Category Archives: Cakes & Pies

Deep South Tomato Pie

The end of tomato season is almost tragic.  Not only is this favorite food lying low for four or five months but it’s an obvious sign that summer is over.  Pools are way too cold to dip a toe in.   Cotton nightgowns have been put away and it’s dark out at 6:00 p.m.  I told a friend it makes me feel like Persephone on her way to the underworld.  I hate you, Hades, and your stupid pomegranate, too!  On the upside we have college ball which I’m crazy about.  Plus this is the time of year when Trader Joe’s carries brussel sprouts on the stalk, figs are in season and one can work out outside and not faint from heat stroke.  Tomatoes, though, are not the sweet, juicy apples of love they were just last month.  It’s okay if the last of the tomatoes just don’t have enough flavor because this is the recipe which will make them sing.  Baked with a generous amount of fresh basil and grated cheeses, this pie is heaven served next to a homemade mixed green salad.  Tomato Pie has been around forever in the South and not only makes wise use of the last-of-the-season fruit but is a perennial favorite at baptisms, first communions, funerals, brunches and pot lucks.  I always make two; one for my house and one to give away or take to one of the aforementioned functions.  The pie needs to be enjoyed relatively soon after baking as the bottom will get soggy if it sits around too long, as with any pie.  It can be re-heated but only in the oven.  Heated in a microwave turns this little jewel into a squishy, wet mess.  It’s super easy to prepare and the crust is merely Bisquick and milk mixed together and patted into your pan.  There’s no ice-cold, cubed butter or rolling out involved.  And everybody loves it.  So when you’re craving some ‘maters but Mother Earth has other ideas, try this recipe out.  It won’t let you down and Fall’s injustices will turn into Autumn’s glories!

 

Deep South Tomato Pie

  • Servings: one 9 inch deep dish pie
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and cut into thin ribbons
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise, Duke’s or Hellman’s
  • about 2 pounds not-so-ripe tomatoes, peeled, sliced and drained on a thick layer of paper towels.  It’s okay if you don’t quite have the 2 pounds but you don’t want more as the ingredients will over flow when the pie is baked.  We’ve all been there!
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and cover lightly a 9″ pie pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  2. Place cheddar, basil, parmesan and mayonnaise in a medium-sized bowl and mix until completely combined.  Set aside.
  3. While the tomatoes drain on the paper towels, mix the Bisquick with the milk in a medium size bowl until a dough ball has formed.
  4. Dump the dough into the pie pan and lightly grease your hands.  Gently press the dough evenly over the bottom of the dish and all the way up the sides.
  5. Using your fingers or a pastry brush spread the mustard over the pressed pie shell.
  6. Sprinkle tomatoes with the black pepper and layer the tomatoes evenly over the pie shell.
  7. Cover the tomatoes with the cheese mixture and spread evenly.  I find breaking it apart with my hands is easiest.
  8. Bake in the oven for 60-90 minutes until the cheese turns a warm, golden color.
  9. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes prior to serving to make for easier slicing.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen .com

