Christmas Cookies with the Grands, 2021

Last year was their first adventure helping. It was a fun time of getting sprinkles all over the kitchen floor as well as all over the cookie sheets, and sometimes even on the cookies themselves. Not to mention stuck to their fingers and all over their faces.

This year was no exception, but the decorating did turn out a little bit better.

A book I just finished reading yesterday had a scene with kids helping make Christmas cookies and getting flour all over the counters rather than in the mixing bowl. But as their grandmother explained to their worried mother, “if you’re cooking with children, it’s about keeping it fun and simple. The end result isn’t always important.”

I probably need to keep that in mind. 

Now I didn’t let them help with mixing up the ingredients, because we were on a time schedule, and we had guests coming over, along with the kids having to be somewhere else as well. 

Next year we can attempt to do that. They’ll each be a year older, and it might not be quite as messy. Well, wishful thinking there, too. But you never know.

To save time I’d already mixed the dough and was ready to put it in the cookie press when they arrived. I’d even pulled the jars of sprinkles and colored sugars out and set them on the counter. And their Christmas aprons were all ready for them, too. 

Little cookie bakers and tasters, after all, have to have the appropriate aprons to protect their clothes from stray sprinkles. 

Of course, like last year, they decided it was easier to decorate the cookies while sitting on the floor. Which means it was also easier to get the sprinkles on the floor as well as on the cookies. And yes, we blocked the dogs from coming in there to help!

It’s always an adventure when you’re doing pressed cookies with grandchildren. No sooner did I get them pressed out on the cookie sheets and put them in front of the girls, then they picked their favorite decorating colors and dumped the sugar on them. 

Actually, Ryleigh grabbed a jar of sprinkles with no inner plastic lid for shaking and dumped them out, so their mommy had some scooping up to do so we could at least see the cookies under the pile of red sugar. 

Because Rachel is older she did a little better job, and actually tried to help her little sister. And they were both really proud of their creations. 

I promised them next year they could help with mixing the dough and possibly helping me press them out. (Maybe we can practice on Easter cookies?) They do need to learn, and it’s not too early to start.

And for those of you who want a good pressed cookie recipe, here’s the one we use. There’s still time to make a batch! And I have two granddaughters who’d be happy to help!

Pressed Sugar/Spritz Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat butter for 30 seconds on high. Add sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat til combined, Beat in egg, vanilla and almond extract. Beat in flour, a little at a time, until mixed.

Force unchilled dough through cookie press onto cookie sheet. Decorate with colored sugar and sprinkles as desired. Or watch the kids or grandkids do their thing.

Bake 8 minutes til edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

Happy baking, and Merry Christmas from all of us!

My Favorite Cookie

Everyone has a favorite. Chocolate chip cookies are usually number one in almost everyone’s answer. With or without nuts.  It’s a big debate, though. Actually I don’t like nuts in cookies. So there’s my answer on the chocolate chip cookie question 

But they aren’t my favorite. They’re good, yes, but my very favorite is oatmeal raisin. And amazingly enough, my best friend has the same favorite! What are the chances of that!

However, recently we’ve both changed our mind, just a little. Because last year when I was making Christmas cookies,  of course I had to have my favorite kind included. I’d already mixed up the dough, and preheated the oven, but when I reached for my box of raisins, they weren’t there!

Now I almost always grab all my ingredients before I start mixing, but this time….well obviously I messed up.

So now what to do? I really didn’t want to do them with chocolate chips, and plain oatmeal cookies are still good, but I needed to have something else in them. Then I saw the package of Craisins. Well they’re similar to raisins, so what the heck?! 

And I mixed those in. And baked the cookies. 

And I tried them as soon as they were cool enough to eat! Absolutely delicious! Definitely a new favorite. Move over raisins! You’ve been replaced!

So if you want to try this new favorite, here’s the recipe for Oatmeal Craisin Cookies. Or, you can always buy a packaged mix and add the craisins like you would those boring raisins. Just don’t tell your secret!

