Jones Family Remembers Beloved Grandmother’s Christmas Cakes

Beth Pinyerd and Frank Jones Jr. recall wonderful childhood memories visiting their grandparents’ home at Christmas and enjoying delicious homemade cakes made by their grandmother, Lillie Mae Jones. Their grandmother would bake as many as 100 cakes for family and friends during the Christmas season. Lillie Mae’s daughter, Josephine Teague, assembled many of her recipes in a small cookbook for family. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY

By Ann Cipperly

Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting, homemade yellow cake layers with luscious caramel icing and chocolate cake covered with decadent cooked chocolate fudge are just a few of the scrumptious cakes that Lillie Mae Jones prepared at Christmas. The grandmother of Beth Pinyerd and Frank Jones Jr., Lillie Mae would often bake 100 cakes for friends in Lee County and Columbus, Georgia, during the holiday season.

Lillie Mae grew up in Bleecker, just outside Opelika, as one of 11 children in the Chadwick family. Her future husband, Dewey, courted her in a horse and buggy. They married in 1919 and enjoyed 69 wonderful years at home in Salem where they had an annual garden, pecan trees, beautiful flowers and provided Christmas trees off their land to family, friends and school classrooms.

They raised four children, Frank Jones, Jasper Jones, Josephine Jones Teague and Kathryn Jones Thompson, and had many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

When grandchildren Beth and Frank were growing up, they spent many memorable weekends and Christmases at their grandparents’ home. “I remember walking into their house and going into the dining room during the holiday season,” said Beth. “It would be cold, but Nanny would have all kinds of cakes on the dining room table, sometimes 50 cakes that sold. The cakes were carefully covered in plastic wrap and placed precisely in a cardboard carrier to be delivered and shared. She was baking cakes for the community before Opelika and Auburn had established bakeries.

Lillie Mae Jones

“The community always ordered their holiday cakes far in advance. My grandmother meticulously baked and iced each cake from scratch with a heart of love. She used her farm raised hen eggs in her cakes. One Christmas, my grandmother had an order of 100 cakes from Columbus, Opelika and Auburn. We grandkids would hop in the car with her to make all these deliveries.”

Lillie Mae also gave many cakes away. She baked cakes for each floor at the East Alabama Medical Center at least once a month to show her love and gratitude for the staff and took cakes to schools.

Growing up, Beth and Frank went to their grandparents’ home every year for Christmas with their parents, the late Marie and Frank Jones Sr., along with extended family. “The Christmas tree was always off the farm land,” Beth said, “and it smelled throughout the house. Nanny and Pappa would decorate it and hang the old fashion icicles.”

On Christmas morning, the men in the family would go hunting. Frank Sr. and his father were avid hunters, and Frank Jr. learned to enjoy hunting.

After the hunt, the kids could open their gifts and get their stocking stuffed with fresh fruits, nuts, chocolate kisses, Goodie bars and peppermint. The family would sit in the living room and take turns opening gifts. One of the aunts would collect the bows to save and take a lot of pictures. The grandparents read the Christmas story to the grandchildren.

“Nanny would expand her family to include the Chadwicks as well as the Jones family and community,” Beth said. “We never knew who would be at the table because she would invite people over to eat.”

An abundant Christmas lunch included turkey, ham, assorted vegetables and a variety of wonderful cakes. Red Velvet Cake was Beth’s favorite, while Frank was fond of her German Chocolate Cake, among others. The menu also included their grandfather’s fried chicken. Since their grandmother took care of the chickens on the farm and thought of them as pets, she would not cook them.

“While Christmas was special, hospitality was witnessed every day in the life of my grandmother by family and the community,” Beth said. “She always met people with a hug and a kiss on the cheek and would affectionately call you ‘sugar.’ She always invited family and friends to her home to come have a ‘bite.’

“Her love of God and people was contagious to all she met and knew. With arms outstretched she always welcomed you into her heart. Families in the community relied on my grandmother to bake their family birthday cakes, too.”

