Category Archives: Dessert

Whole Orange Cake


Something odd happened today.

I baked a cake.  Crazy, right?

Okay, I may need to explain.  This is weird because:

  • There was absolutely no reason for me to bake a cake today.  No birthdays, nobody coming to visit – just me at home doing laundry.
  • I don’t love cake.  In fact, given a choice between cake and, oh, just about any other dessert, cake is generally the loser.  (Especially cake with no chocolate.)
  • I am not a fan of citrus in desserts.  Lemon bar?  No thank you!  (In fact, I’m not a fan of citrus in a lot of dishes.  I blame my mother’s very, very lemon chicken…but that’s a story for another day.)

But this cake…this cake seduced me.  It invaded my thoughts.  I craved this cake.  And I have no idea why!

Let me tell you a story.

Yesterday afternoon, I got an email from my friend Jessica titled Whole Orange Cake.  In this email was a link.  I clicked on the link, and was taken to a description of a cake unlike any cake I knew. A cake make with whole oranges.  Yes, my friends!  Whole oranges, peels and all!


“I wonder what this tastes like,” I thought innocently.  “It sounds pretty good.”  Then I moved on…or so I thought.  But I continued to think about this mysterious whole orange cake.  When I least expected it, the orange cake would pop into my head.  Watching the new Alex Cross movie – whole orange cake!  Ironing pants for work – if only I had orange cake for breakfast!  Lunchtime at work – I bet that orange cake would taste pretty good right now…

Finally, I decided that there was no help for it.  I just had to make the Whole Orange Cake.

So I did.

And it was delicious.  And pretty.  And orangy and cakey and everything that I hoped it would be.  (And yes, I served it to myself on an orange plate.)


Thanks, Jess!

Has a recipe ever consumed your thoughts until you just had to make it?  Or am I just crazy?  What’s your opinion of citrus in desserts? 

Whole Orange Cake  (The original recipe that Jess sent me can be found here.  I made a couple of minor changes in italics.)

  • Cooking-oil spray
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 oranges (about 1 lb. total), ends trimmed, then cut into chunks and seeded (I needed three oranges, but they were pretty small.)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • (I added 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 tsp. orange juice
1. Preheat oven to 325°. Coat a 10-cup Bundt pan with cooking-oil spray. In a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.
Orange chunks after being chopped in the food processer.  The oranges smelled awesome!

Orange chunks after being chopped in the food processer. The oranges smelled awesome!

2. Whirl orange chunks in a food processor until mostly smooth but not puréed. Add 1 1/2 cups orange mixture to batter and beat until blended. Add flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and nutmeg to bowl and beat until smooth. Spread batter in prepared pan.
The batter is really thick.  Getting it into the bundt pan evenly was the hardest part.

The batter is really thick. Getting it into the bundt pan evenly was the hardest part.

3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it, about 55 minutes. (My cake was done after 45 minutes.)  Cool pan on a rack 10 minutes, then invert cake onto rack and let cool completely.
4. Whisk together powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl. Drizzle over cooled cake. Let glaze set, then slice cake. (I did this before the cake was completely cool – I couldn’t wait any longer!) 

Baked Apples and the Holiday Spirit


Christmas is less than two weeks away, and normally, I would already have my tree set up and decorated, my jingle bell wreath on the door, and assorted other holiday decorations thoughout the house.

This year, I just can’t get in the holiday mood.  Oh, I’m doing my Christmas shopping and everything, but it just doesn’t FEEL like Christmas!  Maybe it’s because we haven’t had any snow.  Or maybe it’s because I haven’t watched the Rudolph and Charlie Brown Christmas specials on TV.  But whatever the cause, I decided today to fix my holiday funk.

And how do I readjust my holiday attitude?  With food of course!  In this case, with baked apples.  For whatever reason, baked apples and vanilla ice cream feel like Christmas.  And even better – it’s easy and yummy!

I remember learning how to make baked apples in middle school Home Ec class, and I’m pretty sure I made them constantly for a whole fall and winter after that.  (Thanks for letting me use the oven, Mom!)  So tonight, I made them the same way.

I took two honeycrisp apples and dug out the cores – but not all the way!  Just create a kind of a well in the middle of the apple.  Fill the wells with brown sugar, a little butter and cinnamon.  I put them in a tiny adorable cassorole dish, and baked them at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.


When I opened the oven, the warm cinnamon scent of the apples just filled the kitchen.  There are some foods that just smell like happiness – baked apples are certainly one of those foods.  (In case you’re interested, sushi is another.  Ummmm…sushi….)


