Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ginger Snaps

Just in time for Christmas comes this delightful vintage gingersnap recipe, so easy that it can be made after a long day of work. And this recipe is special -- I rarely know the genesis of the recipes I collect, but a very generous reader, Carol Suring of  Suring,Wisconsin, send me a wonderful collection of her mother-in-law's recipes. (Plus a handwritten recipe-filled notebook that belonged to her grandmother!)  The recipes were inherited by Carol when her mother-in-law, who spent her whole life in Oconto County in northeast Wisconsin, passed away. "She was a good cook and was always looking for new and different things to cook," writes Carol. This is certainly true, for the collection was filled with confections I've never before encountered, things like coconut washboards, for example. I know I'll be baking from this lovely gift for months to come.

Now, on the the gingersnaps. Combine the butter, sugar, egg and molasses (in that order) and mix well.

While that's beating, put all the dry ingredients in another bowl, and whisk to combine.

Roll into balls. I did them all at once, then placed them on cookie sheets.

Bake and enjoy. The crinkled tops on some of the cookies resulted on single pans of cookies in the oven. But in the interest of time, I mostly baked two sheets simultaneously.

Like many recipe cards in this collection, it was typed on the back of a card soliciting subscriptions to the Wisconsin Cancer Bulletin.  The recipe method is not included (because doesn't everyone know how to put together a cookie dough?), so I've rewritten the recipe as I made it, with detailed instructions, below.

Production notes: The dough was a bit sticky, so I briefly refrigerated it before rolling. I didn't notice any difference when I added drops of water to some of them, so you can skip that step. These are rather mildly spiced, so you can increase the amount of ginger if you like a spicier cookie.

Ginger Snaps

Preheat oven to 350F

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1 c brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c molasses
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cloves
1 t cinnamon

Beat butter and add sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.
Add egg and molasses and beat well.
Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and add to mixture.
Combine well, but don't over-beat.
Refrigerate dough if it's too sticky.
Roll dough into balls about one-inch diameter
Roll one side in white sugar.
Place on cookie sheet (lined with parchment) about two inches apart.
Bake seven to 10 minutes.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Six-in-One Refrigerator Cookies

Years ago, I received a lovely gift -- a beautiful tin filled with many different kinds of homemade Christmas cookies, When I asked the gift giver how she managed to bake so many varieties, she shared her (and Martha Stewart's) secret: Make one dough, divide it and add a different flavoring to each.

And so I was delighted to discover this same concept among my collection of vintage recipes. This is the perfect cookie recipe if you're in need of a variety quickly. After making one simple dough, divide it into six equal-ish portions and add flavorings to five, leaving one plain (to be frosted later, if you like). The recipe is very, very forgiving -- I misread it and used half the amount of butter called for and used baking powder instead of baking soda -- yet the cookies came out great and were inhaled by the staff at my workplace. And by the DH, a real cookie lover. Who ever said baking is a science? My guess is that with a larger amount of butter, the cookies would be even richer. 

Refrigerator cookies are especially quick and easy; no need to roll the dough and stamp with cookie cutters. Instead, it is rolled into logs, refrigerated overnight (or several hours) and then simply sliced.

The dough is easy to mix together, as long as your butter (whichever amount you use) is softened. It was very easy to work, not sticky at all. 

Form into six balls. Don't sweat the size, just approximate.

Gather your flavorings. I didn't have the candied cherries specified, so I substituted dried cranberries with great success.  You needn't measure the amount of ingredients -- you'll know what looks right. And you can always add in more.

Place a ball of dough in a bowl, add the flavoring...

And relive your childhood Play-Doh fantasies by incorporating the ingredients with clean (or, in my case, non-latex gloved hands).

Just wipe out the bowl, and repeat the process. Mix the chocolate one last. Roll into logs, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, slice each log into coins. Place on a baking sheet.

And voila!

 The recipe card has all the information, but because it's so jumbled, I wrote out the recipe below it.

