Cherry Almond Cream Scones


All things almond are favorites in our house. For me they are a close third behind vanilla and chocolate. Rich and Calvin might rank them slightly higher. And if you combine the almond with cherry, Rich will be your friend for life.

I was kicking around ideas for scone flavors when we were trying to use up our bounty of cream. We had some heavenly dried cherries that I had been itching to use in something other than salads or for snacking. I had sliced almonds in the freezer and almond extract in the cabinet. Rich and I chatted briefly about the possibilities and cherry almond scones were born.

These bake up into tender triangles of dairy richness with a subtle almond note, punctuated by pockets of sweet tart cherries. A thick layer of almond-vanilla glaze and a sprinkling of sliced almonds push them over the top from just good to knock-your-socks-off.

Make these. Make them as written, or make them your own. Add a few chocolate chips. Skip the topping in favor of a sprinkling of sugar before baking. Drizzle them with melted chocolate. Make them plain. But make them. You can have them mixed up in minutes and on the table in less than half an hour. Warm, sweet, scones. You know you want them…

Download or print the recipe here.

Cherry Almond Cream Scones
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 8 scones

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dried cherries (see notes)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup heavy cream (see notes)
2-3 tablespoons cream or milk, if needed (see notes)

1 cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk or cream
2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Notes: If your cherries are very hard and dry, mix them with 1-2 tablespoon of water and microwave them for 20-30 seconds, or until they swell and absorb the water. Cool slightly before adding to the flour mixture.

If you use all-purpose flour instead of the white whole wheat flour you will probably not need as much cream to get the dough to come together.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper.

Stir together the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir in the cherries. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract and about ¾ cup of the cream. Stir gently. If there is still a large amount of dry flour, add the remaining cream. If the dough is still very dry, add more cream, or milk, a tablespoon at a time, just until most of the flour is wet, turning and mixing the dough with your spoon. The dough will be moist, but not particularly sticky. There should be only a small amount of dry flour, if any.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Lightly flour the top of the dough and your hands and shape each half of the dough into a round ball and then flatten into a disk ¾-1 inch tall. Try to make the edges straight and even. Cut into 4 wedges. Push any errant cherries back into the scones, so they don’t burn in the oven. Repeat with second dough ball.

Place wedges on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until just golden on top and darker golden on the bottom.

While scones bake, prepare the glaze: mix the powdered sugar with the extracts. Add the milk or cream gradually, starting with 1 tablespoon. Add more milk or cream until you have a thin glaze.

Cool baked scones for about 5 minutes. Then drizzle each scone with glaze, or dip the tops of the scones in the glaze. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Serve warm or room temperature.

Scones keep at room temperature for a few days. Reheat for a few seconds in the microwave before serving. If you want to freeze the scones, wait to glaze them until you defrost them.

Cream Scones with a Hint of Vanilla


“A surplus of heavy cream – what a horrible burden to have,” said no one ever. I wrote about our cream saga last week, but I never gave you any resolution. Rest assured, we managed to use the cream before any of it went bad. It was a hard task, but we persevered.

The first thing I thought of to use up our cream was a batch of cream scones. I had read a recipe years ago that used cream as the fat and the liquid in scones, no butter at all. I was intrigued, but never made any. Of course, when I wanted it, I couldn’t find that particular recipe. A quick internet search found plenty of recipes that called for both cream and butter, but very few that called for only cream. I found a good one from King Arthur flour.

I mixed up the dry ingredients in the evening to have them all ready to go in the morning for an easy, lazy Saturday breakfast. Mixing the dough in the morning literally consisted of adding a dash of vanilla and pouring in cream. I had the scones mixed and ready for baking before the oven was preheated.

The cream scones did not disappoint – they were flaky, buttery (with no butter in them), soft inside and slightly crunchy outside. And they were big. We each only ate one. I put the rest away for the next day. My mother-in-law was here for the week and we proceeded to make our way through the area’s pastry and doughnut shops on the following days, leaving the scones to sit in their container on the counter.

I give you this background because I did not have high hopes for the leftover scones. Scones usually are not good keepers and I was kicking myself for not freezing the leftovers as soon as they were cool. Sometimes coffee shop scones are stale, even in the morning, just hours after they were baked. I was pleasantly surprised that our scones were fabulous, even three, four and five days after we first made them, reheated in the toaster oven and spread with a little jam. They were a little crumbly toward the end, but they were still soft and not dry at all.

