Spice Cake

I didn’t think I liked spice cake. Really, I didn’t. I just figured, you know, I’m a chocolate cake girl — what do I need with spice cake? Of course I’d had it before (and Mama’s yours tastes great) but it was never a cake I craved. Well, silly me with my silly thoughts: once I tried this spice cake, I was hooked. But, there are a couple little ingredients in this cake that I think make it truly sensational and the first is freshly grated nutmeg. First of all, is nutmeg not just lovely? Plus, it perfums this spice cake batter so subtely and beautifully — it is essential to the success of the cake.

Though freshly grated nutmeg is essential, so two are the other spices in this cake: cloves and cinnamon round out the spice trifecta perfectly.

The second set of ingredients that are essentials in the baking of this cake (and other cakes that also include them) are buttermilk and canola oil. The buttermilk is a wonderful tenderizer in the cake and the oil makes the cake wonderfully soft and moist. And as a PS: this recipe is originally from Kraft Oil cookbooklet that utterly delights me.

Here is the tricky thing about this cake, and before you worry, it’s really not that tricky. First, you make a stiff batter with the dry ingredients, buttermilk and oil; then, you make a light and airy batter of eggs and sugar…then you combine the two. That’s the tricky part, airy batter folded into a stiff one. Fear not though, just fold quickly and boldly till the batter is smooth and your cake will be a raging success. Promise.

I wasn’t the only one that got hooked on this cake. Collin Murray, who also didn’t think he liked spice cake all that much, love love loved it — and he can be hard to please. Give it a try my friends, this spice cake will make you a believer.

Spice Cake (adapted from 20 Wonderful Cakes made by the New Kraft Oil Method Cookbooklet)

3 cups cake flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¾ cup canola oil

1 ½ cups buttermilk

3 eggs

1 ¼ cups brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and line with parchment two 9-inch cake pans or one 9×13 inch pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Whisk to combine. To the dry ingredients, add the oil and buttermilk and mix together with a spatula. The batter should be very thick but also smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs together until they are thick and foamy. Slowly add in the sugars and continue beating until the smooth, about two minutes. Carefully and thoroughly fold the two batters together being careful not to over-mix.

Pour into the prepared pan of choice and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Once cool, frost with your choice of frosting, though I prefer the Penuche Frosting. Enoy!

This little torte was sort of a gamble that paid off. Sometimes I’m guilty of buying fruit just because it looks pretty…am I the only one who does this? Anyway, after I bought the lovely couple pounds of apricots, I had to figure out what to do with them, hence the conceptualization of this little torte.

Apricots, like many stone-fruits, will continue to ripen after you purchase them so they tend can be a time-sensitive fruit to have in the kitchen. Always try to smell fruit before you buy; if it smells good, it’s ripe and should taste just as delicious. Similarly, make sure that you don’t pick your summer fruits randomly but instead give them a feel first. Though most apricots, peaches and the like should be firm, you don’t want them to be hard or mushy — they should be just right.

I found the inspirational recipe in the German section of the “international” cookbook published by The New York Times back in the 1960′s. The original recipe used a tart apple at the filling and I worried that the apricots might be too juicy in the torte and make it more soggy then delicious. However, I really shouldn’t have been so foolish. The apricots added a lovely sweetness and texture and Collin Murray immediately declared this torte to be the German version of a cobbler and promptly helped himself to seconds.

This cake, which is free of butter(!) and oil(!) is pretty quick to throw together and I have a sneaking suspicion that you could use several different kinds of fruit if you lacked apricots — strawberries, peaches, apples or cherries — go crazy my friends.

Apricot Torte (adapted from The New York Times Internal Cookbook)

Makes one 8-inch square or round torte

1 egg

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup apricots, cut into thin slices

½ cup walnut pieces, chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter the inside of a square or round baking dish and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg with an electric mixer until it is thick and light yellow, about three minutes. Gradually beat in sugar and beat an additional one minute.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg being careful not to overbeat. Stir in apricots, walnuts and vanilla and quickly pour into prepared baking dish.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Serve warm or cool with or without whipped cream.

Sometimes desserts are so good that I’m literally lost for words. This dessert is that good. Man-alive, that good. In fact, it is a testament to my love of all you faithful readers that I’m even sharing this with you and not keeping it to myself to eat with big ‘ol spoon and a happy face smeared with whipped cream and raspberries.