  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 – 8 oz Craisins

Preheat over to 375 degrees. In medium bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and sugar together til light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well.

Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture, a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in Craisins. (And don’t eat any of them as you’re doing that; save them for the cookies!.)

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes til golden brown Remove to wire racks and cool. And then you can eat a few as soon as they’ve cooled down a bit. You don’t want to burn your mouth!

And if you want to be adventurous, throw in some white baking chips (about 2/3 cup) with those Craisins! They’re awesome as well!

And now…I need a cookie! Or three.

And by the way, did you know that oatmeal raisin/craisin cookies count as breakfast? At least they do in my book. After all it’s a combination of oatmeal and fruit. So……

What’s So Special About Christmas Cookies?

I admit that cooking is not my most favorite pastime. You can ask my friends, and especially my husband, and they will quickly agree.

They’ll also tell you that I’m not a bad cook at all, when I really decide to do it.

However, there’s something about this time of year…the Christmas season…that actually makes me want to venture into the kitchen, pull out all kinds of wonderful ingredients and recipes, and begin to put my creative talents to work.

You see, there’s one type of food I really truly enjoy making…Christmas cookies!!!


There’s just something special about creating these sugary delights, loaded with chocolate, cherries, colored sugars, colorful icings, and of course the calories are removed just for the Christmas season!

You didn’t know that? Well yes, they are! Santa Claus takes care of it, because after all, he has to eat some of all the cookies those thousands of children leave out for him on Christmas Eve, and if he didn’t remove the calories, well, he’d probably end up very sick and so overweight he couldn’t ride in his sleigh ever again! How does he do it? Well, I’ve been told by a reliable source that he breaks them in half and the calories fall out! Wonder if that’ll work for us!?

Although I have a collection of favorite cookie recipes I make every year, each new year I greedily go through the Christmas issues of my favorite magazines to see if there are any new cookie recipes that are just screaming out to “try ME this year!” And of course, there usually are.

The pictures are gorgeous in those magazines. And the finished products look so delicious I sometimes want to run to the store, grab the ingredients, and whip up a batch, not caring that it’s almost midnight and I should be in bed!


Of course, the cookies I bake never seem to look quite like the ones in the magazines, or in the pictures on my Cookie Pinterest board. But they sure taste good!

I think it’s an obsession. And I have no idea how it started, although I do have vague memories of being in the kitchen with my mom at a very young age decorating cutout sugar cookies in the shape of stars and reindeer. But I just know that every year I go through this, and end up making at least a dozen different kinds to share with family, friends, and co-workers.

Last year I shared some of my Christmas cookie recipes with you. Goodies like my Grandmother’s Fruitcake Cookies, Ben’s Lemon Drops, Candy Cane Snowballs, and Orange Kool-Aid cookies. This year I’ll try to add a few more, along with the Christmas Fudge recipes I already posted; in between my baking marathon, that is.


For now, enjoy the pictures of these wonderful culinary delights, and then try your hand at baking a batch or two. And share your pictures if you’d like.

What’s so special about Christmas cookies? Try making a batch or two, and you’ll find out for yourself! Even if you’re not known for your culinary talents, you may surprise yourself!

Happy baking! And happy eating!

Disclaimer: All content posted here is assumed to be in the public domain. If you find one of your images here and wish it to be removed please contact me.

Photo Sources: 1st Row: bakingbites.com; lilluna.com; onelittleproject.com; 2nd Row: sweetpeaskitchen.com; tasteofhome.com; tasteofhome.com; 3rd Row: keeppycome.com; gimmesomeoven.com; bettycrocker.com; 4th Row: recipelion.com; yesiwantcake.com; bettycrocker.com

Homemade Hot Cross Buns

There are a number of special food delights associated with Easter. Certainly chocolate bunnies, Cadbury crème eggs (be still my heart!), those sugary marshmallow peeps, jelly beans, and the chocolate covered Easter eggs we discussed last week are some of the first to come to mind.

