Tag Archives: cake

pieces and versions of gingerbread

Mr. Glad and I were taking a walk along the bike path yesterday afternoon when he noticed a sweet aroma in the air. “Gingerbread or something like that,” he guessed. Ah, gingerbread, I thought, that is just the thing for a birthday cake tonight.

Our friend May was going to be at our house for dinner and I had planned a belated birthday celebration; when we got home I began to put this one together. It’s the recipe I’ve used most often for 40+ years, the original idea of “Wheatless Gingerbread” found in Joy of Cooking.

I wrote about my history with that cookbook last year, and my intention to get the latest edition, which I have since done — actually, it was a gift from my husband — partly because it is the 75th Anniversary Edition. This book includes many recipes from previous editions, plus many new and modern ones, and I do like it. So far my only complaint is the sans serif font that it is printed in.Wheatless Gingerbread in Joy

But it doesn’t have this strange recipe that I customized into many incarnations, hoping to make it ever healthier and more to my liking. Always I was trying to make pastries and baked goods less sweet because that way you can also better taste the butter and everything else.

(It just occurred to me that if you make your cakes too sweet you also won’t be able to be as discerning as Bettie Botta of tongue twister fame, who “said this butter’s bitter if I put it in my batter it will make my batter bitter but a bit of better butter will make my bitter batter better.”)

The last version before this had been enough to fill a lasagne pan, because healthy gingerbread is something you can’t have too much of, if you have at least a couple of hungry kids around. But! Now we don’t have any of those – so last night I made yet another improved version, cutting the old quantities in two again. Also, May can’t eat milk products, so I substituted coconut oil for the butter in this one.

The original recipe that called for cornstarch had the most tender and crumbly texture, and even this improved cake does not hold together well (as we found last night!). Especially if it’s children who will be eating it, either have a dog to lap those tasty crumbs off the floor, or take the cake outdoors for a picnic.

Wheatless Gingerbread

1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
3 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole rye flour
1 cup brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves

Put the oil, sugar and molasses in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir to melt. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Sift the remaining dry ingredients together. Add the eggs to the liquid ingredients, then stir in the dry ingredients and pour into a greased 10- or 11-cup pan.

Bake in an oven preheated to 325° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

border grey-divider-no-background-hi

When it was nearly time to serve the cake I began to tell May about my memory of a birthday cake she had made for me almost 30 years ago, and how when it broke into pieces she used extra ice cream in the seams to reassemble the pieces. This had made an extra yummy cake and no one minded a bit. We laughed about this and other evidence of our similar cooking styles.

May was hovering with her camera over her cake, which made me think to remove it to a plate to make it more photogenic,May gingerbread 14 and what do you know? It broke into three pieces! May thought it a special sign of blessing that the shallow divot off the bottom was in the shape of a heart. So that it would be visible for the photo op, before I set that last piece back into place I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on the rest of the surface.

There were no complaints about our warm and homey, lovey and spicy treat. Happy Birthday, May!

Irish Apple Cake with Custard

apple cake 3Sue posted this recipe for Irish Apple Cake on her blog The View from Great Island, and I put one together tonight as I was making dinner and ducking out of the kitchen every few minutes to watch our San Francisco Giants win the first game of the National League playoffs – yay! It’s a wonder I didn’t burn something; as it was, it took me until bedtime to get the last pot, bowl and springform pan washed.

< (After you spreaapple cake 1d the cake batter in the bottom of the pan, you make a layer of the sliced apples.)

The only thing I changed was the custard sauce, for which I cut the sugar by a third, and it was very nice. The whole cake is rich and very appley without being overly sweet, so that the streusel topping, for example, can be enjoyed in all its buttery crunchiness and you don’t feel that you are eating a caapple cake 2ndy bar.

(A streusel topping covers the apples as the final layer.) >

I used some Gala apples because I find the recommended Granny Smith to have a one-note sour taste; but the Galas were kind of blah so I added the juice of a lemon to brighten them up. I wouldn’t cut back on the amount of apple – in fact, I’d like to experiment and add one more apple, but next time I will go out of my way to find more flavorful fruit. Other than the barest hint of cinnamon there is not a lot of intense flavor to the cake, so the taste of the fruit is important.