I’ve made Eton Mess before and I have to say that it is one of the easiest desserts to make, which is probably why I love it so much. However, this version of Eton Mess is just a little bit fancy — dare I say, this Eton Mess is classy. Gasp.

The reason for its classiness is the addition of raspberry jam and raspberry liquor…do I have your attention now? Prior to being submersed into the raspberry jam stripped whipped cream, lovely fresh raspberries get nice and happy (read: drunk) in luscious raspberry eau di vie called framboise. The result is a tripe threat of raspberry awesomeness that had Collin Murray begging for seconds and thirds.

Do not fear if you cannot find framboise — it’s a fancy-pants thing that my oh-so-nice father-in-law sent me after Collin Murray and I exhausted nearly every liqour store in our area. As a substitution, you could sprinkle your delicate raspberries with a touch of sugar, depending on their sweetness, and then mix in the juice of half a lemon and allow them to break down or macerate a little to release some of their lovely juices.


This dessert is everything you want in a summer dessert, easy, quick, ovenless and most of all, totally and utterly delicious.

Triple Raspberry Eton Mess

Serves 4, generously

1 cup raspberries

2 tablespoons framboise

2 cups heavy cream

1-2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons raspberry jam

1 cup crumbled meringue cookies, or more if desired

 In a small bowl, combine raspberries and framboise. Allow to soak for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl whip heavy cream to soft peaks. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and continue whipping till you’ve achieved stiff peaks. Gently fold in jam and set aside.

Fold drunken raspberries into whipped cream. Carefully spoon “the mess” into parfait glasses or bowls. Sprinkle with desired amount of crumbled meringue. Serve cold and enjoy.

These scones have caused many frown lines. I worked and worked on them and poor Collin Murray had to taste them all. He has a heavy cross to bear.

Y’all remember my Cream Biscuits, right? Well I love those little biscuits so very much that I couldn’t help by wonder if I could turn them into scones. Enter the testing… I tried different fresh fruits; I played with the sweetness; I baked them for what seemed like hours and then baked them some more; I tried a lot of things to get these little nuggets right.  

In the end, what I realized was that even though I really wanted to use fresh fruit, it just made the batter to wet and the end result was just the pits. So I turned to dried fruit and my work was done. Once baked, the blueberries that I used in this recipe plumped right up and Collin Murray declared them downright juicy in the scones.

Now that I’ve figured out the basic formula, I have to warn y’all that you might see a lot of scones in the not-so-distant future. I love these and I can’t wait to go crazy with all the flavor possibilities. Poor Collin Murray, looks like his cross about to get heavier.

Lemon Blueberry Cream Scones (inspired by Beard on Bread)

Makes 12 to 14 scones, depending on size

2 cups flour, plus more for dusting

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

½ cup dried blueberries

Zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract

1 ½  cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium sized bowl and whisk to incorporate. Stir in the blueberries and lemon zest

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the vanilla and almost all the heavy cream, reserving about 1/4 of a cup as it may not all be needed to moisten the dough. With a spoon, gently mix the cream into the flour, using your hands once the dough comes together and adding the rest of the cream if the dough doesn’t come together or is very dry. Dust the work surface with flour. Place the dough on your work surface and push it flat with your hands till the dough is about a ½ inch thick.

Using a 2 ½ to 3-inch round cutter (or a juice glass) punch out the scones. Continue by bunching up the scraps and punching out the dough till you’ve cut out as many scones as possible and the dough is used up. Place scones on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake till lightly golden and slightly firm, about 15 to 18 minutes. Enjoy.

This post is a long time coming my friends. We all know I have an irrational fear of real pie crust however in an effort to please Collin Murray and to overcome one of my many mental blocks, I decided to take the leap of faith and finally make pie crust.

 And I have to admit that it actually didn’t hurt at all. In fact, with the help of my food processor, it was rather easy. Dare I say…enjoyable.

The food processor is one of the great modern inventions, especially when making pie crust. All told, the making of this dough took about three minutes. I didn’t even have time to break a sweat. And frankly, the dough makes a fantastic crust because it’s everything a crust should be: flaky, tender and melt-in-your mouth good.

Perfect Pie Crust (adapted from The Sherman Service League Celebrates)

Makes enough for 1-one-crust pie (double for a two-crust pie)

1 ¼ flour

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed

3 tablespoons water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and cold, cubed butter. Pulse till butter resembles small peas. With the food processor running, add water through feed tube and process till water is absorbed . The dough is ready when it sticks together when squeezed by hand – do not let a ball form in the food processor.