 Production notes:  These keep very well and even with the reduced amount of butter were still fresh ten days after baking. I would recommend cutting the butter amount in half, and use just one cup. As for the flavorings, I gave some approximate amounts, but you can adjust to taste. For the chocolate cookie, you can mix further to achieve an all-chocolate dough -- I didn't because I liked the swirl. I frosted the plain cookies by making a simple frosting of confectioners' sugar and milk. I then dipped the tops of the cookies in the frosting.

Six-in-One Refrigerator Cookies

2 c. unsalted butter (or two sticks if you misread the recipe as I did)
1 c, white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp.vanilla
4 c. unsifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda (or baking powder if you misread the recipe)

Cream the butter (which is at room temperature).
Gradually add the sugars, beating until well combined.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Sift together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture.
Form into six one-cup portions.
Keep one portion plain and to the others add: 1/3 c. coconut; 1/4 c. melted bittersweet chocolate; 1/4 t. cinnamon and 1/8 t. nutmeg (or to taste); 1/4 c. dried cranberries or candied cherries.
Form into logs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Slice logs and place cut cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake about 10 minutes.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Aunt Rei's Babka

Aunt Rei's Babka is really a modern coffee cake, not the lush yeast-risen pastry that we associate with babka today. Not that there's anything wrong with that! It is still rich and very delicious (and easier and quicker to make). This recipe is courtesy of my friend and work colleague Diane whose extended family compiled their favorite recipes in a digital family cookbook.

I made this twice. The first time, I brought a piece to Diane who, upon tasting, shook her head. It wasn't right. For one thing, the texture was too dry. She checked the recipe against the original handwritten card, and there were no discrepancies. So I made it again, reducing the baking time by 30 percent. And this time, Diane gave her approval. Everyone's oven is different and mine obviously runs hotter than Aunt Rei's.

The batter is easy to prepare. The challenge is putting it together -- layering the batter with the filling. The recipe calls for five layers; you can see I was able to achieve only three.

The first layer of batter and filling.

The cake, released from the pan.

Production notes: Do not overbake! Despite the recipe instructions, start checking the cake at the 35 minute mark. Also, use a 10-inch tube pan. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly. Make sure the butter is at room temperature before beginning.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Corn Bread for Two

Here's my Thanksgiving miracle. After making this recipe a few weeks ago, I misplaced the recipe card -- and could not find it anywhere.  But then, this morning the DH mentions casually that I'd left a couple of recipe cards next to "his" new chair, and bingo, there it was! I'm grateful for many things this Thanksgiving, not least of which is finding this recipe (which I'll make today, if I have the time and oven space).

It is simple cornbread, moist and flavorful, with a lovely texture, especially if you use a coarse grind of cornmeal. This makes way more servings than two, but perhaps it was meant to serve farm hands, or cowboys.

Here's the mis en place except for the butter, which I forgot here, but not in the batter.

The vintage recipe was simply a list of ingredients, but I've written out the method I used below.

Unsure of the pan size (but guided by the "for two") in the title, I used an eight-inch round pan.

The top should be golden brown when done.

The rather cryptic recipe card below.

Corn Bread for Two

Preheat oven to 400F
Grease and flour an 8-inch round or square pan (or equivalent)

1/2 c course ground cornmeal
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 T sugar
2 T melted butter
1 egg
1/2 c milk

In a medium bowl, blend dry ingredients together.
Add wet ingredients and combine (but don't over mix!)
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Spoon Bread Casserole

We're smack in the middle of baking season (which runs from October through December), a fact I learned on a tour of the Jiffy Factory in Chelsea, Michigan, this summer.  That day, I also learned that my family's treasured recipe for "corn casserole," a staple at Thanksgiving for generations, was in fact created by Jiffy and called Spoon Bread Casserole.  Oh, well. Just don't tell The Guardian, the London paper, which included my recipe last year in a Thanksgiving wrap-up of recipes across America.

And while I generally eschew packaged food, I make an exception for Jiffy. And you will too, once you read about it here.

 It is a tradition, and also very, very easy and universally loved by all who try it. The sour cream eliminate the dryness that is too common in cornbread, and the two types of canned corn add sweetness and texture.

Every year that I make this, I frantically call my cousin Debbie for the recipe, usually on Thanksgiving morning. (Apparently I collect the vintage recipes of other families, but not my own).

