Old-School Detroit Recipes: Part 4

Metro Times recently found a little trove of Detroit food heritage in a Hamtramck attic: A sheaf of brittle pages from 1962 containing recipes from several well-known old-line Detroit eateries. We have shared recipes from Schweizer’s Restaurant, Joe Muer’s and the Caucus Club. As we’ve posted them, we’ve been surprised at how neglected Detroit’s culinary heritage has become. While we’re glad metro Detroit offers so much more than just “meat and potatoes,” aren’t these past repasts worth preserving?

Today’s recipe, the final from this find, is from Topinka’s Country House. Now a strip mall called  “Topinka’s Plaza” at 19191 Telegraph Rd., Topinka’s Country House was a restaurant for special occasions, with valet parking and what one person recalled as “the best turtle soup in the country.” A sister restaurant to Topinka’s on the Boulevard (at 2960 W. Grand. Blvd., Detroit), one of the finer restaurants in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood, this “country” outpost was at Telegraph and Seven Mile roads. It was famous for its ostentatious Christmas decorations, which included not just Santa but Rudolph as well. Here is a recipe for one of their show-stopping desserts, old-fashioned coconut cake.

Topinka’s Country House

Corner Seven Mile and Telegraph roads. Reservations advisable.

Old-Fashioned Coconut Cake


2-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

6 egg whites

Start oven at 375 degrees. Grease three round 8-inch cake pans, coat with film of flour. Sift flour, cornstarch and baking powder three times. Set aside. Work butter or margarine until soft. Add sugar gradually and continue working until very creamy. Mix milk and vanilla extract, then stir flour mixture and milk alternately into creamed butter and sugar. Be sure to start and end with flour combination. Beat egg whites until they hold a point. Fold into batter. Pour into cake pans. Bake 25 minutes, or until cakes pull away slightly from side of pan. Cool five minutes, then remove from pans.


Mix two eggs whites, 3/4 cup sugar, 2-1/2 tablespoons cold water, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and a pinch of salt in top of double boiler. Beat until well mixed. Cook over rapidly boiling water, beating vigorously seven minutes until frosting holds definite peaks. Remove from heat and cool. Beat 1 cup heavy cream until it holds shape. Fold into cold frosting along with 1 teaspoon vanilla and one cup of grated coconut. Spread frosting between cake layers, on sides and top. Spring with another cup of coconut.

Have any historic Detroit recipes you'd like to share? Let us know! Email [email protected]