image in this post. We asked the server, and she said the recipe was an old secret. She “thought there might be” a tablespoon of flour in it, but that’s all she could tell us. Argh!

  54. Bonnie says...

    Yes, we did, but they were such secrets that they died along with the people who “owned ” them. My great- grandmother had some recipes that she would not give to my mother because she was a “yankee.” My dad’s family was all from Charleston, but my poor mom was from Pennsylvania, so she apparently didn’t qualify to get any Southern recipes!

    • isabelle says...

      Yikes. My Southern family publishes a cookbook with contributions and credits for everyone to share.

    • Ashley says...

      As a girl raised in the Lowcountry with a momma from Pennsylvania, I can appreciate this. Bless her.

      My famous family recipe is in Charleston Receipts – Defense Cookies. I’ve always been told that they are able to protect you from an angry neighbor, grouchy kids, or a hungry husband. Funnily enough, it’s my Yankee momma’s cousin’s recipe.

  55. B says...

    Gosh, I love this post.

    My best friend gave me her vanilla cupcake with buttercream icing recipe. She made it for all my in-laws at my bridal shower & so everyone requested it when one of the cousins was expecting.

    Except now, everyone asks for it! I’m not allowed to share it with anyone because she has plans to open a bakery in the future. Now any time anyone asks, I just look for a similar one on the internet, handwrite it on an index card and tell them “don’t share it with anyone.”

    No one’s compared recipes yet to suss out my fib. I figure it’s their penance for waiting to give me the corn stuffing recipe until after I married my hubs. Ha!

  56. Kelly M Kennedy says...

    My great Aunt Bev always makes a HUGE batch of buttermilk pancakes every morning after a holiday (we all share a lake house so we spend all the big holidays together in a large house, there can be up to 35 people there to feed breakfast to depending on the year). She prides herself so much on this recipe that without fail she always tells the story while making them about how they almost sold it to some big company to make mixes to sell in supermarkets (because it tastes so good), but alas they couldn’t figure out how to get the mix shelf stable.

    So all throughout my childhood I HATED these pancakes, they’re slippery and thin and just wasn’t what my kid tastebuds had in mind for pancakes, but I eventually learned to like them after forcing myself to try them again and again. But then last year my boyfriend joined us the morning after Christmas and he confided in me that he hated the pancakes and didn’t understand why our family made such a big deal out of them. I shared this with some other family members and I found out, they all hate the pancakes! One of my aunts said “they’re disgusting”. But no one has the heart to tell my great Aunt Bev (who’s pushing 90) so we all still gorge ourselves on it about 4 times a year, I guess all of us pretending we like them.

    • Amy says...

      I love that story!!

    • Megan says...

      My aunt always made me “my favorite” french toast when I would visit and angel food cake for my birthday. I always hated them but I guess as a kid I was too polite to say anything — scratch that, as an adult I’ve never fessed up either! But I always laugh to myself when she makes them and goes on and on about how they’re my fav when I’d rather have anything else. 34 years later and too late now I think!

  57. Emily says...

    We have one now! Quarantine motivated me to search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe (yes, I tried CoJ’s!), and I ended up developing my very own. It is SO good. Thinnest crunchy outside with the softest, chewy interior and plenty of gooey chocolate. I’ve been making and baking for everyone I know, but the recipe is all mine ;)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s awesome!!

  58. carla says...

    “Long Time Listener, First Time Caller”…
    We didn’t have “secret” recipes. My Mom started a recipe book for me when I moved out after college. She wrote out her recipes for me, put them in sleeves, in a book, the whole bit.

    30 years later, my new husband and I decided to host The Moms for Easter Brunch. We decided to include my Mom’s “Cheese Strata”, an egg-y chess-y, bread-y dish. I followed the recipe EXACTLY the night before – it required chilling over night. The next day I left the recipe out so my husband could get it in the oven while I drove out to pick up my Mom.

    When we got back to the house I was so proud to have her dish in the oven, but it looked weird – it wasn’t rising, it wasn’t getting done. So Mom says “Well, how many eggs did you use?”, I read off the number of eggs on the recipe, “Oh that’s wrong, not even close”. After several of these rounds, she said “Where did you get that recipe, that’s not mine!?” So I showed her the recipe – in her own hand AND signed “from Mom” by her!!!