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Deep South Co-Cola Cake

This past weekend was the annual oratorical competition for the regional at Saint Demetrios church here in Fort Lauderdale.  Middle schoolers and high schoolers from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi came for the weekend each hoping to take home the gold, a chance at the national competition to be held this June in Boston.  Although it is voluntary, “the oratorical” was a mandatory exercise for our son James; mean, demanding parents that we are.  But James did well.  Extremely well and, I have to say, the competition certainly honed James’ public speaking skills.  To this day he has no self-doubts, fears or hesitation taking a microphone and making a presentation in front of any one, no matter the number of people gathered.  Representing the southeast region, James competed the last three years of high school traveling to New Orleans, Knoxville and Clearwater.  It was in Clearwater, his senior year, that I met a girl who made such an impression on me.  We were drawn to each other like magnets and the more we talked the more we found in common with each other.  Her name was Harriet, born and raised in Rome, Georgia, a sassy, stunning Southern belle through and through.  At the Saturday night celebratory dinner in Clearwater, I invited the moms at our table for a late night drinking and gab fest in the lobby of the hotel where all of us were staying.  Any mom could join us the only caveat being was you had to wear your pajamas and bring your own hooch, every Southern girl’s dream.  The kids all knew each other, the Greek network is positively astounding, and had planned a midnight pool party.  Sippin’ and sassin’ in the lobby also allowed us to keep one eye on the kids.  It goes without saying, we had a blast!  All of us tried to outdo the others with tales of our husbands and children.  We screamed and cackled with laughter until tears came out of our eyes.  At some ungodly hour the bottles of booze were empty and we all stumbled back to our rooms but not before Harriet and I exchanged emails and cell numbers.  By then we were solid, blood sisters.  Back in our home towns we texted and emailed frequently, learning about each other and liking each other more and more.  She lived in Warren, Georgia, a rural town, with her husband and two hunky sons on a working farm.  They had a lake or stream where the boys brought home tons of freshly caught fish all neatly strung waiting for Harriet to fry ’em up.  Harriet’s role on the farm besides wife and mom was raising baby lambs.  All this was straight up my alley but this was the clincher…she, also, had a blog.  We gave each other shout outs on our posts, commiserated one with the other frustrations we encountered,  encouraged and  supported the habit of daily writing .  We shared intimacies only lifelong friends divulge.  Serious stuff.  And we laughed.  Boy, did we laugh.  Harriet had been published several times in different local publications, her forte being daily life in rural Georgia.  I recall one Thanksgiving article she wrote dealt with the most shameful fact that she, the only living Southern woman, could not, to save her life, make gravy.  She crept into the local Piggly Wiggly, surreptitiously grabbed a couple of jars of ready made gravy and casually ambled up to the check out line.  Her heart was pounding like a rabbit on crack as she looked around to see if anyone she knew had seen her.  Didn’t matter.  She knew she was dead meat…small town like Warren an’ all.  Sure enough, the jars wouldn’t scan.  The sweet check out girl took one look at them and asked, “Miz Jacobs, you shore you wont that gravy stuff in the jar?  Whah don’ chew jes make it?”  In spite of Harriet’s protests the check out girl reassured her saying, “Now don’t chew worry, Miz Jacobs, ah kin git that price fir ya.”  Harriet hissed, “No!  No!  Ah don’t wont it!  Stop!  It’s okay.  Ah don’t wont it.”  Too late.  BobbySue, the check out girl was on the microphone an’ you know what she was sayin’.  “Price check own aisle 4.  Ah don’ know wah, but Miz Jacobs wonts some a that store bought gravy an’ ah don tole ‘er is B-A-D, bad but she wonts it so could somebody puhleeze check the price?”  The manager replied on HIS microphone, “Miz Jacobs wonts that? Joo tell ‘er it ain’t as good as homemade?  Wale, okay…ah guess.  Tell ‘er tuh hang own an’ ahl check.”  Harriet and I howled with laughter.  “Oh, my stars! Whad joo do?”, I asked.  “Ah jes threw some money down, grabbed the gravy and ran.  I had to have gravy fer Thanksgiving!  My boys get hungry an’ wont all the fixin’s!”  Oh, my goodness, but that girl could tell a story.  Tragically, she died in the Fall of 2014 and I miss her terribly, as I would blood.  I still cry for her in the privacy of my bathroom, where I do my best crying.  I wasn’t able to attend the kid’s presentations at the oratorical competition yesterday.  Brings back too many memories.  But I made this cake.  An old-fashioned, Southern, country cake, sinfully sweet made in her honor.  Meanwhile, Harriet, I know you’re in heaven showin’ everybody just how Southern sassy’s done!

This is probably the sweetest cake I’ve EVER tasted!  Consequently, a little goes a long way.  All the recipes I have call for 2 cups of sugar.  I cut it back to 1 1/2 cups.  Also, most of the recipes list 1 1/2 cups of miniature marshmallows to be mixed into the batter.  I’m not a fan of marshmallows so, like Cracker Barrel, I chose to spread Marshmallow Fluff over the still hot out of the oven cake followed by a chocolate coca cola frosting.  Some recipes call for a scattering of toasted, chopped pecans either in the cake batter or on the icing and I happen to embrace this idea.  The savory pecans offset the wallop of sweetness each bite delivers.  It’s best to let the cake cool for a few hours prior to serving so that the icing can set.  Wrapped tightly with tin foil and left in the pan, this cake will keep for a good 3-4 days out of the refrigerator.

