Friday, November 19, 2010

Aunt Bessie's Chocolate Cake

Cousin Willie turned 50 last summer and there was a big party for him with all kinds of delicious homemade food brought by various family members. Aunt Bessie brought this cake and it was the hit of the party. It is very easy to make. One of my friends has called it the best chocolate cake ever.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup cold milk
1 3.9 ounce package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 8 ounce container Cool Whip (thawed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 inch baking pan. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 1 minute and then on medium for 1 minute. Pour into greased pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

For frosting, in a medium mixing bowl beat the milk and pudding for 2 minutes. Beat in the Cool Whip and spread over the cake.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cherry Nuggets

Recently while searching for a new and different cookie to make for a co-worker's baby shower, I came upon this recipe and decided to try it. Not only is it easy, fast and "no fuss", it produces delicious little morsels that also are very lovely to behold. Because of this, I decided to not only post this recipe, but also to add it to my repertoire for Christmas baking. One of the baby shower attendees suggested making some with red cherries and some with green cherries, which would make a colorful seasonal display at Christmas. The original recipe indicated that the yield would be 48 cookies, however, I must have made them a little bigger, as my yield was only about 35 or 36. Enjoy!


1 cup butter
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup finely chopped nuts
24 maraschino cherries, halved

Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add the sugar, egg and almond extract and mix together until well-blended. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and then stir into the creamed mixture. Chill the dough thoroughly.

When dough is thoroughly chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form the chilled dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the chopped nuts and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press a cherry half into the center of each cookie.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 48 dainty cookies (less if a little larger).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Layered Raspberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, it's more than good. It is superb! This recipe was on the paper insert of a 9" stainless steel cake pan (round) recently purchased at Podge, my very favorite kitchen store located in Clarence, NY. The pan was made for NORPRO, a company based in Everett, WA. Recognition for this recipe goes to them. For those of you on Weight Watchers -- beware! One tenth of this cake equals 17 points. That is about 2/3 of one's daily intake, or about 1/2 of your weekly extra points allowance. So you can have your cake and watch your weight too -- you just have to plan for it. Here goes.

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder

Heat half-and-half in a sauce pan until boiling. Add butter and then set aside. Mix sugar, vanilla and eggs; beat until light and fluffy. Mix together flour and baking powder then add to egg mixture. Add half-and-half mixture. Mix until batter is well blended. Pour batter into a well-greased and floured 9" round cake pan that has sides that are at least 2 inches high. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool slightly and remove from pan. When it is sufficiently cool, divide cake into 2 layers. Spread cream cheese filling on top of bottom layer, then spread about 1 cup or less of the raspberry pie filling on top of that. Use enough so that it will be seen and tasted, but not enough so that it would run down the sides when the other layer of cake is placed on top of it. Place the other layer on top, then spread the remaining cream cheese filling on top and sides of cake. Garnish with fresh raspberries if desired.

Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup powdered sugar (or more for stiffer consistency)
2 8oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened and whipped
1 pint heavy cream, whipped
1 can raspberry pie filling

Add powdered sugar to cream cheese and whip slowly. Add whipped cream until fluffy.

The original recipe uses 1 pint fresh raspberries with 2 tsp. added sugar, but I thought that the pie filling would be better spread over the cream cheese filling. Yum!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This was a cake that my mother made often, yet it always felt like a special treat. It is a four egg cake, somewhat dense, but moist and delicious. For some reason it reminds me of Spring, which is why I am posting it now.

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup shortening (I use butter)
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch oblong cake pan. Cream together shortening (or butter) and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt and add a little at a time to creamed mixture, alternating with milk. Mix well. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool before frosting.

Frosting Ingredients:
2 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 small bag coconut

Cream together the cream cheese and butter until well blended and very creamy. Add vanilla and mix it in. Then gradually add the confectioners' sugar. When the cake is cool, frost with the cream cheese frosting and then sprinkle a small bag of coconut on top of the frosting.

Refrigerate any leftover cake.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Easter Bread

This is another family recipe handed down for generations. There are many different ways to shape the loaves. My mother used to make beautiful long braids of the dough. My grandmother used to shape the dough into little Easter baskets with braided handles and then insert a colored boiled egg in the basket. I like to make small round loaves, and the following recipe makes 6. This bread is delicious, and even more so when toasted with butter.

