Irish Whiskey Cake

This year I got a little carried away with making Irish recipes for our St Paddy’s Day dinner.  Here today, we have the meal’s finale; Irish Whiskey Cake.

Irish Whiskey Cake

Irish Whiskey Cake

You might be tempted to call this a “drunken cake” because of the whiskey content.  But fear not, the alcohol content evaporates with cooking, leaving behind the flavor of the whiskey.  To be really authentic, you should use Irish Whiskey, but having none in the house, I used what I had, which was an American brand of whiskey.   Can’t say I noticed a hugh difference in flavor….it’s just plain good no matter what brand you use.  Oh, and it’s very OK to adjust the amount upward if you’re so inclined.


When you look at this cake you would not suspect what’s hidden inside.  It looks like a nice golden poundcake, unassuming and quiet-like.  But wait…..what’s that ribbon of moistness lying along the bottom of the cake?  and what IS that white, crusty, crunchiness on top?  That folks, is the whiskey glaze that slowly seeps through the cake from top to bottom carrying all the whiskey flavor throughout the cake and making it super moist.  Scattered throughout my cake are finely chopped walnuts, but you could also use pecans.   For those with nut allergies, you can leave them out and still be totally satisfied with the results.

Note how the glaze pools in the recesses of the cake.

Note how the glaze pools in the recesses of the cake.

The recipe for this cake calls for baking it in a round tube pan or bundt pan, but I wanted to share the cake with another family, so I baked it in two loaf pans, and split the amount of glaze between the two cakes.  There was no problem in doing that, they both came out fine.


Yield:  1 round bundt cake, or 2 smaller loaf cakes (8″ x 4″)IMG_9423


For the cake:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix (without pudding added)
  • 1 small box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 oz. whiskey of choice ( or more?)
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk ( skim is OK)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

For the glaze:IMG_9431

  • 1/2 cup whiskey
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar


1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Generously spray a bundt cake pan or 2 loaf pans with non-stick spray, and then flour well, shaking out the excess flour.

2.  In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the cake mix, pudding mix, and eggs.  Beat well…this will be a thick mixture.


3.  In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, and whiskey.  Add to cake mixture and continue to beat 3 minutes.  Lastly fold in the nuts, if using.



4.  Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake for 60 minutes.   Loaf cakes may take a little less time.  Start timing at 45 minutes and watch and test for doneness.  Mine took about 50 minutes.


5.  While cake is baking, make glaze.  Place whiskey glaze ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Cook on stove top just until it begins to bubble and boil.  Set aside.

6.  When cake is out of the oven, pour the glaze slowly over the cake while it is hot and still in the pan.  It helps to absorb more quickly if you make holes all over the top of the cake with a chop stick or other fine wooden tool.  Let cake stand in the pan for at least 2 hours before removing to a rack to finish cooling.


7.  Once completely cooled, remove cake from pan.  Wrap in foil and refrigerate 12 hours or more for flavors to permeate throughout the cake.  Keep leftovers refrigerated.


SOURCE:   The Ranting Chef



Chocolate Chip Coconut Mounds

Chocolate Chip Coconut Mounds

Chocolate Chip Coconut Mounds

A bake sale table is always an inviting sight. All those assorted cakes, cookies, pies, breads and bars just begging to be taken home. Everything looks so good they practically sell themselves.

Bake sale items, by definition, are lovingly homemade in the same way as baked goods auctioned off at church suppers, or judged at country fairs.  They are the real deal, no fillers, no ingredients to prolong shelf life, or strange chemicals you can’t pronounce.



The recipe I have for you today is a bake sale favorite that contains chocolate chips, flaked coconut, and chopped walnuts.  Probably  the chocolate chips alone would be enough to entice most people, but add in the coconut and nuts, and they become chock full of true blue flavor and goodness.IMG_7483

I made these recently to bring to an end of the year picnic event.  They disappeared “quick as a wink”.  Give these chunky cookies a try for your family or the next time you’re asked to bake for a bake sale.  They are really good!!


Yield:  About 2  1/2  dozen cookies


  • 1  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons ( 1 stick plus 2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons hot water
  • 2  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (lightly packed) sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts


1.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

2.  In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter for 2 – 3 minutes on low speed.  Add the light brown sugar and beat for 30 seconds on moderate speed; add the granulated sugar and beat for 30 seconds longer.  Beat in the egg.  Blend in the hot water and vanilla extract.