Deep South Co-Cola Cake

  • Servings: 15-20
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup Coke
  • 1/2 cup whole buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 7-ounce jar Marshmallow Fluff

Second icing:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 6 tablespoons Coke
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Cover a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  3. Toast chopped pecans in oven for 7-10 minutes and set aside.
  4. Pour flour and sugar in a medium size bowl and sift together.  Set aside.
  5. In a heavy bottom pot melt the butter then add the cocoa powder and Coke and bring to a boil stirring well.  Take off the heat.
  6. To the pot add the flour sugar mixture and stir well.
  7. Add the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla extract mixing thoroughly until all ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth.
  8. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes until the middle of the cake springs back when touched.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and, using all the Marshmallow Fluff, immediately drop four or five dollops (the entire jar) on the top of the hot cake.
  10. With a spatula or the back of a spoon gently spread the Fluff taking cake not to tear the cake.
  11. While the cake and topping cool a bit, prepare the second icing.
  12. In a medium saucepan melt the butter and add the cocoa and Coke.  Stir until completely combined.
  13. Remove from the heat and add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract to the pot.
  14. Mix until smooth and there are no lumps.
  15. Spoon the icing over the Marshmallow Fluff stirring the icing all the while.
  16. Allow the cake to cool at least 2-3 hours before serving to allow the cake and icings to set.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Southern Peanut Butter Cake Squares

Growing up here in Fort Lauderdale I was lucky enough to attend a grade school close to home, with all my friends from kindergarten, boasting a killer baking staff.  The East Side School cafeteria ladies didn’t open boxes when it came to cakes, pies and cookies for us kiddies.  No ma’am.  The predominantly black women who staffed the cafeteria were accomplished cooks and bakers who cranked out old school baked goods on a daily basis.  They were kind to all of us students and we in turn bowed down to them with reverence and respect because they were grown ups…you watch your p’s and q’s around grown ups.  These ladies were experts in the kitchen and coming from a home where Mama didn’t cook or bake I was highly appreciative and anticipated lunch every day knowing it would be far better than anything I would ever be served at home.  Do you recall the peanut butter cake you had in grade school?  The squares were heavy and thick in texture yet the cakes melted in your mouth leaving a certain salty sweet taste.  Oh, heaven.  Lately I’ve been craving that same salty sweet sensation and set about to have it.  I came up with this.  Alone in the house with two pans was virtual diet suicide.  I took four squares over to my friend Rob’s house.  He had fiddled with my father’s ancient bedside table lamp which wasn’t working.  At 94 years old Daddy really depends on that lamp for the inordinate amount of reading he does.  And after 5 minutes of fooling with it Rob had tightened it up, fine tuned the sockets and turned the on/off chains to a place where Dad could control the lamp with ease.  Make my Daddy happy, make me happy.  I made Rob take a bite of the cake and watched his reaction like a hawk.  His first words after clearing his palate of the dense stuff were, “I’m sorry Miz Whitcomb, but I don’t have my math homework cuz I didn’t do it!”  He was back in grade school and that’s what I wanted.  Old school peanut butter cake will take you back…and in a good way.

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This is a crazy simple cake recipe.  It’s best served with coffee or milk.  Iced water will do but coffee or milk are best.   When the cake smells done it probably is done.  I have light-colored baking sheets however if yours are dark keep an eye on them as they’ll bake your cake much faster.  It’s a thin cake, not big and puffy and you don’t want it to burn.  When preparing the icing you must stir continuously.  I can’t stress that enough.  Peanut butter scorches easily.   But if you use a whisk and keep stirring until smooth you will be rewarded with a trip back in time.  When you serve this to your children or grandchildren you can regale them with stories of how you had to walk 10 miles uphill BOTH WAYS to school.  Enjoy!

Southern Peanut Butter Squares

  • Servings: 24 squares
  • Difficulty: easy
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Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup butter (12 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Icing:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups confectioners sugars
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Set aside a standard 12’X17″ light-colored baking sheet with a lip or 2 12″X9″ light colored baking sheets each with a lip.
  2. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan combine peanut butter, butter, water and whisk over medium heat until completely combined.
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in milk, eggs and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the flour mixture in the large bowl and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  6. Pour into baking sheet/ sheets and bake 18-20 minutes or until the sides of the cake pull away from the pan.  If using dark-colored baking sheets test for doneness at 15 minutes.
  7.   Remove cake from oven and cool on cooling rack, make the icing as the cake cools.

