Holiday Baking: Let Them Eat Cake!

Celebrations bring out the best in any kitchen and nothing says celebration like cake!

Cakes have been enjoyed since ancient times.  In early times, cakes much more resembled fruit and nut breads, sweetened with honey.  The word “cake” itself dates back to the 13th century and was derived from the old Norse word, “kaka”.  I think we can all agree that the English version sounds more appetizing.

The first cakes to resemble the modern cakes of today, emerged in the mid 17th century.  “Icing” was a boiled concoction of sugar, egg whites and flavorings.  It was then poured over the cake which was returned to the oven.  When it was removed, the icing cooled to form a hard, glossy, ice like shell.

No holiday table, whether for the family feast, holiday entertaining or potluck dinner, would be complete without a glorious cake.  But, the dilemma is in the choosing of which cake should grace the table with so many to choose from.

Of course there are the basic flavors but for something extra special, I’d choose a spice cake or perhaps an orange cranberry and I’ll give you the recipe for both.

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Cranberry Orange Cake:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature

1 Tbsp orange zest from one large orange

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup milk room temperature

1/2 cup orange juice fresh squeezed, from the orange

1 cup (heaping) cranberries , coated in 1 Tbsp flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 8″ cake pans and line with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.

Cream butter and orange zest until smooth. Add sugar and beat on med until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins).

Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.

Alternate adding flour mixture with milk & orange juice, beginning and ending with flour  Fully incorporating after each addition.

Toss cranberries in 1 Tbsp of flour. Gently fold cranberries into cake batter.

Spread batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops.

Bake for 25-30mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.

Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack.

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Spice Cake

Ingredients

3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 8-inch round cake pans.

In a small mixing bowl whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground ginger and ground cloves.

Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk alternately beginning and ending with the dry.

When the batter is well mixed and smooth, divide it among the 3 prepared cake pans and bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes come out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out to cool completely.

Perfect Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

2 cups unsalted butter (at room temperature)

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

3 tsp vanilla

5 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

(For mine, I added cinnamon for color for one of the cakes.)

Instructions

Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on low to medium speed. Mix until thoroughly incorporated – for about one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again for a few seconds more.

Over mixing the butter and sugar in this step will cause too much air to be incorporated into the dough. If you’d like a light and fluffy cookie, that’s ideal, however the dough will spread more during baking; not ideal if you’d like the cookie to hold its shape.

Add eggs slowly and mix. Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.

Add vanilla. Stir briefly.

Sift your dry ingredients together. (Flour, salt).

Add all of the flour mixture to the bowl. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. .

Place the dough between two pieces of  parchment paper and roll into 1/4″ thick rounds. Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.

Roll out the dough further if you need to, and cut out cookie shapes. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Re-roll scraps and repeat.

Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again. They will then hold their shape better when baked.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 176°C.

Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown. The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.

Let cookies cool to room temperature and decorate!

(I melted while candie melts in the microwave then placed into a piping bag to decorate the cookies.  Add a dollop of melted candie melts to the back of cookies to attach popsicle sticks)

Assembly

If the cake layers have domed a little during the baking process, slice off the tops with a long serrated knife so they are flat and even.

Place a dab of frosting onto the cake plate to anchor the cake then place the first layer, cut side down, on a cake pedestal or serving plate. Spoon about 3/4 cup of the frosting onto the center of the cake. Spread it almost to the very edges with an offset spatula. Pipe a ring around the edge with a large circle tip. Repeat with the remaining 2 layers.  Frost lightly around the cake, dragging the spatula around it so that most of the frosting is removed and the layers are revealed if a ” Naked Cake” is the look you prefer.  Lightly frost the top layer. Decorate with cookies and drizzle with caramel sauce.

