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You’ve got the standards done. Now, hmmm, the dessert that no one has had before. Or the dessert that reminds you of Thanksgivings past. Or just the easy dessert that you can make with the help of willing small hands (that’s the Free-form Apple Pie). Three options:

Pumpkin Custard No. 1

Cranberry Nut Pie

Free-Form Apple Pie

Here’s to happy memories in the Thanksgiving kitchen!


One of the bits of paper flying around in the greater collection of stuff from Grammy was a little foldover, like something that might have been included in a gift or a package. Printed on this brittle, yellowed rectangle of paper is a recipe entitled Printed recipe for Queen Elizabeth CakeQueen Elizabeth Cake. The recipe itself is simple and interesting; the story, written as a “note” on the right-hand side of the foldover, is the mystery.

“This is supposed to be the only cake Queen Elizabeth makes herself.

The Queen’s request is that it not be passed on, but sold for CHURCH purposes only. Large amounts of this cake she makes each year for the CHURCH OF ENGLAND.

A piece of the cake is sold with a RECIPE. The idea is to have more and more cake in the Parishes throughout the Country. It always sells because it is so good, and because it is the Queen’s own. It originated in Buckingham Palace after the Coronation.”

Now, the world wide web is not encyclopedic, nor is it all accurate. But if this were indeed a big deal for church and crown, wouldn’t one find something on, say, the official site of the royal family? Or the Church of England?

Not only is there nothing there, a Canadian site includes a disclaimer, attributed to a representative of the current Queen: The recipe ain’t hers.

If I were Queen Elizabeth, I would claim this recipe in a heartbeat. It makes a killer moist cake; when you pour the icing over the top, you’re headed for sticky toffee pudding. (There are some recipes on line that talk about broiling the icing. Nah. Looks really ugly.)

I guess if one is the Queen, however, one must be very careful about endorsements. If one were to select a certain cake to bear one’s name, would that be to the exclusion — or at the least, slighting — of all others? One would certainly not wish that. One has too many desserts to enjoy in this world.

Queen Elizabeth Cake from Baking Family

Queen Elizabeth Cake

It may seem like you are not making enough icing, but you are. You can either leave this cake in the pan or turn it out onto a platter before you ice it — the parchment-tab strategy makes this easy. The platter approach allows the coconut to catch not just the top but the sides as well.

Makes one 9 x 12 inch cake

  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9 x 12 inch pan, or line the pan with parchment paper.

Combine dates and baking soda, and pour boiling water over them. Let mixture stand.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, and beat well. Add flour, baking powder and salt; pour in date mixture and nuts, and mix all together well.

Pour batter into the pan. Transfer pan to the preheated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let stand.

Mix all icing ingredients except for coconut in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil; boil three minutes, until thickened. Pour icing over cake and spread. Sprinkle shredded coconut on top.

Photos and recipe copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC

My grandmother was born in 1900, and lived through several wars as well as the Great Depression. Though her family seemed consistently insulated from the worst, Grammy was a product of the messages of her time: She threw nothing away. When it came to kitchen drawers, that meant she had little scraps of tinfoil, rubber bands and glass containers lurking everywhere. When it came to food, there was no way Grammy was chucking the egg yolks when she made an angel-food cake, or the whites when she made custard sauce. Her collected recipes complement each other: The yin of yolk usage fits with the yang of a recipe employing whites. Meringues — whether as surprise cookies like these or just plain crisp meringue — were a stalwart repository for left-over egg whites. (A richer white-catcher is Titusville Cream Custard.)

Surprise Meringue Cookies from Baking FamilyThe “surprise” in these meringue cookies are mini chocolate chips and pecans. When I made the cookies recently, I followed Gram’s instructions — and ended up with something so sticky that I couldn’t get it past my molars. What’s more, the chocolate and nuts were lost in the meringue’s marshmallow.

So I upped the cooking time substantially, lowering the oven temperature to dry out rather than brown up the meringues. Divine. A whisper of crunchy meringue, grounded by chocolate and nuanced by nuts.

And next up? The custard sauce that I made out of the leftover yolks.

Surprise Meringue Cookies

If you are using a dark cookie sheet, drop the cooking temperature by 25 degrees and keep an eye on the bottoms of your cookies so they don’t get too brown.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

  • 3 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Add vanilla and salt. Continue beating while gradually adding sugar until mixture is thick and glossy. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by heaping teaspoonsful onto lined cookie sheets. Bake for 55 minutes or until dry to the touch and browned on top.

Recipe and photograph copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC

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