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Food & Dining

Recipes Lost And Found: A Hit From Plant City To New York City

Published:   |   Updated: March 22, 2013 at 07:46 PM

Last week, we included a request by reader Sandra Wright Pierce for a red velvet cake recipe. She particularly liked the slices served at Plant City's Branch Ranch Dining Room, which closed in 2006 after 50 years in business.

Pierce once asked about the cake and the folks at the restaurant informed her that a lady baked the cake for them and delivered it. "Can you dig up the info on who that lady is or the recipe?" Pierce asked.

Can we? You bet. But first a story:

Tammy (Monroe) Greenlee of Riverview wrote to say that while she worked for the Branch Ranch from 1989-1991 as a waitress, she baked a red velvet cake for an employee Christmas party.

"It was a hit!" Greenlee wrote. "I baked the red velvet cakes for a while afterward to be sold and served in the restaurant in exchange for free meals."

The recipe Greenlee used was passed down by her great-aunt.

"I still have the very old handwritten recipe she gave me in my favorite-recipe book," she says. "I don't think my great aunt ever gave it to anyone but me. I was the baker of the family and even owned a bakery at one time."

Family responsibilities forced her to leave Branch Ranch, so she gave the recipe to a bartender, not knowing it would become the "dessert of the Branch Ranch."

Now protective of the recipe, Greenlee said she wouldn't divulge the contents with anyone but Sandra Pierce. "I don't want another restaurant to take credit for my great-aunt's time and effort," Greenlee says. "But someone who loves eating it ... that is a different story."

We sent Pierce's contact information to Greenlee hoping the two can connect.


Meanwhile, Dorothy Rinaldi of Brandon writes to share her father's recipe. A bus driver for Trailways, her dad loved the red velvet cake [made at] New York City's Waldorf Astoria," Rinaldi wrote.

"He drove many groups of people to New York on charters," she says. "The chefs in many of the restaurants were very grateful for the drivers' recommending their restaurants to the people taking trips to tour New York City."

He begged the Waldorf's kitchen staff for the recipe but they would not give it out to him. Eventually, one of his fellow bus drivers was able to get one of the staff to give him the recipe for the bargain price of $75.

"My mom guarded this recipe for years until she realized that red velvet cake wasn't such a secret recipe anymore," Rinaldi says. "To me this is the best red velvet cake recipe on the planet."

The recipe runs below.


Addie Lee of Bratt (in the corner of Florida's Panhandle) wants a recipe for butterscotch oatmeal bars. Her husband's mother and grandmother made these for him as a youngster in Ontario, Canada, during the '50s and '60s.

"The handed-down recipe has been lost and he still has a craving for them," Lee writes. "I have tried to find a recipe that produces the chewy delicious cookie bar, but keep coming up empty-handed."

Her husband remembers oats, butter, vanilla and brown sugar in the recipe, but not the ratio or the oven temperature or cooking time.

"No butterscotch chips were used in the making of these cookies ... it was butter, brown sugar and vanilla that made the butterscotch.

"Please help, as my kitchen is beginning to look like a war zone," Lee says.


Mary A Staib of Brooksville is looking for a recipe her grandmother used to make for mince pie.

"So many people of my age talk about it, but no one has the recipe," she writes.


Bernie Bur of Zephyrhills wants a recipe for chicken over biscuits.

B. Dyer of Pasco County wants the cornbread made by Remington Steak House.



1/2 pound butter

1 tablespoon cocoa

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 ounces red food coloring

2 eggs

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream butter, cocoa and sugar. Add food coloring. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add flour, salt, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat well.

Mix vinegar and baking soda in a cup and fold gently into batter with spatula. Pour batter into two 8-inch pans.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes

For the icing:

5 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

1/2 pound butter

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix flour and milk and heat to boiling while stirring with wire whisk. Cool thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, mix butter, sugar and vanilla, then add flour mixture. Beat well.

Keep iced cake in refrigerator since icing tends to melt when left out at room temperature.

Looking for a recipe? Write to Jeff Houck, The Tampa Tribune, P.O. Box 191, Tampa, FL 33601 or e-mail