Tag Archives: The Recipe Box

Family Recipes: Fruit Cake

An easy, tasty yellow cake is essential to any home baker’s repertoire. An easy, tasty yellow cake with fruitis even better. My grandmother often made an amazing fruit cake – usually with plums – when we visited. This is the best kind of family recipe: there’s nothing really revolutionary, no proprietary secrets or weird ingredients – just a really, really good classic recipe that floored people every time my grandmother brought it out, and has done the same whenever I’ve made it. This recipe is the kind that I hope to rediscover every time I try something new out of one of my old cookbooks.

Grandma Viv’s Open Fruit Cake (Makes one 8″x8″ pan)

1/2 c. sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla (or other liquor)
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Cinnamon sugar
Berries, apples, pears, or stone fruit**

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift the dry ingredients together.
3. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.
4. Add the flour and baking powder mixture and blend well. The batter will  be pretty thick.
5. Spread it into a buttered or sprayed pan (8×8 works, as does a 9″ pie plate).  The batter will probably be spread pretty thin, but don’t worry – it rises a lot.
6. Press fruit into the batter, leaving about a 1/2 an inch between pieces, and sprinkle the top of the cake with cinnamon sugar.
7. Bake 35 – 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Be warned – if you use especially juicy fruit (like plums), the cake might remain pretty moist in the center.  In that case, just try to gauge whether you’re pulling out more juice or batter on the toothpick, and watch the edges of your cake for over-browning.

**The cake pictured above is a double recipe, baked in a 9″x13″ pan. I used 2 pears, and I mixed 1/4 c. chopped candied ginger into the batter before putting it in the pan.

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What is “Vintage”?

I’ve been casting around for a recipe suitable for a “first post.”  Should I start with a something outrageously kitschy?  Resurrect a glorious culinary gem?  I eventually thought: what’s more vintage than my grandma’s recipe box?  If I’m going to be exploring culinary history, I might as well start by exploring my own.  So, my first post is a tribute to my Grandma Viv: Rugelach.

This tribute is not as literal as it could be.  I mostly remember my father’s mother making rugelach very simply, from leftover pie dough and cinnamon sugar.  With her in mind, though, I’ve cobbled together the following: Joy of Cooking dough (pretty vintage itself), one recipe with a more traditional filling (raspberry jam, cinnamon sugar, shaved chocolate) and one with an original filling (peach jam and candied ginger – I call this “original” but my dad and grandpa would probably condemn it as “goyische”).

I’ve cobbled together a couple of old recipes, and added a new twist.  For me, though, “vintage” isn’t just about the publication date of a book: it encompasses old world feelings and traditions, apron-wearing, seafoam green, new wonder at the usefulness of a Kitchenaid mixer.  For me, rugelach carry all that and more.  So, for my Grandma, for Mrs. Rombauer, and for Bubbes everywhere…

Two Kinds of Rugelach (Makes 24-30)
For dough:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 c. flour

For filling:
Peach jam or seedless raspberry jam
Cinnamon sugar
Candied ginger, chopped OR bittersweet chocolate, grated

1. Mix the cream cheese and butter until fluffy and well combined (about 20-30 seconds on medium-high in a stand mixer).
2. Add all the flour at once and mix on slow until it forms a solid mass with the butter and cheese. Turn this mass out onto a floured surface and knead it about half a dozen times, until there are no large chunks of butter or cream cheese visible in the dough.
3. Separate the dough into 3 parts and pat these sections into discs about 1 inch thick. Cover the discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
5. Remove one disc of dough from the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface to 1/8-inch thick circle. Cut the circle into 8 or 10 pie-shaped wedges, keeping these wedges together in their original circle.
6. Spread about 1/4 c. of the jam of your choice on the round of dough, avoiding the center and leaving a band of clean dough about an inch wide at the outer edge. Sprinkle about 1 tbsp. cinnamon sugar over the jam and then 1 tbsp. of chocolate shavings (if using raspberry jam) or 3 tbsp. chopped ginger (if using peach).
7. Starting from the outer edge, roll each slice in toward the center point. Place the resulting roll point-down on a cookie sheet covered in parchment.
8. Repeat for the second and third discs of dough.
9. Bake 20-25 minutes until the cookies are golden brown on top.
10. Cool and enjoy!

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