Christmas Spice Cake

Christmas_Spice_Cake3

Holiday cake filled with dried fruit, nuts, and spices. It’s the perfect cake to share with friends this Christmas season!

This post is sponsored by Diamond of California. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that make this site possible.

Christmas_Spice_Cake3
I can’t seem to get through Christmas without sharing a family recipe with you.

Last year I shared Brown Sugar Fudge, a recipe from my friend Kathleen’s grandmother. Two years ago it was Fruitcake Cookies, a favorite of my Uncle Mike. Three years ago, we delighted in Maureen’s Rice Krispie Cookies, which you need to make immediately.

This year, I decided to focus on a cake recipe from my great-great-great-grandmother. That’s a lot of greats.

Mama Florence was my great-great-grandmother’s stepmother. I honestly don’t know a whole lot about Mama Florence, aside from the fact that she made this cake every year and that it was a Christmas staple for my momma’s family when she was growing up.

This recipe was not just a simple matter of making the recipe, photographing it and sharing it with you, however. Nope – when I say that I have my “great-great-great-grandmother’s recipe”, what I mean in this particular instance is that I have a “list of ingredients for my great-great-great-grandmother’s recipe with no instructions whatsoever and in some cases no measurements, either.”

Christmas_Spice_Cake
So, this was quite the experiment on my part, consisting of me piecing together this recipe with what I know about baking and sending up a prayer to all of the southern grandmothers who have ever loved me as I placed these cakes in the oven.

I knew the real test would be feeding the cakes to my grandmother, the only one who really remembers what Mama Florence’s recipe (or at least my great-grandmother’s version of the recipe) tasted like.

After the first bite, her face lit up like a Christmas tree. Bingo.

I am giving you this recipe now, because these cakes should be made at least 2 weeks in advance of serving them. YES. 2 weeks. That was not a typo. Once the cakes cool, you will wrap them up and, every 2-3 days, spritz them with a little bit of brandy. Wrap them back up and come for a visit again in a few days. Just don’t be like my great-great-grandmother, who one year took small bites of the cake every time she went to booze it up. By the time she went to serve the cake for a party, she had eaten almost all of it! #Oops

With the rich spices, molasses, pecans and dried fruits highlighted by the subtle flavors of orange and brandy, this is sure to be a cake your family and holiday guests will request every year.

Christmas_Spice_Cake4

5.0 from 1 reviews
Christmas Spice Cake
 
Holiday cake filled with dried fruit, nuts, and spices. It's the perfect cake to share with friends this Christmas season!
Ingredients
  • 1 pound golden raisins
  • 1 pound chopped dates
  • ¼ pound currants
  • 2 cups brandy, divided
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ tablespoon EACH nutmeg, allspice, cloves and cinnamon
  • ½ pound Diamond of California Pecan Chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan and an 8-inch ring pan OR 3 8x4 inch loaf pans. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the raisins, dates and currants. Add ½ cup of the brandy and the orange juice. Cover and soak overnight, or cover lightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 5 minutes. If microwaving, allow to cool.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the orange zest, molasses and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until combined after each addition.
  4. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices. Slowly add to the wet ingredients, mixing on medium speed until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then fold in the dried fruit and pecans.
  5. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake cakes for 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool cakes in the pans, then gently remove from the pans (run a knife along the edges of the pan before attempting to remove). Allow to cool completely.
  7. Place the remaining brandy in a spray bottle. Spritz the tops of the cakes with the brandy, then wrap tightly in heavy duty foil. Store in a cool, dark place for 2-4 weeks, unwrapping and spritzing with the brandy every 2-3 days.

 

Man-Bait Biscuits {+ an announcement!}

IMG_0235

Mile-high sweet potato biscuits are hearty enough to feed the man in your life (but fluffy and delicious enough to keep everyone else coming back for more as well).

Sweet Potato Biscuits
Welcome to the holiday season, friends! Before we dive into Christmas cakes, candies and appetizers (and there will be plenty of those, I can promise you that), I have a special recipe and a special announcement.

Yes!
This past Tuesday, Alex (formerly known ’round these parts as “Boyfriend”) took me out to the end of Navy Pier, got down on one knee, and asked me to be his wife.

I said yes.

Yes!
And so, on April 18 (maybe we did a little planning before the official proposal…), I will walk down the aisle and say “I do” to my best friend and the best man that I have ever known.

In case any of you were wondering, I feel fairly certain my cooking did a lot to influence the beginning of our relationship. In fact, I attribute a lot of things to my Sweet Potato Biscuit recipe.

Mile-High Sweet Potato Biscuits
When Alex and I started dating, I was living in Chicago while he was living in Iowa, about 3 hours away. The first weekend he stayed with me in Chicago, I made Sweet Potato Biscuits for breakfast on Sunday morning before he left. It was soon after this that I met his family (and discovered that he had already told them that I made the best biscuits he had ever had) and our relationship really took off.

Was it all thanks to the biscuits? That’s a tough call to make…but I’m certainly not discounting their powers.

And so, in honor of our engagement and entering this next big adventure, I share with you the recipe that made my man fall in love. Make them for breakfast this weekend – I can bet you that your sweetheart will love them, too.

