Sunday, December 25, 2011



My memories of Christmas go back to when I was six years old.  Weeks before Christmas my mother was busy in the kitchen making fruitcakes for family and friends.  Today, many people see fruitcakes as “old fashioned” and even make jokes about them.  Well, I beg to differ.  I have family members who actually look forward to getting a delicious cake from me.  

Last night, I reflected on my childhood Christmas Eve.  Mom made chicken noodle soup and butterballs for supper.  After we ate and cleaned up the kitchen, we went to the Christmas program at church.  Our Sunday school teacher had us all prepared to recite our poems and sing our songs.  After the program, we each were presented with a brown paper bag of candies, assorted nuts to crack, and an orange.  Sometimes even a little gift.  I still have a cup that I got when I was eight. 

After church, we opened our presents.  I don’t remember much about a Santa Claus.  I always knew my mother did the shopping and I looked forward to a doll. 

Christmas day was a time for family and food.  Mom put the goose in the cook stove oven and then prepared all the trimmings; a regular feast.  After we ate, the women went to the kitchen to clean up and the men went to the living room and had a shot of schnapps.  The rest of the day was for visiting and eating mincemeat pies, kuchen, and Halvah.

Guess I best be getting my fruitcakes wrapped and ready for delivery.  The recipe I have given here is the one I have used since 1971.  We lived in Vallejo, California, and were unable to go back to South Dakota to spend the holidays with our family.  My children, even though young at the time: Michelle (4), Chris (2) were an inspiration to me to continue my cultural traditions.  Fruitcakes were one of them.  So, I purchased the ingredients and made my first cake.  I have made them ever since.


Bowl 1
4 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ cups flour

Bowl 2
½ cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. Brandy 
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried fruit mix
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup walnuts

Mix bowl 1 and bowl 2 together.  Pour into greased and floured baking pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for l hour and 45 minutes.  Have a pan of water in the over while cake is baking.  After the cake is cooled, I wrap it in cheesecloth soaked in brandy.

May the Peace and Happiness of the Christmas Season be with you all through the coming year. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ammonia Cookies and Honey Cakes

“GRUZNIKJE” – Ammonia Cookies and HONIGKUCHEN - Honey Cakes

Some years back, 1998 to be exact, I learned about Baking Ammonia.  I was concerned about using it for leavening, but was assured that the baking time evaporates all the ammonia.  Northern Europeans like to use it because it makes cookies light and crisp.  This is certainly true with this particular sugar cookie recipe.  They melt in your mouth.

The honey cakes taste like the outside of a fig newton bar and stay moist if you keep them in a covered tin.  They have a wonderful anise taste.  I read somewhere that “Anise” is the Spice of Christmas.  

Baking Ammonia can be difficult to find.  The best place to look is in drug stores, baking supply stores, or mail order catalogs.  Baker’s Ammonia is actually ammonium carbonate and if bought in chunks, must be crushed into a powder.

My mother always made several kinds of cookies during the Christmas holidays.  She would share them with family, friends, and neighbors.  This is a tradition I carry on.  I start my baking right about now, the middle of December.  My freezer and cupboards fill with goodies and there are even some left for Christmas Day.
If you enjoy baking, you won’t be disappointed with these recipes.


1 cup shortening
½ cup butter
2 cups white sugar
¼ tsp. salt
2 ½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking ammonia (mix in flour)
1 cup flaked coconut
Powdered sugar to sprinkle on cookies

Cream shortening, butter, and sugar.  Add salt, baking ammonia, flour, and coconut.
Roll into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 325 for 20 minutes
Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar


1 ¾ cups honey
½ cup butter
½ cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp. liquid anise
1 ½ tsp. baking ammonia
5 cups flour

Boil honey for one minute.  Let cool and add butter and sour cream.  Then add eggs, anise, and flour with baking ammonia.
Spread l/2 inch thick onto greased pan.  Brush on egg white.

Bake 375 for 15 minutes or until golden brown

Cut into squares