You can also find a lot of cute Easter treats to make for kids on Pinterest*, one of my addictions, such as rice krispie “nests” filled with jelly beans or peeps, creatively decorated coconut cakes made in the shape of bunnies or even decorated with more peeps….you get the idea!

But one particular item I’ve always enjoyed at Easter is the Hot Cross Buns. My mother would buy them every year, as soon as they were in the grocery store, which was usually about a month before Easter Sunday. And as soon as Easter was over, once the stock was sold out, you couldn’t find them again until next year.

5ecf625ec1bf91acb4247c48f2cfb15fIt’s funny how my mother, who was a wonderful cook, never tried to make them herself. Most likely it would’ve been fairly easy, especially using her special cinnamon bun recipe.

Next year I’m most likely going to be trying all kinds of those creative treats I mentioned before, because we’ll have our granddaughter next Easter, since that’s what grandmothers are supposed to do. But for right now, I’m going to try this recipe that I found years ago and just filed away in my “things to make sometime when I have the desire” recipe box. It sounds good, and it also sounds fairly easy. And I like both! And don’t be put off by how long the directions seem to be. They are very similar to how we make my mother’s cinnamon buns, and those are easy!

Homemade Hot Cross Buns

1 pkg active dry yeast
3/4 c warm milk, divided
3 1/4 – 3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/4 c butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 c dried fruit (combination of currants, and chopped candied citrus peel – and yes, I’d add a bit extra!)
2 tsp grated orange zest

In bowl, mix together 1/4 c of warmed milk and 1 tsp of sugar. Sprinkle yeast over the milk and let set 5-10 minutes, til foamy.

In large bowl vigorously whisk together 3 c flour, salt, spices, and 1/4 c sugar.

Make a well in the flour mixture and add yeast mixture, softened butter, eggs, and remainder of milk. Mix ingredients until well blended (will be “shaggy” and sticky). Add fruit and orange zest.

Slowly sprinkle in remaining flour, 1 tbl at a time, kneading after each addition, until mixture is no longer completely sticking to your hands. Form dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap for 2 hours, or until doubled in size. (Be sure to put in a warm spot in your kitchen)

When ready, take dough, and roll into a log shape and cut into two halves, leaving one half in bowl until ready to use. Cut dough you are using into 8 pieces. Take dough and form into mounds, placing them 1 1/2” apart on baking sheet. Cover mounds again with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

orange-hot-cross-buns-su-xPreheat oven to 400. Whisk together 1 egg and 1 tbl milk. Score tops of buns in cross pattern with a knife (deeply cut so that the cuts will stay visible after baking). Brush egg mixture on top of dough. Bake on middle rack in over 10-12 minutes til lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool in pan for a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

When buns are totally cooled whisk together 1 tsp milk and 3-4 tbl powdered sugar, adding sugar until you get a thick consistency. Place in plastic bag and snip off corner to make pastry bag. Pipe lines across the top of each bun to make a cross.

*If you want to visit my personal Pinterest board to see the Easter goodies I’m talking about, here’s the link: https://www.pinterest.com/bdnewell/easter-ideas

Mom Rachel’s Sweet Potato Biscuits

Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, there were always certain items on the big family dinner menus that just had to be included, no matter what the entrée. Sure, fried chicken almost always demanded this particular side, but so did Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas dinners, and lots of other meals in between.

Sweet potato biscuits obviously originated in the South. Thomas Jefferson served sweet potato biscuits at the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, back in 1774. His recipe contained cinnamon, ginger, and chopped pecans. But there are lots of other variations on the standard recipe, including a brown sugar “crust” on the top (that sounds really good), as well as adding diced bacon and chives, cheddar cheese, orange zest, and an idea that sounds really good…miniature marshmallows (guess it’s a variation on sweet potato casserole).

