For many people in St. Louis, Miss Hulling’s is just an urban legend. But once upon a time, Miss Hulling’s was the gold standard of cafeteria-style food. Most people don’t know that Straub’s Grocery holds the secret recipes for the multi-layered cakes, that were once much admired by St. Louisans. Today in their stores, you can buy slices of her Split Lemon Cake and Chocolate Cake for $3.99 per slice.
It all started when Florence Hulling Apted opened her first St. Louis restaurant during the heart of the Depression and four more sites after that—one of which was in the Cheshire Inn.
A complete dinner of soup, salad, entrée and dessert was about a dollar. Hulling offered delicacies of the time not seen on menus today: Carrot Marshmallow Salad, Creamed Kohlrabi, Sour Cream Noodle Bake, and Braised Ox Joints.
There are still those around, who recall the glory days of the Hulling cafeterias, that ranked top in the nation. I ate at the flagship location at 11th and Locust only once. I lived in out-state Missouri before 2001 and only got to St. Louis a few times each year to shop or go to the Muny.
But in 1993, sixty-five years after the first restaurant opened, the last of the restaurants closed. For many of her culinary fans, it was akin to losing the Rams football team. But all was not lost. Today Straub’s Bakery offers the multi-layered cakes to customers each day. The sweet tradition lives on.
Miss Hulling’s vintage cookbooks sell on line for more than a $100—a tribute to just how popular her cooking was in the Midwest. There are still a number of her favorite recipes floating around the Internet. I collected a few that might bring back memories.
Miss Hulling’s German Potato Salad
- 4 slices bacon
- 2 lb. small red potatoes
- 3 Tbs. onions, chopped
- 3 Tbs. pimentos, chopped, (or roasted sweet red peppers)
- 1 hard-boiled egg, grated
- 2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 tsps. cider vinegar
- 6 Tbs. seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tbs. salt
- Dash white pepper
- 6 Tbs. bacon drippings
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1 1⁄2 cups hot water
- Fry bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towels, reserving fat to use in dressing. Crumble bacon; set aside.
- Steam or boil potatoes until tender. Peel and slice thinly while they’re still warm. You should have 6 cups of sliced potatoes.
- In a bowl, gently combine potatoes, onion, pimento, egg, parsley, bacon, cider vinegar, and seasoned vinegar. Let sit 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare Dressing: Bring water, vinegar and bacon fat to a boil.
- Combine flour, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add to the boiling mixture, stirring vigorously; cook until clear.
- Add dressing to potato mixture; stir gently. Serve hot or warm.
Miss Hulling’s Butternut Squash
- 1 large butternut squash (2 1/2 to 3 lbs.)
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 Tbs. brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Pinch of white pepper
- 1 1/2 Tbs. shortening or butter
- 1 1/2 quarts, unpeeled Jonathan apples (about 2 lbs.)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out seeds and membranes. Steam 30 minutes or bake upside down on foil in a a 350 degree oven until tender. Remove pulp and mash, or beat, with a mixer until smooth.
Season with butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat shortening in a skillet. Add apples, sprinkle with white sugar. Cover and simmer over low heat until barely tender. Spread in a 9-inch round or 8-inch square casserole. Spoon squash evenly over apples. (I top with chopped pecans that have been buttered and roasted.)