    Her response? Oh, I just wrote that down from memory, I didn’t really have a recipe. So, sometimes, the SECRET is right out there in the open under the guise of a hand written recipe – I’ll never know what it was supposed to be!

    My husband and I have been laughing at that memory for five years now.

  59. Courtney L Beck says...

    A few weeks ago I accidentally bought a can of coconut cream instead of coconut milk, and now I know what to do with it! Thank you!!

  60. Marci says...

    I never felt more grown up than when I had a recipe named after me! Trust me, I am not a creative cook and would not expect my name attached to any recipe, much less one I found on the internet. However, when I recently stopped to chat with my neighbors, the now grown-up daughter introduced me to her new husband, who said (with admiration, I might add): “So you’re the famous Marci.” What? I didn’t think Sarah even really thought about me in the years since she left home much less talked enough about me to achieve “famous” status. Apparently, I am known through a couple of recipes I brought annually to neighborhood potlucks, one being salsa — so hilarious since I am a Minnesota of Scandinavian descent who finds some perfectly normal things too spicy for my tastes. I typically bring an “as written” version of the salsa to parties and one with fewer jalapenos and additional lime juice, jokingly calling it Swedish salsa. And yes, my friends, that is what that version is called among Sarah’s in-laws: “Marci’s Swedish Salsa.” I am so honored!

    • suki says...

      That is so funny and rather brilliant – bet you could market that in the minneapolis region and pad out your retirement on the profits, lol : )

  61. Jenni says...

    My Dad tried to have a family secret recipe- his cheesecake. But he mistakenly shared his very secret recipe notecard with my mom who is the kind of person who can’t keep a secret to save her life. She made copies of the card and shared it with all her friends- anyone, really, you didn’t even have to ask her. My dad was pretty bummed about it.
    It’s lemon- one of the secret ingredients:lemon.

  62. Pascale says...

    Why secret recipes? Share the yumminess, share the love!

    • isabelle says...

      Right?! What is even the point of a secret recipe? Are people afraid their families will stop visiting them if they learn to make a cake on their own? I know many restaurants have signature dishes or a “secret sauce” that they don’t want competitors to have access to, but other than that I can’t imagine claiming ownership over a recipe, much less telling someone it’s a secret!

    • Chelle says...

      Agree! Don’t understand the “secret recipe” thing. When my sister and I lived together she got a brisket recipe from a friend and made it for our family. When my brother asked for the recipe, she said she couldn’t share it because it was her friend’s family secret recipe and the friend asked that she not to share it. So one day when my sister was out I copied the brisket recipe and gave it to my brother. 😂

  63. Emily says...

    not a totally secret recipe, but my mama has secret ingredients in a few of her baked goodies. she’ll gladly give out the basic recipe, and no one will ever know why there’s just… isn’t… quite.. the… same…

    • Emily says...

      theirs! oh no!

  64. Ange says...

    Anybody else have 22 tabs open with various recipes after reading this post?!

  65. Lucy says...

    My grandmother (from Minnesota) always made chicken and noodles, a novelty for my brothers and I (from Alabama) as chicken and dumplings were the norm. The recipe is not a secret per se, however, it is not written down anywhere to my knowledge because she didn’t use a recipe. For years I asked my grandmother to teach me how to make her famous chicken and noodles, but I never received formal instruction. The last conversation I had with her before her death was about her noodles and how to make them. I like to think that makes me the keeper of the secret because I’m pretty sure no one in my family knows how to make them. It’s amazing what memories and emotions arise while eating a bowl of those chicken and noodles with my family.

    • Tammi Dower says...

      i Love chicken and noodles too!

  66. Erin says...

    My Canadian grandmother’s secret butter tart recipe is the best. It uses maple syrup instead of corn syrup.

    • Kathleen Stewart says...

      Ok. I am doing this. I don’t have any corn syrup but I have been dying for a good Ontario butter tart.

  67. Karen says...

    My ex-husband’s grandmother’s recipe for piquels Everyone raved about them. They were basically a pie type dough rolled around a nut filling into a cigar shape and baked.
    She finally got tired of all the “work” entailed and gave the recipe to me. I never made them, they just did not seem that special, and I divorced him a year later.

