How did we pick 100 favorite recipes?
With such an iconic brand, which has been in kitchens everywhere from 1921 to 2021, how could we possibly choose just 100 Betty Crocker tasty and well-tested recipes to call favorites?
That was Cathy Swanson Wheaton’s job, as the executive editor of the cookbook.
“I lost a lot of sleep over how to select the recipes! My idea of ‘best’ recipes may differ from others,” she says.
Swanson Wheaton started researching recipes to consider for “Betty Crocker Best 100” back in 2019 as the brand team started planning for Betty’s big anniversary.
Favorites were determined in several ways, including searches on BettyCrocker.com and requests to our Consumer Care team. She also looked over many of the previous Betty Crocker cookbooks, which date back to the 1930s.
“But I didn’t want this just to be about Betty’s history,” she adds. “I wanted it to show she’s still relevant today. So there are also recipes in the book that are clever twists with the flavors people love today as well as recently-created recipes that were all the buzz in our kitchens after taste panels. I included a blurb with each recipe that talks about its history, or why it made the book with quotes from our consumers.”
The result is 100 recipes for a variety of meals and occasions, including desserts. Many were updated.
“We never changed any recipes for change sake. Every recipe was evaluated to see if it needed any updating,” says Swanson Wheaton. “The recipes were only changed if an ingredient changed and it affected the recipe.”
She says shortening is one example of a necessary adjustment.
“Our tastebuds have gotten a lot more sophisticated over the years, expecting more flavor, and great seasoning combinations. We’ve come a long way in understanding flavor beyond salt and sugar. So if you’ve ever eaten a recipe from your past and wondered why you weren’t loving it now, it’s probably for that reason. As a result, we’ve upped the flavor game of these recipes to meet today’s expectations.”
The obvious question then is, of all the favorites, does Swanson Wheaton have her own favorite in the Betty Crocker Best 100 cookbook
She must, right?
“You’re going to make me choose a favorite? That’s like having to decide which of your children is your favorite! If I have to choose, my favorites include Pumpkin Bread Breakfast Cookies – moist and chewy, with oats, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Such a deliciously portable breakfast.”
She also likes the Swedish Meatballs recipe.
“This is such a comfort food without being too heavy,” she says. “I cheated the other night when I made this, starting with frozen cooked meatballs, and simmering them in the sauce for an easy, delicious meal. My husband was like, ‘Oh wow! This is so good!’”
The legacy of Betty Crocker
Of course, Betty Crocker was never a real employee at General Mills. Our predecessor company Washburn-Crosby created her in 1921 to answer letters from people about the company’s Gold Medal Flour.
‘She’ became a team of women who wrote back to bakers and cooks across the U.S., women and men, for many years. Betty Crocker also was portrayed on radio and television, offering kitchen and homemaking advice for decades.
Today as the brand turns 100, the brand continues to have conversations with consumers, just in a few different ways than those early days.
And Swanson Wheaton might be the closest we have to the spirit of the original Betty Crocker and inspiring us all to ‘be’ Betty from time to time.
“Betty Crocker is such an iconic brand and her character and personality are ingrained in who I am,” she says. “I’m pretty sure I was born with a red spoon in my hand! I know that it’s hard for busy families to get food on the table and that food also connects us to one another and creates memories. To be able to continue to share Betty’s ongoing legacy with our consumers does my heart good and is such an honor.”
“Betty Crocker Best 100: Favorite Recipes From America’s Most Trusted Cook” is published by Houghton Mifflin.
Editor’s note: You can learn more about the Betty Crocker Best 100 cookbook and Cathy Swanson Wheaton in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the StarTribune.