Tag Archives: Cake

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cake

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cake with Date
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cake with Date

This recipe is based on one of my favorite desserts that my Mother, Georgette Camporini, used to make when I was a kid – Cream Cheese Cake with Sour Cream Topping. I still have her recipe card, written in her delicate and precise script. 

I’ve added pumpkin and some pumpkin spice (especially for my friend Angela), changed the sugar from white to coconut palm, added some lemon zest. But, it is still basically the same recipe that my Mom got from Irene Maresso (as noted on her recipe card) who lived in the yellow house, right across the street from us in Indian Hills, Wisconsin, near Lake Geneva. It takes me back to those Midwest times. Thanks, Ladies!

Serves 8 – 16



  • 8-inch or 9-inch spring pan, greased on bottom and sides, then lined on bottom with a round of parchment paper

For crust:

  • 4oz (by weight) of graham crackers, broken and ground to rough crumb
  • 2-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tablespoons coconut palm sugar or white sugar
  • Pinch of salt

For filling:

  • 2 – 8oz packages cream cheese, softened. Be sure to use regular, full cream cheese, not light or low-fat.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 cup canned (or roasted and drained to thick consistency) pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice (a blend of cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom)
  • Generous pinch of salt

For topping:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup coconut palm or white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation (Chef's hat)Preparation

1 – Move an oven rack to lower 1/3 of oven. Pre-heat oven to 325˚ F.

2 -In a small bowl, whisk together the cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press into the bottom of the cake pan.

3 – To a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the softened cream cheese, the eggs, sugar, vanilla, pumpkin, pumpkin spice, and salt. Starting slowly with a hand or stand mixer, beat the ingredients for 2 to 3 minutes to combine well, or until the mixture is smooth and liquidy.

4 – Pour into the crust-lined cake pan and bake in a 325˚F for 40 minutes or until cake is set and slightly puffed. It will be a little cracked around the edges. Set it on a rack to cool for 10 – 15 minutes. When cooled, the cake will have settled, filling in the cracks, forming an edge around the top.

5 – While the cake cools, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, vanilla for the topping. When the cake has cooled, smooth the topping over the cake evenly, spreading it to the edges.

6 – Return to the 325˚F oven for 10 minutes to set the topping.

7 – Remove cake from the oven and cool for 30 minutes, before refrigerating the cake pan for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Remove cake from pan and serve cold, as is, or with berries or dates.

Questions? Contact barbara@CulinaryOracle.com
©2017 Barbara Newton-Holmes
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Let them eat flowers!

“As long as I am breathing, in my eyes, I am just beginning.”
Criss Jami, Killosophy
Purple Shades of Spice Cake with Pansies
Purple Shades of Spice Cake with Pansies
Over this past week… 
I have made 5 layer cakes.
All tolled: two cakes for Andrea, with two before those for practicing new recipes, plus one for my friend Norberta’s birthday.

Birthday Flowers

Chocolate Cake for Andrea
Chocolate Cake for Andrea

Andrea was making a 16th birthday dinner party for her daughter and 15 or so of her friends, including one whose birthday was the day after.

Although Andrea had had a Purple Shades of Spice Cake with basil flowers for the date night party she’d given last year, she thought that a chocolate cake and a lemon cake  would be appreciated more by younger palates. But, she definitely wanted edible flowers as the decorations, whatever the flavors. 


I got going on my research – looking for recipes that sounded delicious and deliverable, checking out the latest offerings at Gourmet Sweet Botanicals, where I’d gotten edible pansies for the Mother’s Day cake I had made for Angela.  

I chose fuchsia for the featured flower, with micro lemon basil for leaves. Gourmet ships overnight in an insulated box with wrapped cold packs, ensuring flower freshness for a couple of days.  I could have gone over to Specialty Produce – one of my very favorite places and where I’d first seen micro greens and edible flowers – but it was quicker and easier to order them from Gourmet Sweet Botanicals, where I’d ordered before.

For the recipes, I wanted truly delicious flavor, nothing too sophisticated, but made with reliable and top quality ingredients. I wanted both recipes to use the same kind of flour for simplicity in shopping. I wanted to decorate them similarly, but not identically.

Chocolate Cake

The chocolate cake recipe I liked best was one by RACH56 on Allrecipes.com, called Extreme Chocolate Cake. It gets an impressive 4.7 star rating from 1613 reviews!

Cake Box for Delivery
Cake Box for Delivery

I do think it is a great recipe, both for the cake and the frosting, although I made a couple of little changes. 

The recipe calls for 9-inch cake pans, which I used the first time I made it.