Fluffy Sweet Potato Biscuits

4.8 from 5 reviews
Sweet Potato Biscuits
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Yield: 8-9 biscuits
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with a few pea-sized pieces of butter remaining.
  4. In a large measuring cup, whisk together the sweet potato and the buttermilk. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir to combine, just until barely combined.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Dough may be sticky; if so, lightly flour the top of the dough. Use your hands to bring the dough into a ball, then gently pat into a disk. Fold dough in half, turn it 90 degrees, and pat out again, flouring the dough as needed. Fold in half again. Repeat this process 1 more time. After the last fold, roll dough to 1-inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter; press cutter straight down, then twist to remove the biscuit. Re-roll dough as necessary, noting that rerolled biscuits will not get quite as much "lift" as the first batch. Cut 8-9 biscuits.
  6. Place cut biscuits in a 10-inch ungreased cast iron skillet, or close together on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden on top.

 

Pumpkin Pie Thumbprint Cookies

15218403353_c833582875_c

Sweet sugar cookie thumbprints filled with pumpkin pie filling. Consider these your portable pumpkin pie – because that’s clearly a necessity. 

Pumpkin Pie Thumbprint Cookies
I don’t know how else to explain the origins of this recipe other than to say that I woke up with the idea in my head a few weeks ago.

I’m not saying some genius idea just came to me in my dreams…but maybe I am. I dunno. I’m going to just leave that one open to interpretation.

Just kidding — I totally had a genius idea come to me in my dreams. What I can I say? I dream about cookies more often than I would care to admit.

I actually wasn’t sure this recipe was going to work. I wasn’t sure if the ratio of cookie-to-filling would end up being right, if the filling and cookie would set at the same time, if the filling would even stay in the cookie thumbprint…there were a lot of things up in the air about these little suckers. But, after a few pans of finagling, I pulled out a pan of perfect thumbprints, with the cookie just barely cooked through – still a bit pale, even, a little like myself – and the filling just perfectly set. It made for a perfect soft cookie with just the right amount of pumpkin pie filling. A two-bite pie, if you will. Stick that pie in your pocket, take it with you wherever you go*.

Pumpkin Pie Cookies
I took this batch of cookies to my personal trainer, because what good are personal trainers if you can’t feed them your excess baked goods? She took one look at the container, ripped it open and inhaled a cookie in one swift motion. That’s some cookie affirmation, right there. She then proceeded to share the cookies, because she has more self control than I do. This is why she gets the cookies.

If you’re having a crowd of family in and out of your house this week, I highly suggest making a batch of these cookies to have on hand. They’re a piece of pie cake to make, and are easier to divvy up to passing family members than an entire pie. They might even become a new Thanksgiving tradition.

*Warning: I do not actually recommend sticking these cookies in your pocket. That would be a mess. Just stick them in your pie-hole instead. xoxo

Thumbprint Cookies with Pumpkin Pie Filling

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pumpkin Pie Thumbprint Cookies
 
Yield: 18-20 cookies
Ingredients
For the cookie dough:
  • ⅔ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups flour
For the filling:
  • ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of cloves
  • 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
Instructions
Make the cookie dough:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla; beat on low speed to combine. Slowly add the salt and the flour; mix on low speed until just combined.
  2. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, placing them about 3 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  3. Using the back of a rounded teaspoon, press the teaspoon into the top of each cookie, creating a well in the center (make sure not to press all of the way through to the baking sheet itself). Dip the teaspoon in flour or water between each cookie to make this process go a bit easier.
  4. Place the shaped and indented cookies into the refrigerator or freezer to chill for at least 1 hour. Near the end of the chilling time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and make the filling.
Make the filling:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the filling ingredients until well combined. When ready to bake, spoon about 1 teaspoon of filling into each of the indented cookie wells.
  2. Bake cookies for 15-18 minutes, or until cookies are just set and barely golden around the edges. Let cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

 

Cranberry Pumpkin Cornbread

IMG_0141

Classic cornbread with an autumn twist: tart cranberries and rich pumpkin.

Cranberry Pumpkin Cornbread
There are a few things my family is particularly serious about.

Pie is one of them. Pecan Raisin Pie, to be exact.

People singing on key would be another.

Education and the proper use of there, their and they’re (as well as to, too and two) makes the list.

Letting our pets sleep on the bed with us is definitely a must.

And then there’s cornbread.

Yes, cornbread. In case you weren’t aware, there are two kinds of cornbread in this world: southern-style cornbread, which has very little to no sugar in it, and Yankee cornbread, which is sweet. Or, as my great-grandmother would have proudly told you, the right kind of cornbread and the wrong kind of cornbread.

Can you guess which kind my Mississippi born-and-raised grandmother would call the “right kind”?

Cranberry Cornbread with Pumpkin Puree
… 

Read More »

Danish Apple Cake

IMG_0041

Easy Danish Apple Cake loaded with apples and pecans will be your new go-to cake recipe.

This post is sponsored by Diamond of California. All opinions are my own.

