By Ann Cipperly

As the rain was pouring down, I went to visit Susan Hopson, a former, well-known caterer in Opelika whose business was called Catering Southern Style. While Susan has enjoyed cooking since she was 4 years old, these days she is bed-ridden with cancer and looking back over the years she catered parties and weddings for many friends.

I have written about Susan several times over the years. I went through tubs of Southern Gourmet food columns that have been packed away and found one article on Susan from August 1977. Susan shared some of the same favorite recipes in the column she is sharing now. As a caterer at the time, she talked about not over baking cakes and that practicing making rolls was the secret to baking great rolls.

Susan was known for her moist, delicious cakes and yeast rolls. In those days before Sister Schubert started her business, the caterer was doing a booming business with her rolls for parties. Susan’s rolls were as popular in Opelika as Sister Schubert’s rolls in Troy.

Susan grew up on a 600-acre farm in north Alabama that spread into Tennessee. Her grandfather purchased the farm in 1939 for her mother. “He bought a farm for all his daughters,” she says. Susan inherited the farm where she and her husband, Clifton Hopson, had been spending most of their time in recent years.

Since she became ill, the Hopsons have been staying at their home in Opelika. “I didn’t become upset when the doctor told me about the cancer,” Susan says, “I believe God has a plan. A lot of good has come from this. I grew up in a strong Christian family.”

Her lifetime of cooking began when she was 4 years old at her grandmother’s house. While her mother didn’t cook, Susan’s grandmother had a cook that let her sit on the kitchen table and watch her cook and occasionally stir a pot. At 9 years of age, Susan began making cookies.

She learned to bake brownies and fudge. When she was baby-sitting cousins, she would treat them to one of these goodies if they behaved.

Susan had an excellent home economics teacher in high school, who became a good friend. She majored in home economics at Auburn University and became interested in sewing, which is also one of her talents. She made her clothes in high school and later created clothes for her grandchildren. She also knits sweaters.

After she married and moved to Opelika, Susan enjoyed helping older ladies and began cooking for many in the community. Although some of the ladies had cooks, they did not know how to prepare party foods like Susan.

When she lived on Waverly Parkway, Susan had a commercial kitchen with two ovens. She catered weddings as well as parties and baked wedding cakes. “I think the worst thing about doing weddings,” she says, “was the mothers wanted what they wanted, not what their daughters desired. Mothers often wanted what they didn’t have.”

Susan’s helper “Annie” didn’t bake cakes but baked wonderful cheese straws and other dishes. They are still friends.

Susan was active in her study club, garden club and the Woman’s Club of Auburn.

After she gave up her catering business, she still cooked for friends. Christmas a year ago, Susan made 60 or more coffee cakes and about 100 cinnamon rolls. She baked coffee cakes to give every family at their church, Pepperell Baptist Church.

She is sharing the coffee cake she has baked over the years as well as her “famous” rolls. Desserts were always her favorite to prepare. She is sharing a shortcut cake prepared with a cake mix along with many of her best recipes she has prepared for years.

Susan and her husband, Clifton, have been married 16 years. Clifford is a retired structural engineer, who built houses, bridges, golf courses, runways and utilities. After retiring in 2001, he received a doctor of education in theology and biblical counseling.

For all of us who know Susan, she will always have a special place in our hearts, as we prepare her recipes for our families.

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at


Susan’s Famous Rolls
6 Tbsp. Crisco
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 pkg. yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 egg
3 cups plain White Lily flour
Mix Crisco, boiling water and salt in large bowl; mix until Crisco melts. Cool.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, yeast and lukewarm water; mix. Add to first bowl.
Add egg; mix well. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Cover and store in refrigerator overnight.
Let dough rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until double. Punch dough down and shape into rolls.
Bake at 325 until lightly brown.

Mama’s Best Coffee Cake
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 small carton sour cream
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 small carton (8 oz.) sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with sour cream. Add vanilla. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) pans. Pour in batter.
Mix topping ingredients. Sprinkle half of topping mix over batter in pans. Swirl in. Then put remaining topping on tops. Bake 325 degrees 25 minutes. Cut in wedges to serve. Makes 3 coffee cakes.

Cake Mix Cake
1 box cake mix (any flavor)
3 eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
Combine ingredients and bake in 3 greased cake pans or 9 by 13-inch cake pan at 300 degrees until toothpick in the center comes out clean.
Cool. Frost as desired.

Buttermilk Caramel Icing
2 cups granulated sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. Karo syrup (white)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until soft ball stage. Test by dropping small amount in cold water until soft ball forms.
Cool. Beat with hand mixer until smooth and thick. If icing becomes too hard, add a little hot water.

Butterscotch Angel Pie
2 1/2 cups milk, divided
1 cup dark brown sugar
5 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 to 3 drops maple flavoring, optional
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
Topping: 3 Ritz crackers, crumbled coarsely, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, chopped pecans
1 baked Meringue Pie Shell (recipe follows)
In top of double boiler, heat 2 cups milk. Mix dry ingredients together. Dissolve in 1/2 cup cold milk. Add this to hot milk, stirring constantly. Cook slowly for about 10 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently.
If cooked too fast or too long, the mixture will become thin again.
Add about 1/2 of the hot mixture slowly to the beaten egg yolks. Stir egg mixture into first mixture and slowly cook about 5 minutes longer.
Remove from heat. Stir in butter and flavorings. Cool and refrigerate. Just before serving, fill cooled meringue shell with filling.
Top with whipped cream flavored with a little sugar and vanilla. Combine cracker crumbs, pecans, 1 Tbsp. sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over whipped cream.
Meringue Pie Shell for Angel Pie
4 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
Beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar. Continue beating. Slowly add sugar and beat until stiff. Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch pie pan with vegetable shortening.
With a rubber spatula, spread the mixture evenly over the bottom and sides of the pie pan.
Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove from oven; let cool for 15 minutes. If shell feels soft, return to oven and bake longer. The trick to this is baking as slowly as possible.
If possible, turn the oven off and leave shell in oven overnight.

