The weather is cooling, and fall baking fills the air with the warm aromas of cinnamon and pumpkin spice. Spice cake recipes from turn-of-the-century cookbooks call for early forms of baking soda, which require an acid and the presence of heat to create a reaction that generates carbon dioxide bubbles. Tomato soup being acidic, provides the acid to make that reaction occur, the same way applesauce does. These spice cake balls are using both applesauce and tomato soup, making them super moist and full of flavor.
Who knew that a can of tomato soup could be turned into a cake? Condensed tomato soup appeared in stores in the late 1890s, and recipes for tomato soup cake began appearing in cookbooks in the late 1920s, early 1930s. This cake gained popularity likely in response to the depression, since the original recipe didn’t contain eggs or milk, which were in short supply during that time. Canned goods were an important staple during the depression, and like mayonnaise, the soup serves to bring moisture and bind the cake together. While it does not leave a tomato flavor in the cake, it does give the cake a lovely reddish color.
The Campbell Soup Company didn’t actually produce a recipe until 1940 and by 1960 it was featured on a Campbell’s soup label, making it the first recipe ever to appear on a soup can.
Tomato soup cake has moved beyond its humble origins. It is truly a recipe for all ages and for all seasons, a recipe that has been revised and modified to suit changing needs and tastes, a recipe that has stood and triumphed over the test of time. Around 1966, a cream cheese–frosted version surfaced, which remains the most popular version to this day.
The pumpkin spice cream cheese frosting is truly the ‘icing on the cake‘.
Spice Cupcakes w/ Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream Cheese Frosting, Divided
Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting
Spice Cake Balls
Preheat oven to 350 F. If you are using cake pop pans it is not necessary to grease them. If you are using muffin cups, line with paper cups.
In a large bowl, cream sugar & butter. Mix in applesauce & tomato soup.
In another bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking powder & baking soda.
Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients along with walnuts or pepitas. Fold together, mixing lightly. Do not overmix batter.
Bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Place cream cheese in a bowl & beat with mixer until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar, vanilla & salt. Combine well.
For Pumpkin Spice Frosting: Divide cream cheese mixture (from recipe above) in half. To one half of the mixture add the pumpkin pie spice.
In a piping bag, fitted with a star piping tip, place the white cream cheese frosting on one side & the pumpkin spice frosting on the other side of the bag, Pipe a swirl over each 'spice cake pop'. Decorate with some whole pepitas if desired.
Want an unusual dessert? Try swapping out some of the flour for couscous in a cupcake batter. You’ll be amazed at the result.
A major complaint about couscous sometimes is the lack of flavor but this is where having it as dessert comes in handy. Incorporating apricot puree and spices into the couscous batter gives the cupcakes an amazing flavor and texture.
Couscous, the justly celebrated masterpiece of Moroccan cooking, is actually a pasta, though it`s often mistaken for a grain.
Couscous (pronounced ‘koos-koos‘) is now widely available in packaged form in most supermarkets. Couscous are the yellow granules of semolina made from durum wheat. Durum is the hardest variety of the six classes of wheat and has the highest protein content of all wheat. Because of this, it’s ideal for making high quality pasta and is used by both American and Italian manufacturers. It’s also used to make couscous in America and Latin America. If these pastas were made of the softer white wheat flour that egg noodles use, they would lose their shape.
There are three types of couscous:
- Moroccan couscous -Fine, used for savory as well as dessert couscous.
- Israeli couscous – Medium, used for savory dishes also called pearl couscous.
- Lebanese couscous – Coarse, more difficult to work with, used for savory dishes.
Adding some cream cheese frosting topped with apricot puree and sprinkled with couscous rolled in cinnamon takes this dessert to the next level!
Apricot Couscous Cupcakes
In a saucepan, bring 1 cup water & 1/2 tsp salt to boiling. Add couscous, cover & remove from heat. Allow to sit 5 minutes then fluff with a fork & set aside to cool.
Place water, sugar & apricots in a saucepan. Bring to a boil & simmer until soft. Place in a food processor & pulse to make a puree.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine 2 cups cooled couscous (reserve a small amount for topping), flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices & salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter & sugar. Add 1 cup apricot puree & whip until light & fluffy. Add vanilla & egg yolks; whip well.