Then you break the apple apart, and the brown sugar that doesn’t soak into the apple makes it’s own syrup for the ice cream…awesome!

Welcome back, jingle bell wreath!


Happy Holidays!

A Beautiful Relationship

What to do with all that leftover pumpkin pie filling? Alycia had that problem the other day as she was baking a pie: she had extra filling and no extra pie crust. I was making biscuits and had extra dough. When two bakers come together with ingredients, the world implodes and beautiful food babies are born.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you….

Pumpkin Pie Bites /or/ Pumpkin Pietes

Step 1: Extra pumpkin pie filling, no crust.
Step 2: Make some biscuit dough.
Step 3: Press some dough into a mini muffin pan.
Step 4: Pour extra filling into biscuit crust.
Step 5: Bake at 400 for 10 minutes or so.
Step 6: Don’t burn your tongue as you eat these little goodies straight from the oven. Perhaps with a little whipped cream.

You’re welcome.

Happy October!

Here’s some good news: I just looked at the weather forecast, and it looks like the cold, wet rain might be done by Tuesday, leaving us with a few days of sunshine late next week.  I can’t wait.  The market today was practically deserted when we were there – though that didn’t stop us from running into a couple of Galizios.  Plus, the warm greetings from Matt and Fabio and the pierogi-lady (whose name I should really learn) made the day brighter

I decided that if fall is here we might as well embrace it.  So out came the pumpkins and the Halloween decorations this afternoon.  I also decided that it was time to bake my favorite pumpkin cookies and share that recipe here.  The original source is the Fargo Forum newspaper, and I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t love the fall flavors.

The recipe is below.  Two comments about the overall experience of the cookies are in order.  First, they are closer to cake bites than cookies.  They don’t spread at all while baking, so pay attention to how you drop the dough on the baking sheets.  Second, they might look a bit similar to the pumpkin cookies you can pick up at Giant Eagle these days, but they are SO much better.  If nothing else, the maple syrup in the frosting gives them a whole different flavor.

I promise at least one more post from me this week, because the butternut squash from Matt is calling from the kitchen to be made into my favorite fall soup.  I hope everyone is having a good weekend, despite the awful weather.

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups flour, 1 t. baking powder, 1 t. baking soda, 1/2 t. salt

1 t. pumpkin pie spice (I always construct this myself from a 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/4 t. ginger, and 1/8 t. cloves)

1/2 c. shortening, 1 c. brown sugar

1 c. pumpkin puree, 1 egg, 1 t. vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl.  Combine the shortening and brown sugar, beating for a full minute.  Add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla; mix until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients and mix well.  Drop dough by mounded tablespoons.  Bake at 350 for 14 minutes.

Icing: 1/2 c. butter, 1/4 c. maple syrup, 2 T. pumpkin puree, 1 t. pumpkin pie spice, 1 t. vanilla, 4 c. powdered sugar, orange food coloring

Beat the first five ingredients and add the powdered sugar gradually and then the food coloring, beating well until fluffy and with uniform color.

(In my opinion, this makes too much frosting!  Halving it might not even be too extreme.  I also usually add sprinkles of some kind on top of the frosting because it generally stays very gooey and sticky.  Plus, they give you the right festive October colors to help brighten a dreary fall day.)

Tomato Tart & Pie!!

Seems like everything I have been posting lately is about tomatoes. But, I don’t want to waste any of them. This was a delicious tart recipe I found , Heirloom Cherry Tomato Tart by TasteFood.  I used the larger purple cherry tomatoes. They had  so much flavor. Recipe: 1 sheet puff pastry dough, rolled out and pierced with a fork all over. Onto parchment paper, bake 15 min 400. Take out, top with cut cherries , drizzle with olive oil S & P. Back in the oven for 12 min.( I topped it with some fresh mozz. ) 

Now the pie recipe has nothing to do with anything from the box or the farmers market. And, anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t bake. But this pie sounded just like something Bob & GP would love. It does challenge the difficulty level of Kim’s home made ice cream.  ( Ha Ha Ha !) I got this recipe, yes Carolyn, from The Conneaut Courier. The article is called At Home With….Vickie Marcy. The pie- Lemonade Pie. Recipe  : 4 cups softened  vanilla ice cream , 6 oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed, 8 oz. container frozen whipped topping, thawed, 1 graham cracker pie crust. ( I bought it.)  Stir everything together  & pour into the pie crust.  Freeze at least 4 hours.  I tasted the filling before I put it in the pie shell and it is tasty!  Big slice for GP tomorrow!