We were able to eat the scones for so many days because the recipe made a lot. I got twelve large scones from the recipe. While they were very good leftover, they were really best when they were fresh. I have cut the recipe in half for future scone adventures. I also give directions for making the scones smaller than the original behemoths. I doubled the vanilla from the original, because, why not? And I replaced half the flour with white whole wheat because I like the nuttiness that gives the scones. Can you use only all-purpose flour? Sure. You might not need quite as much cream, in that case, but I’m sure you can find a use for it.

Download or print the recipe.

Cream Scones with a Hint of Vanilla
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 8 small scones

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, approximately*
2-3 tablespoons cream or milk, if needed*

Cream or milk
Coarse, pearl or granulated sugar

*If you use all-purpose flour instead of the white whole wheat flour you will probably not need as much cream to get the dough to come together.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper. Set aside.

Stir together the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the vanilla and about three quarters of the cup of cream. Stir gently. If there is still a large amount of dry flour, add the remaining cream. If dough is still very dry, add more cream, or milk, a tablespoon at a time, just until most of the flour is wet, turning and mixing the dough with your spoon. The dough will be moist, but not particularly sticky. There should be only a small amount of dry flour, if any.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Lightly flour the top of the dough and your hands and gently shape each half of the dough into a round ball and then flatten into a disk ¾-1 inch tall. Try to make the edges straight and even. Cut into 4 wedges.

Place wedges on prepared baking sheet. Brush each scone with cream or milk and sprinkle with your choice of sugar.

Bake scones for 10-12 minutes, or until just golden on top and darker golden on the bottom.

Serve scones hot or at room temperature, with butter and jam.

These keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature. Reheat in toaster oven, oven or microwave. Freeze for longer storage, thawing overnight at room temperature, or in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Almond Topped Chocolate Chip Muffins


A few months ago I asked Calvin if he wanted something new for school day breakfasts. He eats lunch late, so it is always a challenge to find something that will hold him over all morning. He suggested chocolate chip muffins with almond extract. I figured a few chocolate chips were okay as long as I threw in a few whole grains. With those parameters I took the concept and ran with it.

I have been tinkering with this muffin recipe for several months. I have used various combinations of whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and almond flour. I put oats in the batter, and then I put more oats in the batter. I put chocolate chips inside and on top, then just inside. I made umpteen variations of the crumb topping. I played with the sweetness level. Some versions were a little too grainy, others were too sweet or not sweet enough. Some topping attempts fell off the muffins as I took them out of the pans, some sank into the batter and others melted and ran off in the oven.


The final recipe (at least for now) is a tender, almond-scented muffin full of chocolate chips and topped with a buttery almond topping. The batter has both oats and whole wheat flour, along with a moderate level of sugar. I used oil in the muffins, but butter in the topping for flavor.

We still aren’t tired of these muffins, and we have been eating them for breakfast and snacks for at least two months now. If that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Download or print the recipe here.

Almond Topped Chocolate Chip Muffins
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 12 muffins

1½ cups buttermilk
1 cup oats, quick or old-fashioned
¼ cup oil
1 egg
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

¼ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup rolled oats, quick or old-fashioned
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Mix the buttermilk and oats together in a large bowl and set aside while you gather your ingredients and make the topping.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 12 standard muffin cups and set aside.

Make the topping:
Use a food processor, mini chopper or a pastry blender to mix together the almonds, oats and granulated sugar. When the mixture is fairly finely ground, with the almonds mostly broken up, add the butter and mix until everything starts to clump together slightly and looks like coarse wet sand. Refrigerate topping while you mix the muffins.

Add the oil, egg, sugar, almond extract and vanilla extract to the oat and buttermilk mixture. Mix well.

Mix the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder together in a small bowl. Add to oat mixture and stir gently. Do not beat or you will end up with tough muffins. When the flour is almost completely mixed in, add the chocolate chips and stir until there are no streaks or pockets of dry flour.


Divide batter evenly among the greased muffin cups, which will be almost full. Use a measuring tablespoon to divide the topping between the muffins, using about 1 tablespoon per muffin. Keep most of the topping toward the middle of each muffin. If the topping is compacted into mounds, use your finger to break them up slightly.