3.  Add the flour in thirds, mixing well after each addition.  Remove the bowl from the beater, and stir in the coconut, chips and nuts.

Stir in chips, coconut and nuts.

Stir in chips, coconut and nuts.

Chill the dough, covered with plastic wrap, for 30 minutes.  Can leave longer if necessary, up to 48 hours.  No need to bring to room temperature prior to baking.

4.  In advance of baking, preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Drop dough in mounds of approximately 2 tablespoon size, leaving 1  1/2 inches  between cookies.  A cookie scoop helps to form uniformly sized cookies.


5.  Bake the cookies for 12 – 14 minutes, or until just set and light golden here and there around the edges and golden in spots on top.  Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to cooling racks, using a wide spatula.  Store the cookies in an airtight container, or pack in food-safe containers or bags for sale.



A little chewy, a little crunchy, totally good!

A little chewy, a little crunchy, totally good!




SOURCE:  A Country Baking Treasury by Lisa Yockelson, via Chocolatier Magazine

Orange Cardamom Madeleines

Orange Cardamom Madeleines

Orange Cardamom Madeleines

History is uncertain as to the exact origins of madeleines, but it is certain that these small, delicate cakes were first made in France.   Was it Louis XV’s father-in-law who introduced them to the court of Versailles way back in 1730?  Was it an accident discovered by a pastry chef and then kept secret for many years?  Who knows?  And really, do we care?  What matters is that these simple little cakes, these simply divine creations made of flour, butter, eggs and sugar are simply wonderful.


Madeleines conform to the configuration of the pan they are baked in.  They are small, ridged, and elongated–somewhat like a shell shape.  A madeleine made in any other form is not a madeleine.

Traditionally these cakes are not particularly sweet, and therefore appeal more to grownups sipping their tea or coffee than to children who like their treats a little sweeter.  If you have a basic recipe for madeleines it can be adapted to include add-ins like finely chopped nuts or mini chocolate chips,  or other flavors like orange or lemon.  Dusting them with a coating of powdered sugar is all that’s needed before serving, but you can make them fancy schmancy by dipping one end in melted chocolate if you like, or drizzling them with a thin icing.   These look pretty elegant on a buffet table,  say for a bridal shower, for instance.


Back some time ago I was rummaging through an “odd lots” store near me and came across a pair of madeleine pans that had a ridiculously low price tag on them.  Not one to pass up a good bargain, I bought them and then never used them.  Well, newsletters with recipes included come to my e-mail in-box every day it seems, and the latest one included a recipe for—-you guessed it—madeleines.   Ok, so that was the stimulus that brought about the response to break out the never- used-pans and make madeleines.   They came out so well that I had to share my baking efforts with you.

Making madeleines is easy, but you must allow at least 30 minutes for the dough to chill.  Otherwise, during baking, the batter will not rise into the traditional peak so necessary for a perfect madeleine.  Some of the newer madeleine pans are of the nonstick variety, which makes baking these treasures easier than ever.



Yield:   Makes 16  3-inch cakes


  • 1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pans
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest, plus 2 Tbsp. orange juice

1.   Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl.  ( I melted an extra 1 Tbsp. and used it to lightly brush the molds with a pastry brush.)  Stir in honey and vanilla.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

Silicone molds are easy to work with.  The cakes pop right out.

Silicone molds are easy to work with. The cakes pop right out.

2.   Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt in a medium bowl.

3.  In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar.  Gently add to flour mixture and stir until well combined.  Add butter mixture and fold to combine.   Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Batter will be thick.

Batter will be thick.

4.  Preheat oven to 325*F.  Brush molds with butter.  (note, I did this earlier when I melted the butter.)    Spoon batter into prepared pans, filling each mold half-way.  Tap on surface to eliminate air bubbles.

Partially filled molds.

Partially filled molds.

Bake until puffed and edges are golden,  7-8 minutes.

Puffed and golden when thoroughly baked.

Puffed and golden when thoroughly baked.

Let cool slightly, then unmold onto a cooling rack.

Unmold onto a cooling rack.

Unmold onto a cooling rack.

5.  Make orange glaze:   Stir together sugar, zest and orange juice in a small bowl till glaze is smooth, thick, and opaque.  Using a pastry brush, coat ridged side of each cake with the glaze..  Let set about 15 minutes.  Store in a single layer in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Only slightly sweet, they are lovely with a cup of tea.

Only slightly sweet, they are lovely with a cup of tea.