10 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup Crisco
1 cup milk
3 packages dry yeast
8 eggs, beaten

Combine flour, salt and sugar in a very large bowl. Dissolve the Crisco in warm milk and let cool a bit while you proof the yeast in warm water and sugar (about 1/2 cup water and 1 Tblsp. sugar). Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the beaten eggs, then the yeast, then the Crisco/milk mixture and work each into the dry ingredients with your hands before adding the next. Mix the dough and continue to add more warm or room temperature milk until the dough forms nicely. Knead until smooth and pliable. Grease the dough and the bowl and then place the dough back into the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel or two. Let the dough raise in a warm place until doubled.

Divide the dough into 6 pieces. I cut the dough in half, then each half in thirds. If you want each loaf to be exactly the same size, you can weigh the dough on a kitchen scale. It does help with the baking to have them exactly the same size, but it is not necessary. Form each piece into a round loaf. There is no way to describe how to do this. You sort of roll the dough on a flat surface and form it into a round shape as you roll it, and try to keep it as smooth as possible, otherwise when baked it will crumble when cut. Don't be discouraged if you don't get it right the first time. (First timers may want to try half a recipe and make only 3 loaves to start). Place rounds on a greased cookie sheet or you can use parchment paper if preferred. You can usually fit two rounds to a sheet. If you put three on a sheet they may stick together when raising again or when baking. Place the cookie sheets in a warm spot covered again with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and raise again.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat one egg and 1 Tblsp. water in a small bowl and brush top of each loaf until fully covered. This will give the bread a shiny brown appearance when baked. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, depending upon your oven. I need to leave the loaves in more than 20 minutes, keeping a close eye and setting my timer for an additional minute or two. You want to make sure that the middle gets baked, and for that to happen the outside of the bread will be very brown. You can tell if it is done by tapping on top of a loaf, and if it sounds kind of hollow, it's ready. For the first time you may want to cut one of the loaves in half and see if it is done before removing the others from the oven or turning the oven off. If it is not done, leave it in for a few more minutes.

The aroma while this bread is baking is magnificent, and you will be rewarded for your hard work by many "umm, umm, good" compliments and of course the taste of this delicious bread for yourself. While it is named "Easter Bread", it can be made and enjoyed all year long. Happy Easter!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cut-Out Cookies

This is the first posting of recipes from my beloved late Aunt Millie's collection. She typically made these at Christmas, but they can be made at other holidays or just for fun.

There are many recipes and many names for cookies that you roll and cut into different shapes, depending upon the season and your preference. This recipe makes very rich tasty cookies that can be made thin or thick to your liking. The frosting recipe that follows dries hard and shiny, and looks great. With Valentine's Day just around the corner and St. Patrick's Day on the horizon, I thought it best to post this, but promise that my next post will be devoted to Italian Easter bread.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, brought to room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (not imitation)
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon salt
About 4 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached white flour

Cream butter and sugar together until light. Add eggs and blend until thoroughly mixed. Add vanilla, then the milk with the dissolved soda. In a separate bowl sift about 3 cups of flour with the cream of tartar and salt and add to the first mixture (bowl with butter, sugar, etc.). Add enough more flour to make a dough that may be easily rolled. I find it easiest at this point to use hands to mix the dough. You may chill the dough if desired, but if mixed properly, this step is not mandatory. If you do chill the dough, wrap it tightly in clear plastic wrap and put in an airtight plastic bag. You can store this in the refrigerator for a day or so if you want to make it ahead of time.

Roll dough in small amounts on a lightly-floured surface to desired thickness (if you make them too thick, they will lose their shape when baking). Use cookie cutters of your choice -- of course, for Valentine's Day there are all sizes of heart cutters, and for St. Patrick's Day the traditional shamrock. One idea is to use large heart cutters for Valentine's Day and then after frosting, with more icing write the name of your Valentine on the cookie. Place cut-out shapes on cookie sheets (I use parchment paper to line the sheets) and bake in a 400 degree oven for 8 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness. Mine usually take 8 minutes so set your timer to 8 and then go from there.

To decorate prior to baking, you can use colored sugar sprinkles as follows. Spread each cookie very lightly with egg white diluted with a little water and whipped to break up the white. Using a large spatula, lift each piece over a bowl or paper, and sprinkle with the different colors of sugar. Place on cookie sheet and proceed as above.

If you opt for a more traditional frosted cookie, the following spreads very smoothly and dries to a nice gloss. You can divide the frosting into several bowls, leave one white, and add your chosen food coloring to the others.