Bake the muffins for 13-15 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and bounce back when touched lightly. A toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin will come out with just a few moist crumbs, if you can manage to miss the chocolate chips.

Let muffins cool in the pan for about 10 minutes to firm up a bit. Then remove them from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two days. After that the muffins will start to get dry. Freeze for longer storage. Thaw at room temperature for a few hours, or in the microwave for about 20 seconds per muffin.


Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice


We love it when we go out to breakfast and the restaurant has fresh-squeezed orange juice. And we love it when we get a jug of grove stand-style grocery store orange juice that really tastes like fresh-squeezed. We never thought to squeeze our own orange juice, until last Saturday. I’m not sure why.

I remember reading a passage on squeezing oranges for juice in The Joy of Cooking, and thinking it sounded so exotic. Do many people squeeze their own orange juice? And I’m not talking about making juice out of any fruit or vegetable with a mechanical juicer, but just plain, old-fashioned, hand squeezed orange juice.

We picked up a few oranges on Friday and squeezed them Saturday morning. Our glass of juice was pretty darn good – bright, sweet, pulpy and freshly citrusy. But we got one glass from four large oranges. At a dollar an orange, it wasn’t a cheap glass of juice. And if we want to have enough for all three of us to have a small glass, we are talking at least $10 just for orange juice for one meal.

Does anyone know the secret to making fresh squeezed orange juice without breaking the bank? Buy oranges in bulk? Move to Florida or California? Fill me in folks, so we can feed our newfound squeezing habit.

Crepes – Not Scary At All


I have wanted to make crepes for years, but put it off because I thought they were hard to make. I’m not sure what magic skills I thought I needed to make what really are just egg-rich, very thin pancakes. If you can make pancakes, you can make crepes.

There is a crepe cart in the town in Colorado where we have vacationed with Rich’s parents. They have the crepe-making process down to a science, with special crepe griddles and a spatula to spread the batter out in an even layer. In the past we have tried their cheesecake crepes, s’mores crepes and simpler crepes filled with melted chocolate or sugar and butter. This year when we went for crepes, the line stretched halfway down the block and the wait was over an hour. We skipped the crepes and vowed to make our own when we got home.

Once I made the leap and decided to try my own crepes, I figured I needed a new skillet to make them in. We got rid of all our nonstick pans a few years ago, after wearing out several sets. We only have stainless steel pans and I thought we might have trouble with sticking. I picked up a 10-inch nonstick skillet at Marshall’s for $10 and we were ready to make some crepes.

Calvin and I mixed up the batter Friday afternoon, in less than ten minutes. We heated the pan while we mixed the batter and then started making our crepes. Once we figured out the swirling technique, we were fighting over who got to make the next crepe. In about half an hour we had 12 crepes stacked up, ready to fill. They weren’t all pretty, but even the most irregular and pale of the bunch still looked pretty good to us. And no matter what they looked like, each delicately thin crepe was deceptively rich, deliciously eggy and fragrant with vanilla.


We used some of the batch for dessert that night ­– reheating them one at a time in a lightly buttered skillet. Calvin had a s’more crepe, with chocolate chips, marshmallows and crushed graham crackers. We covered half with the toppings and then folded the other half over. A few minutes in the hot pan for each side and the chocolate was melted and the marshmallows were warm and puffy. Rich and I brushed ours with melted butter and then sprinkled them with brown sugar and cinnamon before folding them in quarters.


The rest of the batch we saved for Saturday’s breakfast. In the morning we sweetened ricotta with a little honey and vanilla and spread it over half of each crepe. A sprinkling of blueberries gilded the lily. We rolled them up and browned them in a little butter to make a decadent breakfast. What a way to start the weekend!


Don’t let the mystique of crepes turn you off from trying these. They take minutes to whisk together and not much longer than that to make. Make a batch when you have a spare thirty minutes and then store them in the freezer for when you want a quick, elegant breakfast or dessert. Or sprinkle them with a few chocolate chips, heat them in a pan until the chocolate melts and eat them while you stand by the stove. I won’t tell.

Download or print the recipe here.

Basic Crepes
Adapted from Farm Journal’s “Homemade Breads”
by The Cook’s Life
Makes 10-12 crepes (8 inch)

¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla (omit if making savory crepes)
1 tablespoon butter, melted, for pan

Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat while mixing crepes.