Lillie Mae was involved in the community and the Salem Methodist Church where she was the pianist, taught children’s Sunday school and would clean the church with her husband on Saturdays. She also helped with many fundraisers by making her homemade Brunswick stew for the volunteer Fire Department.

After her children were grown, Lillie Mae continued to volunteer at school. Beth and Frank remember she was involved at her grandchildren’s schools by helping with room mothering and attending programs.

The grandparents made other holidays and birthdays special too. At Easter, they would boil 200 eggs and color them for their grandchildren to hunt at the farm. For grandchildren’s birthday cakes, Lillie Mae would decorate them with toy trucks for the boys and small ballerina dolls for the girls. For Beth’s son, she baked his first birthday cake and placed a little train on his cake that he still has.

While Christmas was a special time at their grandparents’ home, Beth and Frank both have treasured memories of spending weekends throughout the year. They remember the many overnight times spent with their grandparents and waking up to the delicious smell of bacon, eggs, grits, oatmeal and biscuits baked from scratch. Soft butter, sugar, and cream were the centerpiece of her table.

“I can remember my grandfather would pick me up after school on Friday,” said Frank, “and take me to the farm for the weekend. We would hunt, fish, and then my parents would come over on Sunday afternoon to pick me up. We used to have a lot of men’s suppers at the church in Salem. I miss that. We always had wonderful food and fellowship. My grandparents were very special people to me. We were very fortunate.”

“My grandmother found time to spend with each grandchild in talking, loving and sharing her love for the Lord,” Beth said. “She also prayed and answered our questions about the Bible and life.”

When Frank was grown, he would take hunting teams to his grandparents’ farm. His grandmother would make a big lunch for them. Sometimes family members would go help her cook a big lunch for the hunters.

The beloved Lillie Mae passed away at 89 years of age in 1990.

“My grandmother did an excellent job instilling family values in her children and grandchildren,” Beth said, “with our memories, home, hospitality and unconditional love. I think everyone of us takes those things with us into our family.”

Frank and his wife, Deborah, moved into the grandparents’ house and restored it. They have two sons, Kyle and Kirk, and two grandchildren, Henry and Charlotte. Frank is a CPA in his accounting firm, while Deborah is active in the Community Bible Study in Opelika.

After Beth married, she moved to Daphne and has one son, Gus, who lives in Michigan. Her husband enjoyed cooking and would make her Lillie Mae’s Red Velvet Cake on her birthday.

When Beth’s husband passed away, she moved back to Opelika in March 2018. She feels God moved her back, and she wanted to be near her brother and Deborah.

While she is enjoying being back home, Beth stays busy writing a column for the Observer, “Classroom Observer.”

Beth and Frank’s younger brother, Tim Jones, also enjoyed time at their grandparents’ home. Tim and his wife, Cathy, live in Montgomery and have four grown children.

Beth has baked a few of her grandmother’s cakes. She remembers baking her grandmother’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake for her brothers.

“I inverted the plate a little too quickly, and my cake landed on the floor. Even though my brothers and I are in our 60s and 70s, they still remind me of this upside down Pineapple Cake. Even though it landed on the floor, they did eat it. It is a good family laugh and memory.”

Beth and Frank both say they didn’t realize how blessed they were to grow up in a loving family until after they were grown. “If you met my grandmother,” Frank said, “you would get a hug. There was never a stranger in the house.”

“Our Christmases under the heart of our grandmother and grandfather are memory makers,” added Beth. “I think her grandchildren try to redo it in their homes with their families.

“When I look at lights at Christmas, I think of Nanny because her acts of love were lights. The spirit of Jesus lived in her eyes. You could see Jesus in her love of cooking for her families and friends as a ministry.”