The mise en place is below.

Put the batter together.

Pour in a baking dish.

Bake and enjoy.  This recipe makes a lot -- the casserole is so rich that you can serve rather small pieces.

And if there's any leftovers, your work colleagues will appreciate them.

Below is the recipe direct from Jiffy. I also recommend a tour of the plant, if you're ever in the area. It's quite old fashioned, and rather charming.

Spoon Bread Casserole
(6 - 8 Servings)

1 pkg. "JIFFY" Corn Muffin Mix
·         1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
·         1 can (8-3/4 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
·         1 can (8-1/4 oz.) cream style corn
·         1 cup sour cream
·         2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.

Pour margarine or butter and corn into dish. Blend in sour cream. In separate bowl, beat eggs and stir into casserole. Add muffin mix. Blend thoroughly. Bake 35 - 40 minutes or until center is firm.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pumpkin Sheet Cake

The pumpkin craze that began last month shows no signs of abating (and quite frankly has gone into overkill, what with pumpkin flavored Oreos, pumpkin burritos from Chipotle, and other similar "delights").

But pumpkin is good, if not bastardized, and this light, moist and delicious pumpkin cake from a vintage recipe showcases this seasonal fruit in the best possible way. It's very easy to prepare, keeps fresh for days (on account of the oil) and perfect for your Thanksgiving company. I made this Sunday for my friends Karin and Jim -- and Karin (who is a very discerning eater and big fan of pumpkin pastry) declared it among the best pumpkin cakes she's ever had.

Start by combining the wet ingredients in a stand mixer (or use a hand-held mixer). Meantime, combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Blend together and pour into a greased and floured 9 x 12 inch pan. The batter is thick, so using the back of a spoon, spread it to the edges.

Bake and cool. You can turn the cake out from the pan (or not). I was serving this to company, so went the extra step.

Frost and serve.

You'll not that the original recipe is rather incomplete -- no baking temperature, pan size, and amount of ingredients for the frosting, so I wrote the recipe (with the missing information) below. The original recipe calls for a 16-ounce can of pumpkin, but these days only 15-ounce cans are available, but it doesn't make a difference. It is also titled Pumpkin Bars, but trust me, this is a cake.

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Cream Frosting

Preheat oven to 350F
Grease and flour a 9 x 12 inch pan

4 eggs
1 2/3 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
1 15-oz. can pumpkin
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda

In large bowl, beat eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until well blended.
In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
Add dry ingredients to the large bowl and mix until combined.
Pour into prepared pan, spread to the edges and bake for about 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.


1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 8-oz. package of cream cheese (room temperature)
1 lb. confectioner's sugar
1 t. vanilla

In a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) combine butter and cream cheese.
Add confectioner's sugar in batches, combining well between each.
Add vanilla and beat until smooth.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cloud Biscuits

There seems to be a biscuit revival afoot, though I'm not sure why these simple and wholesome baked goods ever fell from favor. They hearken back to a simpler era, when housewives would just throw these together, year round to accompany a meal or, in the spring, as a base for macerated strawberries to create strawberry shortcake.

I love a good biscuit and so have tried nearly every vintage biscuit recipe in my collection, but few come close to this one. The appropriately named Cloud Biscuits give a very nice rise, and the texture is divine. Plus, who could resist the name? (As someone who earns a living in marketing, I applaud the recipe's author who titled this so brilliantly.) These are basically baking powder biscuits (isn't cloud biscuits so much more appealing?), but they also include an egg, making them a bit richer.

Cutting the butter into the flour can be accomplished quickly with just a few pulses in a food processor. Alternately, use a pastry blender, two knifes or even your fingertips.

It should resemble cornmeal (below). Mix the egg and milk in a measuring up and combine well.

Pour the liquid into the flour-butter mixture and mix until the batter follows the fork around the bowl.

Roll or pat out on a floured surface.

Form using a sharp (this is important for the rise!) biscuit cutter.

Pop them in the preheated oven and voila!

A little added butter and jam make for a delicious breakfast treat.

Production notes: I made the smaller amount, and used butter instead of margarine.