Grandma’s Chocolate Cake

The eponymous grandmother in question would be my paternal grandmother, who for as long as I can remember has been justly well-known for making this chocolate cake for every occasion.  The recipe is thus intertwined with basically all my childhood memories of family holidays and trips to visit my grandparents – who lived in Milwaukee for much of my childhood.  My copy of the recipe is on a rather yellowed recipe card in my mom’s handwriting.  And today (at Carolyn’s request), you’ll all be welcomed into this family tradition!

I’ll walk you through the recipe first and then discuss some of the (very minor) controversies.  They’re nothing on the scale of Rufener’s versus Szalay’s, but there are choices to be made, nonetheless.

For the cake:

In a small bowl, combine 1 t. soda with 1 3/4 cups flour (less 2 1/2 T.)

Also, prepare 1 c. sour milk

In another bowl, blend together the following ingredients:

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 t. salt

1 t. vanilla

2 eggs

Add: 2 packets Nestle ChocoBake

Alternately add the flour mixture with the milk.

Pour into a greased 9×13 pan and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake appears set.

For the frosting, mix the following:

1/2 cup shortening

2 packets Chocobake

1/4 t. salt

1 t. vanilla

Alternately add 3-4 cups of powdered sugar and 3-6 T. milk.

Spread on cooled cake.

That’s it.  Easy enough, right?  I’m pretty sure grandma now practically does it in her sleep, and I know for a fact that she can squeeze in the work between hands of pinochle, whist, or whatever is the card game of the moment!

A few notes:

1. Everyone sours the milk differently.  I use about a teaspoon of white vinegar, add milk to the measuring cup to the one cup mark, and let the milk sit while I blend the first ingredients.  Others use lemon juice.  Some people measure the acid, some just toss it in.  Some use a full cup of milk and then add acid to that.  Some insist on letting it sit longer.  It doesn’t affect the flavor much, but you can’t skip souring it in some way!  I’m not a food scientist, but I believe it’s necessary to provide acid for the baking soda.  anyone want to back me up here?

2. Some people have been known to use butter in place of shortening.  Or half butter, half shortening.  Or butter-flavored shortening.  Personally, I think shortening is the only way to go.  Alter it at your own risk!

3. The flour measurement is goofy.  Just go with it.

4. Chocobake is the easiest way to introduce the chocolate.  You could melt squares or something else fancy, but why bother?  Just skulk around the baking aisle at the grocery store to find their two boxes of Chocobake tucked away near the chocolate chips.  One box is enough for two cakes, and God help us all if Nestle ever stops making it!

5. Speaking of chocolate chips, I’ve sprinkled some into the batter tonight.  (Hopefully no family member gasps at this alteration.)  I don’t know that it made much difference – perhaps it was a bit fudgier.  Depending on your taste buds, you could probably explore adding nuts or peanut butter chips or any number of little additions.  Why not?  Make it your own.

6. Finally, the biggest controversies of all are the proper amount of frosting and the ratio of powdered sugar to milk in that frosting.  With the original recipe being so flexible, you must make a decision here!  I absolutely insist that every half cup of powdered sugar requires a tablespoon of milk, and I usually make LOTS of frosting and beat it in the mixer until it’s super light and fluffy.  That means that I use 4 cups of powdered sugar and about 8 tablespoons of milk.  (You’ll notice that my choices lie just outside the original parameters of the recipe.)  My mother tends toward 3 1/2 cups and 6 tablespoons, and grandma makes an ever stiffer frosting, at the low end of the milk range.  Of course, she doesn’t measure it at all, but just eyeballs the whole process.  She also tends to spread it a bit thinner than I do.  You can’t go wrong, really, but they are all slightly different cakes in the end.  The stiffer frosting does probably cut and serve a bit better, making for prettier presentation.  But let’s face it, you’re not making this cake for the fancy presentation or to impress anyone.  You’re making it so you can lean over the sink with a fork at midnight.  And breakfast.  And noon…

The real danger is that you’ll make the cake too often now that you have the recipe.  It’s important to have a plan to rid yourself of it quickly.  Thankfully, I was able to give away the vast majority of the cake tonight.  (Note to GP: If you don’t get cake, it’s because Kim and Carolyn ate it all!)  So welcome to the family tradition; I hope you enjoy!

Szalay’s wins Scandal Marred Corn Cook Off!!