Dutch Apple Cake
Sometimes you find yourself in need of a dessert without much advance notice. Perhaps your spouse announces that their boss is coming over for dinner. Maybe your neighbor gets sick and you want to take them something nice. Or perchance your best friend is going through an emotional crisis and you know that you’re both going to need dessert STAT.

It is in these moments that you need a quick and easy go-to dessert. Consider this to be that dessert.

This is yet another one of my great-grandmother’s recipes. Much like the beloved refrigerator roll recipe, this recipe came from a friend who lived in town. I can see why my Ma-Ma asked for the recipe – it uses only a handful of ingredients, comes together in a snap, and is always a hit.

Easy Apple Cake
… 

Read More »

Fluffy No-Knead Refrigerator Rolls

IMG_0094

The fluffiest dinner rolls come from the easiest, no-knead dough. It’s a dream come true!

This post is sponsored by Red Star Yeast. All opinions are, as always, 100% my own.

Fluffy No-Knead Refrigerator Rolls
I can’t even beat around the bush with this post. I have to get right to business – because the business, today, is bread. I know I just shared my Texas Roadhouse Rolls recipe with you last week, but I think you’ll forgive me for the carb overload with this recipe.

This recipe for Fluffy No-Knead Refrigerator Rolls comes from my great-grandmother’s recipe box. This recipe was originally given to my Ma-Ma by a woman named Nancy Nanovski, who lived across the street from my mother’s family when she was growing up. Nancy is known in my family for two things: this roll recipe, and her “cleaning tip” that she would give to young women who were getting married: leave the vacuum cleaner out all of the time so that if someone stops by unexpectedly, they will think they interrupted your cleaning and automatically forgive your mess.

I think Nancy and I would have been friends.

And so, in the spirit of sharing – both this recipe and the delicious rolls that it makes – I am bringing you this recipe today in partnership with Red Star Yeast and Stop Hunger Now.

Stop-Hunger-Now-Blogger-Graphic

Did you know that nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger, and that every 10 seconds a child dies because they are severely underweight or lack essential nutrients? Because of statistics like these, and so many more, Stop Hunger Now has made it their mission to end hunger through working together. Red Star Yeast is partnering with Stop Hunger Now to share this mission and to encourage people to start working in their own communities to end hunger by baking with Red Star Yeast and sharing in their community. A portion of proceeds from Red Star Yeast purchases will go towards Stop Hunger Now to provide meals and life-saving aid to children and families around the world. It is Red Star Yeast’s goal to provide 200,000 meals annually.

To help further this mission and support this partnership, I am joining 11 other amazing bloggers to each bring you a “double batch” baking recipe, with hopes that you will bake and share in your community this fall. One of the best thing about Nancy’s Refrigerator Rolls (as they’re known in my family) is that the recipes makes a ton of rolls. Bake the rolls, then share half with someone in your community. These rolls would be perfect alongside a roast chicken, a pan of pasta, or a pot of soup, and the easy no-knead dough makes it simple for you to share a full meal with a friend or a neighbor in need. Make sure to visit the Bake & Share Pinterest Board to scope out all of the fantastic recipes.

And because Red Star Yeast loves all of my readers as much as I do, they’re giving one reader a baking prize pack so that you can start on your own bake and share recipes! One lucky reader will win a bread basket with warming stone, a signed copy of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and a Red Star Yeast mixing bowl, towel, dough whisk, apron, and yeast. In case you’re wondering, that’s $90 worth of baking goodies right to the door of the lucky winner! Just use the widget below to enter to win.

No-Knead Refrigerator Rolls
Alright – Enough fooling around. Time to get to the recipe! Trust me, this one is so easy, you’ll want to make it all of the time.
5.0 from 3 reviews
Fluffy No-Knead Refrigerator Rolls
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Yield: 16 rolls
Ingredients
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 packages (4½ teaspoons) Red Star PLATINUM Yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 cups sifted flour
Instructions
  1. Dissolve shortening, salt and sugar in 1 cup of boiling water in a large mixing bowl. Mix and let cool (shortening does not need to completely melt).
  2. Dissolve yeast in 1 cup of warm water. Add to the cooled shortening mixture along with the eggs. Whisk thoroughly to combine. Stir in the flour until well combined.
  3. Top the bowl with lightly greased foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to 48 hours.
  4. When ready to bake, remove dough from the refrigerator. Gently turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 16 equal pieces. For each piece, tuck the edges under until the top of the dough is taught, like a bubble of bubble gum. Then place the roll on the floured surface, "bubble" side up, and roll it between your hands in a clockwise motion to tighten up the roll. Repeat with each dough piece.
  5. Place rolls in 2-3 greased cake pans or 1 greased 13x9-inch pan. Cover lightly and let rise for one hour.
  6. While rolls rise, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes, until deeply golden on top.

PS – Red Star Yeast is hosting a friendly Pinterest contest between the 12 Bake & Share participating bloggers. Visit the Bake & Share Pinterest Board and repin your favorite recipe – the blogger with the most repins on November 7 will win some big prizes! And I know you all will pin your favorite Fluffy No-Knead Refrigerator Rolls…right?