Gradually add couscous mixture then buttermilk & combine only until blended. Whip egg whites until frothy, adding a pinch of salt. Using a spatula, blend egg whites into the batter.
Bake 12-15 minutes or until testing with a toothpick & it comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese & butter until completely smooth, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down sides to ensure that the mixture is mixed evenly.
On low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar. Once combined, scrape down sides of bowl & increase the speed to medium, beating just until well combined & creamy.
One thing that really makes muffins and coffee cakes of all types extra special good is a sweet and crunchy streusel topping. These fluffy vanilla rhubarb cupcakes are topped with a swirl of cream cheese frosting, drizzled with poached rhubarb and then sprinkled with some crunchy, spicy, baked streusel.
The simple addition of Chinese 5-spice powder makes for a delicious aromatic streusel. Five spice powder combines Chinese cinnamon with anise, cloves, ginger and fennel in a delicious balance that complements rhubarb, coaxing out more of its natural aroma. Adding pepita seeds and baking the crumble separately, creates a special crunchier topping.
The basic streusel is very versatile in that it can be customized to your personal preferences or what you have on hand. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use 2 cups flour OR 1 cup rolled oats * 3/4 cup whole-grain flour * 3/4 cup cookie or cracker crumbs
- Use 3/4 cup sugar OR 3/4 cup brown sugar * 1/2 cup raw sugar * 1/2 cup maple syrup
- Use 1 cup butter OR 1 cup brown butter * 1/2 cup nut/seed butter * 1/4 cup coconut oil * 1/4 cup oil or sesame oil
- Add-Ins .. 1 cup coconut flakes or nuts * spices & zests * 1/2 cup toasted seeds * 1/2 cup cocoa powder or wheat germ
I realize, this is a lot of steps for just a cupcake, but I think you’ll love them.
Crunchy Streusel Rhubarb Cupcakes
Sour Cream Rhubarb Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line 9 muffin cups with large paper cups.
Wash rhubarb & trim ends. Cut rhubarb into a 1/4-inch dice. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt & cinnamon. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together sugars, eggs, sour cream, melted butter, vanilla & orange zest. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Stir until the flour is fully incorporated. Do not over-mix. Fold in rhubarb. The batter will be thick. Scoop the batter into 9 muffin cups, evenly distributing batter.
Bake for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 F. & bake for another 12 - 15 minutes or until cupcakes test done. Remove from oven & cool completely on a wire rack.
Place rhubarb, water, sugar, food coloring (if using) & cardamom in a saucepan. Simmer very gently for about 3-5 minutes or until rhubarb is soft but NOT mushy! Put a strainer on top of a bowl. Pour mixture into strainer & put the rhubarb pieces in another dish to cool. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan & let simmer until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Pour into a bowl to let cool. Gently combine rhubarb & syrup.
Pepita 5-Spice Streusel
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir until incorporated. Using your fingers, form fine crumbs. Spread the crumbs on a small cookie sheet and bake on a rack in the middle of the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until light golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely to room temperature. Crumble with fingers.
Beat butter until pale. Add powdered sugar & beat until smooth & pale, about 1 minute. Add softened cream cheese & ginger; beat until smooth.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle with frosting. Top each cupcake with a dollop of frosting then using a spoon, create a well in each dollop. Spoon a bit of poached rhubarb inside of each well. Sprinkle with pepita streusel.
There are certain plants that play important and often mysterious roles in holiday traditions and celebrations all over the world. From the Egyptians who decorated trees during the winter solstice, to the Pagans and Druids who used mistletoe in their winter customs, stories of ritualized plant use span continents and history and have become infused into the mythologies that span generations. I’ve always wondered how poinsettias and Christmas became intertwined. After a bit of research this is what I found.
It seems the story behind poinsettias is rich in history and lore. The vibrant plants are native to the rocky canyons of Guatemala and Mexico. Poinsettias were cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs, who valued the red bracts as a colorful, reddish-purple fabric dye, and the sap for its many medicinal qualities. The poinsettia was first associated with Christmas in southern Mexico in the 1600s, when Franciscan priests used the colorful leaves and bracts to adorn extravagant nativity scenes.