SOURCE:    Martha

Zucchini-Pineapple Quick Bread

Zucchini Pineapple Quick Breads

Zucchini Pineapple Quick Breads

Today we have another way to use zucchini.  Zucchini Bread is a popular quick bread and such a great way to get in some veggies disguised as a sweet.  This recipe is all of that and more because it also contains pineapple.  A new twist on an old favorite!

We like to eat this bread for breakfast, but we also enjoy it as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea or coffee.  The pineapple adds a little sweetness of its own, so I  cut back on the sugar to 1 3/4 cups.   The recipe makes a large volumn of batter, enough for two 8″ x 4″ pans, so you can freeze the extra loaf, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and heavy-duty foil, for up to one month.  Slices are good warmed in the microwave and spread with a little butter.

Some zucchini breads that I have had seemed to have a lot of oil in them and were very sweet.  This recipe is not like that at all.  The oil used is a moderate amount considering that you’re making two loaves.  The color of the bread is also lighter than other zucchini breads that I have had, perhaps because I used a yellow zucchini and a green one. You will note that the recipe calls for 2 eggs and 1/2 cup egg substitute.  However, you could use 4 eggs and eliminate the egg substitute.  Personally, I like using only the two eggs because it’s a way of reducing the overall cholesterol in the recipe.

On the whole we liked this bread very much as a breakfast item because it is not overly sweet.  I am expecting house guests soon and this is one of the items I plan to set out for “make your own breakfast”.



Yield:  2 loaves, 8″ x 4″ each


  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour  ( I use half whole wheat flour.)

    I used both yellow and green zucchini.

    I used both yellow and green zucchini.

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1  1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (about 1 1/2 medium zucchini).
  • 2/3 cups canola oil
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2  (8-ounce) cans crushed pineapple in juice, drained
  • baking spray


1.  Preheat oven to 350*F.  Spray two 8″ x 4″ loaf pans with baking spray.

2.  Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.  Combine flour, salt, and next 3 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

3.  Beat eggs with a mixer at medium speed until foamy.  Add sugar, oil, egg substitute, vanilla and zucchini beating until well blended.  Add zucchini mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.  Fold in pineapple.  Spoon batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the tops.

4.  Bake at 350*F for 45 min – 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack;  remove from pans.    Cool completely on wire rack.



SOURCE:   Cooking Light

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Squares

Chocolate chip cheesecake squares.

Chocolate chip cheesecake squares.

Did I hear someone say “cheesecake”?.   Oh, that was me!  Yes, well,  I fell off the wagon, and I mean big time!  But you will remember it was my birthday and Mother’s Day all in the same weekend.  So that was my excuse for treating myself and, of course, anyone else who was around to some sinfully rich and oh-so-good chocolate chip cheesecake squares WITH toffee cookie crumb crust.  Try saying that three times fast.  I could eat one faster than I can say it, and I bet you could, too.

An elegant, creamy, smooth dessert.

An elegant, creamy, smooth dessert.

There are so many recipes for cheesecake bars and squares out there, that you could pick any one that you like, but I particularly like this one because it not only includes cream cheese, but also mascarpone.  And when you combine those two you can’t expect anything but perfection.

The most commonly used ingredient for making a crust is graham cracker crumbs,  but Mr. D. has an allergy to graham crackers, so in their place I usually use shortbread cookies crushed into crumbs.  In making these bars I would have done the same except when I was shopping for groceries I spied  these cookies called Toffee Sandies by Keebler.  Since I’ve always loved pecan sandies, I thought these would make an interesting crust instead.

The cookies I used.

The cookies I used.

Cheesecake is a dessert that is very forgiving in that you can add many different flavorings, use all kinds of toppings, change the crust, and bake in a variety of pans.  It still comes out creamy and delicious.  So you really can’t go wrong.  If you need a dessert that everyone will love, give this stellar creation a try.

The hint of orange is such a good companion flavor to chocolate.

The hint of orange is such a good companion flavor to chocolate.


Servings:   9


For the crust

  • 1  1/2 cups toffee sandies—fine crumbs
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, melted

    Cream cheese, mascarpone, chocolate chips and orange zest provide the flavor

    Cream cheese, mascarpone, chocolate chips and orange zest provide the flavor

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened  ( 1/3 less fat variety, OK )
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup semisweet (or your choice) chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs

1.  Place the toffee sandies in a food processor bowl and pulse to fine crumbs;  place in a mixing bowl.

2.  Add melted butter and mix well.

3.  Press crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9 x 9 inch pan.  I made one and a half times the recipe, thus you see a larger pan.