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Now, I’ve never tried any of these added ingredients, in fact, I’ve only attempted to make sweet potato biscuits once. You see, I don’t like sweet potatoes. I don’t like sweet potato casserole, or sweet potato pie. Or baked sweet potatoes which our daughter loves! And yes, I AM from the Eastern Shore where almost everyone seems to like them! (One of the popular local chain restaurants in my area when I was growing up was known for their sweet potato biscuits. They finally published their recipe because so many people begged for it. The restaurant has since closed, but the recipe lives on online!)

But I did like my mom’s sweet potato biscuits, and I have to admit, when I was doing the research for this blog, and found those ideas for extra added ingredients, well I just may have to try making them again. With my mother’s recipe of course. So here it is. Let me know what you think!

Mom Rachel’s Sweet Potato Biscuits

1/3 c + 1 tbl sugar (I’d probably add a little bit more than that)
1 c cooked mashed sweet potatoes (you can use canned; I would)
2 c Bisquick (Did you know Bisquick has been around since 1931? I didn’t.)
2 tbl shortening

Combine ingredients and knead together for one minute. Place dough on floured surface and either roll out or pat flat to about 3/4″ thickness. Cut out circles with either a biscuit cutter, or the standard in our household, a drinking glass with the rim dipped in flour. Place on greased baking sheet and cook at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool and serve with butter and/or honey.
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Note: If you’re going to add the miniature marshmallows, roll the dough a bit thinner, put marshmallows on top of one, put another biscuit on top of it, and crimp the edges together. I actually may try this.
And if you don’t like this recipe, there are tons of them on line, and I think I just might try a few!

And My Cornbread is Blue…Blue??

Now, last week it was chocolate in chili, and this week we’re talking blue cornbread? Really?

Well, yes. And it’s actually quite good. It’s another of those recipes that weren’t handed down from Grandmom to me, but it’s still special. And really quite delicious. And just a bit different.

It’s not your everyday typical cornbread recipe. Which is why I like it, because if I’m forced to cook, I don’t like to make ordinary items. I want them to be memorable enough for someone to ask for the recipe. Whether they really want it or not. Maybe they’re just being polite, but that’s fine. As long as they don’t tell me that’s the only reason they asked!

The first time I made it, Ben thought I was nuts. Well, that wasn’t the first time he’d said that, but I just ignored the comment, as usual. Then he tried a slice, and decided maybe I wasn’t quite as crazy as he thought, because he actually liked it! Ah ha! Another kitchen victory! (One of not very many, but that’s the way it goes!)

So if you’re adventurous, or really want to try something new and different, give this one a try.
blue-cornbread

Note: This recipe calls for buttermilk, and if you’re like me, you don’t want to buy a whole carton of buttermilk just to use a cup, so you can substitute 1 c. milk plus 1 tbl. vinegar mixed together. Let it sit for 10 minutes before adding it to the mixture.

Blue Cornbread with Pineapple (yes, pineapple!)

4 chopped dried pineapple rings (in the produce section of the grocery store)
1 c. dried blueberries (yes, dried, not fresh or frozen)
½ cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 cup blue cornmeal
½ cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Stir above ingredients together. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or substitution above), 2 eggs, and 4 tbl. melted butter, stirring just til combined. Pour into an 8-9” square buttered baking dish lined with parchment paper. (I think the butter makes the parchment paper come out easier.)

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes and cut into squares, and serve warm with butter. You can also heat it up in the microwave later and it will still be good!

Let me know what you think!

Kool-Aid Cookies

All of us who grew up in a certain era remember the ads for Kool-Aid…that round frosted pitcher with the smiling face drawn on it in the condensation! It certainly enticed us to beg our mothers to buy a package and make up a batch! My favorite was the cherry, of course. But if it spilled…what a mess we had!