There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas come together, it goes like this:
There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.
‘Pepita’, he said, ‘I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus happy.’
Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.
The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.
Although it doesn’t pre-date Christianity like its Christmas counterparts, the holiday season wouldn’t be the same without the reds and greens of the poinsettia.
Poinsettia Cookie Wreath
Using a bit of gel paste from a purchased tube, anchor each cookie in place on top of wreath base to form 'poinsettia wreath'. Finish with adding a ribbon or some holly leaves & pinecones or personalize to your own taste.
- I like to save the heavy plastic wrap from frozen puff pastry for recipes like this. When you roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap as opposed to using flour on your board, it really keeps the dough from becoming so dry.
- I found if I took the poinsettia cookies out of the oven about 5 minutes before they were finished baking & pressed the candy center in then returned them to the oven, the candies stuck to the cookies better.
While trick-or-treating has been a tried and true modern Halloween tradition, historians say the origins of kids begging their neighbors for food may date back to ancient Celtic celebrations or even a long-lost Christmas custom. Halloween customs, such as wearing disguises to ward off ghosts and offering food to appease malevolent spirits, were brought to Canada in the mid-to-late 1800s by Irish and Scottish immigrants. North America’s first recorded instance of dressing in disguise on Halloween was in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1898, while the first recorded use of the term trick or treat was in Lethbridge, Alberta, in 1927.
Every Halloween, children on the hunt for candy dress up in costumes, knock on doors and ask homeowners the infamous question: ‘Trick or Treat?’
Lethbridge historian Belinda Crowson said research has confirmed the term ‘Trick or Treat’ was first documented in the Lethbridge Herald on Nov. 4. 1927.
Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word ‘trick or treat’ to which the homeowners gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.
Crowson says Oct. 31 in Lethbridge used to be a big night of pranks, saying kids would take part in ‘gate night’ where they’d remove gates from yards and hide them around the city. The occasional outhouse was also moved on Halloween night, sometimes onto a streetcar track for it to be pushed down the route by the unknowing driver.
Alberta’s known for many things: the Rocky Mountains, the oil industry, the Calgary Stampede. But you wouldn’t think that it’s also home to one of the most beloved Halloween traditions, that is, trick-or-treating.
Having lived in Lethbridge years ago, for about 25 years, I was not aware that the term trick or treat had originated there until I stumbled on it when I was doing some research … who knew!!
Nevertheless, Halloween has rolled around again so here’s a few treats to enjoy.
Krispy Chocolate 'Eyeballs'/ Halloween Brownie Bites
Caramel / Chocolate & Rice Crispies
Caramel / Chocolate
Place a heavy bottomed, non-stick pot, over a larger pot of boiling water. To the top pot add condensed milk, butter & brown sugar. Stir until combined, bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring continuously for a full 5 minutes. Add the milk & white chocolate & continue stirring until melted.
Turn off heat under the boiling water. To the caramel/chocolate add shortbread crumbs & rice crispy cereal. With a rubber spatula, combine mixture.
Keeping the pot over the hot water so the mixture doesn't harden to fast, scoop into small balls to form 'eyeballs. Place on a parchment paper lined tray. The scoop I used made about 44 balls. Press candy eyeballs into chocolate balls. If they aren't sticking well, dip them into a bit of white corn syrup first.
Halloween Brownie Bites
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line 30 mini cupcake tins with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch & salt. Set aside.
Using a mixer, beat sugar & eggs on high speed for 5 minutes, until it becomes light & pale in color. Melt the butter & add it along with oil & vanilla. Mix on low until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients, continuing to mix on low speed until combined. Put aside about a 1/4 of a cup of the brownie batter to use for decorating. Place a small scoop of brownie batter in each of the mini muffin cups.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar & vanilla extract on high speed for 1 minute. Add the orange food gel & mix until desired color. Then add the egg & mix on low speed. Place a Tbsp of cheesecake batter on top of the brownie batter. Add the 1 1/2 Tbsp HOT water to the remaining 1/4 cup of brownie batter & whisk until combined.