Next time, I used 8-inch pans because it makes a taller cake (better for splitting into layers) and fits into my 10″ box. For the 8-inch version, I just added a couple of extra minutes to the baking time to account for the greater height.

To ensure a moist, full-flavored chocolate cake, I made a chocolate simple syrup while the cake was baking. I heated 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar until the sugar melted, then added 1 teaspoon of  Chocolate Nielson Massey Extract. After turning out the cakes from the pans, I poked holes across the bottom side of each cake, using the skewer I’d used as a cake tester, and brushed on about half the syrup on both layers. The rest will keep in the cupboard for a while for making cocktails or other cakes.

Also, the “Ready In” figure in the recipe seems a bit misleading to me at 1 hour 5 minutes — that’s how long it takes before the cake comes out of the oven, but then you have to add in the time to cool in the pans (at least 10 minutes), another 30 – 60 minutes to cool the cake completely, and then another 30 minutes (probably) to frost and decorate it.

Lemon Cake

For the lemon cake, I liked the looks of Martha Stewart’s Lemon Cake: fresh lemon flavor, 8-inch pans, all-purpose flour, simple ingredients, already with instructions for making and using a lemon syrup to keep the cake moist. Making the syrup also candies the lemon slices (delicious!) for decorating the cake, too. (Maybe good in a lemon drop martini, too.)

The cake recipe says to Top it off with our (Martha Stewart’s) Whipped Frosting that’s the perfect light and fluffy complement to this moist cake” but, I preferred using the Food Network’s Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. It was 5-starred even after 455 reviews (now 456). It’s quick, so easy, more stable for making ahead of time than the whipped frosting, I thought. In addition to the vanilla, I added a teaspoon of Fiori de Sicilia (“Flowers of Sicily”) for a citrusy sophistication.

On my initial, practice lemon cake, I didn’t use any frosting. Instead, I sliced up a carton of fresh strawberries (now is sure the season for them!) into a saucepan, added the juice of a lemon, a tablespoon or two of sugar, a splash of water. Heated just to the point of melting the sugar,  the strawberries were softened, giving up some of their juice for a syrupy filling and topping. It got rave reviews at my book club.

Lemon Cake for Andrea
Lemon Cake for Andrea

Andrea had created a romantic set-up for the party: dining outside, looking towards the Bay to what might be a stunning sunset.

The flowered cakes continued the floral theme: vases of flowers, green leaves and flowers on the long tables, the floral plates that had been Andrea’s beloved grandmother’s. A testimonial to several generations of beautiful women.

The Day After

Orange Marigold Salad
Orange Marigold Salad

After all the cakes were made and delivered, I was definitely ready for salad.

I still had a bonus pack of edible marigolds that Gourmet Edible had included in my shipment. With a sweet and delicate flavor, the marigolds seemed the perfect complement to shredded carrots and an orange vinaigrette. Mark never even noticed he had eaten flowers for lunch.

Questions? Contact barbara@CulinaryOracle.com
©2017 Barbara Newton-Holmes
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Beet(s) Well

“At birth we are red-faced, round intense, pure. The crimson fire of universal consciousness burns in us. Gradually, however, we are devoured by our parents, gulped by schools, chewed up by peers, swallowed by social institutions, wolfed by bad habits, and gnawed by age; and by that time we have been digested, cow style, in those six stomachs, we emerge a single disgusting shade of brown. The lesson of the beet, then is this: hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown. Once you’re brown, you’ll find that you’re blue. As blue as indigo. And you know what that means, Indigo. Indigoing. Indigone.”  Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume 

Beets Bunch with Top Greens
Beets Bunch with Top Greens



Last week, I got a free and delicious vegetable in my CSA box from J.R. Organics Farm.
It came attached to the beets that I love to roast for those heavenly circles of irradiating color that bring such an earthiness to salads, such a pastoral pairing to goat cheese.

I’d heard you could cook beet tops, that they were good for you like kale, but I lead with my senses, not my head, when it comes to eating. First, I want something delicious. Then, good for me.

But when I pulled this bunch out of the box — I fell in love. I mean, just look at it: those luxurious leaves, those jewel-like stems. They make the beet roots look like the footmen to a princess. How could I insult the beet plant itself and disrespect the hardworking farmer by just throwing away the tops?

I sautéed them like spinach, Italian style, with olive oil and garlic and pine nuts, a splash of chicken stock to soften those garnet stems. (See Sautéed Beet Greens for details.)

Wow!! They were delicious! Rich, refined, and delicate, reminiscent of the beetroot the way a butterfly is to the caterpillar.