Cookie crumb crust in the pan.

Cookie crumb crust in the pan.

4.  Bake crust for 10 – 12 minutes at 325*F.

5.  Allow to cool while you make the filling.


1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cheeses, sugar, zest and vanilla until smooth.

2.  Add eggs one at a time, beat on low speed just until combined.

3.  Fold in chocolate chips

4.  Pour over crust and smooth with an offset spatula

Going into the oven.

Going into the oven.

5.  Bake at 325 *F for 35 – 40 minutes or until center is just set and top begins to brown.

Out of the oven--only the edges are browned, but the filling is "set".

Out of the oven–only the edges are browned, but the filling is “set”.

6.  Remove pan from the oven, and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes

7.  Carefully run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen;  cool 1 hour longer then refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.

You will want more than one of these!

You will want more than one of these!


SOURCE:   adapted from   A Culinary Journey with Chef Dennis

Very Berry Strawberry Cookies

Very Berry Strawberry  Cookies

Very Berry Strawberry Cookies

This is the time of year when strawberries are reappearing at the market and they look so beautiful; red, ripe and juicy.  They never fail to get my creative juices flowing.  The native berries that grow here where I live have not ripened yet  (usually not till the end of May), so until those are available I will use the California-grown berries available at the market.

However, I have found from past experience  that baking with strawberries does not produce a true, vivid strawberry flavor.  They are so much more enjoyable in their natural state, luscious and juicy with just a little sugar on them.  So for baking I have been exploring ways to get a true strawberry flavor.  I think I have found the answer, and it happened quite by accident.  One morning I was eating Special K cereal with Red Berries and was struck by how strong the berry flavor was.  These freeze-dried strawberries had the color and flavor I have been looking for.  So I searched the dried fruits section of the supermarket and there I found bags of freeze-dried strawberries.

Freeze dried strawberries can be pulverized into powder.

Freeze dried strawberries can be pulverized into powder.

Bingo!  I was on to something.  Reasoning that if I could crush or pulverize those freeze dried berries and mix the powder into the dough,  I could get the strong flavor I wanted.    I love to experiment,  so I was excited to give this a try.  The results, I’m happy to tell you, were quite good.   Using a recipe I had for a basic sugar cookie that also uses some cream cheese, and adding the strawberry powder to the dough,  I got a tender cookie with a pretty pink color and real strawberry flavor.  They are just great on their own, but you know what?   You can also mix this strawberry powder into cream cheese frosting and make sandwich cookies for a double-whammy of strawberry goodness.  (Notice that I’m not mentioning calories here!)    Ok, Ok, let’s be reasonable.  Let’s enjoy these cookies with a dish of strawberry ice cream instead!!!

The perfect accompaniment to Very Strawberry ice cream.

The perfect accompaniment to Very Strawberry ice cream.


Yield:   Makes about 4 1/2 dozen 2″ cookies, or 27 sandwich cookies

For the Cookies:

  •  1 cup  ( 2 sticks) butter
  • 1/2 cup  ( 4 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature.  Reduced fat version is OK.
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 cup strawberry powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups flour,  I used half white whole wheat flour;

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese  (4-ounces)
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons strawberry powder
  • 1 Tablespoon strawberry jam
  • milk or cream as needed for spreading consistency

To make the cookies:

1.  Preheat oven to 375*F.  Lightly grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

2.  Begin by crushing the dry strawberries.  I used a mortar and pestle and was able to get a fine powder with little or no lumps.  If you have difficulty getting it smooth, you can always sift the powder to remove any lumps.   Measure 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons if making the filling.

3.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, salt and baking powder, strawberry powder and sugars.

Mixing up the cream cheese, butter, sugars and strawberry powder.

Mixing up the cream cheese, butter, sugars and strawberry powder.

4.  Once the mixture is nice and light and fluffy, beat in the egg and then mix in the flour.

5.  Scoop by the tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets.  Flatten each cookie into a 2″ circle with the bottom of a glass dipped into sugar.

Drop by tablespoon onto baking sheet and flatten into  2-inch circles.

Drop by tablespoon onto baking sheet and flatten into 2-inch circles.

Bake for 14 – 16 minutes, until barely golden around the edges.  Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.  Makes about 54 cookies.