Icing:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine peanut butter, milk and butter and whisk until all ingredients have dissolved and are combined.
  2. Add confectioners sugar and continue whisking until completely smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and pour over cake.
  4. Allow icing to set, about 30 minutes.
  5. Cut into 3″X3″ squares and serve.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Double Strawberries and Cream Cheese in Puff Pastry

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When last Jim and I were in Paris we had the good fortune to meet several times with my extended family.  They entertained us as only Parisians can, in fine restaurants with lots of yummy champagne.  My cousins also rounded up the family who were in town for a Sunday afternoon reunion in the house of my father’s cousin, Marie Claire, where we spent the afternoon reminiscing  over days long past and laughing at our young foolishness, sipping champagne and nibbling on a gorgeous mirabelle plum tart made by my cousin Hubert’s wife, Anne.  Marie Claire’s apartment had been her sister, Francoise’, and that was where I began my first adventure in France oh, so many years ago.  Whenever I went to Paris I stayed with Francoise and having gone all over the city by foot I came to know her neighborhood of Neuilly-sur-Seine pretty well.  With Mama and without, I took the Metro to get around, and found the walk to the station and back to the apartment an absolute delight.  Magnificent  maple trees lined the streets leading to her house and, I have to tell you, I never felt prettier or happier than when I my feet hit those sidewalks.  I felt as though I was walking on air.  Francoise’ building was, and still is, magnificent.  The entrance hall was mahogany, the floor large black and white tiles whilst an antiquated brass elevator  waited at the right…or was it the on the left?  Regardless, it was there in all its creaky, rumbling glory.  However, if you chose not to wait, an exquisite caracol staircase was ready to take you to the second floor.  Although the elevator was majestic it was still a bit utilitarian so I always chose to take the staircase, resplendent with a dark ruby Persian runner held in place by old brass stair runners tacked into the well-worn mahogany steps,  stained obsidian and sunken in the middle by years of use.  And the apartment!  I remember some rooms being sea-green in color, enormous oils of our ancestors hung in heavy gold frames on most walls and the dining room and her generous bathroom completely beguiled me with its charming fireplace and mammoth, cast-iron claw-foot bathtub.  For me Francoise’ house was, and will always be, the height of luxury.  She introduced me to the French press for coffee, the beauty and pleasure of engraved calling cards, the importance of knowing how to read a map and the notion that a sterling porringer makes a fine ash tray.

Treasured bits from years past. Crazy about her calling card!
Treasured bits from years past. Crazy about her calling card!

Meals were small and only when necessary.  We were too busy to eat.  We left the flat early in the morning.   Most days Francoise went to her office where she wrote for various magazines while Mama and I were off to museums, shops and concerts, all possible by taking the Metro.  Towards the end of the day we met up for a glass of wine or champagne then back to the apartment to dress for dinner.  How I love that apartment and how special it was to be back in it with Hubert, Anne and their daughters and Grand-cousin, Marie Claire.  Still lovely and well-appointed with family pieces but now with bursts of life and color from the artwork of many grandchildren.  Merci encore, Marie Claire, pour un apres-midi splendide!

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This pastry is not only easy but dramatic in its presentation.  The puff pastry is store-bought and although it appears braided it is not.  Strips of dough are folded over and the end result is one good-looking dessert.  The dried and fresh berries compliment each other quite well, the dried berries mixed with cream cheese lend a creamy texture while the fresh give a juicy blast of flavor.

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Double Strawberry and Cream Cheese in Puff Pastry

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 12-14 fresh, ripe strawberries, sliced vertically 1/4″ in thickness
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, I like using vanilla sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1.2-ounce bag or 2 cups of freeze-dried strawberries, available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 (that’s 1 sheet) of a 17.3 ounce box of puff pastry, thawed but kept in the refrigerator until needed
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.
  2. Toss the fresh strawberry slices with tablespoon of sugar and set aside to macerate.
  3. In a blender, mini-food processor or magic bullet process the freeze-dried strawberries until they are the texture of powder.
  4. In a small bowl mix the cream cheese until it becomes loose and easy to handle.
  5.  Add the strawberry powder and confectioners’ sugar to the cream cheese and stir until both are completely mixed together.
  6. Remove the sheet of puff pastry from the refrigerator and gently unfold on top of the baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil.  Place the pastry so the fold marks run vertically.  The pastry will look like 3 equal rectangles attached together by the folds.
  7. Working as quickly as possible so the dough stays chilled, lightly roll out the dough so that it measures roughly 9 1/2″X 10 1/2″.
  8. Leaving the inside rectangle intact, make 1/2″ diagonal cuts into the two outside pastry rectangles.  Discard the 4 corners of the pastry.
  9. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly down the center rectangle all the way to the cuts.  Mound the fresh berries on top of the cream cheese mixture evenly.
  10. Fold the top and bottom flap of dough over the berry filling.
  11. Fold the diagonal cuts over the berry mixture alternating left and right until the entire pastry is braided.  Tuck in any loose ends.
  12. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg.
  13. Bake pastry for 30-35 minutes or until golden.
  14. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