Quick Butter Cream:

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
Pinch salt
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream

Cream Cheese Buttercream:

2 cups unsalted butter room temperature.  1 Tbsp orange zest.                                8 oz cream cheese full fat, softened.    5 cups powdered sugar.                      1 tsp vanilla

Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste. 
  1. In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the sugar with 1/4 cup cold water and stir to combine. Cook, without stirring, until the sugar has turned a deep amber hue, approximately 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, warm the cream in a small saucepan. When the caramel is ready, slowly whisk in the warm cream and continue simmering the mixture until it is smooth, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, then whisk in the butter, and then the salt, to taste.

61 comments

    • Thank you Lisa! They were so fun to make and decorate! Our church asked if I would bring a main course dish but…if I wanted to, could I please bring a dessert too. We would gather together for service, then a holiday mexican dinner as a congregation. I made homemade chicken chimichangas with queso Blanco and the first cake for dessert.
      The other, I made for our family Christmas eve Hanukkah celebration.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Beautiful cakes, what an inspiration! Check out my winter wonderland cake at tomytartscontent.com where I add fun tips and tricks to the classics!

    Like

  2. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment
    didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyway, just wanted to say excellent blog!

    Like

  3. Hi Laura! Just a quick note on your remarks about always fixing too much food. Yes you do! I remember your contributions to our church dinners! It was always delicious and plenty for all!! We miss that, but we miss you and Clay more. So glad you guys are getting to be closer to family.

    Like

    • Awww….thank you Linda! 💕 we miss you all more than you could know. We visit many churches but, you guys (our home church) leave giant shoes to fill. Buildings are plenty, but the church body, family, community are much harder to find and that’s such a rare and special thing we have back home with you.

      Like

  4. The cakes look – and I’m sure taste, wonderful! For the sugar cookie cut outs, I do chill the dough, but have never chilled the cookie dough after I’ve cut them out. Interesting! I need to try the frosting!
    How long do you allow the frosting to ‘set’ before being able to stack the cookies? I can never be patient enough to wait for this, I end up with a big ole’ mess, not that my kids mind! 😏

    Like

    • The true trick to the cookies is you DO NOT add backing powder etc. Its the leavening that causes cookies to spread out, thus ruining the shape and they taste perfectly marvelous without it. Decorating the cookies: I find that royal icing ( this is the typical frosting that hardens) can be a royal pain with inconsistent results that I don’t usually have time nor patience for so using the candie melts… so much simpler, quicker and always expected results. The craft section of Walmart always has them in the cake decorating/ party planning area otherwise they can be bought online and has several colors and flavors. They melt quickly in the microwave and I scoop it into a piping bag (no tip needed) and snip the end of the bag. You can actually use a sandwich bag for this and snip the corner. I just always have disposable piping bags on hand. This sets up within a few minutes. It only needs to cool. Super simple and easy cleanup.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh my, you do such lovely work–and surely Delish! A few days ago I made a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting–not window-display worthy like yours, but easy and addictive! Say, Laura–I wonder if I could ask you something: do you know any good books to recommend on the subject of Messianic Judaism? I have a friend who needs a serious “boost” in life…and naturally, I think that would be Jesus. But she’s Jewish, and has had negative experiences with folks of Protestant belief–and I don’t know how to share that she doesn’t have to give up her Jewish heritage to embrace the living Messiah. Any help would be appreciated, thank you! ❤

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    • Hi! You know, I think a pumpkin cake is a fantastic idea! My crowd claims to love pumpkin pie yet they NEVER eat it! It doesn’t matter if I bake or buy.
      On the topic of your friend, I want to be really thoughtful answer so let me do some digging on what would be the best resources for her in her situation, ok? I’ll get back you with proper suggestions ok?

      Like

      • J.a., in the meantime, there’s a website,
        I Met Messiah, (oneforisrael) , I think it’ll be inspirational and resourceful in introducing your friend to Yeshua (Jesus). It’s videos of Jewish peoples testimonies of how they met and came to believe Jesus. I literally binge watched them. Lol
        I was stunned to hear how many of them had no idea this was a Jewish man, the NT a Jewish document and how upon reading it, immediately knew it! It’s uplifting to say the least but may be helpful to understand the perspective and in helping you with the introduction. 😊

        Like

      • I just hopped over there, and bookmarked it–WOW, I’m so thrilled it makes my heart LEAP!!! ❤ Maybe I can "sneak" the link into an email to my new friend who is struggling with such a heavy heart…hope you will pray for her too, thanks. Abundant blessings to you, Laura ❤ (By the way, I was Somewhere Sea blog previously, shh! 🙂 )

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I will! I will pray for her, for you and that G-d prepare the path for you in this quest. Hugs & 💖’s!
        (I was totally freaking out because I knew that I already followed you and was confused as to how it was showing that I wasn’t! Lol Mystery solved!)