To make the filling:

1.  Beat the cream cheese until soft and fluffy.  Add the strawberry jam, and blend into the cream cheese.  Add the sugar and strawberry powder gradually  along with small amounts of milk or cream to achieve a spreading consistency.

2.  Generously frost the bottom side of one cookie and top with another to make a tasty sandwich.  Makes about 27 sandwich cookies.

These are not going to last long.

These are not going to last long.

You can never have too much of a very good thing!

You can never have too much of a very good thing!

SOURCE;  a Carolyn Original based on a modified recipe for sugar cookies from Taste of Home

Pumpkin Cake

Using some of the pumpkin I cooked and pureed myself, I made this cake for my husband’s birthday. Although the title of the recipe is  ordinary this cake is anything but.  From the bottom up to the top there is something extraordinary going on.  My recipe card for this cake has a smily face sticker on it and the words, “exceptionally good” to remind me of how much we and others like this cake whenever I make it.  It is tried and true, and always dependable.  One year, several years back, I made it for my husband to take to work for a pot-luck luncheon at Thanksgiving, and ever since I get requests for “that good cake”.  One of his co-workers has since ordered one from me each year for Thanksgiving.  So I am confident when I say “it will come out good, and you will like it”.

The bottom-most layer of the cake is a crumb crust.  The recipe specifies graham cracker crumbs, but we here have an allergic reaction to graham crumbs, so I substituted ginger snap crumbs instead.  Now I always make it that way; ginger snaps just seem to go so much better with pumpkin.  The cake layer is a pumpkin spice cake, and I have played around with changing some of the quantities and ratios, but it always comes out good.  The frosting is a cream cheese frosting.   Who doesn’t like that?

The recipe makes a large cake baked in a 15″ x 11″ pan, in which case pieces are more like squares with a crumb crust;  or you may use two smaller pans, 1 8″ round, and  1  8″ square and the pieces will be taller and cake like. I really like that aspect.  What I usually do is bake the two smaller size cakes, then I have 1 to keep and 1 to give, or 1 to eat and 1 to freeze, you get the idea.  OK, enough said,  here’s how to make it—–


  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs or ginger snap crumbs.  One sleeve of ginger snaps, pulsed in a processor makes about 2 cups.
  • 7 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix all these together for the base.  Press into the bottom of baking pan or pans of choice.  Bake 5-6 minutes.  Let cool.


  • 1 2/3 cups sugar,  or I use 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs,  or 2 eggs and 1/2 cup egg substitute product
  • 1 can pumpkin, or 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup vegetable oil.  I use 1/2 cup and it comes out fine.
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon, or 2 teasp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

1.  Mix the first 4 ingredients together with a whisk.

Mix wet ingredients together with a whisk.

2.  Mix the dry ingredients together:  flour through salt

3.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a whisk.  Blend them well, but do not over mix.

Combine wet and dry ingredients.

4.  Pour over the crust.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes.  Test for doneness with a toothpick.

6.  Cool completely then frost with cream cheese frosting and decorate as desired.


  • 8 ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Makes about 2 cups

In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Gradually beat in the sugar and mix thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  If the consistency is too stiff, thin with a drizzle of milk or cream.  If it is too soft, refrigerate until frosting is spreadable, about 15 minutes.


 This is my husband’s half-eaten piece.  He couldn’t wait for me to photograph it!

This Old Table

Antique Baker’s Table

This old table is an antique baker’s table.  I imagine it once stood in a farmhouse kitchen where the lady of the house used it exactly as intended as the center of her baking activities.  I found it several years ago at an antique show, and since my kitchen at the time lacked a center island,  I purchased it to serve that purpose.

Now it stands in the center of my kitchen where it gets constant use as a way-station for things that are coming or going.  Its where I unpack groceries to put away, deposit foods removed from the refrigerator, place hot foods just removed from the oven, pack up Mr. D’s lunch ready for him to carry off to work, etc.   But I am also proud to say that I use it also for its intended purpose as the center for my baking.

I love and particularly treasure things that are old, and I have a number of antiques.  Especially dear to me are the items that have been in my family for 2-3 generations, because I can associate them with the people who used them. Like my cast-iron frying pans and bean pot that belonged to my paternal grandmother.  When I use them I think of her home fries and her baked beans.  Likewise when I roll out pastry or cookie dough I use a wooden rolling pin that was once used by my maternal grandmother and I remember her wonderful breads and pastries.