Stir flour, sugar and salt together in a bowl with a whisk. In a separate bowl beat eggs until well combined. Add milk and vanilla and beat again. Add about half of the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the remaining egg mixture and whisk again.

Lightly brush the hot skillet with melted butter. You don’t need much.

Pour slightly less than ¼ cup of batter in the middle of the pan. Quickly pick the pan up and swirl it in a circular motion until the batter forms a thin circle, about 8 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about any tentacles that form around the outside of the circle. You can trim them off later if they bother you. Every crepe will be closer to round as you get the hang of swirling the pan.


Cook the crepe until the edges start to brown lightly and the top looks dry all over. Ease a spatula under the edge and use your fingers to help you turn the crepe over. If it folds up on itself, just spread it back out as you turn it over. Cook the second side until lightly browned.

Remove crepe to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter to make 10-12 crepes. As the crepes cool, you can stack them to keep them from drying out.

Use immediately, or cool them on the rack. Store crepes in a stack in an airtight container or ziplock bag at room temperature. If you are keeping them more than a day or two, freeze them. Thaw at room temperature for a few hours or in the fridge overnight, still in their container.

Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes

DSC_0011I’m not sure what I was thinking the other night when I made dinner. I made enough mashed potatoes for an army, or at least for another family, or two. While I was mashing them, before we had even sat down to eat them, I was already trying to figure out what I would do with the leftovers. Not sure what that says about me, but I’ll go with frugal.

My mom sometimes made mashed potato cakes when we had enough potatoes left over. She didn’t do it often, but they were always good. We didn’t usually have enough to make many, usually enough to have one or two each, with other leftovers for lunch, or with eggs for breakfast. Mom liked hers with maple syrup, which I always thought was a little weird. Her mother made mashed potato cakes for breakfast when she was a girl and served them with syrup. Who am I to argue with Mom’s tastes of childhood?

We had so many mashed potatoes that I decided to make potato cakes as a side dish to go with fish for dinner the next night. Cheese goes well with potatoes, so I threw some of that in, along with an egg to hold it all together. You can certainly leave the cheese out, or use more than I did. And you will have to adjust the seasonings to your tastes. Our potatoes weren’t very salty to begin with, so I added a little salt. If I had had some on hand, I would have mixed in roasted garlic. I used just a touch of garlic powder instead, since the short cooking time wouldn’t have worked well with chopped raw garlic. Fresh herbs would have been marvelous, but I didn’t have any, so we did without.

Just a little butter on the griddle and our potato cakes fried up golden brown and crispy, with soft, cheesy centers. Calvin couldn’t stop talking about how much he liked them. And it was a good thing, since we had enough left over for several lunches, even after having them for dinner. Did I mention I had made a lot of potatoes?

Note: I had enough potatoes to make a double batch of the potato cakes, which made almost twenty. I am giving you a recipe for half that, since most normal people don’t have four cups of mashed potatoes left over – except maybe at Thanksgiving. If you do find yourself with lots of mashed potatoes, just double all the ingredients in the recipe and start frying.

Download or print the recipe here.

Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes
From The Cook’s Life
Serves 4-6 (8-12 potato cakes, depending on size)

1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, beaten
2 cups cold mashed potatoes
½-¾ cup grated cheddar cheese (I used white cheddar, any cheese will work)
⅛-¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and lightly grease a large baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper. This is to keep the first batch of potato cakes hot while you cook the second batch. If you have a griddle large enough, you can cook them all at once and skip the oven.

Melt butter in a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. While pan is heating, mix egg, mashed potatoes, cheese, salt, garlic powder and black pepper together until thoroughly combined.

Spoon small amounts of mashed potato mixture into the hot pan, flattening them with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Use a little less than a quarter cup of the mixture per cake. Or make them smaller. Don’t make them bigger or they will be too hard to turn.

Cook 3-4 minutes, or until first side is golden brown. Carefully turn mashed potato cakes over and brown the other side, another 3-4 minutes. The cakes are fragile – use care when turning them.

Remove the potato cakes to the prepared baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven while you cook the second batch.

Serve the mashed potato cakes hot. Leftovers reheat well in a lightly greased skillet.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Doughnut Bites


I realized that I only posted savory recipes last week. I was so excited about the stuffed chicken, and the ingredients that went into it, that sweet baking got the short shrift. I can’t let the situation go on any longer, so today we will turn to doughnut bites.

