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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cranberry Cheesecake Dessert Squares

Cranberry Cheesecake Dessert Squares feature a shortbread base, a cheesecake middle spread with your favourite cranberry sauce and topped with a pecan streusel.  Baked cheesecake usually contains eggs but this recipe does not.  The cheese mixture is thickened using sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. 

Cranberry sauce and fresh cranberries often go on sale at good prices during the autumn and winter months.  With Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations requiring them as a side-dish at the main meal of the day there is often lots of the sauce on our cupboard shelves or berries in the freezer. I was lucky enough to come across an unbelievably great sale on fresh cranberries at one of the local supermarkets at 97¢ per bag.  I grabbed six bags and cooked up one bag into sauce right away.  I froze the remaining five bags for future cooking escapades.  Come Christmas, I'll probably also make a Frozen Cranberry Salad with some of those berries.

With all that cranberry sauce and berries around there's bound to be left-overs or sometime we just buy too much and have a few cans hanging about the pantry waiting for the next celebration.  If you find yourself in this situation don't leave those cans to languish in the pantry or that sauce to turn green in the fridge. Make these delicious dessert squares. 

I've had this recipe for some time but never made it until now.  I don't know where it came from but it was well worth the effort to put this little gem of a dessert together. It actually isn't much effort at all as I made two dishes of the delicious squares last week.  I made one 9x13-inch dishful and took it to a church potluck.  I thought I'd get a piece to take back home to Don, who was unable to attend, and by the time I got around to the dessert table the dish had been scraped clean!  During the week I made another dish of the squares but in the smaller 8x10-inch dish, which gives a thicker square.  I'm almost ashamed to say we (the two of us) managed to scrape that dish clean as well in only three days.  (I'll never fit into that little red dress!)  And I'm making another dish of the squares for this coming weekend to take to a Christmas program. 

Don't forget to take a look at the variations at the end of the recipe.  You can make cherry, blueberry or apple Cheesecake Dessert Squares, or really any fruit filling you like.  You can also make a thicker bar, similar to a cheesecake. 

Cranberry Cheesecake Dessert Squares
¾ cup butter, softened
⅓ cup icing sugar
1½ cups flour
1 package (8 oz/250 g) cream cheese, softened
1 can (300 ml/1¼ cups) sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup lemon juice
1 can (14 oz - 348 ml) whole cranberry sauce (about 1⅔ cups homemade sauce)
½ cup flour
¼ cup cold butter
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together soft butter and icing sugar until fluffy. Gradually stir in 1½ cups flour. Press onto bottom of 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned. In mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in condensed milk. Stir in lemon juice. Pour over prepared crust.

Spoon the cranberry sauce evenly over the cheese layer. Combine brown sugar and the ½ cup flour. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts. Sprinkle evenly over cranberry mixture. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until serving time. Cut into bars or squares.

Makes 15-20 servings.  Squares can also be cut smaller, if desired.


Cherry Cheesecake Dessert Squares: Use 1 can of cherry pie filling, or equivalent in homemade, and substitute white sugar for the brown and almonds for the pecans or walnuts.

Blueberry Cheesecake Dessert Squares: Use 1 can of blueberry pie filling, or equivalent in homemade.

Apple Cheesecake Dessert Squares: Use 1 can of apple pie filling, or equivalent in homemade.  Add ½ teaspoon cinnamon to the crumble topping.

To make a thicker square use an 8x10-inch pan and make a crust of:
1 cup flour
½ cup butter
¼ cup icing sugar

Mix as above and continue with recipe as written but bake 30-35 minutes.  

To make the crust, cream the butter and sugar together and add the flour.

Press the shortbread base into the baking dish and bake 15 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven  until golden.  

While shortbread base is baking beat the cheesecake until fluffy, add the sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice.  Stir until thick and creamy.

 Spread the cream cheese mixture over the baked shortbread.  

When the cream cheese mixture has been spread evenly, spread on the cranberry sauce.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the cranberry sauce!

Cut the ¼ cup cold butter into the ½ cup flour and the 3 tablespoons of brown sugar until you have a crumbly mixing.  Stir in the pecans.  This makes the struesel topping.

Sprinkle the struesel topping over the cranberry layer.

You can see the layers through the glass dish.

Bake about 25 minutes or until top is golden.