Let me take you on a tour of my baking table/baking center. The table is made from cherry wood except for the top.  I don’t know what the wood of the top is, but it has had a lot of use and it shows.  It was, after all, a work surface.  Viewed from the front (see photo above) you will see two drawers with handles.  The upper one is quite shallow, and in it I keep a roll of parchment paper, cookie cutters, tubes of food coloring, muffin cups, bench knife, pizza cutter, anything small related to baking that will fit.

Side view showing large storage bins for dry goods.

The lower drawer is very large, deep and rounded, with a division in the center that creates two bins.  It was meant to hold flour and sugar in large quantities.

Lower drawer open to show the divider in the center creating two bins

As these ingredients were needed, the baker scooped out the required amounts.  I use those bins for storage of bags of specialty flours, brown sugar, confectionery sugar, chocolate and other kinds of chips; and also larger baking tools like my rolling pin, sifter, nut grinder, grater, etc.

Removable pastry board.

Centered above the two drawers is a pull-out pastry board  (note small white knob) that comes completely out of the table and can be placed on top for kneading, rolling, and cutting dough.  I use this board a lot for all my pie making, cookie cutting, shaping of dough, just about anything where I need a large surface.  It is as smooth as satin from all the use it has had;  that’s why I love it.

Antique rolling pin, canister, cookie cutters and sifter.

In this final picture you can see my beloved rolling pin.  It was carved from one piece of wood, I think it’s maple, and it, too, is very smooth;  the wood grain of it is beautiful.  Along with it is pictured one of two old canisters I own and some vintage cookie cutters that belonged to my mother.    I love these old things and when I use them I feel a connection to the people who used them before me.

It has been my pleasure to give you a look into my kitchen, which holds so many things that are special to me.  I hope you have enjoyed it.

Baking Powder and Baking Soda

I thought it was time for another entry in my Kitchen Basics series of articles.  This one came to mind as I was working to adapt an old recipe to today’s style of baking and ingredients.  It is about chemical leavening agents.

As you may know, I have quite a collection of old cookbooks acquired over the years and through hand-me-downs.  There are lots of neat recipes that catch my attention, but one thing that I have noticed is that the amounts of baking powder and baking soda are sometimes out of whack.  So here is some basic information about these two ingredients;  what they are, why they’re in a recipe, and how much is appropriate.  Knowing this information helps in recognizing if a recipe needs adjusting, or if you’re creating a recipe of your own.


Sodium Bicarbonate, the chemical name for baking soda, is an alkaline substance used in batters that have acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, molasses and sour cream.  When the baking soda is mixed with the acidic ingredient, there is an immediate release of carbon dioxide gas. Batters and doughs that only use baking soda as a leavening agent should be baked immediately.  Otherwise the baked product might not rise as high and the texture won’t be as light.  It creates a crisp texture in cookies, a crumbly one in quick breads.  Used to excess it adds a salty, bitter, unpleasant taste, and can give a brownish or yellow color to baked goods.

The recommended amount to use is 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for the first cup of flour in a recipe, and 1/4 teaspoon more for each additional cup after that.  Always check the recipe to be sure there is an acidic ingredient to react with it.  ( buttermilk; sour cream, pumpkin, molasses, cocoa, brown sugar)


This is a mixture of baking soda and tartaric acid in a buffer such as cornstarch.  It too, causes baked goods to rise and have a light texture.  Before baking powder, items like biscuits and cakes were made using yeast or a yeast-based sponge.  Double-acting baking powder is the most readily available type found on grocery shelves today.  “Double-acting” means it produces carbon dioxide in two stages;  when it is mixed with liquid and then again from the heat of the oven.  This increases the reliability of recipes, since getting a batter into the oven within a short time frame becomes less important.  Baking powder can lose its ability to leaven, so discard any baking powder that is past the expiration date on the can.

How much to use?   A general rule is 1 teaspoon of baking powder for each cup of flour in the recipe.  If there are a lot of add-ins such as chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruits, then increase baking powder to 1 1/2 teaspoons per cup of flour.

You are probably aware that most recipes tell you to mix either one or both of these products with the flour, stirring with a whisk to evenly distribute them throughout the batter,  thereby avoiding unpleasant little “lumps” that didn’t get mixed in well.

I hope this little tutorial was helpful in becoming more familiar with these two ingredients, and their use. I always feel that if  you understand what  the various ingredients are there for, then you are better equipped to make adjustments to a recipe.  Good luck, and Happy Baking!