We usually take the time on Saturday mornings to bake something special for breakfast. I wanted to make something new this past Saturday, but I wasn’t sure what. I wanted something simple and quick, but on the decadent side. I scrolled through my archive of recipe PDFs gleaned from blogs and recipe sites and Mini Donut Muffins from Natalie at The Sweets Life caught my eye. They fit all the criteria – quick, easy and decadent.

The original recipe was for a nutmeg doughnut rolled in cinnamon sugar. I decided to change them, as I almost always seem to do with recipes. I like nutmeg, but usually only mixed with other spices in pumpkin pie or spice cake. I decided to change the nutmeg to cinnamon, and to increase the amount. I also switched the white sugar to brown sugar, just because I like it with cinnamon, and I like the caramel notes it adds to baked goods. I added a bit of salt and used white whole wheat flour for half of the flour.

I happened to have whole milk on hand, which I rarely do. The whole milk gave them an extra richness that I think baked goods made with my usual skim milk sometimes lack. I might just have to keep a little whole milk on hand for baking. And it’s pretty good in my hot tea and coffee too.

I rolled the doughnut bites in white sugar instead of cinnamon sugar since they had plenty of cinnamon inside them. I dipped the first ones in melted butter before dipping them in the sugar, as directed in the original recipe, but I skipped the butter after the first few. The sugar stuck just fine, which saves a few calories. As if we were counting calories with these.

I was surprised how well the doughnut bites turned out, given all my changes. They were tender inside and crispy outside, contrasting nicely with the slight crunch of the sugar. We ate an embarrassingly large portion of them on Saturday and Calvin finished up the rest of them at Sunday’s breakfast. Rich and I had oatmeal.

Download or print the recipe here.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Doughnut Bites
Adapted from The Sweets Life by The Cook’s Life
Makes 24

½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup milk (I used whole, but whatever you have will work just fine)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup white whole wheat flour*
½ cup all-purpose flour

⅓ cup granulated sugar

*If you prefer, use all-purpose flour instead of white whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 24 cup mini muffin pan and set aside.

Combine brown sugar, melted butter and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir to combine, making sure to break up all the lumps in the brown sugar. Add milk and stir well. Add baking powder, salt, white whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour and stir gently to combine.

Divide batter evenly between the muffin cups. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and firm when pressed.

Toss hot muffins gently in granulated sugar to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store any leftovers at room temperature in an airtight container for a day or two. Freeze for longer storage.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake


I am currently in love with baked goods that contain sour cream. Over the past few weeks I have made sour cream blueberry muffins and a sour cream cinnamon streusel coffee cake. Twice. I had to make sure I could duplicate the results, right? The sour cream adds a nice moistness, along with a richness that you can’t really duplicate with any other ingredient.

The coffee cake is out of a Farm Journal cookbook that I picked up from the bargain table at Waldenbooks right after Rich and I got married. That dates us, since Waldenbooks disappeared into bookstore heaven eons ago. Their bargain tables were always good, unlike the bargain tables and shelves at big bookstores today. Not sure where the good cookbooks (and other books) go these days, but not anywhere easy to find. But I digress – back to cake.

I have tinkered with this cake several times since I bought the book. The cake originally called for baking it in a tube pan, and putting all the crumbs on top of the batter. This makes for a big cake, with a thick layer of crumbs on the bottom when you turn the cake out onto a plate. Or on the top, if you turn the cake back over. The first change I made was to use half the crumbs in the middle of the cake and half on top.

Baking the cake in a tube pan sometimes makes it dry, since it is so deep, so I tried it in a 9 by 13 inch pan next. That worked better, but it still made a huge cake. I don’t usually want to eat coffee cake for a week. Or, rather, I want to eat coffee cake for a week, but my jeans seem to think I shouldn’t. In the interests of health, I made a half recipe and baked it in a square pan, still using half the crumbs in the middle and half on top. Now I had a manageable-sized cake that we could eat in a couple of days.

And what a cake – rich, moist vanilla cake with cinnamon streusel threaded through the middle and on top. All it needed was a tiny, or not so tiny, drizzle of vanilla glaze to reach perfection.

Download or print the recipe.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake
Adapted by The Cook’s Life from
Farm Journal’s “Homemade Breads”
Makes 9-12 servings

Streusel topping and filling:
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup white whole wheat flour*
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sour cream

½ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2-4 teaspoons milk, approximately

*You can substitute all-purpose flour for the whole wheat, if you prefer.