As you can see, this dish of Cranberry Cheesecake Dessert Squares is well on its way to being scraped clean.  Yum!

Layers of shortbread, cheesecake, cranberries and struesel make for a delectable celebration dessert.

Ready for a holiday celebration.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pat's Newfoundland Cherry Cake

Here's a nice all purpose cherry cake that isn't too rich but, nevertheless, very good.  My friend Pat made this years ago when she was first married and, of course, I've had the recipe for years and years.  (Pat and I are no spring chickens.)  If a recipe is good, it's good no matter how old it may be and all of Pat's recipes are winners.  You may have made her Lemon Squares or Boiled Raisin Cake which also make wonderful Christmas treats. 

Pat lived around the corner, on the next street, from me when we were children.  Her full name is Patricia Louise, which she hated.   Such a pretty name but kids can take quite a dislike to their name for some strange reason.  We were informed that we were to call her Pat but I'm sure I called her Patricia just as often because I liked the name.  We met each other when we were about 10-12 years old.  I was the oldest, then Patricia and my sister, Heather, was the youngest.  There was about a span of three years between the three of us which made it very convenient for her to be friends with both Heather and me.  Heather still liked playing with dolls and so did Pat.  I hated playing with dolls by the time I was 9 or 10 years old so I'd have to amuse myself with something else when they were together.  We grew up together, walking to school, playing in each other's houses, attending parties and all the other things kids did back in the 1960s and early 70s.  Many a weekend we had slumber parties where no one slumbered or slept.  And then we grew up, got married, swapped recipes, got jobs, had kids and moved away.  We sent Christmas cards and occasionally met up with each other but soon even those things disappeared and there were only memories left. . . . and then, out of the blue, I got a message from Pat on Facebook and we've reconnected.  Some days you've just gotta love technology!

Here is the original recipe card from my old recipe box.  You can just make out Pat's name on the back of the card.  I have made no change to the basic recipe, but have added a few optional additions of flavourings and lemon zest.  As you can see, I've made this recipe many times by the condition of the card!

Cherry Cake is a traditional cake served in Newfoundland and Labrador homes at Christmas time.  No respectable fruit cake tray would be complete without slices of the beloved, moist Cherry Cake.  When I was a child I always looked forward to visiting with my aunts and uncles and enjoyed a piece of Cherry Cake with a glass of Purity Syrup.  As a child, my fruit cake taste buds were not highly refined, and the cherry cake with the candied cherries was always a favourite.  It's still my favourite fruit cake as it is my sister's.  I make her one every year and she keeps it under wraps and eats it bit by bit (or maybe that should read "bite by bite") to extend the enjoyment and longevity of the cake.  The large bundt cake in the pictures below will be going to Heather this year.  Hope you enjoy it, sister.   

Cherry Cake
1½ cups butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Grated rind of a medium lemon, optional
1 teaspoon lemon extract, optional
1 teaspoon almond extract, optional

½ - 1 pound candied (glacéd) cherries, halved (depends on how many cherries you like)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Generously grease or pan spray and flour a large bundt or tube pan. Or you may use 2 loaf or bread pans. If you do not have a tube or bundt pan, use a deep 9- or 10-inch round baking pan.  

Measure flour and remove 2 tablespoons and sprinkle over the cherries, tossing to coat evenly.   Sift or mix remaining flour, baking powder and salt together. Lay aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.  Add sifted dry ingredients to butter mixture alternately with milk.  Beat well after each addition.  Add flavourings and lemon juice and floured cherries.  

Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Bake 325 degrees for 1 - 1½ hours. Test with a toothpick or cake tester before removing from oven.  The tester should not have any raw batter clinging to it. My bundt cake took 1 hour and 10 minutes.   For cakes without the hole in the middle, bake the longer amount of time. 

When baked, remove cake from oven and let sit in pan for about 15 minutes.  Turn out on cake rack to thoroughly cool.  Store cooled cake in air-tight container.  It is best to leave the cake at least one day before cutting. Cake may also be frozen until Christmas if you make it in November. 

Makes 1 large bundt or tube cake or 16-20 slices.  

You may glaze or frost the cake with a vanilla buttercream frosting or cream cheese frosting.  I usually don't frost my cherry cakes but for a more formal setting a light glaze is very nice and festive looking.  


