Great-Grandma Patterson’s Fence Cake

This is a recipe that has been in my family for generations and has always been a favorite of my dad’s.  His grandma was my great-grandma Patterson and I have several fond memories of her.  I found the recipe as I was going through my recipe file and thought this would be the perfect time of the year to make it in honor of my dad.   Happy Fathers Day Dad!   I love you and wish you could have been here to eat this with us.  But don’t worry dad, I’ll make it again for you in the Fall when you and mom come for your visit! 

I have fond memories of my great-grandma’s fence cake, and then of my grandma’s version, and then of my mom’s. I totally get why this is called “fence” but I’m confused as to why this was ever called “cake”.  In any case, this is the first time I’ve ever made it and I was excited to have the flavor of her memory so close again.

I remember my great-grandma Patterson being a strong woman who wore her long, gray, braided hair back in a bun and she spoke with a faint German accent.  Looking back and picturing her, she always wore her nylon “sock-lets” down around her ankles while sporting her floral printed, belted dresses on her robust, womanly shape. She had a soft voice and a kind smile and was an extremely hard worker.  Oh, and she looooved her peppermint schnapps and would travel with it in her suitcase.  Oh how I wish I knew her now, with me as a grown woman.  I think we’d have a lot in common 🙂

For many, many years she and my great-grandpa Patterson ran a resort in Copper Falls, MI called “Patterson’s Manitowash Rivers Resort” that was geared toward hunters and fishermen alike.   After my great-grandfather passed away, Barbara Patterson ran the resort all on her own.  I can only imagine what long and hard work that must have been for her.  I vaguely remember being at the resort once or twice when I was a child with my twin brother, older sister and my mom and dad.  I recall the big stone fireplace in the living room and the garbage dump, not far away, where we used to go bear watching as a family, in the car. Times were simpler then and entertainment had to be cheap (albeit it a bit dangerous). What were we thinking?

Fence Cake Recipe

Great-grandma Patterson would do all her cooking and baking on a big old wood burning stove/oven.  I’m positive she fed those hungry hunters and fisherman well.  I can proudly tell you that the china plates and serving pieces (pictured) were handed down to me, from her, many years after her passing.  They are the same ones that she used to feed those hungry hunters and fishermen. I truly treasure them!  Looking back now I wish I had more memories oh her than I do but thankfully I have this recipe to help keep me close to her and who she was. Priceless.

I have modified my grandma’s original recipe slightly.  I’ve cut the amount of shortening in half and substituted butter for the remaining half. I have also added cinnamon and vanilla and I doubled the recipe.  I think great-grandma Patterson would approve 🙂


3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 t. salt
2 eggs
3-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups applesauce
1 tablespoon cinnamon
4 teaspoons tapioca

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a 9×13 sheet pan.
-In a large bowl with an electric mixer or stand mixer (or by hand, as I’m sure my great-grandmother would have done), cream the shortening, butter and sugar.
-Add the vanilla and eggs and continue mixing until blended.
-Add the flour and mix to form a soft dough. 
-Divide the dough in half.
-Press half of the dough down, evenly,  into the 9×13 sheet pan to form the crust.
-In a medium bowl, combine the applesauce, cinnamon and tapioca.
-Spread the sauce evenly over the crust.
-With the remaining dough, roll out long strips (this is a bit tricky due to the amount of fat in the dough) and lay them in a cross hatch pattern on top of the applesauce.
-Be patient with this process. It will come together… eventually. (Note the broken ropes in the photos)
-I sprinkled mine with sanding sugar.
-Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes or until nicely browned.
-Allow to cool for 30 minutes and the dust with powdered sugar (to hide the imperfections of the ropes, if needed).  Grandma never needed to do this, but I sure did.

My fence cake may not have been the prettiest cake in the world, but it sure did taste good.  I served it with a spoon full, or two, of butter pecan ice cream (not pictured).

Fence Cake Recipe

The flavor is very much like a rich, buttery shortbread cookie with the added bonus of smooth and fruity applesauce. Cake? Maybe not so much. Delicious? Yes, definitely!  This is what my memory tastes like!  I hope I did your grandma proud, dad! 

Thanks for coming along with me on my walk down memory lane.  By the way, thanks to my mom for helping me with some of the details in my story.  I really appreciate it! XO

Until we eat again,

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