First Batch of Pumpkin Spice Fixin’s

It’s a weakness.

I mix it in my coffee and in pancake batter. I’ll continue to make it through at least January. Recipe, here.

If you make a batch of it, be sure to buy your vanilla at Sam’s Club or Costco; the recipe calls for a full cup and that stuff is expensive!

Mary McAskill’s (1853-1931) Apple-Orange Cake

Apple-Orange Cake

My great-grandmother, Mary McAskill, made this simple four-layer cake at Christmastime because she had its main ingredients, oranges and dried apples, on hand. My grandmother, Ruth McAskill Hagler, also made this cake. My father, Buddy Hagler, started making it when I was a teenager. He dried his own tart, green apples from a tree that grew in the backyard. I found four-years worth of dried apples, pre-measured for future cakes, in Dad’s freezer chest when I cleaned it out after he died.

I continued the tradition of making the apple-orange cake with those dried apples until they were gone. Now, I use dried apples from The Apple Barn. It’s important to use dried apples for this recipe, and not the more common evaporated apples. It’s hands down my favorite cake. I especially like it with a side of ambrosia.

  • 2 cups dried apples (not evaporated)
  • 3 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups sugar
  • 1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix, or make a 2 layer yellow cake from scratch (I prefer the mix.)

Cook the dried apples in 4 cups of water until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Use an immersion blender, Foley mill, or sieve to puree the apples. Addthe orange juice and sugar and cook on medium heat until thick, about 40-50 minutes.

As soon as the two cake layers are cool enough to handle, split them with a bread knife or with dental floss. Evenly distribute the apple-orange sauce between each layer while they are still warm. When you get to the top layer, keep piling on the sauce. The sauce will begin to stick to the sides of the cake as it cools. Use a narrow spatula to scoop the icing onto the sides from around the bottom of the cake.

Keep refrigerated.

The Christmas Tradition That Must Not Be Repeated

Several years ago, I thought it would be smart to find something to cook for breakfast that I could make in advance for Christmas morning. I wanted breakfast to be more than the regular fare, but also something that wouldn’t take a cook away from the gift-giving festivities. The solution? Porridge cooked overnight in the crockpot!

The recipe consisted of whole grains: pearl barely, oatmeal, wheat germ, and who knows what else. The concoction cooked on low in the crockpot all night, and by morning, the convenient, healthy, and inviting Christmas Porridge had become sticky, tasteless, inedible Christmas Gruel. I promised the kids I’d never serve it again. And so, the Christmas tradition that must not be repeated was born.

Here’s how it works. Each year on Christmas eve, the adults in the family take turns making something to eat (not necessarily a breakfast food). The only rule is we can’t make the dish again, even if we like it. Over the years we’ve had:

It’s my sister’s turn this year. She introduced us to stackers—chocolate wafers (like you eat with ice cream) layered with red and green colored cool whip. YUM!


Figgy Pudding


Figgy Pudding:

  • 2 package(s) (8 ounces each) dried Calimyrna figs
  • 1 3/4 cup(s) milk
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup(s) sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon(s) ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup(s) (1 stick) margarine or butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) (3 to 4 slices white bread) fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon(s) grated orange peel
  • Marzipan fruit and greens, for garnish

Brandied Hard Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cup(s) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup(s) (1 stick) margarine or butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoon(s) brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract


  1. Figgy Pudding: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 1/2-quart metal steamed-pudding mold or fluted tube pan.
  2. With kitchen shears, cut stems from figs; cut figs into small pieces. In 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, cook figs and milk, covered, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (mixture may look curdled). Be careful not to let mixture boil.
  3. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat eggs 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; add margarine or butter, bread crumbs, orange peel, and warm fig mixture. Gradually add flour mixture; beat until just blended.
  5. Spoon fig mixture into mold, smoothing top. Cover with sheet of greased foil, greased-side down. (If your mold has a lid, grease the inside and do not use foil.) Place the mold in a deep roasting pan and place on oven rack. Pour hot tap water into roasting pan to come 2 inches up side of mold.
  6. Bake pudding 2 hours or until firm and it pulls away from side of mold. Remove pudding from water bath; remove foil and cool on wire rack 10 minutes. Invert onto serving plate; remove mold. Garnish with marzipan fruit and greens. Serve warm.
  7. Brandied Hard Sauce: In small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat confectioners’ sugar, margarine or butter, brandy, and vanilla extract until creamy. Refrigerate if not serving right away. Makes about 1 cup.Nutrition information given is for one serving pudding without Hard Sauce.

