Holiday Traditions

It’s hard to believe that we are in November!  The summer’s heat is just a memory, and cooler, crisper air is finally here!  It’s the time of year for baking, baking, and more baking!  There is just something special about baking in the fall, filling the house with pleasant aromas.  Every cook has traditional recipes she/he enjoys making, and it’s no different at our house.  I got this recipe many years ago during my very first year of teaching.  Jana, her husband Ken, and their two children befriended this brand new, single teacher, and have remained friends all these years. Jana made these special cookies for her children and shared them and the recipe with me.  I began making them for my students, and then eventually, my husband and children.   We still enjoy them! Enjoy them plain or with cream cheese frosting topped with candy corn or seasonal M&Ms.

Pumpkin Cookies

1-1/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. butter or shortening

1 egg

1 (16oz) can pumpkin

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. soda

1/2 c. chopped nuts

Cream together sugar and butter. Add egg, pumpkin, and vanilla. Mix together  dry ingredients. Add to first mixture. Mix well.  Drop by tsp. Bake 10-12 minutes.  Let cool.  Frost with prepared cream cheese frosting and top with a piece of candy corn or M&Ms.

Chocolate Lover’s Delight

If you’ve read through my other posts, especially those at the start of this process, you remember that I have over 70 cookbooks in my possession.  My very first cookbook was a Betty Crocker cookbook that I got one Christmas while in college.  My second cookbook came from my sister about 23 years ago.  It is called “Great Desserts” and it is full of just that. . .great desserts! It was in this cookbook that I found a chocolate cake recipe that I first made for my husband when we were dating.  Because of the time it takes to make this cake, I haven’t made it since!  But on the occasion of his 50th birthday last weekend, I figured it was about time to make it again.   For my chocolate-loving husband on his special day, this was a no-brainer!  Hope you give it a try.  Your family will love it.


Cake Layers:

1 stick plus 2.2/3 tbsp. butter, at room temperature

2 c. sugar

3 eggs

2 c. sifted all-purpose flour

3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1-1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1-1/2 c. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 c. chocolate syrup

Fudge Filling:

2/3 c. sugar

1/2 c heavy cream

2-1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate

1 tbsp. light corn syrup

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 c. Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Cream

2-1/2 c. heavy cream

3-1/2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

7 tbsp. powdered sugar

3-4 tbsp. chocolate syrup, room temperature

Prepare the cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350. Line two 9-inch round cake pans with waxed paper; butter and flour the pans; tap out any excess flour.  In mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until smooth. One at a time, beat in the eggs until well blended.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to the egg mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk, mixing only until blended. Blend in the vanilla and chocolate syrup.  Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake until the tops of the cakes are springy to the touch, 40-45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set on racks to cool for 30 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and unmold. Peel off the waxed paper. Set the cakes on a rack and let cool completely.

Prepare the Filling: Combine the sugar, cream, chocolate, and corn syrup in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat, dot the top with the butter, and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. When cool, stir in the butter until the fudge filling is smooth and creamy.

Prepare the Chocolate Cream: Beat the cream and cocoa until soft peaks form. Gradually add the powdered sugar and continue beating until stiff.

Assemble the Cake: Cover one cake layer with all of the fudge filling. Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Spread 1/2 cup of chocolate cream on top of the chips. Top with the second cake layer and cover the top and sides of the cake with half of the remaining chocolate cream. Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.

Serving: Drizzle chocolate syrup over cake in criss-cross design. Allow to drip down the sides of the cake.  Cut into slices and serve with vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

Serves 12-15.

Pineapple Pumpkin Cake

Even though the temperatures are still above 90 degrees, the calendar does say that it is autumn.  With autumn come colorful leaves;  frosty mornings (we hope!) and pumpkins!  Those large beautiful orange spheres are  fun not only  to decorate with but also to use in baking.  I have several recipes that use pumpkin and all are big hits with the family.  The first one was actually supposed to be a carrot cake, but I realized too late in my baking that I didn’t have enough carrots to use!  Relying on my substitutionary skills, I created this delicious cake which everyone loved!

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1-1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup oil

4 eggs

1  medium can solid pack pumpkin

1 (12-oz) can crushed pineapple with juice

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

In large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add oil and pumpkin, mixing well.  Beat eggs slightly and stir into mixture.  Add pineapple with juice.  Pour into a greased/floured bunt pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Add 5-10 more minutes if needed.

Let cool 10-12 minutes in the pan.  Turn out on to cooling rack and cool completely.

Frost with cream cheese frosting:  6 oz cream cheese; 1/2 stick butter; and 2 cups powdered sugar.  Mix together until creamy and spread over cake.

Rolled Cold

In case we didn’t mention this earlier, we live in South Carolina. Hot, muggy, humidified, sticky South Carolina. The temp will not fall below 85 until sometime in September, so we have a lot of hotness to look forward to! Living here requires a bit of creativity regarding cold meals and desserts. Any oven-baked dish is just not as appealing when you are already drenched in sweat, but avoiding the oven entirely is pretty much impossible.
“Ice cream” were the first two words off the tip of my tongue when Mom asked if I had thought about this week’s dessert. It’s cold, it’s sweet, and it’s simple. Unfortunately, throwing ice cream in bowls does not make for an interesting recipe. So I dug around a little and found this fantastic idea.

Barbi CANNOT cook without Pandora.
Jan started wondering about the lack of butter or oil.
Warning: not for the weak-wristed!
Make sure the cake is completely cool. We chilled it for 30 mins.