Measure the flour and remove 2 tablespoons.  Sprinkle over the cherries and toss to evenly coat. The flour keeps the cherries from sinking to the bottom of the cake.

Half a pound of candied (glacéd) cherries are approximately 1 well-rounded cup or 227grams. I like to use a full pound or 2 cups/454 grams.

 Sift remaining flour with the baking powder and salt and lay aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Your mixture should be light and creamy after the eggs have been added.

Mix in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition.

To add the milk alternately with the flour means flour, milk, flour, milk and flour.  
Begin and end with the flour.  

Add the vanilla and any other extract you may be using along with the lemon zest.

Finally mix in the floured cherries.  You may do this by hand or on the lowest setting of your mixer.  You don't want to mangle or mash the cherries so a gentle touch is needed.

Generously grease or pan spray and flour the cake pan.  This will prevent the cake from sticking to the pan when baked.

These are miniature loaf pans I'm using to bake cakes for our Cheer Baskets.  Each year my church distributes a fruit basket to the seniors in our congregation or to friends/family of members.  We include fruit, a little cake and a few candies.  

Here are the baked miniature Cherry Cakes.  Don't they look good enough to eat?

Here's my sister's cake.  This one was baked in a bundt pan.  A tube pan works just as well, also.

Slices of moist cake studded with jewel-like candied cherries.

Serve your cake on a pretty Christmas cake plate.

Cherry Cake ready for your Christmas entertaining.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Sultana Raisin Cake

It's that time of the year again--Christmas Baking Time.  This lovely, moist Sultana Raisin Cake, made with brown sugar, has distinct, rich undertones of sweet butterscotch.  Unlike many raisin cakes, this one does not have the usual festive spices of cinnamon, cloves or allspice.  If you don't like traditional Christmas fruit cake this cake will fill your holiday dessert tray in grand style.

I like all types of fruit cakes and will willingly eat any that are on the dessert tray but this Sultana Raisin Cake is a favourite of mine.  I think that's because it's made with brown sugar and has a sutble but satisfying butterscotch flavour.  

The original recipe comes from the Sidney River United Church Women's Association cookbook published sometime in the 1960s.  Sydney River is in Nova Scotia.  Someone by the name of A. MacKillop submitted this recipe and I'll wager this was one of the women belonging to the church. 

These church cookbooks hold well-tested, well-beloved recipes but not always great directions for making them.  I guess that's because years ago most women cooked and baked and knew the methods of putting a cake together, so few instructions were given or needed.   This particular recipe didn't have any pan sizes or baking temperatures given but I've figured those out years ago.  As you can see by the picture I first made this cake in 1997.  

If you don't want to use the lemon or almond extracts use 1½ teaspoons of vanilla.  I never add extra fruit as I like the plain raisin cake.

Sultana Raisin Cake
1 cup butter 
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk 
½ teaspoon lemon extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sultana raisins 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour a 10-inch tube or bundt pan or two or three loaf pans, depending on loaf pan size.  Loaf pans may be lined with parchment paper. 

Cream butter and white and brown sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Sift or combine together flour, salt and baking powder.  Add flour alternately with the milk to the creamed mixture.   Add flavourings and raisins.  The raisins may be mixed in by hand.

Scrap batter into prepared tube or bundt pan.  If using loaf pans, divide the batter evenly between your pans.  

Bake 1 ½ - 2 hours at 325 degrees.  The loaf pans may take less time if they are smaller pans. 

When the cake is baked remove from the oven and let sit in pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out on cake rack to completely cool.

Makes 1 large tube or bundt cake.  About 16 servings.

Cream butter, white and brown sugars together until fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift or mix flour, baking powder and salt together.
Mix the flour into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk.
Don't forget the extracts.  I didn't use lemon this time because I didn't have any and couldn't find any in  the stores!
Lastly, stir in the raisins.  The raisins may be mixed in by hand or use the lowest setting on your mixer.

Scrape the batter into prepared pan and bake 1 ½ - 2 hours at 325 degrees.  If you don't have a tube or bundt pan the cake will take the longer time to bake.  The hole in the middle of the pan makes baking a little quicker as there is no middle to bake.

The cake has been baked to a lovely golden brown.  To make sure the cake is baked through, test with a toothpick or cake tester to make sure there is no unbaked batter.  Once the cake is baked let it sit in the pan about 15 minutes and then turn it out on a cake rack to cool completely.