Saturday, a hot muggy August evening in Kent Ohio, was to be the evening to finally end the controversy over who has the better corn Szalay’s or Rufener’s. Today the controversy lives on.The corn arrived from both locations and was kept separated until it went in the pots. Sealed envelopes contain which color corn holder was from which farm. The final vote 11 Szalay’s 9 Rufener’s. When the envelopes were opened there had been a clear case of tampering. The names had been cleverly changed in each envelope and one envelope (the Rufener’s had clear signs of tampering) The evidence has been turned over to the authorities and there is nothing left to do but attempt to clear the controversy up next year. As organizer of this years event I apologize for the lapse of security and this will need to be improved for next year. The result will stand this year with an asterisk next to it “*they cheated” and the preparations will begin for next year.


Lots of food!!! The meal started with mussels from Aunt Bethy. My favorite of the night. The mussel juice could also be worn as a decoration if needed. Elyse made a slaw with kohlrabi and zucchini, the flavors and textures from these elements really added to a traditional slaw. I smoked a brisket from Duma’s Meats using the rub Tom and Jeff brought back from Texas. Brisket has turned into one of my favorites to smoke. The sauce everyone seemed to like was a Texas tradition – pan juices and ketchup. Simple is the best sometimes.

The shrimp was done with a boil of beer and Pensey’s shrimp and crab boil.

The corn well what can you say it was great! I did a sample of smoked corn that was soaked in ice water for 2 hours and then wrapped in bacon and smoked for an hour. This will be done again! There were some chicken wings that were smoked that were gone at the end of the day but not my favorite. Potatoes from Birdsong farms were grill in pouches with olive oil for 1 hour. There were 3 different types a red skinned, purple skinned and a gold fleshed. For dessert peach pies from Beckwith’s Orchard and home made Cinnamon Ice Cream. I will put up some recipes later. 

A special thanks from all of us to (oh this is hard to say) Beth for all her help with this meal. We could not have done with out her. And to all of the judges who resisted most offers of bribery to put on a scandal marred contest that has resolved nothing. Here is to next year!

Birthday dinner!

Now try not to be jealous when I tell you that I had just a few shelling peas left from last week’s pickup in the refrigerator for this evening.  Just enough for a few bites each with dinner.  I also roasted – yes, roasted, I admit to a touch of hypocrisy by turning my oven on tonight – anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, we roasted zucchini, potatoes, mushrooms, and tomatoes, all tossed with olive oil, dill, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  They were delicious.  Nothing like roasted vegetables fresh from the farm.

To justify having the oven warmed up, we also made strawberry shortcake.  Since Carolyn introduced Jeff to the joys of Bisquik, I think he will always refer to this as her recipe.  It’s simple but delicious.  Some whipped cream made for a great topping – though with a bit less of the flair, drama, and excitement of the Galizio’s magical whipping canister.

It was a great birthday dinner.  Now we need to go walk the dog to help with the digestion of all this great food!

Dear Martha, hated dessert, loved the sauce

A few weeks ago, I harvested the last rhubarb of the summer.  In a semi-insane moment of inspiration and ambition, I decided to try a Martha Stewart recipe for a lemon mousse with rhubarb sauce.  Each step required significant prep and cooking and chilling.  Since I had a busy few days, the whole process took about 72 hours.  I would have forgiven her for leading me down this path of self-immolation had it been the most delicious dessert I had ever tasted.

Sadly, it was a big disappointment.  The lemon mousse smelled great but wasn’t sweet enough on its own.  The rhubarb added too much stringy texture to the sauce.  (Why on earth did I believe her when she said to leave it in 2-inch pieces?)  And while it looked like heaven on a plate, I could have saved myself a lot of time and headache – not to mention rhubarb – and simply driven to Handel’s or Heavenly Cupcakes for a much yummier dessert.

So there I was, with a pan full of rhubarb sauce in the refrigerator, taunting me for the failure.  That’s when I decided to wrest control of my kitchen back from Martha and create my own dish.  The idea was simple.  If raspberry chicken could be delicious, surely I could accomplish a similar feat with rhubarb!

I heated some olive oil, browned chicken, and proceeded to doctor the sauce for a half hour of slow cooking.  A splash of balsamic to cut the sweetness, a cup of vegetable broth added gradually and cooked off, onion, garlic, and mushrooms all found their way into the pan.  The result?  A moist, delicious, sweet-glazed chicken breast.  The rhubarb did not die in vain!  And the meal was rounded out with green beans with green peppers and the last of Matt’s potatoes.