        Like

  6. Looks and sounds fantastic. A quick question, does cake and pie survive the night in your house.

    I ask, because it seems like you know how to make some really great food. In my home, a good cake or pie will generally not survive the night. By the morning an empty plate or pan will be left in the fridge with some crumbs and usually a used fork.

    Like

    • Hahaha great question! You know, when baking for events such as Christmas parties or potluck gathering….nope, not a crumb is left anywhere! Now, the family holiday feast or any family meal, I’ll have leftovers for a week! Why? Because I cook as though I’m feeding a village. I honestly can’t explain it but I always have, whether we had kids at home growing up or just the two of us.
      I speculate that it may be due to often living in poor situations as a child…. ( this may be difficult for you chew on but, I’ll just offer it to you) I recall very clearly, being 4 or 5 and asking for a second helping of dinner. I suppose it made my stepfather feel belittled as a provider (but to be honest, he wasn’t much back then) and he backhanded me out of my chair. I suspect that when I cook for others, I subconsciously want to make sure that no one is left hungry and has all they want?
      Sorry if that was heavy.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Awe! So sorry! I remember growing up, it was sort of even rude to ask for seconds. As there often wouldn’t be none.
        I’m so glad you’re able to have an abundance now and be able to share with family! 😊🙏🏽

        Like

      • It was a very abusive childhood and my mother, too, suffered these cruel hands but …we have a God who is ABLE. A life so vile, violent, guttural ….in the end of it, gentle, humble, childlike…who knew that God had forgiven him but who could not forgive himself.
        How we perceive abundance is a funny thing and varies wildly from individual perspective. I know that through life that term has changed for me. When I was a child, it meant for me what others had that I lacked. Later in life it became a different thing. It came with the knowledge of undeserved grace in all its forms, an awareness of things we take for granted and with a heart of gratitude.
        I grew to acknowledge that I may go to the sink anytime I wish and have clean water, every roof, large or tiny, have me shelter, through times of little and of much, I’ve had some sort of nourishment, I have love…family, friends. In the my lowest of my lows even while devastated, losing everything I owned in a fire, homeless, baby on my hip….I was provided for….friends and strangers giving shelter, food, covering my nakedness…..I had abundance. Abundance became every small, minute thing that I had been blessed with that even one other person may not have.
        My goodness! I believe you have inspired me, Being as I just wrote a whole post in this comment! Lol 🤣

        Liked by 2 people

      • Haha! I’m so glad I was able to do that for you.
        Amen! I agree. I saw my father put his hands on my mother at the age of 5. They divorced and through God’s mercy were able to reconcile when I was 15. But during that time, with a single more of three small children, she was working up to 2 jobs at a time, we grew up with very little, which began – and still, the love for thrift stores. We didn’t get much only on but Easter Sunday – new dresses. After that, it was all second hand and all that God was able to provide. But you’re absolutely right, what I experienced or was small for me, now has served a bigger purpose. I can now teach my children to have a heart filled with love and gratitude, for all things, big or small.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s just beautiful!
        You know, I’m just like that too. I love a yard sale, thrift store, frugality, repurpose, refinish, reuse etc. I think it gave us the ability to find value in the smallest of things and I think that’s a blessing in itself. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • Amen, indeed!
        Yessss, I find such joy in doing that! Finding a good sale, or finding a purpose in what others may not. Awe! So glad there’s others that do that, it’s such a small thing that can make a big impact. ☺️🙏🏽

        Liked by 1 person

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