Turns out, beet greens are even more nutritious than their humble progenitors. They have achieved 20 overall nutritional ratings for minerals and vitamins – 11 of them Excellent – in the appraisal done by the World’s Healthiest Foods (whfoods.org), deemed “unusually comprehensive nourishment.”

Besides, if you eat your greens, you can have dessert.

Purple Shades of Spice Cake
In January, we had a little surprise party at the office for Tom’s birthday. And, given the colorful constructions of fruits and vegetables that Tom makes for lunch most days, the cake absolutely had to be a carrot cake.

When we gathered round to sing and cut the store-bought cake, an Iranian colleague reluctantly accepted a piece, just to be sociable.

Carrot!? cake??” Kia asked in disbelief.

Bob teased, “Next, Barbara will be making a celery cake!”

“No, that would be all strings,” I retorted.

But it got me thinking. Beets were at least as sweet as carrots — they even make sugar from them. I could start from a carrot cake recipe, like the one from King Arthur Flour, and go from there. I’ve made it several times now, tweaking the ingredients for better fats, raw sugar, and special handling to bring out the lovely color.

It’s not exactly diet food, but it is great for a crowd… even a small piece can be satisfying. Bob is its biggest fan. (See Purple Shades of Spice Cake for details.)

Just best not to tell people its main ingredient until they’ve tasted it.

Questions? Contact barbara@CulinaryOracle.com
©2017 Barbara Newton-Holmes
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Purple Shades of Spice Cake (Beet Cake)

Purple Shades of Spice Cake (Beet Cake) - With Edible Basil Flowers
Purple Shades of Spice Cake (Beet Cake) – With Edible Basil Flowers

Makes one sheet cake or one two-layered cake. 

Technical Tips

Most ingredients are weighed out in this recipe on a scale for ease and accuracy. If using two pans for a layer cake, put the cake pan on the scale, add a couple of cups of batter, then do the same with the other pan with smaller and smaller amounts until they are exactly the same weight.

For best flavor, be sure that your spices are fresh.


One 9” x 13” inch cake pan or two 8” round layer cake pans, lightly greased

Scale for weighing ingredients and batter between cake pans.

Stand mixer or handheld mixer with large bowl


For the cake:

12 fl. oz. (1 1/2 cups) organic virgin coconut oil

10.8 oz. (2 cups) raw or coconut palm sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons baking soda

8.5 oz. by weight organic unbleached all-purpose flour

12 oz. by weight finely grated raw organic red beets (3 or 4 beets), with .5 oz. removed and set aside for coloring milk for frosting

5.75 oz. by weight slivered almonds

For the frosting:

Up to 1/4 cup milk, with 1/2 oz. grated fresh red beets soaked in it for 1 hour to color it purply pink

1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons, usually 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

8 oz. (by weight, usually 1 package) regular (not whipped or lite) cream cheese, softened

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

10 – 14 oz. by weight confectioners’ sugar

Purple Shades of Spice Cake (Beet Spice Cake)
Purple Shades of Spice Cake (Beet Spice Cake)


1 – Preheat oven to 350˚ F. 

2 – Prepare cake pan(s) by spraying with oil and lining with parchment paper.

3 – In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl and handheld electric mixer), beat together the oil and sugar for 1 minute on medium low speed.

4 – Add salt, eggs (one at a time), and all the spices, until well combined.

5 – In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. 

6 – On low speed, add flour mixture to oil and sugar mixture. Beat for 1 – 2 minutes to combine.

7 – Add beets and almonds, beating just enough to combine. By hand, scrape to make sure all batter from bottom of bowl is combined with beets.

8 – Pour into prepared pan(s). If making two layers, measure out the exact same quantity of batter for each, then place on a baking sheet diagonally so that they are not touching. Halfway through the bake time, turn the baking sheet around so that each cake is baked the same in your oven, which may vary in temperature in different spots.

9 – Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a tooth pick or bamboo skewer comes out clean when inserted, or with a couple of moist crumbs.

10 – Let the cake cool in pan(s) completely before frosting.

  • For the large, single pan, let it cool in the pan on a rack for at least an hour.
  • For two round pans, cool the cake in the pans for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake, then flip over onto a dinner plate to remove from pan. Slide the upside down cake onto a cooling rack. 

For the frosting:

1 – Strain the raw beets from the milk.

2 – Beat together the softened butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla. Beat in the sugar. 

3 – Add 1 – 2 teaspoons milk. Add more sugar, if the frosting is too runny. 

Updated by Barbara Newton-Holmes on May 5, 2016 to add Technical  Tips. This recipe first appeared on www.CulinaryOracle.com.

Questions? Contact barbara@CulinaryOracle.com
©2017 Barbara Newton-Holmes
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