Frosting Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 cups of confectioners sugar
Food Coloring (optional)
Colored sugar and other decorating sprinkles (optional)

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add vanilla, then gradually beat in sugar until frosting stands in firm peaks. If desired, divide and add colors.

These cookies can be stored at room temperature in an air-tight container. If given as gifts, do likewise, and put wax or parchment paper in between the layers. Enjoy and have fun being creative with the decorating!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sesame Seed Cookies

This is the last of the four traditional cookies made for Christmas and other special events throughout the year, such as weddings, graduations, etc. The other three have already been posted: Italian White; Fig; and Chocolate Spice Balls. This recipe makes a lot of cookies. I have never counted them, but they fill the top of a large dining room table. You may want to try making half a recipe to see if that is enough to meet your needs.

5 lb. flour
2 lb. sugar
1 lb. Crisco
2 lb. lard
6 tblsp. baking powder
2 tsp. real vanilla extract
12 large eggs
Sesame seeds (a couple pounds)

Cut Crisco and lard into dry ingredients. In a separate bowl beat eggs and vanilla together, then add to the dry ingredients mixture. Mix with your hands to make a nice dough. Add a little milk if needed to make the dough go together.

To form cookies, pinch off a piece of dough and roll into a rope the width of a finger, about 1" wide. Roll the rope into the sesame seeds (see "how to prepare the sesame seeds" below). Cut into 2" pieces on the slant. Bake on lightly greased cookie sheets at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes until the bottoms are a nice tan color.

Preparing the sesame seeds: In a small bowl or pan pour some milk -- maybe one or two cups. Place the sesame seeds into the milk and add a little sugar -- about 1 tblsp. or so. When ready to roll cookies into the sesame seeds, drain some of the seeds through a small-holed sieve. Dump the damp seeds onto the table and roll each rope of dough into the seeds until thorougly covered. Drain and dump more seeds onto the table as needed.

Aunt Mil stressed that these cookies, when cool, must not be stored in plastic bags because the seeds will fall off. She used to store them in single layers in a large roasting pan with tin foil or wax paper in between each layer, but you can also store them in single layers in air tight plastic containers or tins. Aunt Mil only used a plastic baggie when making up boxes of cookies for gift-giving, because if the sesame seed cookies are left uncovered amid other cookies, they get soggy. However, they are usually eaten so quickly that bagging them is not really necessary.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chocolate Spice Balls

As with the Italian white knot cookies, there are many different recipes for Italian Chocolate Spice Balls. This one is by far the best that I have ever tasted, and has the "Angelo" seal of approval. Angelo is my brother's grandson. At the tender age of about 20 months, his Papa (my brother) gave him one of these cookies to eat. He stunned everyone when he commented "Um,mmm mmm, mmm mmm, mmm mmm!!!" So take it from Angelo -- these are the best.

5 lb. flour
2 lb. sugar
1 lb. Crisco
3 Tblsp. cinnamon
1 Tblsp. allspice
4 Tblsp. baking powder
2 c. grape jelly
1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
4 c. brewed coffee

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dissolve the grape jelly, Crisco, sugar and cocoa in hot coffee over a medium heat and then set aside to cool. Combine flour, cinnamon, allspice and baking powder, then add the nuts. Add the cooled coffee mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with your hands until a dough forms. It is imperative that you wait for the coffee mixture to be completely cooled or you will have a very sticky mess and will not be able to proceed. (I tried once to add flour until I could roll the dough into balls and was able to proceed, but the cookies did not come out rounded -- they came out like flat pancakes. I think that any heat from the coffee mixture changes the composition of the flour mixture so that the final product is adversely affected.) Form into balls the size of a walnut and bake on greased cookie sheets for 8 minutes. Overbaking makes them very dry, so watch carefully. Allow cookies to cool completely before frosting.

Make frosting with powdered sugar and water -- not too thin or thick. Take a cookie in one hand; dip the other hand in frosting and "paint" a glaze all over the cookie. Place in a single layer on wax or parchment paper and allow to dry completely (overnight) before storing in air-tight containers. You will have to turn the cookies after a few hours or so in order for the glaze on the bottom to dry. Make sure that the frosting is totally dry before storing these cookies or they will get soggy when stored.

A lot of work, but well worth the effort!

We have one more of my favorite Italian Christmas Cookie recipes to go (sesame seed cookies) which I will post next month, and then on to Italian Easter Cookies and Bread!