    • Erin says...

      This took a turn I did not see coming. I laughed out loud!

    • Kara says...

      I enjoyed and laughed at the turn it took. Favorite comment so far.

    • suki says...

      The key to those is a sour cream and powdered sugar “pie” dough.

    • Karen says...

      Suki,
      How did/do you know that?

  68. Lauren says...

    I have a group of friends who regularly get together for dinners/bbqs etc. Of the six of us, only my friend Will and I cook for these shindigs (everyone else brings drinks or snacks). Any time anyone says anything is delicious, we tell them conspiratorially “the secret ingredient is nutmeg”. Everyone rolls their eyes- but the joke’s on them because it IS the secret ingredient in his creamed spinach and my snickerdoodles!

    • Jamey says...

      Love it! Nutmeg is a little magical. In very small doses!

    • Matt says...

      King of the Hill reference, I love it!

  69. Grace says...

    30+ years ago, when my mom suffered a miscarriage, she said all she wanted to do was eat a chocolate chocolate chip bundt cake… with a fork. We now refer to that cake recipe as “the crisis cake” and make it anytime something bad/sad/unfortunate happens to someone in our family… always served with a fork so you don’t even have to bother to slice it.

    (the recipe is so good that it’s not just reserved for crises… but some birthdays too!)

  70. Lillian Chang says...

    I agree with sharing recipes! I myself am not a creative cook, but I’m quite a sleuth when it comes to finding good recipes – and I love being able to share what I find. Food is love, and we need more love in this world! :)

    Also, Joanna – I think this could be a future blog post idea – everyone share your current favorite (dinner/dessert/breakfast) recipe! I’m always looking for new ideas!

  71. As someone who develops and tests recipes for a living, the idea of NOT sharing a recipe with someone makes no sense to me. I don’t see how sharing something like that will make me have any less. But, I guess, I’m in this profession for a reason :)

    • M says...

      I grew up in the south and most of the time someone had a “secret family recipe” it just meant that it came from a box.

    • Stephany Aulenback says...

      Yes, if I was told the cake was a “secret family recipe” as Joanna was, I would suspect they’d bought it at a fancy bakery or something and passed it off as homemade at the fundraiser. Ha!

  72. Lisa says...

    My husband Grandparents owned a cherry orchard on the western slope of Colorado. He has an August 13th birthday, and she always made a cherry cake for him.
    At my wedding shower 40 years ago, I asked if she’d share the recipe. It began with “first, buy a Duncan Hines white cake mix, and a jar of maraschino cherries”!

    • Amy says...

      I love that so much!

  73. Heidi says...

    Our buttermilk praline recipe! Not really that the recipe is so much of a secret, but we are the only ones nutty enough to spend what feels like forever stirring a boiling pot of butter on a hot stove to make it! The directions are deceptively simple and do not reveal that it takes 45 minutes to an hour of frequent stirring and that my mom uses three different types of tests to check that it’s ready (candy thermometer, soft ball/water bowl test and an additional opacity test). The results are amazing, but it only happens at Christmas. So despite the lack of real secrecy, there is an exclusivity to this recipe that comes from it being it being so difficult to make. Now that she is getting older, I’ve made it my commitment to assist her in making them every Christmas until it feels like second nature.

    • KC says...

      Our family has a similar situation! We make a delicate, fried cookie called crispel, and our version is from a recipe from my northern Italian ancestors that’s a couple hundred years old. They’ve gotten kind of famous among our family’s social circles, but it’s sooo hard to replicate! We have to test the oil temperature multiple ways, the dough is sooo finicky, and the rosette iron we use for it is over 100 years old! They make irons for rosette cookies today, but they are not the same. There’s almost no way to replicate our recipe, though I’d gladly share! It’s a Christmas staple for our family, all our friends, and co-workers. I’m the only one in the millennial generation in my family to learn, so now I’m the keeper of the cookies (my mom and grandma can’t totally handle how labor intensive they are anymore) and it feels like a big responsibility!

  74. ErikaMC says...

    A lady at our church was known for quite a few recipes. Nobody else knew them but not because she wouldn’t share them – she was just always the one to make them and nobody could have made them the same anyways. At her funeral her daughter put together all her best church recipes and put them out on the table for people to take.