Spanish Fig and Almond Cake, the ultimate in fast and sophisticated

There’s nothing like a big box of presents coming from a foreign land to  catapult two little girl’s excitement for Christmas to a much higher level.  Well, maybe it wasn’t quite a foreign land but 55 years ago Puerto Rico was far away and exotic.  Mama’s family was old-world and traditional.  That meant sweet treats, heavy books and gifts from Spain.  And although the presents could not and would not be opened until Christmas morning, Mama always zeroed in on one particular box.  Cutting through the tape and ribbon, she would carefully smooth the festive paper, setting it aside to be reused some other time.  And as older sister, Cynthia, and I watched with huge eyes,  Mama would unwrap the thin, rectangular box deliberately but with enjoyment.  We all knew what was waiting within.  I ran to get Daddy’s one tool, a wooden handled hammer.  Slowly Mama pulled out a buff colored block of Spanish “Turron” or nougat, studded with  savory roasted almonds sweeping in shades from fawn to cafe au lait and swathed between two thin sheets of rice paper.  As if she’d been doing it all her life, Mama took that hammer and wailed on the confection until a fat, chunky corner came off.  Away Cynthia went with her little piece of paradise.  Bang, bang, bang and it was my turn to savor the Turron.  A few more whacks and Mama had her piece.  We had albums of Spanish Christmas carols playing on the record player, a magnificent, artisan made manger and massive family bible, all presents from her father and all from Spain.  Other than that our lives were understated and straightforward.  These were simple times when extravagance was frowned upon.   These were times when hours were spent in front of the Christmas tree practicing handwriting for our letters to Santa.  We always had a real tree but some years it was the size of a shrub as that was all my parents could afford.  Times when money was so tight Mama put our presents on layaway at Woolworth’s, the local five-and-dime store and we received one present apiece.  That was a wonderful Christmas, its essence captured below in that old black and white photo.  We felt an abundance of riches with our gift Mama had scrimped and saved to give her girls.

Look at the joy on Cynthia's face. We received our dollies, matching high chairs and cribs canopied with pompoms!
Look at the delight on Cynthia’s face. We received our dollies, matching high chairs and cribs canopied with pompoms!

These were times when a holiday outing was savoring the manger scene at our church after Mass.  A complete farm was displayed with donkeys, sheep and cows frozen in an Italianate style behind baby Jesus’ cradle.  Straw stuck out from every corner as the magnificently beautiful Virgin Mary gazed down with such immense love at her chubby, new-born toddler, golden curls shining in the candlelight; the angel of the Lord above the crèche announcing to all His birth.  It was heavenly to us, full of wonder and captivating our complete attention until Mama said it was time to leave.  Mama didn’t know how to cook so there was no such thing as baking Christmas cookies or cakes.   No.  We used our imaginations that Mama had so carefully cultivated to wile away the hours.  Our dollies danced ballet to the Spanish carols.  We unwrapped and wrapped the presents we had made in school for our parents…really they were for Mama.  I still have the hand print I made for her in first grade hanging in my kitchen.  I remember fretting and being worried sick that it would break after some classmate spread the vicious rumor that many pieces of pottery explode when fired in a kiln and I would be left with nothing to offer.  And we had the big box that came every year from her family in Puerto Rico making certain we knew our Spanish customs.  Making certain Mama didn’t feel alone in this town of Yankees.  And making certain that until Daddy’s business had taken off we would all have a generous, plentiful Christmas.