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease an 8 by 8-inch square pan and set aside.

Make streusel: mix flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add butter and mix with a spoon or your fingers until you have moist crumbs that are no larger than a pea, with most of them smaller than that. Set aside.

Mix flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. Beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add about half of the flour mixture stir gently. Mix in sour cream. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

Spoon about half of the batter into the greased pan and spread to the edges. Sprinkle with half of the streusel. Top with dollops of the remaining batter. Spread dollops together, trying not to disturb the streusel too much. Sprinkle top of batter evenly with remaining streusel.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs, not batter.

While cake is baking, make icing. Mix powdered sugar, vanilla and 2 teaspoons milk together in a bowl. Gradually add more milk until the glaze is the desired consistency. Add milk very gradually to avoid lumps.

Drizzle warm cake with icing. You may not use all the icing. Serve the rest at the table for anyone who would like a little extra. Let cake cool for a few minutes before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store at room temperature, tightly covered, for up to three days. Freeze for longer storage.

Baked Vanilla Doughnuts (or Muffins)


I baked doughnuts this week until they were coming out my ears, or at least covering the counter, kitchen table and even the living room coffee table. I have arrived at a recipe that makes beautifully browned, moist doughnuts covered with crackly glaze, all redolent of vanilla. To top it off, they are low fat and made with whole wheat flour, which no one would guess in a million years.

The recipe I had (which was a hybrid of several recipes and the result of past experiments) was supposed to make six doughnuts, but I always ended up with extra batter. So I had to cut the ingredients back and make sure those amounts worked for six doughnuts. It took a few batches, but I figured out that part. Then I had to double it all and see if that worked to make twelve. So far, so good.


I also wanted to give a muffin option, in case you don’t happen to have a doughnut pan. If you have any interest at all, though, pick up a doughnut pan. When you make muffins, you miss out on the crispy outside edges and the increased surface area to soak up glaze. The pans are pretty cheap and widely available. You can get by with one, and just bake two batches of six, if you are making the full recipe. But if you don’t want to bother, or don’t have the space to store another pan, the batter makes very tasty muffins.


Again, experiments to see how best to bake only six muffins in a standard twelve muffin pan – use every other cup instead of baking them in one end of the pan. Then I needed to bake a full recipe to see if twelve muffins baked in the same time as six – the times were very close. Now I had doughnut muffins to add to the array.

Bear with me for some baking chemistry to explain why I had to bake a few more batches. The recipe I was working from (the recipe of mysterious origins) called for cream of tartar, baking soda and buttermilk. Baking soda is a base (remember high school chemistry) and needs an acid to react with to make the carbon dioxide bubbles that make the doughnuts rise. Buttermilk is acidic, as is cream of tartar. I figured the recipe didn’t need both, so I tried cutting out the cream of tartar. At the same time, I baked another half batch of six with baking powder to see what would happen. Baking powder already contains an acid and a base, so I technically didn’t need buttermilk, but I didn’t want to change more than one thing at a time. Scientific method does have a real world application!


Both batches rose just fine, but the baking powder batch was noticeably paler than the baking soda batch.


The texture of the baking soda batch was just a bit finer and I liked it better – it got spongier, in a good way, after it soaked up the glaze. Baking soda won out, and cream of tartar went back into the baking cabinet. I was so happy with the baking soda results that I decided not to try any other experiments with baking powder. I was already swimming in doughnuts and was a little tired of being in the kitchen.

Rich’s co-workers and my fellow church choir members benefited from the baking frenzy. I have to say that I am thoroughly tired of the aroma, taste and sight of vanilla doughnuts, at least for a day or two. Now another flavor would be a different story…

Download or print the full recipe here.
Download or print the half recipe here. 

Vanilla Doughnuts or Muffins
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 12 doughnuts or muffins

 If you don’t have a doughnut pan, you can bake these in a standard muffin pan.

½ cup all-purpose flour*
½ cup white whole wheat flour*
6 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 tablespoons buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten

*These work perfectly fine with 1 cup of all-purpose flour if you prefer.

