Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Baker In Me

I've always loved to bake.  I get it from my mother.  My earliest memories of her in the kitchen, especially around the holidays, were her baking.  She probably made something of everything over her lifetime.  Cakes, cookies, candy, baked decorations.. it was wonderful to see how she loved to make.

Her mother loved it too.  As Thanksgiving approached, Big Mom (that's what we called my maternal grandmother--she was, after all, from Texas) would start to bake sugar cookies. Batches of them! She carefully sorted through her two or three suitcases of cookie cutters, picking which ones she wanted to use that year, and she'd mix, chill, roll, cut, bake, and store the cookies for days on end. Then she would put her kids to work frosting them.  There were plain cookies and imprinted cookies and all shapes and sizes (we have a tree cookie cutter from her stash that's nearly a foot tall), turkeys, pumpkins, santas, stockings, even full nativity set figures.

When Momma started teaching me how to bake, I began to realize what an influence good food has over community.  I could bake cookies for groups at school and the ice was instantly broken.  I would bake a cake for a friend who was moving away--he told me, "are you trying to make me miss you more?" Well, maybe just a bit :)  I have made cookies to mail to soldiers and received notes of great thanks.  It's amazing what doors thoughtful, home-made baked goods can open.

So, naturally, when Taylor asked me to make some dessert for the final mock trial competition at school (which he was organizing), I was happy to oblige.  He suggested a couple cakes and some cookies, so I went looking through my recipes.  I decided on four recipes: Big Mom's oatmeal crisps (these are "icebox" cookies) and her molasses cookies (soft and wonderful, not like gingersnaps); and I used Not Without Salt's simple chocolate cake recipe--one with and one without cocoa + coffee. With helpful hints from Smitten Kitchen, I baked the 4 layers of cake and refrigerated the cookie dough in preparation.

Mostly, though it took a little while, the baking went off without a hitch (except, perhaps, for a too-flat batch of molasses cookies (which I replaced with a better batch)).  Imagine my joy when Taylor came home and told me that everyone loved the desserts and they want recipes! Hence, this (apologetically lengthy) post.  I hear that one of the judges had my cake for dinner and took some home to his wife, too.  Friends have said the cookies were the bright spot in their day.  This is definitely an upside to being a baker!

So here are my recipes, for those who, like me, love to bake your way into people's hearts.

I made a chocolate butter cream frosting from KitchenAid's mixer recipe book. It's a pretty standard recipe, with melted chocolate as the flavor.   Let me know if you're interested in it and I can post it, too. Middle layer was just melted chocolate :)

Simple White Cake

I used the chocolate cake recipe above, but left out the cocoa powder and the coffee.  Instead of vanilla I used almond extract, and I added a few tablespoons more of flour, to compensate for the missing cooca.  Frosting's just a simple butter cream.  To give the frosting some texture, I used a mix of granulated sugar and powdered sugar. 

Molasses Cookies are the same as they've alway been, perfectly chewy inside and crispy outside, just the right size, with a wonderful sugary texture all around.  

Oatmeal Crisps couldn't be an easier cookie to make.  Mix the dough, roll it into a log in wax paper, refrigerate, slice, bake. Presto--several dozen cookies to munch!  

Enjoy :) 


  1. yuuum, hungry now! There is nothing like baking to bring back millions of memories of Momma. Thanks Annie.

  2. I love to bake seester, but you have carried on Momma's baking spirit for sure! It's so nice to see how we've all inherited and (dare I say it) improved upon Momma's recipes! You'll have to make us something great when you're out here!

  3. Fabulous. You have made your way into hearts through baking. I wish I had such skill. I wish I had all your crafty skills.

  4. Ah, Renee, you can develop your skills :) It's just that you're *currently* developing your mommy skills, while I get to practice my crafty ones.. wanna trade? :D