Empty the bowl of the processor onto a large piece of cling-wrap and use the wrap to press the dough together into a disk. Wrap the dough tightly in the cling-wrap and refrigerate at least two hours prior to rolling out to use.

To pre-bake the crust, preheat oven to 350˚F. Roll the dough out and into a pie tin, prick or dock the bottom with a fork several times, and bake till golden brown.

I found The Gasparilla Cookbook at a used bookstore in New York and I instantly fell in love with it. The cookbook focuses on recipes from the west coast of Florida and really is exactly why I love old cookbooks, especially old cookbooks from local women’s organizations. Inside the (slightly smelly) pages are oodles and bunches of recipes using local ingredients, in this case oranges, lemons, kumquats, limes, grapefruit, and mangoes…

Like other ice cream recipes from vintage cookbooks, this recipe did need a lot of re-interpretation. I’ve yet to find out what a refrigerator container is but it certainly gets a lot of mentions — my thought is, wouldn’t ice cream refuse to freeze in the fridge? Whatever the case may be, using my modern ice cream maker made quick work of this delicious and tropical ice cream, no refrigerator tray required here.

I know that a lot of people are stumped by how to cut a mango. They have that darn awkward pit in the middle and it’s hard to figure out how to get in there. My advice for being free of mango-cutting-related-stress is a bit of a cop-out: buy a mango pitter. If this idea doesn’t light your fire, fear not. What I do is peel the mango and then cut the sides off to try and get as much fruit off the pit as possible. I use a paring knife to dig out bits of the pit if needed.

If you like your ice cream to have little bit of fruit suspended in it, my suggestion is to not fully puree the mangoes but leave them a little chunky. Either way, this recipe is creamy, fruity, tangy, and totally scrumptious on a hot summer day.

Mango Ice Cream (adapted from The Gasaprilla Cookbook)

Makes about 1 ½ quarts

2 mangoes

Pinch of salt

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about one lemon)

2 teaspoons unflavoured gelatin

2 tablespoons cold water

¼ cup boiling water

1 cup heavy cream

Peel, pit and coarsely chop the flesh of two mangoes. Place in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process till fairly smooth. To the puree, add the salt, sugar and citrus juice, stir to combine.

In a small bowl, soften or “bloom” the gelatin in cold water. Once the gelatin is firm to the touch, pour the bowling water over it and stir to dissolve. Add the gelatin to the mango mixture and refrigerate till cold (If the mixture feels cold to the touch already, simply go on the next step).

Stir the heavy cream into the mango-gelatin mixture till thoroughly combined. Place in the frozen bowl of an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

If you prefer a soft-serve consistency, serve ice cream immediately after churning. For a firmer consistency, freeze the mixture for 30 minutes to one hour before serving.

Why are these cookies called Cowboy Cookies? I don’t know. It’s a great question. Can they be made on a camp-fire? No. Are they full of cowpokey ingredients? Not really. Their name is kind of a mystery but what’s not a mystery is how delicious they are.

If you’re familiar with Calgary, Alberta — the place Collin Murray and I hang our hats, you will know that this week is the Calgary Stampede. Sigh: I’m not a fan. The Stampede is all about rodeo, beer, mini doughnuts, over-priced rides, and hideous cowboy/girl fashions. I’m not bitter, I’m just not into Stampeding. That being said, I never turn away from the opportunity to make a festive dessert and this week, you couldn’t get more festive in my hometown then by making a Cowboy Cookie.

This recipe really isn’t too different from most recipes out there for chocolate chip cookies but with the addition of oats and pecans, these cookies really shine. They are dense and full of flavor but with the baking time that I’ve suggested, they are also soft and chewy. The perfect cookie if I do say so myself.

Cowboy Cookies (adapted from La Pinata – Junior Service League of McAllen, Texas)

Makes about 3 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 cups oats, not quick cooking

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugars and softened butter and cream together, about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; add vanilla.

In a large bowl, whisk to combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture. Turn up the speed to medium and beat the batter until well combined. Add the oats, chocolate chips and pecans, beating for 30 seconds or until thoroughly incorporated.

