I have my grandmother's recipe for cookies, from the 50s or 60s, it calls for a 5 cent cake of yeast. How many ounces is a 5 cent yeast cake?

  • Does this answer your question? Converting yeast amounts from old recipes
    – moscafj
    Dec 20, 2022 at 12:00
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    @moscafj I am not sure it's a distractor. As the other question notes, there used to be two sizes - so I interpret it as a descriptor of the cake's size.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 20, 2022 at 12:08
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    I think the question would be easier to answer if you gave the amounts of flour and liquids and asked how much yeast this might require. Also, the tme the dough is supposed to raise is helpful Dec 20, 2022 at 13:22
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    @moscafj I don't see how it is safe to assume it's the smallest. Historical inflation is tricky, especially since inflation indices don't take into account the relative rate of change between different types of goods. In any case, there were times where one cent was enough money to purchase something - and maybe the 50s were such a time for yeast. As for the recipe, it is interesting to see - but since these are cookies, and in western baking, it is not typical to make cookies from a yeast dough, I doubt that we will be able to reverse-engineer from typical ratios.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 20, 2022 at 14:07
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    While the older question is certainly related, I don't think it answers this question, because we don't know whether 5 cents for yeast was a lot or a little. More details about the recipe would definitely help.
    – Marti
    Dec 20, 2022 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


As elaborated here, there were two standard sizes of fresh yeast common in the US, small with 3/5 oz, and large with 2 oz.

Without further sources we can not be sure whether the “5 cents” is truly the smaller size as discussed (although it’s reasonably likely).

What I would recommend is that you make your dough with the smaller amount for one very simple reason: Yeast is a living organism, so if you add too little, you simply need to wait a bit longer until it has multiplied enough to give your dough the desired lift. Add too much initially, and you run the risk of an overpowering yeast taste and a dough that goes into overly risen faster than you can shape and bake the cookies.

This also means that you should judge the ripeness of your dough not based on time, but based on visual clues (e.g. “until doubled”), which hopefully should be included in your recipe anyway, because environmental parameters (especially temperature) can and will influence the necessary rise time.

  • Cake yeast has moisture and dry yeast is dry. A small cake of yeast is the amount for a loaf of bread and usually weighs 0.6 ounces. An envelope of active dry yeast is also the amount for a loaf of bread and weighs about 0.25 ounces, or about one-third as much as a small cake of yeast. Newer forms of dry yeast are more active and less might be needed for a cookie recipe. Jan 10, 2023 at 18:22
  • My Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook, 1923, has numerous recipes for cookies made with sour milk and soda and others made with milk and baking powder. I was unable to find a single cookie made with yeast. I suspect that your recipe makes what would be called a cake by most people, and legally a cake in the UK, where tax laws distinguish cakes from biscuits. Jan 10, 2023 at 18:38

I thought I'd look at this from a different perspective. Using this online inflation calculator, 5¢ in about 1950 is about 50¢ now, or £0.40 as I'm in the UK and struggling to get sensible results for US sources of fresh yeast.

Most of the fresh yeast I can find online (supermarkets seem to have stopped selling it in the last few years) are organic and specialist. But 42g for about £1.20 is fairly typical. That 1½ oz.

So inflation calculations suggest about ½ oz - not far from the 0.6 oz small cake mentioned before - in fact surprisingly close, given that inflation doesn't apply uniformly to goods, and the supply/demand situation for fresh yeast has changed dramatically since then.

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