McCurdy’s Department Store Apple Spice Cake

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Today’s recipe is pure nostalgia and a piece of Rochester history! McCurdy’s Department Store Apple Spice Cake as found in the Junior League of Rochester’s classic cookbook Applehood and Motherpie. 

When I attended the You Are What You Eat Event Hosted by the New York State Folklore Society last year I was really struck by the fact that our food tells a story about who we are, where we’ve come from and what we care about. The food we eat also connects us to other people, and even our community. I think that’s why our favorite dishes, and the dishes we long to recreate are the ones that stir up strong memories of certain times, people and places we love. And trust me, this cake recipe is bound to bring back some memories, whether from the cookbook from which it comes, or McCurdy’s Department store.

Applehood & Motherpie

Two slices of Apple Spice cake on jade plates with forks on a wooden table sitting next to a bowl of apples and the Applehood and Motherpie Cookbook

Growing up almost all my friend’s mother’s kitchens had a copy of the Applehood and Motherpie. Usually, the book was proudly displayed on a shelf, easy to spot sporting an apple- green vinyl cover that bends partway so that the book cover can also serve as a book stand, which by the way is truly a genius idea. The book was first published in 1981 and you can get the vinyl stand book cover version directly from the Junior League of Rochester, and I even have a $5 off coupon code for you! Just use the coupon code HomeinFLX .

35 years later Applehood & Motherpie has stood the test of time, the recipes ranging from homestyle comfort food to elegant dinner party fare,  and they are just as relevant today as they were when the book was first published. 

If you walk into any bookstore you will find and ton of newer cookbooks all with highly styled gorgeous photos.  Applehood & Pie’s focus was always on the job at hand:  providing you with a book full of amazing recipes with local ties. There are no full-page glossy photos, but the recipes enough. I find myself reaching for this book again and again.

McCurdy’s Department Store

The McCurdy & Norwell Company department store was located at 285-291 Main Street East, at the corner of Elm Street. The display windows are crowded with goods. The store occupied several attached buildings of various heights and styles. c.1901-1913 [PHOTO: Albert R. Stone Collection]

McCurdy’s department store was founded in 1901 by John Cooke McCurdy, the flagship store was located at the corner of Main and Elm streets in Rochester, directly across the street and in competition with Sibley’s. McCurdy’s boasted 6 floors to shop, and had 2 places to dine; The Garden Room Restaurant, Oak Room Grill, and in 1962 added a bakery.

McCurdy’s was the last holdout in locally owned family Department Stores, and when the doors closed for the last time in 1994 a void in the Rochester shopping experience was created, more than just another store McCurdy’s had become a beloved institution, that had left quite an impression on Rochester during its 93 years in business.

Decades after the fading of Rochester’s department store era, the premier shopping destinations have become part of our culture. McCurdy’s, Sibley’s and B.Foreman, chances are even if you have never shopped at one of these stores you have heard stories of these shopping destinations. Upstate New Yorker’s nostalgically remember these great department stores with lifelong memories; our first jobs, shopping with mom for a special occasion, and the yearly visit to see Santa and check out the holiday window displays in the city. When these stores doors closed we lost more than another shopping spot, we lost a piece of Rochester’s history. 

A slice of apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting on a jade plate sitting in front of the cookbook Applehood and Motherpie
McCurdy's Department Store Apple Cake

McCurdy's Department Store Apple Cake

Yield: 10-12 Servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Recipe from Sherrie Zebrascky, McCurdy's Department Store Home Economist, as found in the Rochester Junior League Cook Book Applehood and Motherpie


Apple Spice Cake

  • 1-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plain wheat germ
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 large apples
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons apple juice


Apple Spice Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine flour, wheat germ, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside
  3. Pare and shred enough apples to equal 3½ cups. Combine with the lemon juice in a large bowl of cold water.*
  4. Blend sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla thoroughly.
  5. Mix in well-drained apples, nuts, and dry ingredients into the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla mixture.
  6. Pour into a greased bundt or 9x13 pan.
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes in a 9x13 pan, or 50-55 minutes in a bundt pan, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Blend Cream Cheese, vanilla, sugar and apple juice until it has reached spreading consistency.
  2. Frost cooled cake.
  3. Garnish with chopped walnuts if desired.


Apple Spice cake can be made ahead and frozen before frosting.

*I found it unnessecary to soak the apples in ice water with lemon, if you work quickly, you can get the apples shredded and measured out long before they start to brown.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 573Total Fat: 28.3gSaturated Fat: 5.3gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 476mgCarbohydrates: 77.5gFiber: 3.2gSugar: 63.5gProtein: 7.1g
A slice of apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting on a jade plate sitting in front of the cookbook Applehood and Motherpie

What are your memories of McCurdy’s Department Store and Applehood & Motherpie?

Share your memories in the comments below! 

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  1. I agree about Applehood and Motherpie, a great book! I wish I could find the McCurdy’s cheesecake recipe, it was fluffy and different from regular New York cheesecake. For a while, Malek’s bakery in Brighton was making it because the owner had been a baker at McCurdy’s and had the recipes. But since Malek’s changed hands, they don’t make the cheesecake.

  2. Love these old department store delicious recipes and yes to the vanilla in the pecan pie! The best holiday cutout cookies were from McCurdys and those brownies. Thanks so much for the recipes and feel better. Love the photo of those beautiful summer flowers

  3. Please tell me what oven temperature to use. Also, I assume I should drain the apples but should I squish all the water out? What order should I add the ingredients? Thank you

    1. Hi Miriam,
      I updated the recipe! The oven temp. is 350 degrees F, and there was a missing step that should have read “Mix in well-drained apples, nuts, and dry ingredients into the wet ingredients

    1. Hi Maria,
      I have the cinnamon star recipe that is made with chocolate cake crumbs, but I don’t have their cut out sugar cookie recipe 🙁