So when I found a recipe for cookies made with powdered Kool-Aid, or a similar product, they looked so good I had to try it out. So this isn’t an old family recipe by any means, at least not one that dates back to my grandmother or mother. But I can say it’s a recipe that will continue on every year as a new family recipe, because we all like them! And they aren’t hard to make at all. I even had Ashley making them this year, because, after all, she has to continue the Christmas cookie baking tradition now that she and her husband are having a little girl next year!

Even though I make them for Christmas, they do tend to remind me a little bit of summer, and one of these days I may actually make them to enjoy around the pool. But until then, here’s the recipe to try out for yourself! Enjoy!

Fruit Dream Cookies (or, as we call them, Kool-Aid Cookies)

1/2 c butter, softened (butter…not margarine! margarine doesn’t work)
1/2 c Crisco
Beat together in large bowl for 30 sec.

Add: 1 c sugar
1/2 c Kool aid sugar-sweetened or similar powdered fruit drink mix (I usually use orange, but cherry or lemon is good also) and do NOT use the sugar-free mix
1/2 tsp baking powde
1/4 tsp baking soda
Beat til fluffy, scraping sides of bowl.

Beat in:
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Beat in 2 1/2 c flour

With mixing spoon, stir in 1 1/2 c white baking pieces (NOT white chocolate, but the white baking chips)

Cover bowl and chill dough for at least 30 minutes or til easy to handle.

Shape dough in 1″ balls. Roll in colored or coarse sugar (I use a combination of red and yellow for the orange ones). Place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9-11 minutes at 375 degrees until edges are set (centers will be soft).

Let cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

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Ben’s Favorite Lemon Drops

My mother really loved her son-in-law, and she always tried to make him some of his favorite dishes when she knew we were visiting.

I don’t remember when she first found this recipe. It wasn’t handed down to her from her mother, like a lot of our recipes were. She probably found it in a magazine somewhere and just decided to try it one day when we were coming to visit.

Ben always made sure to go over to the kitchen counter when we got to my mother’s to see what goodies she had baked for us. And on one occasion, there were these yellow crinkled up cookies dusted with powdered sugar cooling on her old wire cookie racks.

Who knew they’d turn out to be one of his very favorites? And from that time on, we’ve always made these cookies at Christmas. And other times of the year, as well.

Ashley has been my official lemon drop cookie maker, though, because they’re a bit messy to make, since you have to mix them with your hands. And she really didn’t mind. At least I don’t think she did. Except now that she has her own home, who’s going to make them? Any volunteers before I have to do it?

So in our newest tradition of presenting weekly (hopefully) family recipes, here’s the super easy and quick lemon cookie recipe!

1 box lemon cake mix
1 egg
1 cup Cool Whip
1 ½ tbl lemon juice

Mix ingredients together by hand. Literally. Because they really won’t mix together well any other way. You can start out with a spoon, but once it gets mixed good, you gotta get your fingers in there! It’s also easier to coat your hands in flour or powdered sugar when you’re doing them, so you won’t have such a mess when you’re done!

After they’re mixed, roll in 1 – 1 ½” balls, dip them in powdered sugar, and place on a greased cookie sheet about 1 – 1 ½” apart. Make an indentation in the middle with your thumb, or whichever finger your prefer. We’re not doing fingerprints!

Bake in preheated 350 degree over 8-10 minutes until done. Cool on a wire rack, and store any that are left after they family grabs them in a sealed container. If they last long enough and start to get a little hard, put a slice of white bread in the container with them, and you’ll be amazed at how moist they become again!

Let me know how you like them! You can also use strawberry cake mix, or chocolate (add vanilla in place of the lemon juice) but I really like these lemon ones the best!

Puffy Meringue Cookies

It’s traditionally now the start of the Christmas season, which in my household, always includes baking cookies. And usually a lot of them, not matter how many times I say each year I’m not going to make so many.

But they’re so good…….