Drizzle the brownie batter over the cheesecake batter in 2 circles (per brownie). With a toothpick draw lines from the center to the outside edge, creating a spider web effect.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until not a lot of batter remains on a toothpick when tested. Cool on a cooling rack completely. Decorate with Halloween spiders, cats, ladybugs etc. These are nice when wrapped in foil & chilled overnight.
I guess I’ll have to take the blame for Brion’s love of dessert. When we were first married years ago, he really didn’t care much about sweets. I, on the other hand, had grown up in a German family where every meal was finished with something sweet. It didn’t have to consist of anything more than a dish of vanilla pudding, but it was sweet and that’s what mattered. Funny how something like that can become so ingrained in your life. Of course, over time Brion has come to like dessert as much as I do, not really a good thing now that we are getting older … hmmm!
But I need to explain today’s decadent blog dessert. I just happens, we are celebrating Brion’s birthday so we are pulling out all the stops and having cheesecake! Of course, some of it will probably end up in the freezer but that works to.
Brion and I have never been much on giving each other ‘gifts’ for special occasions. Our time spent together ‘just living’, whether its at home or on a vacation has always been the best gift. Throughout our married life Brion has always gone above and beyond to look after us. I’m grateful to have the privilege of such a loving and caring husband.
So here we are, celebrating you, my love with rhubarb cheesecake and all the trimmings. Life is good!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITH LOVE!
Candied Rhubarb Curls
Make the simple syrup, combining the sugar & water in a small pot and heating until dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, add gel food coloring stirring to combine. Using a paring knife (or try a vegetable peeler), slice long, thin strips of rhubarb from the outer stalk. Soak the ribbons in the cooled simple syrup for about 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 F. Line or lightly grease a baking sheet. Lay each ribbon on the baking sheet. Bake until the ribbons have dried out. Note: they will still be sticky and flexible from the heat.
If you want to make curls, work with one or two ribbons at a time so the remaining ribbons can stay soft in the oven. Wrap each ribbon loosely around skewers or the handles of cooking utensils, and let dry for around 10 minutes before gently sliding the curled ribbons off.
Cook rhubarb, sugar & water. Simmer for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add in the cornstarch & cook 2 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
Beat together the cream cheese with icing sugar until smooth then add eggs. Try not to overmix at this point. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Line a 9-inch springform pan with foil paper. Crumble together butter, flour, oats, brown sugar & salt. Add two thirds of the mixture to springform pan & press firmly. Add walnuts to the remaining crumbs & set aside.
If using a silver springform pan, bake at 325 F. If using a dark nonstick springform pan, bake at 300 F. Bake bottom layer of crumbs for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, pour cheesecake mixture over the crust & spread with a spoon, being careful not to disturb the crust layer too much.
Spread the rhubarb mixture on top of the cheesecake.
Crumble the remaining crust/crumb mixture evenly over the top & lightly press down.
Bake until topping is golden brown & cheesecake is set, about 50 minutes.
Cool completely, then decorate with fresh strawberries, rhubarb curls, chocolate malt balls & silver sugar pearls or as you wish.
- You will have extra candied rhubarb to nibble on!
No matter how you slice it, cheesecake is truly a dessert that has stood the test of time. From its earliest recorded beginnings to its current iconic status around the world, this creamy cake remains a favorite for dessert lovers of all ages.
The no-bake cheesecake, turned the process of making cheesecake into one that consisted mostly of stirring and chilling. Simply combine cream cheese, milk and Jell-O instant pudding mix, pour into a crust, and chill for an hour or two. The pudding mix sweetens and stabilizes the filling. Essentially foolproof, its a recipe that works every time and tastes custardy and rich with a lighter texture than the traditional cheesecake.
The original recipe for no-bake cheesecake has spawned numerous iterations, many of which were popularized by ‘Jell-O’ itself. The best part about the original formula was that it created harmony between industrialized shortcuts and the real thing. Jell-O eventually launched an entire ‘N0-Bake’ dessert line in 1966.
