Saturday, December 3, 2016

Traditional Almond Cake for Christmas and Book reveal!

Hello, everybody! (Wow, that was bold. But I kinda like it so I'm going to leave it.) The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a recipe I've shared before. Every year since I first brought it to the cafe, in fact. It's sort of a Christmas tradition to make this fragrant almond cake during Advent. Sort of like sugar cookies or pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving or Jan's spiced cider. Certain seasons and holidays make us yearn for certain foods. So, although we made it in my new cast iron bundt pan this year, the recipe is still the same! Edna has been retired (but still present in the kitchen to give advice) for several years, but she loves a little bite of fresh almond cake. Happy Advent!

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.

Now, for the reveal! I started several new projects this year. One was a whole new pen name for Regency books, another took months of my time and I STILL can't say anything about it (ha!), but one long-term project is finally emerging. It's a six author, shared-world series set in Arcadia Valley, Idaho. 

It's taken months of planning, organization, and work, but our first book (a novella collection) is up for pre-order! Starting in February , one book a month will be released by one of the six authors in the group, for a total of 24 books. (I'm up first with Summer's Glory, and I LOVE the book. But I always love the book I just finished so... take that with a grain of salt. LOL)

 The blurb for my novella, called Spring's Blessing:

Life gets complicated for Charlotte MacGregor when a motherless child and a handsome widower encroach on her carefully laid plans. Will she keep her heart above the fray, or take a leap of faith?

So, that's the almond cake revisit for 2016 and my new book reveal. Can you believe the year is almost over? It went by so quickly!! 
Be sure to stop by my author pages at Mary Jane Hathaway or Virginia Carmichael, or visit my blog at The Things That Last for more news!.


  1. Virginia, I love that new cover!! Can you tell us your new pen name yet?? I can't wait until you tell the other secret! :)

    BTW, I made this cake last year, and it was a fail for me! I don't know what I did wrong. I need to try again.

    1. Oh, NOOOOOOOO. I'm so sorry the cake didn't turn out! And the new pen name will remain secret. :D I'm really enjoying being able to write in a new genre without worrying about crossover readers or disappointing fans of my MJH series (where are the grits??), so until it somehow gets linked (we all know nothing is ever secret), I'll just say I write Regency and leave it at that. :) But I have five books in that genre now and it's been a blast this year!
      Now, the other project: fingers crossed and lots of prayers! We shall see how it shakes out. I do hate to count my chicks before they hatch. I'm nervous that way... But hopefully by the end of the year!

    2. I also meant to say congrats on the Arcadia series! I love that cover!

    3. Thank you, Missy!

      And I went to find the recipe, just to double check that I hadn't left out something important. I used the recipe on the inside of the label, but it was online, too.
      This on says 1/4 cup milk but I used 1/3 because it seemed dry when I used 1/4. And I reduced the salt to 1/4 tsp from 1/2 tsp.
      I hope you'll give it another try!

    4. Mine was very dry, so I'll try that! :)

  2. I'm so glad you're adventuring out like this! I love how authors are doing full jump-in series, I saw some regency ones last year that had delightful success, and my interest was piqued but no one else wanted to jump into those waters and risk a full book... So my plans went on hold.

    Good for you! Venturing is so much fun! I think that's part of what keeps us fresh as authors, and a little bit of old-fashioned is a wonderful thing.

    Go get 'em, Tiger!!!!

    1. Well, I'm not the adventuring type, really. I like my cozy cave, just me and my trusty laptop... But sometimes I can see the glimmer of a plan and I think, "You know, that might actually work."
      We'll see!! For me, everything has to be balanced on how much time it takes. It can be successful but if it takes too much time from my family, it's a no go.
      I hope this is a great balance of working in a group and having the freedom to teach and mother my kids on our own schedule!

  3. I love that my little buddy added frosting. That's my only problem with bundt cakes or loaf cakes... they tend toward dryness and I love, love, love moist-frosting-bearing cake.

    That's my kind of kid right there!!!!!

  4. Every year I think, "I'm going to make this almond cake." But then the holiday baking looms, and the scale starts yelling at me...

    But I will make it, someday! Someday when I'm not home alone with it through the long hours when everyone else is at work. :)

    Or I'll take it somewhere to share! That's the ticket! I'm going to a Christmas party next week!

    1. It's funny, someone was talking about not making cookies because they can eat six at a time. When my kids leave the nest, I'm going to have to really adjust my baking schedule because there's no way I'd get six cookies to myself!
      I bake a batch and I don't even get onefrom the first pan.
      *POOF* They are gone! The joys of living with seven people.

      I make a cake and it's gone in minutes if we have guests. Just one piece for me!

  5. I love taking things to share.... that way I get a taste. And then I'm happy!

    1. YES! If I was alone, I'd probably never bake a cake or a batch of cookies. It would just be too much.
      But we made cookies three times last week because we had visitors... and none of them lasted a day.
      You know how it is!