Now I don’t remember who started the tradition of making these particular cookies, but I’m almost certain it was my mother. She was always finding the best – and delicious – cookie recipes that we all enjoyed. I always think about her when I’m making these. She always wanted to put walnuts in them, and since I don’t like nuts in my food, I never let her. But you can add a 1/2 cup of them if you want. Just make sure they’re chopped well.
DSCN7821

I’ve made these cookies for many years, and every time, they are the first to disappear from all of the filled cookie containers that line up across my kitchen counter. In fact, when I start my Christmas cookie baking, they’re one of the first kind that’s requested. They’re fairly easy, but also a little bit tricky, so be sure to follow the instructions closely

And be prepared to make more than one batch of them, but DON’T double the recipe as you make it, because it doesn’t work out too well…

2 egg whites, room temperature (save the yolks for other baking treats!)
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla

Beat ingredients until stiff peaks form, using an electric mixer. I now have a Kitchenaid and it works great! Be sure beaters and mixing bowl are grease-free and room temperature if it’s a metal bowl!

Gradually add 3/4 c granulated sugar and continue to beat for about a minute.

Fold in 6 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Regular size works best; not the mini’s. And as much as you’re tempted, don’t add extra!

Line two rectangular cookie sheets with white paper or parchment paper. Drop cookies onto paper, about a tablespoon each. Space about 2” apart. Cookies do not spread. Try to get a point at the top. (And yes, that’s a rare picture of me cooking…or baking, which isn’t the same thing!)
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Bake for 25-30 minutes in preheated 300 degree oven, until just slightly browned. Let rest on sheet about a minute or so until the cookies will lift off easily, and transfer to wire rack to cool.

Store in lightly sealed container, but they probably won’t be around long!

Grandmother’s Pumpkin Pie

I come from a family of good cooks. My grandparents owned a farm, and my grandmother Lang was always cooking up big farm meals for Granddaddy’s “hired help” as well as the rest of the family. And she was a great cook! (And for those of you who know me well, you know that cooking is not my favorite pastime. Although I do like to bake!)

I still have some of her recipes that were handed down to my mother, but unfortunately only a few are in her own handwriting. Of course, after trying to read some of them, I’m actually glad my mother copied them over! Grandmom’s handwriting was a very flowery style, so instead of trying to read them, I’ll keep them in my special scrapbook of memories.

It was always a treat to go to my grandparents’ home for family dinners and holidays. The food set out on her heavy carved oak dining table was a feast fit for a family of fifteen, because that’s about how many of us were there back in those days. Sure, us kids sometimes had to eat out in the kitchen because there wasn’t enough room at the table, but there was always plenty of food for everyone!

At this time of year it’s certainly appropriate to talk about her Thanksgiving dinners. Although I don’t remember quite as many of them being held at the farm, since my mother’s dining room was bigger, my grandmother always supplied the pumpkin pie! And it was delicious! Every bit homemade, from the piecrust to the filling! She usually made at least two, because everyone wanted some of it. So I thought I’d share a bit of Emma Jarman Lang’s special pumpkin pie by posting the recipe for you.
Grandmothers Pumpkin Pie

2 cups pumpkin (yes, she actually used canned pumpkin)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Mix all ingredients together, and add gradually:
2 eggs, beaten
1 3/4 c milk
pinch of lemon juice (no more than 1/2 tsp)
**I add 1/4 tsp of almond extract as well (I had to contribute something!)

Mix well and pour into unbaked pie crust. (I don’t have her original pie crust recipe, but pre-made ones are fine!) I like using a deep dish 9-10″ crust, because you usually have some filling left over, which of course is always yummy to bake in a little casserole dish to enjoy before the main meal!

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, and then turn down the oven to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes. Cool on a wire baking rack.

And of course serve it with whipped cream! Real whipped cream if you have time to make it!

What special recipes do you have from your parents and grandparents? Feel free to share them with us! And from time to time, I’ll publish more recipes for our special family treats.