The simplicity of the recipe makes it endlessly adaptable. Of course, you can use different flavored pudding mixes or add spices or extracts to the filling for extra flavor and variation such as cinnamon, cardamom, lemon zest or almond extract. In addition you can serve the cheesecake with fruit or glaze as I’ve done here .
No Bake Mango Cheesecake
In a small bowl, combine crust ingredients, mixing well. Divide between mini cheesecake pan cups & press down firmly. Bake 5-7 minutes; allow to cool completely.
In a bowl, beat cream cheese 1/2 cup milk until smooth. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, cardamom & instant pudding mix; beat until smooth. Divide between mini cheesecake pan cups, filling almost to the tops. Allow to chill for at least 2-3 hours.
Place all glaze ingredients in saucepan & heat. As it comes to a boil, lower the heat & simmer 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat & allow the glaze to cool slightly. Divide glaze between mini cheesecakes & allow it to set for 3-4 hours. Ensure that the cheesecake is properly set before topping with the glaze.
- For a bit of a different look, I filled my cheesecake cups right to the top. Then I poured my mango glaze into a cake pop pan to set a bit. When the glaze was firm enough I topped each cheesecake with one forming a dome instead of a flat layer.
Rugelach is an irresistible baked treat which is both delicious and versatile. So is it a pastry or a cookie? Rugelach’s unique buttery, tender dough wrapped around any variety of tasty fillings seems to straddle the line.
Traditionally, rugelach was made with yeast dough but the pastry has evolved and is now made with cream cheese which is both quicker and easier to make. The cream cheese dough was first used by North American bakers in the 1940’s, and now forms the staple of the modern rugelach we know today.
At this time of year it is a good idea to have rugelach in your entertaining ‘tool box’. Make some up when you have the time and tuck away in the freezer. At a moments notice, flick on the oven, put them on a baking sheet and bake. Fresh pastries …. just like that!
I recall my mother making endless kinds of cookies for the Christmas season. It seems, especially in the European countries, the baking of cookies for Christmas was the barometer of domestic excellence. Baking six kinds normally would generate applause, 12 kinds was regarded with such awe that it was like announcing you had just climbed Mount Everest in high heels.
I thought I’d go for six kinds …. of course when you can use the same cookie dough for 5 or 6 different fillings I suppose that is cheating a bit!
Rugelach in Six Flavors
Using a food processor, add flour & salt to bowl & pulse briefly to combine. Cut in butter & cream cheese & add along with sour cream. Pulse just until dough forms chunks. You can also make the dough by hand quite easily if a processor is not available.
Divide the dough into six equal portions, about 250 gm each. Press each gently into a disk. Make the disks as round as possible, smoothing their edges. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap & chill the dough about 1 hour or until firm but not hard. While the dough is chilling, assemble your choices of fillings so they are ready to use.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, place it on a floured work surface. Roll it into a 10-inch circle. Spread with one of your filling choices all the way to the edges.
Using a ruler or pizza cutter, divide the circle into 12 wedges. I found using the straight edge of a ruler & pressing it straight down gave me a nice clean cut.
Roll each wedge up from the wide end to the narrow end. Place the rolls point-side down on parchment lined baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining 5 disks & fillings, placing prepared rugelach in the refrigerator until all 72 are made.
At this point, if you wish to freeze the rugelach for later use, place them in the freezer. When the rugelach is firm, transfer to air-tight containers & label.
If you wish to bake them (or some of them) at this time, preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove rugelach from refrigerator, brush carefully with egg wash.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & cool right on pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Personalize your rugelach with the filling you prepare or purchase.
- I found that it worked the best if the filling is of a smooth consistency for cutting purposes. You can add a bit of texture with the toppings.
- Nothing says it can't just be cream cheese sprinkled with cinnamon/sugar.
The fillings I chose to use were:
- Saskatoon Berry w/ Lemon
- Quince & Walnuts
- Spiced Apricot & Mango w/ Pumpkin Seeds
- Cranberry Orange w/ Cream Cheese
- Apple Butter w/ Gouda & Walnuts
- Fig & Gorgonzola w/ Nuts