Using a medium cookie scoop, portion out the dough onto to the prepared pans, pressing down each ball till about 1-inch thickness. Bake for about 15 minutes, cooling on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

My favorite thing about summer is all the fresh fruit. I love being able to eat cherries, strawberries, peaches and blueberries everyday, never frozen, just fresh and delicious. But I also really love to cook and bake with all that fresh fruit too. So for this Blueberry Sauce, I was inspired by a recipe from an old New York Times cookbook and some amazing looking blueberries from the market.

And aren’t blueberries just so fetching? In addition to being full of antioxidants (and tons of other good stuff too), blueberries are great for baking but please don’t limit yourself to muffins my friends. Make this sauce and use it over ice cream or frozen yogurt, add it to your morning granola and yogurt or take a lead from Collin Murray and spread it on toast.

Blueberry Sauce (adapted from the 1961 edition of The New York Times Cookbook)

Makes about 1 ½ cups

¾ cup, plus 1 tablespoon water, separated

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 cups blueberries

In a small saucepan, bring ¾ cup water and sugar to a boil, stirring gently till the sugar has dissolved. Turn down the heat and add the lemon juice to the pan. In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and remaining water to make a slurry. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pot and allow to cook for one minute, stirring gently to ensure all the cornstarch is dissolved.

Add the blueberries to the mixture and using a wooden spoon, mash some of the blueberries on the side of the pan. Allow the sauce to cook for about five minutes or until the desired consistency and/or thickness is achieved. Serve warm or cool. Enjoy.

Summer and ice cream go together better then peanut butter and jelly so I figured it was about time that I made y’all some especially since I taught a cooking class on ice cream last week — I had it on the brain. So when I found a wee cookbooklet on refrigerator desserts from 1970, I figured it was fate…and time to freeze my ice cream bucket. And Oh my land, can I just tell you that making ice cream in the 1970′s was quite the process. Some recipes I’ve found for ice cream give all the instructions for freezing with salt, others call for refrigerator trays; all this to say, there is much need for adaptation when experimenting with vintage ice cream recipes.

This recipe is for Philadelphia-style ice cream which is simply ice cream without eggs. This style is my preference simply because it is so gosh darn easy and tastes light, creamy and oh-so-tasty. Basically, so long as your ice cream bucket has been frozen for a minimum of 12 hours, and your ingredients are super cold when you start mixing, you can have freshly made ice cream in less than 30 minutes. The perfect summer treat just got easier my friends.

Vanilla Ice Cream (adapted from 150 Luscious Refrigerator Desserts)

Makes about 1 ½ quarts

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups milk, any percent will do

½ cup sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Ensure that the bucket of your ice cream maker has been frozen for a minimum of 12 hours.

In a large bowl, combine cream, milk, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and salt. Whisk to combine.

Pour into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions until soft serve consistency is achieved. Serve immediately or transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for a further hour to achieve a firmer ice cream. Enjoy!

I’ve been struggling with how to write this post. How does one stay classy when writing about a cake that happens to have the word “dump” in the title? But here I go anyway…I went to a puppy shower this past weekend (for a dear friend who had puppies instead of children…Hi Queen! Frank is perfect!) and I brought this cake — this DUMP Cake. All I can say is that I hope my parents are proud; they sent me to pastry school in New York City and I made a Dump Cake.

I am quite sure that this post will make someone mad because I’m positive that this recipe, which I have so lovingly referred to as being a form of Dump Cake, is not actually what is typically known as a Dump Cake in the Southern United States. Far as I know, a true Dump Cake is one where no mixing is required, just the dumping of ingredients into a cake pan; however, while my recipe calls for the dumping of ingredients, it also calls for a wee bit of mixing. Gasp.

Despite my overt sarcasm concerning this Dump Cake, I have to tell you that it was a total hit at the party because frankly, it’s totally delicious. It takes five minutes to dump together and is delightfully satisfying, especially on a warm afternoon surrounded by friends and wet puppy kisses.

Cherry Chocolate Dump Cake (adapted from Mama)

Makes 1-9×13 inch cake

1 box chocolate cake mix

1 540ml (19 ounce) can of cherry pie filling

1 teaspoon almond

2 eggs

2 tablespoons water

Rich Chocolate Glaze, to frost with if desired

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter a 9×13 inch cake pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and beat with a spatula or wooden spoon for 1 minute or until all dry ingredients have been moistened. Pour into prepared cake pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the car comes out clean.

Frost with Rich Chocolate Glaze or another frosting of your choice. Enjoy!