  75. Kari says...

    My grandmother had strict traditions with what dishes were served on what holidays. On Christmas Eve, she’d make the most delicious Danish dumpling soup. She would not make it any other time of year, and turns out she never used a recipe. I looked forward to that soup all year. I believe my one aunt does know how to make it, but she’s not exactly forthcoming with the details… I’m determined to get it out of her before the soup tradition is lost forever!

  76. Megan says...

    My great-aunt made phenomenal mini-rugelach for every Jewish holiday. When she was around 88, fearing that the recipe and technique would be lost, she and her daughters and and assortment of cousins (dubbed the “cuzzies club”) got together and all made them together and video taped the cooking session.

    Now that she’s passed, it rotates who makes them for holidays and family gatherings and it’s always a big debate whose taste the most like hers!

  77. Susannah says...

    My family doesn’t have any secret recipes but a few iconic ones… I think one of the best things is when a legendary recipe includes its provenance and extenuating circumstances along with the instructions. Like: my family makes a favorite seafood casserole on special occasions “Nick’s Shrimp Givetsi Shells from Jim Boletus” (the recipe for which was theoretically won in a poker game) or my dear friend’s godmother’s Rum Cake which includes explicit instructions not to make two at once or the oven will explode from having too much booze fumes in it. Food is love and give me all the stories!

  78. jane says...

    Nope. We’ve always taken an entirely “open source” stance. It is a fun story though : D
    I’ll even share my favorite “secret” recipe for no-churn vegan ice cream: half cup of cashew butter or soaked raw cashews, one can of coconut cream – no liquid, two tablespoons of agave or sweetener of choice, a pinch of sea salt and a tablespoon of vanilla, blended in a vita-mix ideally but long enough in a regular blender will probably work too. Pour into a container and freeze over night or til firm. I’ve been using it to make killer ice cream sandwiches all summer using a soft-baked vegan brownie bark recipe for the cookie.

    • laurie says...

      Jane, this is awesome! Thank you for sharing! :)

    • Ali says...

      Sounds delicious! When you say no liquid…. do you mean to only scrap the top of the coconut cream and leave the liquid at the bottom of the can??

    • jane says...

      @Ali yes. You can just use the whole can, liquid included, and it will just be a little icier – not necessarily a bad thing. It’s pretty forgiving.

  79. Matt says...

    My maternal grandmother was great at canning and baking. She made the most delicious pecan pies. When she was in her 90’s I realized I had to ask her for the recipe if I wanted to replicate it. She said she used the recipe on the back of the Karo Syrup bottle. I’m sure she followed it to a T. So much for family secrets.

    Sharing your family recipes is one thing I think should be done, sharing recipes without permission is unforgivable.

  80. Agnes says...

    Not sure why I find this topic of people not sharing recipes so hilarious. I’d never heard of this until I asked for my friend’s rum cake recipe and she told me it was given to HER by someone who said she couldn’t share it until the woman herself was dead. I did feel a bit hurt that I couldn’t have the recipe. Anyway, the friend and I lost touch for around 17 years, and she randomly connected with me last year. I asked for the recipe (maybe the lady died?) and it was still a no, as the lady is alive and well (and baking the cake, I guess?). I am sure there are so many theories around why people do this but it made me laugh so much. I WILL get that recipe if it’s the last thing I do!!!

  81. Meg says...

    We had a family friend live with us for a while when we were kids. We all remember that Bruce made us Sunshine Pie (in my memory, it’s red…with maybe graham cracker crust?), and it stuck in our collective family memory. We brought it up to Bruce years later, and he swears he had no idea what we were talking about. I don’t think he was keeping it a secret deliberately – I think he genuinely didn’t remember! He passed away some years ago, so whatever hope we had of reconstructing the pie is gone, but man! The memory of that pie is magic.

    • KarenJ says...

      So funny! I had a very similar experience. As kids, my sister and I loved the molasses cookies made by an old family friend. They were so, so good and we reminisced about them frequently for years. As an adult I reached out to this woman and told her how special these cookies were to us and asked please would she share the recipe. She had no recollection of what I was talking about! Zero!