Beef Parmigiana
1 1/2 lb. round steak
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup Wesson oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp, pepper
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
2 cups hot water
1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese
Place meat between pieces of wax paper; lay on a board and pound meat thin (about 1/4 inch). Trim gristle and fat; cut into 6 or 8 pieces. Dip meat in egg; roll in mixture of Parmesan cheese and crumbs.
Heat oil in large skillet. Brown steak on both sides over medium heat until golden. Lay in shallow baking dish.
In same skillet, cook onion until soft. Stir in seasoning and tomato paste. Add hot water and stir. Pour most of sauce over meat; top with cheese slices and remaining sauce. Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour. Double sauce recipe if served with spaghetti.

Oven Baked or Grilled Chuck Roast
1 chuck roast (size depending on size of family), cut 1 1/2 inches thick
Salt and pepper to taste
Adolph’s Tenderizer
1 jar sliced mushrooms
3 garlic pods, pressed
1 stick butter
1 jar sliced mushrooms
Sprinkle tenderizer on both sides of chuck roast and let stand 1 hour. Salt and pepper both sides of roast. Bake like a steak in oven at about 350 degrees.
Add garlic to butter to make a sauce.
Spread each side with butter garlic sauce once or twice, using all the sauce. Bake to desired doneness. Ten minutes before done, spread roast with mushrooms.
Note: If grilled outdoors, heat mushrooms in pan with 1/2 butter and garlic sauce.

Toddle House Chocolate Pie
2 cups warm milk
2 egg yolks, well beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
Lump of butter the size of a small egg
1 tsp. vanilla
9-inch pastry shell, baked
Whipped cream
Combine milk and egg yolks; then add to dry ingredients. Cook in a double boiler until thick, stirring constantly. Add butter and vanilla.
Pour into pie shell. When filling is cool, top with whipped cream.

Penn’s Barbecue Chicken
Chicken can be grilled or baked in the oven.
5 chicken fryers, halved
7 cups cooking oil
2 cups vinegar
5 Tbsp. salt
! Tbsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. poultry seasonings
Combine oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and poultry seasonings; bring to a boil. Dip chicken halves in warm mixture, and grill skin side down or bake at 325 until chicken is cooked. Cover chicken with foil and remove the last 15 to 30 minutes of cooking. Serves 10.

Zucchini Pancakes
1 1/2 cups unpeeled zucchini, grated and patted dry
2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients. Fry as pancakes.

Boston Cream Pie
2 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup salad oil
5 egg yolks, unbeaten
7 egg whites, beaten
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl. In a small bowl beat cream of tartar and egg whites until stiff. Add water, vanilla, oil and egg yolks to large bowl and beat until smooth. Fold egg whites into this mixture. Bake in three 9-inch cake pans at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Cream Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in double boiler. Gradually stir in milk. Add egg yolks and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.
Remove from heat; add butter and vanilla. Cool and spread between cake layers.
Chocolate Icing:
1 square (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. boiling water
Sweetened whipped cream
Melt chocolate and butter. Remove from heat, and blend in sugar, vanilla and water. Beat until smooth.
Frost top of cake with chocolate icing. Spread whipped cream on sides of cake and decorate top of cake.
Cake freezes well without the whipped cream on the sides.

1 lb. lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 quart tomatoes, blended
2 small cans tomato paste
2/3 cup water
1 tsp. garlic salt or 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 (8-oz.) pkg. mozzarella cheese slices
1 small pkg. Velveeta cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
Brown meat. Drain. Add onions to meat and cook until tender. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to meat Simmer covered 30 minutes.
In two (8 x 8) Pyrex dishes, layer lasagna noodles, sauce and cheeses. Repeat layers. Bake 350 degrees 30 minutes. Makes 12 serving.

Chicken Tetrazzini
5 lb. hen and 2 whole chicken breasts
1 bay leaf
1 onion
1 bunch celery tops (about hand full)
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup flour
5 cups broth
1 cup milk
Place chicken, bay leaf, onion and celery in large pan; cover with water. Add salt and pepper. Cook until tender. Cool in liquid.
Strain liquid into bowl, take off 1 cup fat, melt in large pan, stir in 3/4 cup flour to make a paste. Gradually add 5 cups broth and 1 cup milk to paste, stirring constantly until thickens. (Be careful the broth has no fat).
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped pimento
1 cup crown mushrooms (small)
1 cup tomato puree (10 1/2 oz. can)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Cook 10 minutes.
Add chicken, which has been cut in bite size pieces, remove from fire, let stand one hour or more.
2/3 lb. vermicelli
Cook vermicelli as directed on package; add to the sauce. Put in roaster, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake at 350° for 45 minutes.

Chicken Divan
4 cups cooked, sliced chicken breast
2 boxes frozen broccoli
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup mayonnaise
½ tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup grated cheese
Buttered bread crumbs
Cook broccoli as directed on package; do not overcook.
Mix soups, mayonnaise, lemon juice and curry powder.
Put layer of broccoli in oblong baking dish, about 10 x 8 inches that has been buttered. Then place a layer of chicken and sauce. Repeat.
Sprinkle cheese over top and then breadcrumbs.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serves 8.