Rolling the cake with the ice cream inside was a fun challenge and the whole thing looked so artistic that I waited a full three seconds before digging in! The guys, of course, had no such inhibitions…

Squished out some at the overlap, but pretty sure no one noticed!

Cute Fruit

For this week’s dessert, Barbi suggested something NOT chocolate (shock of the century!!!). Searching through one of my many cookbooks, I came across this recipe for Strawberry-Lemon Cream Puffs.  After reading through the recipe twice, I realized that it was definitely do-able, even though I didn’t have all the ingredients.  That’s not always a problem since I almost never follow a recipe exactly anyway!  Here is the original recipe, taken from “The Best of Country Cooking 2004”, with my changes at the end. Who knew fruit could go over so well with a chocoholic?

1 cup water

1/4 cup butter

1 cup flour


1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

5 oz evaporated milk

8 oz vanilla yogurt

1 1/2 tsp. lemon extract

1/4 tsp. butter flavoring

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1/2 tsp. confectioners’ sugar

In a saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil.  Add flour all at once, stirring until a smooth ball forms.  Remove from the heat; let stand for 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Continue beating until mixture is smooth.  Drop by 1/4 cupfuls 3 inches apart on greased baking sheets.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to wire racks.  Immediately split puffs open and remove tops; discard soft dough from inside. Set puffs and tops aside to cool.

For filling, combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.  Stir in evaporated milk and yogurt until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon extract and butter flavoring.  Cool.  Fold in strawberries.  Refrigerate until serving.  Fill cream puffs; replace tops. Dust with powdered sugar.

Changes:  Since I did not have vanilla yogurt, I used a 6-oz cup of blueberry yogurt and added 1/4 cup of light sour cream.  I had no lemon flavoring either, which is really a good thing since the man of the house depsises any hint of lemon!  I used vanilla flavoring instead and used almond flavoring for the butter flavoring.  I also added a handful of frozen blueberries along with the strawberries.

  I used a muffin pan instead of a baking sheet, so I ended up with 12 puffs instead of the called-for 10.


Love Thy Mother

Many appologies for the lack of posts! Clearly we are off to a slow start with this project, thanks to exams and graduation for Barbi and a house full of company for Jan. Hopefully life will slow down in the next few weeks if we’re lucky.

In the midst of all the end-of-school-year craziness, Mother’s Day kinda snuck up on me (I know.. world’s worst daughter). I managed to grab a sweet gift (monogramed note cards from, but the guys had a little trouble. Noticing the absense of gift-wrapping requests or flower advice, I sent out a text message enquiry around 10:30 Saturday night. Mass panic followed, as I suspected, but a midnight Walmart run successfully solved the near disaster and I earned a renewed big-sister respect.  We’ll see how long THAT lasts.. 

Anyway, this cake was not originally intended to celebrate Mother’s Day, but I added the chocolate chips when she wasn’t looking. Sometimes a sneaky nature comes in handy.   What are your Mother’s Day stories?

Coco-Pecan Cake

1 c. butter or margarine
1 c. water
1/4 c. baking cocoa
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda

In a saucepan, bring butter, water, and cocoa to a boil; whisk until smooth.  Cool to room temperature.  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.  Add cocoa mixture; beat on low speed just until combined.  Add sour cream, eggs, and baking soda; blend until smooth.  Pour into a greased 13×9 baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack.

Frost with prepared coconut-pecan frosting (yes, we cheated).

Managed to snap one pic before the hordes descended

Sunday Dinner Dessert

Sunday dinner at our house has been elevated to a ritualistically traditional status. The pot roast is placed in the crockpot at precisely 11pm Saturday night and covered with onion soup mix and (when available) half a can of coke. Said pot roast is not touched until after church Sunday morning when the whole fam troops into the kitchen to begin the rest of the ceremonial preparation. Rice, broccoli, carrots, mashed potatoes, and bread are added to the menu with no. deviations. whatsoever. If so much as one item is missing from (or added to) the Sunday dinner table, the security of the entire universe will be called into question. So when we told everyone not to move after dinner yesterday because we had dessert, the eyebrows went through the roof. Now we do have dessert every so often, but because of the harried nature of Sundays, dessert is NOT part of the traditional meal. Of course once this delicious recipe hit four male mouths, the universe-danger radars went down and (shockingly) the pie was gone in seconds.

The original recipe is from the Best of Country Cooking 2002, but we experimented with blueberries and strawberries instead of the recommended raspberries. Enjoy!

Strawberry-Blueberry Meringue Pie

1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. cold butter or margarine
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. milk

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1 cup blueberries

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; cut in butter.  Combine egg and milk; stir into flour mixture (dough will be sticky). Press into the bottom and up the sides of a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate; set aside.

  In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium speed for 5 hours until soft peaks form.

oh this shouldn't take long... 10 minutes later... Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tbsp. at a time until stiff peaks form.20 minutes...seriously?!? I HAVE CARPAL TUNNEL!!

  Combine strawberries and blueberries.  Fold into beaten egg whites.

  Spoon over the crust.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

  Cool on a wire rack.  Refrigerate.   Yield: 6-8 servings.


Dad: hmm. Meringue?  Just eat it Dad. There are no lemons, I promise.

Collective boys: no time to comment between bites. We take this to mean that dessert can safely be added to the Sunday dinner ceremony without harming the universe.