  82. Nancy says...

    This post reminds me of that Everyone Loves Raymond episode about “Marie’s Meatballs”. So funny, but at the same time, sad. I understand tradition, but why not spread the joy of a great recipe? I’m always honored if someone asks me for a recipe.

    • AG says...

      Secret recipes are one way to be immortal or at least remembered after we die. It goes something like – remember Marie’s famous butter slice? No one makes a slice like her.

      There’s fun in figuring out a secret recipe or a secret ingredient!

    • Megan says...

      Yes! I find that when I share a recipe with someone that I got from my grandmother, the overwhelming presence of her and pride that I feel is incomparable. It’s an amazing feeling to excitedly say “Yes! This was my grandma’s recipe!” and feel like I’m sharing her love with someone else, than to say no, it’s just for me.
      Plus, it never tastes *exactly* the way it did when my grandma made it, so there’s still that element of “no one did it like her”.

    • celeste says...

      Marie was just the worst MIL ever.

  83. When I was little we visited my great aunt and she fed us the most incredible orange flavored cookies. They were tall and flaky- almost like a scone or a biscuit- and had a thick glaze absolutely saturated with orange zest. When my mom asked for the recipe she said no! it was for her backup career plan as a caterer! Lol. Eventually my mama got the recipe out of her and we enjoyed the cookies at home, but after that the recipe was lost (this is pre-internet, so it was on paper) and all further attempts to get another copy were ignored. I think about those cookies to this day…

  84. Rachel says...

    My mom baked brownies for a work thing once and when people asked for the recipe she said it was an old family recipe, but it was really just a box mix – she justified it by saying, her mom used that box mix and now she uses that box mix, so it’s kind of the same thing, HAHA.

    • Lynn says...

      I did the same thing once for a work picnic. I had 4 small children and no time to make the requested home churned ice cream, so I bought a couple of Bryers and put the ice cream into our churn container! Asked to share the recipe, I said it was a family secret. 😊

    • isabelle says...

      I regularly make cakes with boxed mix and store bought frosting. It’s just better and WAY cheaper than buying pounds of butter and chocolate and fiddling with recipes at home until I find one I can stand. (Why is buttercream so gross?!) I tend to make some additions/modifications to the cake itself but the frosting is straight from the jar, and everyone always asks about it. I say it’s homemade and people are just thrilled to have a mouthful of cake. People are also really impressed if you can learn to get sprinkles on the side of a cake!

  85. AR says...

    I absolutely love collecting recipes from people I love and admire so I hate the idea of secret recipes! Some of my favorite things to make are recipes passed on by my loved ones and I keep passing them along to spread the love. There are people all over LA that make my best friend’s late mother’s christmas chex mix… and she was from a tiny town in Washington. It’s one of the many things I love remembering about her. Secret recipes are lame, get over yourself, lol.

  86. Ana says...

    My two grandmothers were amazing cooks and despite very different culinary styles they both were little-bit-of-this and little-bit-of-that cooking wizards. They never measured anything nor wrote down anything. To this day, my mother and I have tried to reproduce the seafood tart that her mother used to make without much success. I understand the excitement of secrecy and loved reading the funny and touching stories shared by readers. But, I wished she had shared it with us before passing away. Maybe one day I will stumble upon a seafood tart that will bring back a lot of childhood memories, and I wont leave without the recipe! :)

  87. Erin says...

    A cook that will not pass on their recipe screams insecurity. A gracious cook would be flattered and happily share their recipe. I have a friend who refused to give away her mother’s “secret bran muffin” recipe only to find out that when she finally did share the recipe, it was the EXACT recipe from the back of the All-Bran cereal box. the secret was that infant, there was no secret. She just loved to make everyone think these muffins were much more exotic than they really were ha ha.

  88. Vanessa says...

    Not TOTALLY a secret but my mom has made the BEST fluffy buttermilk pancakes for as long as I can remember. When I moved out into the world she happily shared the recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and I happily tried to make them only to fail over and over again. I studied her the next time she made them for me and I realized she was adding a lot of extra buttermilk!! And just like that, all my pancakes have been perfect since. :) (And when I share the recipe I ALWAYS tell people: add. more. buttermilk.)

  89. My mom is a talented baker who is famous for her cookies in particular. She has a number of secret recipes but she does not write them down, they are all in her head! Over the years she has slowly passed along a number these special recipes via phone calls where I frantically scratch down her instructions.

