Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Treasures and traditions in an almond cake

Hello everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I've got a tasty new cake to share.  It all started when Edna was thinking on the good old days.

She talked about dresses...

                                                                      And aprons...

                                                                      And pyrex...

                                                             And utensils...

Which reminded me of something I picked up but wasn't sure what to do with... Ask Edna, of course! She knew what it was right away. It was a hard cheese grater, but you could also use it for grating nuts, like almonds.

But why would I want to grate almonds?? I mean, that's the real question here, right?

Edna was scandalized I had never made an almond cake. And so we began.

I'm a lazy, modern woman and didn't want to spend 3 hours grating almonds. And I have this minor wrist issue. Typing and all that. Ouch. I watch the wrists the same way a model takes care of her face.

(Here I am chained to my desk. I know, a little facial waxing may be in order.)

It's not quite our 'locavore' lifestyle, but a can of almond filling does the trick. You can also find recipes online for making your own if you don't have wrist issues and want to do everything the hard way.

Mix 1 cup of softened butter
        1 cup sugar
        and 3 eggs.  

Wait, this sounds like cookies! Hmmmmm.....

And in the almond filling. (Ugh. Is this a dump cake? I'm still scared to Google that term. Looks pretty close to what I was picturing..)

In one bowl, mix 2 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tsp baking powder. THIS IS A COOKIE RECIPE! I knew it!

 Oh, wait. And 1/3 cup whole milk. Edna said to add them, alternating between the flour and the milk, but STARTING with the flour and ENDING with the flour. Got that? I almost rolled my eyes, but I've learned to take dear Edna at her word.

You can add a coin for good luck, or a small porcelain figure, like a tiny baby Jesus. It's tradition that the person who finds the coin or the baby has wealth and happiness... But make sure everyone searches their cake piece BEFORE eating it.

55 minutes in a greased and floured Bundt pan at 350F. My house smelled AMAZING. It was like an amaretto latte being waved under your nose.
Drizzle of basic powdered sugar icing. I wanted to dress it up but Edna said DO NOT MESS WITH THE CAKE. So I didn't. She was so pleased, immersed in happy memories.

I got out some nice china for our cake and tea. I was ready to serve the warm cake and Edna made a strange little sound.

She was staring at a plate. Not a nice one, either. It was plastic and a little chipped.
Oh, AHEM. Yes. Early art project. Mother's Day, kindergarten, specifically.

See, she's wearing a crown. :) All mamas are princesses, you know. I have no idea if she really had a striped dress like that, or if I just liked red and blue. And I'm fairly sure her hands were NEVER that size.

Edna requested her piece of cake on that old plate. I tried to talk her out of it. Old, yes, but not a nice kind of old! Not pretty vintage! Plastic and scribbled and not safe for the mircrowave kind of old.

She would not be dissuaded. She said that vintage is a matter of time, and treasure is a matter of perspective. In forty years, my grandchildren will think it's a great plate so I should stop sticking it in the microwave.

One big thumbs up from one small person. He also managed to sneak in some blue frosting. Because all food tastes better when it's BLUE.

So, as I get closer to Christmas, and am just starting Advent here at our house, I'm looking around at my treasures with fresh eyes. Old, new, and in between, wherever our treasure is, there our hearts will be, right?  So, I'm holding close to faith, family, and traditions in this season.


Until next time!


  1. Love the dress. I dont eat nuts cant handle the taste.

    But am thinking its time to start the christmas cookies. (I make forcer cookies with a forcer or cookie press). but it wont be tomorrow going to be a stinker!

  2. I love those kinds of cookies! I have an old cookie press. Hmmmmmm.....

  3. We had the forcer too that goes over the mincer but we gave the mincer away and cant use it anymore use to love turning the handle for mum and she would cut of a long strip (wipes tears out of her eyes) and then the little bit that went over I got to eat. She always said she would get an extra tray if I didn't help but she didn't mind. We also have the SAWA cookie press which I use more and make yoyo's its a shortbread and yummy and I would probably get an extra tray if I didn't help!!!! I have taken photos of them just out of the oven before. I do enjoy them they are so easy to make. We always made cookies and slices for christmas to give away. me the cookies mum the slices and sometimes some of the chocolates in christmas moulds.

  4. Wonderful memories!! I have good memories of those Christmas cookie trays... all kinds of spritzer cookies with red hots, sprinkles, frosting, nut balls, etc. So glad you have those memories and some pictures, too!

  5. Love the dress. Love anything almond. Our French bakery has a stollen that is only out this time of year. Filled with almond paste and lemon and orange zest. Sigh.

    Again. I want that dress but my waist would have to be half that size!