My springform pan was 10″ in diameter instead of the 9″ that was called for, but the cake turned out lovely. It was ready about the time the baseball game was over, and we were in a good mood then and felt celebratory. Mr. Glad liked the cake very well.

apple cake 5

Birthday Cake

P1100923August is a busy birthday month in our family. Our new son-in-law has brought the total number of celebrations to five, and two of them were the cause of me baking yet another cake recently. My children are surprised that I have learned to accept how cakes are: they require that I follow the recipe pretty closely. So, finding a good recipe is the secret.

This one that I made for Maggie and Pat was easier than the lemon cake, only because for me icing a cake is less tedious than trying to get a glaze to soak in. And any children around appreciate the chance to lick up any leftover frosting, more than they would glaze.

spiced layer cake for Maggie & Pat

It’s only the second time I’ve made it; the first time, I see scribbled on the print-out, was for my father-in-law’s birthday a long time ago. It’s from epicurious.com, and except for decreasing the sugar in the cake a teensy bit, I didn’t change anything. The three layers make an impression, but the flavors of orange and spice and cream cheese blending all together in and on a very moist cake — that’s what wins the prize.

Find it here: Spiced Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

lemon trees and cake

lemon cake 7-27-14My father scorned Meyer lemons. Growing his own lemons made him, and all of our family, partial to the intensity of a Normal Lemon. If anyone wants to give me lemons, Meyer or otherwise, I will never turn them down, but I also prefer what I grew up with.



When I cook with lemons I usually think of my father and our trees. If as I child I ever found my father lying on the living room floor it was not because he’d been wrestling with my brother, but more like he’d been wrestling with those trees. During pruning season he’d invariably put his back out doing that necessary work on our ten acres (We had twenty more acres in oranges.) That would be more than a thousand lemon trees.

precious zest

I learned to drive a tractor before I was old enough to drive a car, because Daddy needed me to pull a trailer between the rows when my sisters and I were picking the second, smaller crop of lemons that wasn’t worth hiring a whole picking crew for.

In those pictures that I retain in my mind, my brother wasn’t old enough to buckle down and help yet. He was sitting under a lemon tree crying, and the dust mixed with his tears to make a miserable face.  I must say that he’s more than made up for it in the years since, and is one of the most buckled down and hardworking people on the planet.P1100844eggs

a grandma’s trusty old sifter

The latest thing I cooked with lemons is this meltingly appealing cake, which Mr. Glad requested for his birthday last month. That he wanted cake was very strange, because it’s been Blackberry Pie as long as anyone can remember, and a good month to be born if you want that. But I was happy to oblige with the cake, and I devoted most of one Saturday to making it, so I had plenty of time to enjoy the process.

In the past I’d only baked this glazed cake for tea parties that I used to have in a bygone era. Now that it’s been revived in my repertoire I’ll want to make it more often. It uses a lot of lemons in the form of juice, and in this recent case, even more fruits to get enough lemon zest to impart the deep lemony flavor. It can be made up to three days ahead and freezes well.

Lemon-Sour Cream Cake


1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large or extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon minced lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 cup sour cream

The Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely minced lemon zest


Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9-inch lightweight Bundt pan. Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder together into a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

very thick and fluffy batter

In a medium mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, minced zest and lemon extract and mix for 2 more minutes.

Reduce the speed to low or pulse with the food processor. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until well combined. Add half of the sour cream, mixing constantly, then add the rest of the flour and sour cream, ending with the sour cream.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and remove the pan. Make the glaze while the cake is still warm.

P1100842To make the glaze, using a fine-meshed strainer, sift the powdered sugar into a small, non-aluminum bowl. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest and whisk to break up lumps.

Transfer the cake to a rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper. Using a long skewer, poke holes in the cake at 1-inch intervals, almost going through to the bottom. Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, giving it time to absorb as you pour. Let the cake cool to room temperature. Cut into wedges and serve.


Every time I make this cake, about 1/4 cup of the glaze ends up on the baking sheet under the cake, and would be wasted and washed down the drain in all its precious lemonzestiness if I didn’t find a way to use it. This timP1100881e I whipped some heavy cream and slowly drizzled the syrup into it at the end when it was getting nice and thick. I froze the mixture in custard cups, and ate one of them the next day. It was quite delicious!