    A few years ago I was reminiscing with a childhood friend about the magic of my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. I decided it was time to get her coveted chocolate chip cookie recipe so I called with paper and pen ready to go. I was shocked when my mom said “oh I don’t have that one memorized, I just buy ghirardelli chocolate chips and follow the recipe on the bag”.

    • Sarah says...

      I make that recipe often! She’s right — it’s a really good one!

    • Lillian says...

      ditto! that is the best recipe! especially if you sprinkle the tops with a little bit of flaky sea salt before putting them in the oven.

    • Britt says...

      This reminds me of Phoebe’s grandmother’s Toulouse cookies from Friends 😅

  90. Carroll says...

    I do have a secret family receipe. I only call it that because I’ve never bothered to write down all the ingredients and amounts . Cooks do it from the heart.

  91. Amanda says...

    The last time I asked for a recipe I was told, “Sorry, it’s a secret family recipe” …by my own mother. The woman is a steel trap.

    • Jackie says...

      This made me laugh. Your mom is so hard core.

    • jane says...

      but you ARE family, so. . . ; )

  92. Heidi Scribner says...

    My husband’s grandmother’s pumpkin pie recipe NEVER came out right. I’ve always suspected she left something out…

    • MKW says...

      Yes… I’ve heard of people that give out their recipes but deliberately change the recipe so it won’t work. Can you say, “Passive aggressive.” ???

  93. Twyla says...

    My good friend grew up eating his mom’s chocolate cake made from a ‘secret’ family recipe. He LOVED it. When he got married, his mom gave his new wife the ‘secret’ recipe: a box of Duncan Heinz chocolate cake mix! She made the cake regularly for him, which thrilled him to death, but was very careful to not let him see the box. One day they happened to go grocery shopping together, and that weekend she had promised to make him the special cake. While they were shopping, he was very adamant that they make sure they had all the ingredients for the cake. She tried very hard to stealthily cover the box of cake mix with other groceries and distract him while they were unloading them at the cashier, but sadly he spotted it. She came up with all sorts of stories about why she was buying the box mix, but he asked so many questions that eventually she had to come clean. He was so crestfallen, it was like he had realized his whole childhood was a lie. He said the cake never tasted the same after that, and she doesn’t make it anymore.

    • Alex Pearl says...

      This made me laugh pretty hard.

    • Angel says...

      This is so sad! But I am laughing so hard!

  94. Lindsey says...

    A good family friend has a secret brownie recipe. She actually gave me the recipe as a gift at my wedding shower — but I had to promise not to share it! It was such a sweet gift. And I’ve kept my promise to not share the secret to Dianne’s Brownies!

  95. Katie Larissa says...

    My father in law was a firefighter for years, and he learned to make a special spaghetti sauce recipe from a mentor in the firehouse. He makes it for the family now, but refuses to share the recipe. He doesn’t have it written down. We know ingredients, (pork cubed up, sausage AND ground beef, mushrooms, etc.) but no one has any idea how to make it, and at least one of my sisters in law has tried to replicate it many many times unsuccessfully. Well, my mother in law always begged him for it, and they teased back and forth about it. Then she was diagnosed with cancer, and when they were talking about his recipe the next time he made it, he told her “okay, okay, I’ll give it to you.” She then confessed that she had followed him around the kitchen one day YEARS before while he made it and paid attention to ingredient amounts, and could make it herself if she wanted, but had always enjoyed him having something to cook for everyone! He was shocked. Men are kind of oblivious sometimes, haha.

  96. Ellen W says...

    My family doesn’t have secret recipes but I wish I had someone from the older generations to show me techniques. My husband is half Norwegian and there are beloved dishes his grandmother made that I have tried to make over the years – mainly krumkrake and lefse. Sadly she died before I met my husband and I’ve worked on mastering these treats at Christmas time over our 18 years of marriage.

    • Sam says...

      My aunt uses this recipe for lefse and taught me (from a super randomly named website). It is very detailed.
      http://www.butteheads.com/

  97. B says...

    Haha! It is weird to have a secret family recipe, but it’s a tradition I respect, especially with my grandmother’s recipes. I’m not allowed to reveal the recipe for her melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies.