Sugar Plums

  • 2 cups whole almonds
  • 1⁄4 cup honey
  • 2 tsp. grated orange zest
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1⁄2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • 1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 400°. Arrange almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool, then finely chop. Meanwhile, combine honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl. Add almonds, apricots, and dates and mix well.

Pinch off rounded teaspoon-size pieces of the mixture and roll into balls. (Rinse your hands often, as mixture is very sticky.) Roll balls in sugar, then refrigerate in single layers between sheets of waxed paper in airtight containers for up to 1 month. Their flavor improves after ripening for several days.

Makes 75 sugar plums.


  • Oven: 335-350o
  • 7 Cups flour
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • ½ lb. butter, softened
  • 2 pkg. dry yeast
  • 6 eggs (grade AA large. Should be 1 1/3 Cups eggs)
  • ½ Tsp. Mace
  • 2 Tsp. salt
  • Grated rind of one lemon
  • 1 ½ Cups milk, lukewarm
  • Optional: 3/4 – 1½ Cups finely chopped candied fruit, mixed with “golden”‘ raisins
  • 1 beaten egg for glaze
  • 1 Cup blanched almonds to decorate outside.

In the large KitchenAid bowl, starting with mixing paddle: dissolve yeast in milk, add 2 Cups flour and ¼ Cup sugar to make a sponge. Mix and let stand while assembling other ingredients. (About 15 min.)

Add eggs, butter, lemon rind, 1 Cup flour, 3/4 Cup sugar, salt and Mace; mix till smooth. Add fruit. Add remaining flour, 1 Cup at a time, changing to dough hook when the mixture becomes too stiff for the paddle.

Knead for about 15 min., or until dough is smooth and shiny, scraping sides of bowl when necessary. If it is sticky because of the moisture in the fruit, add a little more flour. Dough will be soft, so don’t add too much more flour. (If moisture in fruit makes dough sticky, add a little more flour.

Put into large greased bowl to rise in warm place, about 2 hours, or till doubled. Turn out on floured board, cut into 4 pieces. (Knead a little flour into each if dough is too soft.

Cut each piece into 3, roll each section into a short rope about 1 ½ -2 inches in diameter and about 9 inches long. 9. Lay these 3 side by side, pinch together at one end, and gently braid, loosely, just a few crossings.
Transfer to cookie-sheet (either greased or non-stick.)

Repeat with the other 3 pieces, putting each finished braid on a separate cookie sheet. Allow to rise till nearly double. (Additional rising will take place in oven.)
Brush with beaten egg, decorate with halves of blanched almonds, and bake at 335-350o for 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.
TO BLANCH ALMONDS: Put 1 Cup shelled almonds into pan, cover with hot water, bring to boil. Turn off heat, allow to stand for 5-10 minutes. Drain hot water off and cover almonds with cold water, letting them stand for a few more minutes. Skins will readily slip off when pinched. Split each almond in half; otherwise they are too bulky, do not cling to the dough as well, and are too hard to cut through after Stollen is baked.

Lemon Sauce

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter


In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add boiling water. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and clear. Stir in lemon peel, lemon juice, and butter. Serve warm over dessert or bread pudding.

It’s a good idea to double this recipe. Great with gingerbread cake!

Gofres (Belgium Sugar Waffles)

Batter 1:
1¼ ounce fresh cake yeast or 2 ½ package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup warm milk

Batter 2:
9 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
pinch of salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
½ cup pearl sugar or ¾ cup crushed sugar cubes

For Batter 1: In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with 1 tbsp of the flour and the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.

Sift the remaining flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture, egg and milk. Mix to make a smooth batter. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until the batter has doubled or tripled in volume.

For Batter 2: In a medium-size bowl, mix the butter, flour, salt, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon (if using), granulated sugar and pearl sugar into a paste.

With hands, work the two batters together. Shape the dough into 10 balls; flatten each ball then dust lightly with flour.

Bake in a medium-hot waffle iron. If the iron is too hot the sugar will burn. Bake until the waffles are golden brown but still soft, 3 to 4 minutes.