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.