Lillie Mae took the time to teach her children and grandchildren how to cook and bake. Her daughter Josephine Teague of Auburn, who is also an excellent cook, composed Lillie Mae’s recipes in a family cookbook. Many of the featured cake recipes are in the cookbook, allowing family and friends to continue a special mother and grandmother’s ministry of expressing love.

Red Velvet Cake

1 cup butter, room temperature

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

2 tsp. cocoa

1 tsp. vinegar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 oz. bottle red food coloring

Cream butter and sugar well. Add eggs and beat well. Combine dry ingredients and add alternately with buttermilk. Then add vanilla, vinegar and coloring.

Pour batter into two or three greased and floured cake pans (can use nonstick spray). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes (begin testing a few minutes earlier as ovens vary).Test by inserting a toothpick near the center. Cake is done when toothpick is clean.

Cool layers and frost with Cream Cheese Icing.

Cream Cheese Icing:

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup Crisco mixed with 1 tsp. butter

1 box powdered sugar

Combine cream cheese, Crisco and butter. Gradually beat in powdered sugar.

German Chocolate Cake

4 oz. pkg. German sweet chocolate
½ cup boiling water
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Melt chocolate in boiling water. Cool. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each. Blend in vanilla and chocolate.

Sift flour with soda and salt, add alternately with buttermilk to chocolate mixture, beating after each addition until smooth. Fold in beaten egg whites.

Pour into three 8 or 9 inch layer pan that has been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool layers. Then frost cake.

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

3 slightly beaten egg yolks

½ cup (1 stick) butter

1 1/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup chopped pecans.
Combine evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened, about 12 minutes. Add coconut and pecans. Cool until thick enough to spread; beat occasionally.

Caramel Icing

Lillie Mae Jones received more orders for her Caramel Cakes than any other cake. This icing goes with her Standard Cake Layers.

3 cups sugar, divided

¼ cup boiling water

¼ cup butter

1 cup buttermilk

½ tsp. soda

½ tsp. vanilla

Melt or caramelize ½ cup sugar (place sugar in skillet on medium heat and stir until brown). Add 1/4 cup boiling water to make a syrup. Add syrup to the remainder of sugar.

Add butter, buttermilk and soda. Boil until a small amount dropped in cold water forms a soft ball. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and beat until creamy.

Standard Cake Layers

1 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, separated

3 cups all-purpose flour

4 tsp. baking powder

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla 

Cream butter; add sugar and cream well together. Add well beaten egg yolks and mix well.

Sift flour and baking powder together. Add alternately with milk to creamed butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter.

Bake in two or three greased and floured cake pans at 365 degrees for 15 to 25 minutes or until tests done by inserting toothpick near the center. For cupcakes, bake at 375 degrees in muffin tins 15 to 20 minutes or until tests done.

Chocolate Icing for Standard Cake Layers

3 cups sugar

½ cup cocoa

2 Tbsp. Karo syrup

1 cup milk

½ cup butter

Mix ingredients in the order listed and cook until a soft ball forms when a small amount is dropped in cold water. Remove from heat, add 1 tsp. vanilla and beat until thick enough to spread.

Lemon Cheese Icing for Standard Cake Layers

My grandmother got so many orders for this cake.

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

Juice from 2 lemons

1 stick butter

Combine all ingredients. Cook in double boiler until thick. Spread on the Standard Layers. 

Icing for Decorating Cakes for Standard Cake Layers

Mix together in large bowl:

1 cup Crisco

½ cup (1 stick) margarine, room temperature

2 boxes sifted powdered sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup water ( in hot weather use less water, and in cold water may need more water)

Combine Crisco and margarine, beating until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing well. Add salt and vanilla.

Add water as needed for spreading consistency.

Lillie Mae’s Aunt Effie’s Chocolate Cake

Makes 3 layers

3/4 cup butter or oleo, room temperature

2 cups sugar

3 eggs, add one at a time

3 cups all-purpose flour

6 Tbsp. cocoa, sifted with flour

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. vinegar with 1 tsp. soda dissolved in it

Beat butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, beating well.