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This is one of those great recipes that takes two minutes and you walk away.  I initially purchased dried figs from the bulk section of my Whole Food store.  Before I began snipping off the stems, I ate one of the figs and, boy, am I glad I did.  Hard and tough was what I spat out.  I purchased another pound from my neighborhood Publix.  They were packed in 9-ounce, air-tight plastic boxes and worked out great.  These figs had been dried yet were still soft and moist.  Most recipes call for the ever pricey Marcona almonds from Spain.  Once again, glad I tasted the batch I bought.  I paid way too much to bring home this stale and salty mess.  Again Publix came to the rescue with a 7-ounce plastic box.  They had their skins on but here’s how to get those skins off lickety-split.  Place the amount of almonds you will be using in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover completely.  20 minutes to 30 minutes later, squeeze one almond at a time and the skin will slip right off.  Takes two seconds.  Here’s the most important part of this recipe.  This cake is good as is but served with cheese, preferably Manchego cheese, it will transform your taste buds.  Somehow the Manchego brings out a deep floral flavor from the figs.  The cloves and cinnamon disappear yet their earthy tones let you know they’re doing their part.  Served with hard salami, thick, crisp Cuban crackers, some nuts and a bit of fruit your guests will be amazed.  The cake does taste richer if allowed  to sit 2-3 days before serving but it’s still pretty terrific served the same day it’s prepared.  I hope you enjoy this Christmas treat!

Spanish Fig and Almond Cake or Pan de Higo

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 pound dried black Mission figs
  • 1/2 cup skinless, whole almonds
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 tablespoons brandy
  1. Snip the tough stem off the figs and place the figs in a food processor, processing until almost smooth.  You want a little texture.
  2. Transfer the fig paste to a medium bowl and add the almonds, mixing well.
  3. Add the sesame seeds, cinnamon and cloves evenly over the fig mixture and mix well.
  4. Add the brandy and mix until all ingredients have been thoroughly combined.
  5. Line a small pan with plastic wrap.  I used a small, fluted cake pan that holds about 2 1/3 cups.  Transfer fig mixture to the lined pan and pat firmly and evenly in place.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.  The cake may be served right away but tastes better, more mellow, after resting up to a few days.
  7. This cake will keep well-covered and not refrigerated for weeks.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

No-bake Diplomatico Cake

Part store bought, part homemade, this cake is a winner.  How can you lose when you’re working with coffee, rum, chocolate and cream?  I started making this cake back in the ’80’s and it has never let me down.  Light yet rich and luxurious, Diplomatico cake is typically credited to Marcella Hazan.  I lost my original recipe, however, this one is quite close to hers.  A cheap, store bought pound cake is best as it’s sturdy and will keep its shape.  It’s a super easy going recipe…a little more of this and a little less of that is not an issue.

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I’ve made it with 4 eggs and I’ve made it with 6.  Sometimes I have espresso and at times I’ve only had the morning’s cold coffee available.  It all works beautifully.  The coffee and rum are strong and aromatic.  The intense chocolate mousse inside is…well, it’s chocolate, it’s heavenly.  And that cloud of whipped cream softens and compliments the entire cake.  Keep in mind the eggs are raw, not cooked, so if anyone has allergies or food issues maybe they should have their own little dish of berries.  Hope you’ll try it!

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No-Bake Diplomatico Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup brewed espresso
  • 3 tablespoons rum, preferably dark or golden
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 12-ounce store-bought pound cake, cut into 1/4″-1/2″ slices, you’ll need about 16 slices
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Line a 1 1/2 quart loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. Lay the cake slices out flat so they are not overlapping each other.
  3. Combine espresso, rum and 3 teaspoons of sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Using a pastry brush,  paint the espresso mixture evenly over one side of each slice.
  4. Line the bottom and sides of the loaf pan with the cake and the pan and remaining slices aside.
  5. In a medium bowl whip the egg yolks until pale and thick.  Add the remaining 3 teaspoons of sugar and mix well.  Set aside.
  6. Melt chocolate over a double boiler and slowly mix into the whipped egg yolks.  Do not allow to cool completely.
  7. Whip the egg white until stiff peaks form.  Mix a little of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture just to loosen it up then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
  8. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared loaf pan and cover with the remaining cake slices, coffee side up.
  9. Cover cake with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator over night.
  10. Prior to serving turn cake onto serving platter and discard plastic wrap.
  11. Pour whipping cream into a medium size bowl and whip until soft peaks form.  Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract and continue whipping until stiff, firm peaks form.
  12. Smooth the cream over the cake and garnish with berries, shaved chocolate or nuts.
  13. Store in the refrigerator.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Greek Spiced Pound Cake – Melomacarona Cake