1 teaspoon butter (basically a pat of butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water

Grease two 6-well doughnut pans or a 12-cup muffin pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, mix together butter, vanilla, buttermilk and eggs. Add egg mixture to dry mixture and stir gently until no dry pockets of flour remain. Do not beat. Fill doughnut pan, using 3 small (size 100) cookie scoops of batter per well, or about 3 tablespoons batter. Evenly space the three blobs of batter around the center post of each well. Or fill muffin cups about half full. Bake 8-10 minutes or until doughnuts (or muffins) are just golden on top, golden brown on the bottoms and bounce back when touched.


While doughnuts are baking make the glaze. In a small bowl, melt the butter and add powdered sugar and vanilla. Add a tablespoon of water and mix in as much powdered sugar as possible. Add another tablespoon of water and mix until you have a smooth, thick glaze. Add the last tablespoon of water to make a very thin glaze. It will seem like all the water will not mix in, but keep stirring until it does. Adding the water gradually helps to avoid lumps – don’t be tempted to add it all at once.

As soon as doughnuts (or muffins) are done, remove them from the pans one at a time and dip the tops in the glaze. Move to a plate to cool. If any glaze remains when all doughnuts are dipped, use a spoon to drizzle over the doughnuts. As the doughnuts cool, the glaze will dry to a clear finish. If you are doing muffins, you might want to poke a few holes in the tops and drizzle on additional glaze. They don’t have as much surface area as the doughnuts and need a little help to absorb more glaze.

As with all doughnuts, these are best the day they are made, but they are still pretty tasty the next day. You might want to warm them for 10 seconds in the microwave if you are eating them the next day.

Cinnamon Chip Scones


I promised a recipe for cinnamon chip scones a couple of weeks ago, when I made cinnamon chips. I have finished my experiments (at least for now) and I think I have come up with a recipe that is worth sharing.

After much poking around the internet and my cookbooks, I still really have no firm definition of a scone. Some are really just biscuits with a little sugar, some have eggs, some have lots of cream and butter and others are just not worth making (dry, crumbly, too much flour, too much sugar – I won’t bore you with more details). I can’t say I am a fan of most scones in coffee shops – usually they have been sitting around for hours, drying out. But homemade scones are pretty much the bee’s knees.

After lots of experiments with different recipes ­– none of which really impressed me – I decided to start over. I began with my biscuit recipe, but used regular milk instead of buttermilk, and added a bit of sugar. I tried skim milk, whole milk, and on one memorable occasion, cream. The cream version was exquisite, but milk made perfectly delicious scones. The whole milk scones might have been slightly richer, but the difference from skim milk wasn’t huge. If you normally have only skim milk on hand, use that and your scones will be fabulous. You could add an additional tablespoon or two of butter if you want more richness.

I used my homemade cinnamon chips in these, but you could use commercial cinnamon chips, chocolate chips or raisins. I tried making some into rounds and made the rest into my usual triangles. I used both my muffin top pan, and a cake pan, trying to contain any cinnamon chip leaks (my scones were too small for this to make a difference). Really, a baking sheet is fine, as long as you make sure not to bake them too long, which will dry them out and burn the leaking cinnamon chips.

Skip the coffee shop scones that are just a way to make you buy more coffee. Make your own and pat yourself on the back while you scarf down your fluffy, anything-but-dry scones.

Cinnamon Chip Scones
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 8-10 large scones

If you are in the mood for a treat, use cream instead of milk as the liquid in these scones. You might need slightly more than ¾ of a cup – maybe a tablespoon or two. Use the larger amount of butter if you want a richer scone.

1 ¾ cups flour*
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
4-6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup homemade cinnamon chips or other mix-ins of choice
¾ cup milk (any kind you have on hand – see headnote)
1-2 tablespoons extra milk
2-3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

*I used 1 cup white whole wheat and ¾ cup all-purpose flour. Feel free to use only all-purpose flour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs, with a few larger pieces of butter. Stir in cinnamon chips. Add milk, mixing gently until most of the flour is moistened and a shaggy dough forms. Add an extra tablespoon of milk if there is a large amount of dry flour left.

Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead a few times, no more than ten turns, adding sprinkles of flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Divide dough in half and pat each half into a circle about 1 inch tall. Cut each circle into 4-5 triangles and place on prepared baking sheet. If you want round scones, divide dough into 8-10 pieces. Gently form each piece into a ball and flatten to a 1-inch thick disk.

Brush tops lightly with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on size, until bottoms are lightly browned and tops are just starting to turn golden brown. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

Download the recipe here.