Christmas Cakes!

Recipe: spumoni cake

Spumoni Cake
This cake is wonderful! It is also extremely pretty. I’ve been making it for years. ~ Linda Kilbride – Maricopa, Arizona

1 (18.25 ounce) box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
8 ounces sour cream
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
Green food coloring
1 cup chopped nuts
Red food coloring
1/2 cup drained and quartered marachino cherries
2 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Mix cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil, sour cream and dry pudding well; divide into 3 bowls.

Into the first bowl put green food coloring and nuts. Gently mix into the batter.

Into the second bowl put red food coloring and maraschino cherries. Gently mix into the batter.

Into the third bowl put chocolate and almond extract. Gently mix into the batter.

Layer the three different colors into a well-greased Bundt pan; green, red, then chocolate. Bake at 350 degrees F for 55 minutes.

After you have removed the cake from the pan, and it has cooled, you can glaze it with a white or colored glaze, if desired. At Christmas-time, I usually use a Christmas green glaze, and let it run down the sides a bit.

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Sherry’s Signature Cheesecakes

One of her knockout cheesecakes in Clayton NC

One of her knockout cheesecakes in Clayton NC

This place has got some awesome cheesecakes. Period.  They are in a small shop in the Clayton NC area and this actually is all that they do – cheesecakes.  Well, they do have a few other goodies, but for the most part, it’s all about everyone’s favorite cream cheese dessert.  It’s odd to find a little shop like this outside of a normal city downtown, but they appear to be doing very well.  All of these cakes are made on premises by the owner, Sherry Mitchell.  She boasts over 50 flavors of cheesecake and has quite a list of offerings at her shop.  They service the local Clayton people, but also are out to offer the Raleigh cheesecake connoisseurs something that they can sink their dessert-loving teeth into!  Cheesecakes are sold by the slice, by the half cake (6 slices), or by the whole cake (12 slices).

She offers a minimum of 3 different cheesecakes each day.  Of those that were sampled, there was a real affinity for the turtle cheesecake and she also had a great sweet potato cheesecake.  Yes, I know that doesn’t sound like a normal cheesecake flavor, but when you do these things day in and day out, it’s likely that you DO want to try out something different.  She indicated that she actually made a honeysuckle cheesecake this past summer.  It apparently takes a whole LOT of honeysuckle to pull that off.

Sherry's Signature Cheesecakes - Great location

Signature Cheesecakes – GREAT location right on Clayton Main St.

The location offers down home charm with a wonderfully decorated interior.  Quiet and cozy, but large enough to handle parties of 20 or more, the shop is located right on Main St in Clayton near the Hocutt-Ellington Library.  We also really like the outside area with tables available in more temperate weather.  It was a bit cold the day we were there, but it looked like it would be perfect for enjoying some tasty desserts.

Sherry’s Signature Cheesecakes also supplies local restaurants with her many desserts.  You can find them around the Raleigh NC area.  If you happen to be a restaurant owner looking for something special for your menu, don’t hesitate to contact her. She provides discounts for “restaurant size” orders.  She also has a punch card system for frequent visitors – if you visit 10 times and buy a slice, you get the 11th free!  Not bad.

She also offers granola bars, scones and some other things depending on the season and free time that they have available!  When we met with her last week, she indicated that she had over 200 cheesecake pickups for Christmas.  She was baking at full speed to get them all out – and we hope she did.  If you’d like to try your hand at making your own, check this page out at FoodNetwork.com

Anyway, if you get a chance to try out any of these cheesecakes, definitely do so.  They will be well worth your time. 

 

Lamb Cakes for Easter-Time!

download (1)Around Easter, my family does a WHOLE lot of baking. One of the biggest traditions is my mom always bakes a lamb cake (or as my brother and I fondly refer to it: the sheep cake.)  No, it doesn’t consist of the body parts of any furry creatures, it’s simply a coconut cake we bake in the shape of–you guessed it–a lamb.

Perhaps Step 1 of this recipe should read, “I’d turn back if I were you.” It isn’t the ingredients that are scary, just the mechanics. 

The cake batter is similar to that of a yellow pound cake, because the finished product has to be sturdy to stand upright, like a lamb in a pasture. That type of batter, however, is thick and rich, which means it likes to stick to the pan. So plan on spending plenty of time massaging shortening into the five million creases and crinkles of the cake mold with your fingertips. If you are naive enough to use a non-stick spray shortening instead, the baked lamb will not release from the pan. At least not in one piece.

I remember all the times I saw my mother confidently remove a lamb cake from the oven, smiling as the aroma filled the kitchen, whistling while it sat on the rack to cool, and then mutter something under her breath , as she jiggled, pounded, pried and wedged the two pan sections apart.

lamb cakeWith an ear missing and a gouge out of the back, we ate the cake anyway, even though my mother said it was not worth frosting. The coconut flakes we put on top to give it a fluffy appearance. Chocolate chips or black jelly beans were used as eyes and nose, and a red ribbon wrapped around the the neck, symbolic of the Easter Paschal lamb. Green coconut was spread around the bottom of the lamb, representative of grass, and jelly beans added color to the serving plate.

While this Easter tradition is one of the more exasperating ones, it also has had my family create many fond memories. If you’re looking to take this project on yourself, all you need is a lamb cake pan which you can find here, and the following recipe. No, it might not turn out beautifully, and you might have to patch up an ear with a great deal of frosting, but at the end of the day it’s a meaningful, fun tradition to start this Easter season.

LAMB CAKE RECIPE

2 cups all purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/8 cups sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup milk

Grease pan front and back thoroughly and dust lightly with flour. Or, mix together a paste of 2 tablespoons flour and 1 tablespoon shortening; then use to grease pan. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl and set aside.

Cream butter, and add sugar slowly, until batter is smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and add vanilla. Add flour mixture and milk alternately, until well combined.

Place face half of mold on cookie sheet and fill with batter to the top, being careful to fill nose and ears. Lay one toothpick in batter of each ear, to add stability. Place back mold on top of front mold, and tie two pieces together with kitchen string. Bake 45 minutes.

When done, let cool on cooling rack for 15 minutes, then remove back pan. Let cool another 15 minutes, then use a sharp knife to carefully loosen pan around edges. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

BUTTER FROSTING

6 tablespoons butter, softened

4 1/2 to 4 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

In a small mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add about half of the sugar, beating well. Beat in milk and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining sugar, adding more milk, if necessary, to make frosting of spreading consistency