Besides the Bible's version, one of my favorite Christmas stories is the Guideposts magazine article of the seven delicious Christmas cakes. The writer's depression-era great-grandmother refused to let her children experience a dismal Christmas without presents. She began stocking up on baking ingredients in January, squirreling away a little flour and cinnamon here, a cup of nuts there, to make seven cakes. Apple, yellow cake with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, raisin, and green velvet were the ones mentioned in the article. Of course, it’s killing me not knowing the flavors of the other two cakes.
Anyway, by the time Christmas Eve arrived, she was ready for an all-night baking session. The children could barely sleep as the aroma of flavorful cakes baking in the oven all night wafted through the house. On Christmas morning, they ran to the kitchen to see seven frosted cakes lined up on the table. Each day during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the children got to enjoy a different cake.
The moral of this charming story is gifts made with love mean the most. It pains me to walk through the supermarket baking aisle these days and see it relatively empty. Instead, shoppers are putting frozen pies and desserts in their carts and for gifts, selecting prefabricated, cellophane-wrapped baskets filled with coffee mugs, and hot cocoa mix and s’mores kits.
Instead of buying everything this year, why not bake a few select items for Christmas gift giving? I still remember the Madison mom I interviewed a few years ago. She and her daughters spend the entire weekend before school is out for the holidays making homemade pralines for the girls’ teachers and special friends. I’ve sworn off printing candy recipes due to the unreliability of some readers’ ovens and candy thermometers.
However, if you’d like the recipe for the easiest, yet most delicious pralines in the world, email me and I’ll send it to you. As long as you promise not to hold me responsible!
If baking a layer cake is too daunting, try a simple loaf that I’ve named Christmas Cherry (and Cheer!) Loaf. It’s a one-bowl, foolproof recipe that can’t be messed up, no matter how hard you try. My friends loved it so much when I gave it to them last year wrapped in red plastic wrap and tied with a bow (even the container is fool-proof), most asked for the recipe. So, here’s my Christmas gift to you – enjoy and happy baking!
Christmas Cherry (and Cheer!) Bread
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup of buttermilk
1/4 cup juice from 10-ounce jar of maraschino cherries (reserve the cherries for the end)
1/2 cup each white and brown sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each - salt and baking soda
Cup of chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
Add everything except cherries to mixing bowl. Beat well, scrape sides of bowl, and beat again.
Add chopped cherries and mix well. Bake in a greased and floured bread pan in a 350 degrees F oven for 60-70 minutes. Cool on rack, then invert onto a serving dish.
For the glaze, mix cup of powdered sugar with a teaspoon or two of milk and a teaspoon of almond extract. Beat and add milk until you get the consistency you like. Drizzle over warm bread.