The cake should be stored in a tightly covered container or can be frozen for several months.  When ready to serve, cut in slices and pass the plate.

This lovely, moist Sultana Raisin Cake, made with brown sugar, has rich overtones of sweet butterscotch.

Tender and moist and full of plump sultana raisins.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sweet Potato Rolls

Soft, billowy, golden Sweet Potato Rolls are perfect for family meals, Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners.  These Sweet Potato Rolls will make your celebration meals even more special.  Your family and friends will be singing your praises as they enjoy these delicious, soft dinner rolls.

After Thanksgiving I had quite a bit of sweet potatoes left over.  We had so much food for Thanksgiving dinner we were eating leftovers for days but somehow the sweet potatoes got pushed to the back of the fridge and never got eaten. By the time I found them I knew I'd have to throw them out if I didn't use them immediately.  As I studied the bowl of potatoes I really didn't want to eat any more leftovers but I didn't want to throw them out either.  And then, just like that, the light bulb came on and I envisioned dinner rolls made with sweet potatoes.  

So, I got about making the rolls and had the dough rising when Don came home.  When he looked in the bowl he looked kind of surprised and said, "The dough is orange."  I laughed and informed him he was correct.  Sweet potatoes will make the dough orange but that's what makes them look and taste so good when they're baked.  I formed the dough into balls and put half of them side-by-side in a square pan and the other half in muffin pans.  They baked up light and airy and soft and delicious!  I rubbed butter on the hot rolls when I took them out of the oven so the top crust would soften.  And, of course, the butter gives the crust a wonderful flavour. 

I took my Sweet Potato Rolls to a church dinner and they were gobbled up in short order.  I even had several ladies ask me for the recipe.  I promised I would write out the recipe and here it is, for them and anyone else who'd like to make them.  You won't be disappointed in the flavour and texture of this dinner roll. 
Don't have any sweet potatoes?  Don't despair.  Cooked, well mashed carrots or pumpkin make a very good substitute for the sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Rolls
1 cup cooked, warm sweet potatoes, well mashed  (Carrot or pumpkin can also be used.)
1 cup warm water or ½ cup water and ½ cup milk
1 egg
¼ cup oil or melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar (¼ cup for sweeter rolls)
1 tablespoon instant yeast (1 package)
5 ½ - 6 cups all-purpose flour

You may make these rolls in a stand mixer or by hand.  You may use greased square or oblong pans or muffin pans to make these rolls.

In the bowl or a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine sweet potato, water/milk, egg, oil, salt and brown sugar together.  Add flour and yeast to the wet ingredients, beginning with about 5 cups of the flour, adding more as needed to make a soft but not sticky dough.  Knead 8-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.  

Place dough in large greased bowl, cover with clean tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until double, about 1½ hours. Punch dough down and form into rolls and place in greased pans.  Cover pans with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap and put in a warm place. Let rise about 1 hour or until rolls are doubled in size.

Just before rolls are ready to be baked, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  When oven is ready, bake rolls 15-20 minutes, depending on size of rolls and pan.  Brush tops of baked rolls with butter when they have been removed from the oven.  

Makes approximately 24-30 rolls.  

Mix the mashed sweet potato, water/milk, egg, oil, brown sugar and salt together in large bowl or in bowl of stand mixer.  The mixture should be warm but not hot.

Add about 5 cups of flour and the instant yeast.

Add more flour until you reach the right consistency.  You want a soft but not sticky dough.

Knead the dough until smooth and elastic.  You may do this by hand or in a stand mixer.

Put about a tablespoon of oil in the bottom of the bowl that you will be using to raise the dough.
Place the mixed dough in the oiled bowl.  Roll it around it coat the top side with the oil.
Cover the bowl and place in a warm place to rise, about 1½ hours until dough has doubled in size.
This dough has risen twice its original size.

Shape the dough into rolls.  There are seveal sizes and ways to do this.  I made pan rolls on the left, plain tops and split top rolls on the right. These will be medium sized rolls when baked.

Cover the rolls with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in sized.
Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes depending on size of rolls and pan.
When you remove the rolls from the oven brush the tops with butter for a lovely soft crust.
Tender and golden, ready for dinner.