I started working on the recipe for this cake after dreaming of the spice sheet cake of my youth.  And the creamy icing that topped the perfectly cut cake square the nice cafeteria lady handed me.  But I wanted the cake updated…steeped in a syrup of some sort…something denser than my grade school fluff cake…with hints of rum…and orange.  No easy feat for me.  My projects, culinary or otherwise, are typically crazy great or resounding, flat-out failures.  And if the project was too involved there was a good chance I might lose interest and walk away.  That happened often when I decided to rearrange my bedroom during those difficult teen years.  I couldn’t move my furniture around until I had separated the mountains of clothes  into ‘these are to be hung up and put away’ and ‘these are dirty’.  They had to be addressed; there was no manner of walking through my room without shuffling through clothes up to your knees.  That in itself was project and took the better part of a couple of hours.  But let’s pretend I did tackle that portion of redecoration.  Because after that labour books, shoes, plates, record albums, tennis racquets and tennis balls  all had to be dragged out from under my bed and also put away.  I know I drove my mother cray-cray.  By then I was exhausted and the bedroom truly looked as though a bomb went off.  There was a good chance my “new look” would take a day or two.  Dust bunnies the size of grape fruit were not uncommon.  Eventually I would finish because I had to sleep somewhere.  What a mess.  And Mama always, without fail, instructed our housekeeper, Frankie, NOT to help me in any way.  Well, sometimes my recipes are kind of like that.  I add this, I take out that.  I go back to the grocery store for the third time that day.  I forget to take out my butter…or eggs.  I spend a fortune on quality ingredients and the end result turns out to be disappointingly mediocre…at best.  But every now and again I come up with something even I like.  And this is one of those recipes.  It was a spiced rum cake steeped in a brown cane sugar syrup until my son, James, had a taste.  “This isn’t new.” Me, “Yes, it is!  I just made it for the first time.”  James, “Mama!  C’mon. You make this all the time.”  And that’s when I realized why the cake tasted so familiar.  The ingredients are somewhat similar to the celebrated Greek honey and spice cookie, the Melomakarona.  Except my cake doesn’t call for honey.  Rum, baby.  It calls for rum…not much, just enough to make its mark.  Hope you enjoy it!

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This cake has the density of a pound cake and, like pound cake, the flavor is markedly better, fuller, a day or two after baking.  The syrup is rich and earthy due to the base of panela, also known as piloncillo, a minimally processed product of cane juice boiled down to a thick syrup which is then hardened into a hard-as-a-rock brick or cone-shaped “pilon”.

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Panela is pure and clean with deep notes of earth and smoke…an almost scorched flavor.  It speaks of rum and caramel and butter.  Rock hard, it can be grated into baked goods, BBQ sauce, rum and tequila drinks or, as in this recipe, melted stove top.  It can be found in the Hispanic section of your grocery store or in any Latin American market.  Easy to find, it puts the standard, one-dimensional brown sugar to shame.  This stuff is cheap, stores well and is downright magical.  You’ll love it!

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Greek Spiced Pound Cake

  • Servings: 12-16
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups brown sugar, light or dark
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange zest, about 1 large navel orange
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup spiced rum
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pound Panela or Piloncillo
  • 2 tablespoons spiced rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. Cover the inside of a 10″X3 1/2″, or 12-cup, bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Scatter the pecans evenly over the bottom of the sprayed bundt pan and set aside.
  4. In a medium size bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and salt.  Whisk the dry ingredients until all are completely combined.  Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl cream butter until light and fluffy.
  6. Add the brown sugar to the butter and mix well.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat the batter at each addition only until you no longer see the yolk.
  8. Add the orange zest and mix just to combine.
  9. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternating with the milk and 1/3 cup of spiced rum.  Begin and end with the flour.  Mix only until ingredients are incorporated to avoid a tough cake.
  10. Pour batter into bundt pan and smooth the top of the batter.
  11. Bake for one hour or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.
  12. Cool on a rack
  13. While the cake is cooling, pour into a medium saucepan 2 cups water.  Add the panela and simmer, stirring occasionally to help break up the panela.
  14. Simmer until the syrup thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
  15. Remove from heat and stir in the 2 tablespoons of spiced rum and vanilla extract.
  16. Spoon evenly over the top and sides of the warm cake, cover with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit in the bundt pan over night.
  17. So as not to scratch the pan, use a plastic knife to loosen the inner and outer edges of the cake.
  18. Invert onto a platter and serve.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com