  98. Hannah says...

    If food is meant to be shared, then recipes should be shared too!

  99. Jenna Arko says...

    My college professor used to give out her ex-husband’s family secret recipe for BBQ sauce. Always made me LOL.

    • Paige says...

      that totally made me laugh!

    • Abby says...

      That made me laugh out loud, Jenna :)

    • Ana says...

      So good! LOL!

    • Jackie says...

      This is a level of pettiness that I truly admire.

    • Matt says...

      When you are doing it out of spite, the recipie will never be as good…

    • Jana says...

      I am cracking up!

    • Chandra says...

      Lol I love this, hahah

  100. Anna says...

    My great-grandmother was from Vienna, Austria, a city famous for sweet treats. All her grandchildren wanted to learn her recipies, and she was really willing to teach them. But however hard she tried, it was always some version of: Take just enough of this and stir until it is just right….
    Nobody hast ever succeeded in producing anything edible from the instructions…
    My mother is the only one who kind of gets the apple strudel right and she ist so proud!

    • mags says...

      I’m from Vienna and this is exactly what my grandmother’s recipes look like ;-) “Put in as much flour as it needs…”

  101. Jessica says...

    My grandfather’s seadfood chowder and mu grandmother’s homemade bread!

  102. Growing up around grandmothers that were great cooks, there was always good food. However, they never wrote anything down and just measured with a “pinch”‘ of this or a “dash” of that. Over time, I watched them cook certain foods and slowly wrote down the ingredients and measurements. Now the recipes aren’t quite as “secret.”

  103. Lydia says...

    Not a secret but this gets RAVE reviews and it’s almost pumpkin season. I think it’s the cup of oil that makes it so dense and moist that people love. And cream cheese frosting. Crowd pleaser FOR SURE.

    https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/pumpkin-sheet-cake/

    • celeste says...

      Oh my thank you. I got a flourless choc cake recipe and this today! Love Taste of Home.

  104. Lisa Terwilliger says...

    I have a couple of recipes I got at former jobs. I didn’t like the jobs all that much and I often joke that they only reason why I worked at those places was to luck into some excellent food. One is for banana pudding (“naner puddin'” if you want to pronounce it properly) and an upside-down apple pie. I happily share the recipes to whomever asks!

    • deana says...

      Please!!! Naner Puddin! It is my husband’s favorite……

    • lwv says...

      Since you kindly offered. I would love the upside-down apple pie recipe please.

    • Lillian Chang says...

      I’d love both recipes please!!! Thank you for generously sharing! :)

    • Lisa Terwilliger says...

      These recipes are straight from North Carolina where I spent 10 years before moving back to New England.

      Upside-Down Apple Pie: https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/apple-upside-down-pie/918a2d34-2dce-459c-ae04-570fba0b8355

      I actually never knew this was from Pillsbury – ha! The recipe as given to me did specify pre-made pie crusts and that’s what I always use. (I leave out nutmeg because my family doesn’t care for it.) Serve with ice cream, of course.

      Naner Puddin’:
      8oz sour cream (light is ok)
      8oz container Cool Whip (light is ok)
      1 (5oz) package instant vanilla pudding
      2 cups 2% or whole milk
      1 package vanilla wafers
      4 bananas

      In large bowl combine sour cream, whipped topping, pudding mix and milk. Stir well. In the bottom of a trifle bowl or other glass serving dish, put a layer of cookies, then a layer of pudding mixture, then a layer of bananas. Repeat until all ingredients are used. Refrigerate for a few hours until serving.

      I like to reserve a little Cool-whip and put it as the final top layer. Sometimes I find that I use more/less wafers and bananas. It’s up to you! This is such a great summer dessert.

  105. Molly says...

    My MIL makes these special oatmeal buttermilk pancakes for Christmas brunch with my husband’s family. They are amazing and everyone talks about them all year long. As each of her nieces and nephews get married, she gifts them a griddle and the recipe at their shower. Such a cute way to be welcomed in!

    • Jill says...

      Hi Molly,
      Can you share the recipe?

    • Emily Prueitt says...

      This sounds amazing! Can you share the recipe please?

  106. Laura says...

    What a cool story! A good reminder that we live in a small world :)