T’is the Season to Be Baking!!

Our CakeFa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

Time to turn up the ovens and pull down the Betty Crocker; cook book that is.  I suggest flipping to the dirtiest, stuck together pages you can find and start mixing together those copious quantities of sugar, butter and flour that make all our holidays ‘Oh So Yum!!’

I can smell it now, cuz t’is also the season to be smelling. I see it now. It all starts with a lone cinnamon or vanilla scented candle.  Then the cider on the stove kicks in with its whole cloves and slices of orange peel spinning and dancing in the heated swirls.

Cookies!! Oh the cookies, fresh from the oven. Chocolate chip, oatmeal and my all-time-favorite: Snickerdoodles!! “Why is it we only make snickerdoodles at the holidays?”  you ask. “Siiliness,” I reply “Pure silliness.”  Banana breads and fruit cakes begin showing up in the mail while food writers around the nation share their bestest recipes for turkeys and hams, potatoes and green beans, and sweet potatoes oh my!!  (Tune in next week for my tips on how to roast a perfect Thanksgiving turkey.)

And homemade candies like fudge and peanut brittle and those crispy little peanut butter balls my former mother-in-law used to make.   (I should have gotten that recipe.)  All dressed up on those pretty little plates that grandma keeps wrapped up and locked away all year because, “They are not for every day use Tommy, only special occasions ”   And hard candies and Nuts!! Lots and lots of nuts.  Bowls, chock full of nuts and chocolates and, and, and (breathless) . . . bliss.

And Bells!! Those little holiday bells that jingle outside, everywhere, in the cold crisp air. And that one Farmer’s Market vendor, 5 miles away but worth the trip, selling Chestnuts that were roasted on an open fire.  Ah, the holiday season is here at last.

The last weekend I didn’t need to ask, “For Whom the Bells Tolls” the “Belle’ tolled for me. The Belle being my charming niece Lindsay who got it in to her pretty-little-head to bake a 3 level, tiered cake for a dear friend’s 40th birthday.

cake 2“Want to come bake a cake with your favorite niece?” she asked. When she asks like that, what am I supposed to say?

“No, and don’t forget to leave my respirator plugged in until you are completely certain that I am brain dead. And NO, just because I watch the Simpsons that doesn’t count as brain dead, just brain . . . ”

Of course I said yes and we made quite a day of it.  MY bad it started off slowly. I forgot to set my alarm and not only did I arrive an hour and a half late I forgot a bag of newly purchased decorating supplies.  (What a putz of an uncle I am . . . Don’t answer that.) After I arrived we decided to make the cake larger than I had anticipated so we sent Lindsay’s charming, handsome, patient husband to the store to purchase 5 more boxes of cake mix and 4 more pounds of confectioners sugar. Oh! And 1 more pound of butter.  You can never have enough butter.  Now I do have a ‘Binder Full’ of cake recipes but sometimes it is quicker to use the packages.  The only difference is the pre-measured dry ingredients, everything else we added fresh. 3 cake pans, 8 boxes of cake mix, 2 dozen eggs, 5 pounds of sugar, 3 pounds of butter, 2 pounds of fondant and 1 special ordered, custom cut, cake-stacker later we had our mini masterpiece. (Please stay tuned for the Partridge-in-a-Pear-Tree recipe . . . What?? It could happen.)

Lindsay and her friendAll credit for the decoration goes to my lovely niece. Her friend is an avid Raiders fan so ‘Black and Silver’ was the theme. Beyond honorable mention, super hubby Mark gets my vote for MVP.

The holidays are a fabulous time of year.  There is nothing like the cacophony of football and cooking, laughter and loving, too many cooks in the kitchen and lots and lots of leftovers!!  Many thanks to Lindsay and Mark for kick starting this season’s baking frenzy for me. Note: I won’t be posting any current pictures of myself until March of next year.  (You know why.)

Eat Well and Smile Often!!




p.s. T’is the season to add poundage.Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

p.p.s. Count ’em, they’re all there.

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This week my world turned upside down. My little girl went in to surgery on Friday to have a large lump removed from her chest.  To say I was nervous all day is to put it mildly. I grilled her doctor before hand in a way that surely embarrassed the both of us.  “So what about the anesthetic?” and “Have you done this before?” Antibiotics, what about those??”  I was a paternal wreck to say the least.

While she was under, our lives together kept running through my thoughts.  Had I been good to her, given her enough attention, fed her well? Did I discipline her too much . .  too little?  What would she think of me after? What does she think of me now?!  Will I be able to take care of her when she comes home?  Too many hard questions. And those times she ran away just break a father’s heart. I remember when she first came to me. She was only one year old and so delicate.  We had quite a time of it the first couple years.  She would rarely leave me side when I was at home, and the noises she would make when I left each day . . .

I held my breath when I saw the hospital’s caller ID pop up on my phone . . .  “She’s doing great Mr Judt.  She’s waking up right now and everything went extremely well.”  Whew!  To say it was a relief to hear is to not say nearly enough.  My baby girl was alive and well and coming home.


Baby Girl
So in honor of my baby girl making it through surgery I dug deep in to my parental trove of recipes for that one thing I know would make me feel better about . . . everything!




Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Betty Crocker’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake
1/4   cup butter or margarine
2/3   cup packed brown sugar
9   slices pineapple in juice (from 14-oz can), drained
9   maraschino cherries without stems, if desired
1 1/3   cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1   cup granulated sugar
1/3   cup shortening butter
1 1/2    teaspoons baking powder
1/2   teaspoon salt
3/4    cup milk
1  egg

1   Heat oven to 350°F. In 9-inch square a round cast iron pan, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over melted butter. Arrange pineapple slices over brown sugar. Place cherry in center of each pineapple slice.
2   In medium bowl, beat remaining ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter over pineapple and cherries.
3   Bake 50 to 55 30 – 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately place heatproof serving plate upside down over pan; turn plate and pan over. Leave pan over cake a few minutes so brown sugar mixture can drizzle over cake; remove pan. Serve warm. Store cake loosely covered.


My baby girl feels better, I feel better. Make this and you’ll feel better too!!


Eat Well and Smile Often!




p.s. Upside down, who’s to say what’s impossible and can’t be found?
I don’t want this feeling to go away
Please don’t go away


Ancho Chili Chocolate Cake!!

I had a hankerin’ this weekend to try a chili chocolate cake idea.  Rather than risk too many unknowns I used a Duncan Hines cake mix and mixed it exactly to the recipe.  To that I added 4 teaspoons of Ancho Chili powder.  A lesson I learned long ago, and one I should have heeded this time, is to roast the spices before adding them to a dish. I added raw chili powder and while I am pleased with the basic results the pepper flavor came through as raw and dusty. Roasting matures the flavor of spices giving the dish a great richness. This is definitely a recipe I will try again.

I topped this cake off with an Espresso Cardamom French Buttercream (read one whole pound of butter.) The frosting . . . divine!




6 egg yolks, large,    whipped until light and fluffy

1 cup sugar
1/4 water     mix together in saucepan and boil until 235 degrees F

Pour a thin stream of sugar directly into rapidly beating egg yolks until fully incorporated. Continue beating until side of bowl is cool.

1 lb soft butter    whip pieces of butter, 2 tablespoons in size and one at a time, into egg and sugar mixture until fully incorporated.

1/4 lb powdered sugar    add powdered sugar as needed to increase volume and develop the correct consistency. Buttercream should be lite and sweet and not overly buttery tasting.

1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 cup espresso, fresh

Add flavorings to buttercream

Eat with spoon or frost cake – your call