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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


Gram had several cake recipes, through which I’m sifting — Lady Baltimore, Queen Elizabeth, cakes that have great aspirational names. This one does too: Cordon Bleu Cake.

For all the fancyness of the name, this is a great and durable cake. I’ve made it on the fly, with substituted ingredients, in a questionable oven . . . the cake rises above all. (One thing that it cannot overcome: Whole-wheat pastry flour. Like eating sweetened chunky sand.)

Cordon Bleu cake from Baking Family

A tabbed parchment liner helps you get the cake out of the pan...and see how the well-done cake pulls away from the pan's side?

The original recipe called for greasing the pan, then adding waxed paper and greasing that. This is where my friend parchment paper comes in. Just trace the bottom of your pan on parchment paper and cut, leaving two “tabs” on opposite sides of the circle. You’ll use those tabs to pull the cake out of the pan. I still grease the whole pan first, then stick the parchment-paper circle in the bottom; the butter holds everything in place as you add the batter.

This weekend I made the cake with orange icing, in honor of a gathering of old friends. It seemed an appropriate color and flavor with which to fight the January blues. The orange icing was Dad’s favorite, bar none. His birthday cake every year I can remember? Cordon Bleu cake with orange icing.

I’m going to post the orange icing soon; it needs some work. I didn’t want to hold back on the cake, though. Use your own favorite icing, and have a winter-blues fighting party at your house.

Cordon Bleu Cake

Makes one two-layer 9-inch cake

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1-1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 rounded teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg white

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 2 9-inch cake pans. Cut parchment paper to fit bottoms of pans, leaving tabs on each side of the circles to use as lifters. Fit parchment into pans.

In a large bowl, cream butter until light; slowly add sugar, beating with a wooden spoon until very light. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time.

In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder. Add flour to batter alternating with milk, mixing well. In a small bowl, beat egg white until stiff; fold gently into batter.

Divide batter between the two pans, spreading gently until even. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until cakes are golden brown and are just beginning to pull away from the edges of the pans.

Let pans stand on a rack for 2-3 minutes; turn one cake out onto rack, and one onto your cake platter. When cake is cool, ice the first layer, then turn the second layer right side up on top of first layer and ice that.

Photos and recipe © 2010 Garside Group LLC

Is it just me, or are oatmeal cookies real sugar-bombs?

I made the ones from the original Silver Palate Cookbook this weekend, choosing that recipe over the “Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies” one in the lid of the oatmeal container. In part, this was my nod of farewell to Sheila Lukins, co-author of the SPC, who died last month. But the pragmatic reason was to avoid excess oilness: The “Vanishing” cookies have 33 percent more butter than the Silver Palate ones. (Or the Silver Palate cookies have 25 percent less butter than the “Vanishing” ones. Thank you, Miss Hughes, for seventh- and eighth-grade math.)

Now, the cookies I made disappeared just fine. I gave a fifteen-minute tour of our house while I left my brother and my husband alone in the kitchen with the cookie plate.

They seemed to have no problem with these cookies. The sweetness, however, really got to me. Is this because essentially oats have no flavor, and the character of the cookies rests on the sugar? I don’t think so. So is there an oatmeal cookie out there that backs down on the sugar, and amps up the oatiness, or raisinyness, or any of the other great qualities of these classic gems?

Grammy didn’t have an oatmeal cookie recipe in her repertoire, perhaps because there were other go-to cookies already in the fold. But I’m thinking that perhaps there should be such a recipe in the book. I’m also thinking it should feature golden raisins (my faves), and maybe even nuts to add character. That doesn’t take it TOO far from classic, right?

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