    Peace and blessed Advent, Julie

  6. Oh, Virginia, you did a good thing when you brought Edna home! You made a beautiful cake!

    And she was right about the frosting - you don't want to overpower the cake flavor.

    And you were right about grating the almonds. People who do that are either 1)paid to do it, or 2)pay someone to do it. Think Downton Abbey and some kitchen maid who does nothing but prep the food for the cook.

    Do you think you could talk one of your children into being a kitchen maid?

    I didn't think so...

    And Advent is coming. My dear husband and I were just discussing whether to try to do the advent wreath this year. It just hasn't worked the last few years, and everyone has an even worse schedule this year...

    But then I ask myself, who are we doing it for? What are we doing it for? Does it matter if we have two people around the dinner table, or six, or four?

    I think I will make one change this year - I'm going to buy big fat candles for advent, light them when it gets dark (that's about 4:00 here), and let them burn all evening. A constant reminder of the season...

    1. Ooooooh, I LOVE candles. And I actually saw the greatest advent crafts on Pinterest. Lots of candle ideas. We actually can't light ours for more than 4 seconds because of the small people. Too many hands, too much temptation. But I love the greenery. And we light it no matter who is there: just me and the kids, or hubby, too.

      ACtually, my kids would LOVE to be kitchen maids. But can you imagine the mess? Akin to hiring small monkeys to work in your kitchen. It's a mess anyway, but that? Ugh. No.

  7. Sniffle -- another Edna and Virginia classic -- might even say vintage! :-) Love all this Edna wisdom. You are going to be as wise as Yoda before long.

    Nut cakes -- brings back memories of sharing a flat in Ireland with my friend from Frankfurt, Germany. Her mum used to send over the most amazing nut cakes -- hazelnut was my favourite. Of course, we tried to duplicate the recipes and that required hours with a grater and various nuts...including the two doing the grating. Ouch. We figured we worked off the calories of an entire cake with the effort.

    1. It's funny how all that wisdom just bubbles up when Edna is around. I don't know if I'll stop putting my plate in the microwave, but now that she's watching, I'll make more of an effort! :D

      My stepmother is from Croatia and she makes AMAZING nut rolls around Christmas time. Maybe I'll get her to show me some day, I hope!! I'm not a fan of nuts, or really amaretto flavor, etc. but my husband goes gaga over her nut cake.

    2. P.S. Your line 'including the two doing the grating' made me cackle.

  8. I'm still trying to process the fact that you were in kindergarten in 1980.

    Wasn't that just last year?

    And should I tell you when my oldest son was born?

    Ruthy, are you with me on this?

    1. That's the first thing I noticed, Jan!!! That's the year I graduated from high school!!! LOL Virginia, you're just a baby!

      But I love you anyway. And I really, really want to make this cake. Can you believe I've never heard of almond paste??!! I probably shouldn't admit that. :)

    2. Missy, there's almond paste and almond filling. Apparently very different! One is like marzipan and the other is very soft... like pecan pie filling. Mmmmm. Opening the can, it smelled pretty strong, but mixed in with cake batter it was just right!

    3. P.S. I don't think anyone creeping up on 40 can be called a baby, but I'll take it!

    4. Almost filling is what I meant to say I've never heard of. I'm glad you pointed out the difference, though, or I probably would have gone looking for paste!

    5. ALMOND filling. Goodness, I can't type.

    6. Heehee! And I know the difference because we were going to make a cake with almond PASTE but I bought this instead... so change of plans. Apparently there are good recipes for both!

    7. Creeping up on 40 is a baby for someone who's already crept up on 50! ;)

  9. Replies
    1. Ha. Right.

      You baby.

      (I mean that in the best way possible...)

  10. Awwww! I actually got my hand drawn plates out of the cupboard and admired them :D Fortunately I was not the artist on most of them--that honor belongs to you and Grandma Hathaway I believe. Is there any cake left? I could be there Saturday....

    1. How about I make a new one? This one lasted approximately 17 minutes. :D And yes, all those great character plates of Grandma's are awesome!

      Now, you say you're not the artist on MOST of them. Does that mean there is a sisty ugler artistic plate hiding somewhere????

    2. Ummm, maybe one with a badly deformed robin. I'd love to say it was due to my age but sadly, it was a true showing of my artistic ability LOL!

  11. Oh, well, this is just lovely! I'm smiling ear-to-ear because Edna and my 1959 Betty Crocker Cookbook would be good friends.



    I love almond cake and poppy cake and lemon cake... So was this as good as it looks???? Tender, moist, deliciosa????? Because now I want almond cake BADLY.

  12. This was amazing. Probably the best cake I've ever made. But then again... let me say it's probably the best cake I've ever eaten in my kitchen. There, that sounds better.