From the kitchen of Laura Bradford, the author of Portrait of a Sister


  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup baking cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sour milk*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup hot water
  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. Cream sugar and shortening, add egg.
  3. In separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, and salt. Add to creamed mixture, alternating with sour milk. Add vanilla.
  4. Dissolve baking soda in ½ cup hot water and add to mixture. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  6. Let cool. Sandwich two together with cream filling (made from recipe below) in between.

*Sour milk by warming it in the microwave, then add ½ tablespoon lemon juice OR vinegar and whisk until thoroughly dissolved. Let rest on counter for 5 minutes, then combine the now soured milk into recipe as indicated.

Whoopie Pie Filling

  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ¾ cup shortening
  1. Mix together egg white, milk, vanilla, and half of the confectioners’ sugar. Beat in remaining sugar and shortening.


  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
  1. Combine all ingredients, except the vanilla, in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then continue boiling until thick. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in vanilla. Pour into unbaked 9-inch pie shell. Crumble topping over unbaked pie filling. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes.

Crumble Pie Topping

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup shortening
  1. Stir dry ingredients into melted shortening.


Dear Readers,

While the underlying themes in Portrait of a Sister are choices, family, and finding one’s self, the Amish backdrop and main character make for some fun possibilities when it comes to planning your book club meeting.

There are some really fabulous Amish cookbooks out there that can make the all-important treat portion of your meeting a bit more authentic (and fun!).

If your group includes dinner, potato soup is the most popular soup inside Amish homes. Pair it with snitz pie (made from dried apples) and you can consider your menu one the Amish eat themselves.

If, however, your group leans more toward dessert, might I suggest a few Amish favorites I’ve made myself a time or two.

Whoopie pies have found a solid home among the Amish over the past several decades. In fact, while researching the Amish for several of my books, I came across a fun legend that has the name being derived from the joyous response farmers and children would give when they saw the cake-style treat in their lunch pails. I don’t know if it’s true, but it certainly made me smile when I heard it.

Whoopie pies can be made in many different flavors (both the cake and the cream center) such as pumpkin, oatmeal, and red velvet, but chocolate whoopie pies are particularly good.

There are lots of recipes out there for Amish whoopie pies, but this one is my favorite.

The Pennsylvania Dutch Amish Country in Lancaster County is known for its Shoo Fly Pie. But since I’m not necessarily a huge molasses fan, I lean more toward Vanilla Pie, a lighter version also made by Amish.

And finally, in the interest of making your club meeting even more authentic to the Amish backdrop of Portrait of a Sister, you might consider discussing the book by candlelight and/or asking guests to shut off their phones. Of course, if you don’t mind letting in a little technology during the planning stages of your meeting, you might want to visit my website to see how I might be able to Skype in during your group’s discussion of Portrait of a Sister.

Happy reading,