Sift flour and cocoa together. Add to butter and sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk. Add vanilla. Then add vinegar mixed with soda, blending well.

Pour batter into three greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until tests done. Cool layers and frost with icing.

Chocolate Icing:

1 stick oleo (butter or margarine), room temperature

1 lb. box powdered sugar

½ cup cocoa

1/8 tsp. salt

7 Tbsp. hot milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Beat butter or margarine until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar and then add other ingredients. Mix until smooth.

Syrup Cake

1 egg

¼ cup shortening (butter or Crisco)

1/3 cup milk

1/4 cup syrup

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. cloves

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup flour

Mix egg, shortening, milk and syrup. Sift dry ingredients together and add to first mixture. Stir well.

Pour batter into greased and floured cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until tests done. Pour sauce over warm cake while in pan.

Warm Sauce:

½ stick oleo (butter or margarine), melted

2 Tbsp. flour

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup milk

Mix in order given. Stir constantly over medium or low heat until sauce is slightly thickened. Pour over syrup cake.

Carrot Cake

2 cups sugar

1 ½ cups corn oil

4 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. soda

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

3 cups raw carrots, grated

½ cup chopped pecans

Cream sugar and oil, add eggs and cream well. Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture. Fold into carrots and nuts.

Pour into three greased and floured (can use nonstick spray). Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes or until tests done.


8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature

½ stick oleo (butter or margarine), room temperature

1 lb. box powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. milk, if needed

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add vanilla and milk, if needed.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

This recipe uses half of the batter from a yellow cake mix box. Bake the other half of batter as directed on box and frost as desired or make two pineapple upside down cakes to have one to share.

1/4 cup butter or oleo

½ cup brown sugar

8 ½ oz. can pineapple slices

Maraschino cherries

Pecan halves, optional

1 pkg. Betty Crocker yellow cake mix

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt oleo over low heat in layer cake pan. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter. Arrange pineapple slices, cherries and pecan halves over sugar mixture.

Prepare cake mix as directed on package and pour half the batter evenly over fruit in pan. Bake 35 to 40  minutes. Invert at once on serving plate.

Buttermilk Pound Cake with Lemon-Orange Glaze

1 ½ cups Crisco or oleo (butter or margarine)

2½ cups sugar

2 Tbsp. hot water

½ tsp. soda

1 Tbsp. water

1 cup buttermilk

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour sifted with ½ tsp. salt three times

1 Tbsp. lemon extract

4 eggs

Cream the butter and sugar with the hot water. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Dissolve soda in one Tbsp. water and mix with buttermilk. Sift flour with salt three times.

Then add flour and buttermilk alternately to batter. Add lemon extract. Beat about 2 minutes.

Bake in a large ungreased tube pan 1 ½ hours at 300 degrees or until tests done. Pour Glaze over top.

Lemon-Orange Glaze:

Mix juice from 1 lemon, orange and 1 cup powdered sugar. Pour over cake. Let stand 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Pineapple Pound Cake with Glaze

3 cups sugar

2 cups Crisco

9 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. vanilla

1 small can crushed pineapple, drained (reserve juice)

Cream sugar and Crisco. Add eggs three at the time, alternating eggs with flour that has been sifted with salt and baking power. Add vanilla. Then add drained pineapple.

Pour in greased and floured tube, Bundt pan or loaf pans. Bake at 300 degrees one hour or until tests done.


Mix reserved pineapple juice with half a box of powdered sugar. Pour over warm cake.

Pound Cake

3 sticks butter or oleo, room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 Tbsp. hot water

6 eggs

3 cups cake flour

1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar with 2 Tbsp. hot water. Add eggs one at a time. Add flour and vanilla and beat 3 minutes.

Pour batter into a greased and floured tube or Bundt pan. Bake at 325 for 1 hour 15 minutes or until tests done.


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