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Cookie Brittle

All right, it’s the last day of cookie week!  Here’s another great recipe from Marina, and as with all her recipes, this one is a winner.  (Literally, the woman has hundreds of ribbons for her baking!)  These cookies are exactly what the title suggests.  Cookie brittle is the perfect cross of cookie and brittle, is super crunchy, buttery, studded with toffee, and garnished with chocolate.  I bet these are great with the almonds, but I made mine without.  These are perfect for gifts!

Cookie Brittle

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 (7.8 oz) packages toffee candy bars, chopped fine
½ cup almonds, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine butter, vanilla and salt in medium bowl and beat with electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour, sugar, chopped toffee candy, and almonds if desired. Blend well. Press mixture into 15 x 11 inch cookie sheet with sides. Cover with waxed paper and flatten with rolling pin to edge of pan. Discard paper. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. While still hot, cut into diamonds or squares. Cool completely. Drizzle with chocolate if desired.

Recipe source: Marina C.

1955 Almond Burnt Sugar Cake

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  I found a 1955 copy of Household magazine at my parents’ house recently, and the beauituful coconut cake gracing the cover compelled me to flip through the pages.  Once I found the section of cake recipes that the cover promised, I scanned them over and came to an “Almond Burnt Sugar Cake” that caught my interest because I remembered reading that the use of burnt sugar began during the Great Depression.   Indeed, this burnt sugar cake is a perfect example of the resourcefulness and creativity that was stimulated during those lean times.  Expensive ingredients were nearly unattainable and to keep things from getting redundant, housewives invented new ways to flavor desserts without actually having to purchase anything extra, such as burning sugar & turning it into a syrup before adding it to a cake.   Sadly, we have nearly forgotten this inexpsensive and tasty flavoring because many of us rely on mixes and fast fixes in this age of convenience & cheap substitutes.  Before stumbling upon this magazine in my Dad’s abundant collection of old books, I’d never in my life tasted burnt sugar and when I found the recipe for the burnt sugar cake, I knew it was high time I bring this tiny piece of history back to life.

The cake I made is in the lower left corner, and I obviously had more trouble with mine than whatever chef whipped that beauty up.

The funny thing about burnt sugar is that it doesn’t particularly smell or taste good in its syrup state, but once added to cake or turned into frosting, the slight bitterness subsides and what remains is a flavor very similar to caramel and brown sugar, but different enough that I wanted to keep tasting it to try to ascribe it some elusive adjective.  It was a pointless endeavor because burnt sugar is its own flavor & the only way to describe it is, “burnt sugar.”  And it is wonderful.   I have to admit that the cake as a whole was somewhat disappointing.  The velvety light batter, so silky I wanted to lie in a bed made with it, held such promise!  Alas, though I pulled off a series of time-learned stunts to ensure a glorious result, I still ended up with a cake that was slightly dry & crumbly, and with icing that was more like a grainy liquid caramel (seriously, half of it ran off the cake and I had to keep scraping off the growing pool around the bottom) than the fluffy/creamy stuff most cakes are frosted with.  Don’t get me wrong, the flavor was divine, but the textures weren’t.  If you are a baking pro, perhaps you can pull it off with greater success than I, but even if your result is similar to mine, I think you’ll appreciate the flavor & your loved ones most likely will not be complaining (mine aren’t).  In fact, it’s probably just the cake snob in me that finds anything wrong with this recipe at all.    As for me, I won’t be trying this recipe again (I plan to incorporate the burnt sugar syrup into another cake recipe to see if I can enhance the crumb) but I feel I should share the original with you, to fulfill my objective of keeping this piece of history alive.    *Pictures of ads from the magazine follow the recipe.

 My cake is pictured on a reproduction of the Depression-era Madrid-pattern crystal glass cake plate, a gift from my father.

Almond Burnt Sugar Cake

From Household Magazine, March 1955

3 cups sifted cake flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 eggs, unbeaten
1/3 cup burnt sugar syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Prepare burnt sugar syrup as directed in recipe below. Sift cake flour with baking  powder, soda and salt.  Cream butter until fluffy.  Add sugar gradually, beating until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Stir in 1/3 cup of burn sugar syrup and the vanilla, blending well.  Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, stirring until smooth after each addition.  Pour into 2 oiled and wax-paper-lined, round 9-inch layer cake pans 1 ½ inches deep.  Bake in moderate oven (350 F) about 35 minutes. Remove to cooling rack and cool in pan about 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, peel off wax paper carefully, and complete cooling.  Frost with Burnt Sugar Frosting.

Burnt Sugar Syrup: Place 1 cup sugar in heavy saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar melts and turns golden brown.  Lower heat and gradually add ½ cup boiling water.  Stir until sugar dissolves and syrup is slightly thickened.  Cool.  Blend in water, if necessary, to make 2/3 cup syrup.

Burnt Sugar Frosting

1/3 cup burnt sugar syrup
½ cup almonds, blanched and halved
2 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup butter
½ tsp soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Place 1/3 cup burnt sugar in 4-quart, heavy saucepan.  Add almonds and stir over low heat for one minute.  Remove almonds from syrup to cookie sheet, separating them with fork.  Add sugar, butter, soda, salt and milk to syrup in saucepan.  Cook to soft ball stage (234 F).  Cool.  Sir in vanilla.  Beat until creamy.  Spread on top and sides of layers.  If frosting gets too stiff, add few drops hot water.  Decorate with the caramel-coated almonds.

*Veronica’s notes: be sure ALL your cake ingredients are at room temperature (including the syrup).  When cooking the frosting, I recommend using a dutch oven or stock pot as the mixture boils up 2-3 times it’s uncooked volume.  It boiled over in my 3-quart saucepan and probably would in a 4-quart as well.

Household Magazine’s 10 Tips for Better Cakes

1. Begin with high quality ingredients.
2. Have all ingredients at room temperature.
3. Be sure baking temperature is correct.
4. Use the pan size specified in the recipe.
5. Measure ingredients exactly, using standard measuring cups and spoons.
6. Always sift flour before measuring.
7. When using an electric mixer, scrape sides of bowl and beaters often during mixing.
8. Use low speed to blend and medium speed for beating.
9.  Cool butter cakes in pan (upright) on cake rack for 10 minutes; then remove from pan.
10.  Before frosting, cool cake thoroughly and remove excess crumbs from surface.


Now you know when instant oatmeal was invented–1955! Also, the picture is too small to see it (darned Picassa), but Quaker Oats used to also make “Mother’s Oats” which had a picture of a mother with her son on the canister, pictured to the right of the Quaker Oats container we still see today.


I wonder when Kellogg’s got the idea that putting the word CONSTIPATED in bold black letters at the top of their Allbran ad wasn’t the best way to appeal to someone’s appetite?


Karo makes it “extra good?”  Well, isn’t that swell!


This is one part of history I’ll happily leave behind!

Razzcherry Pie

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I am a cake lover, born to a family of pie lovers.  Making pie does not thrill me the way making and decorating a cake can, but in most cases, my family would prefer I bring pie to our get-togethers.  I’m making them so often now that I seem to have earned an unwanted reputation and have become, somewhat grudgingly, the designated pie maker amongst my friends and family.

This is how my Razzcherry Pie was born. Dad wanted pie for his birthday celebration last year, so I did an experiment to come up with a cherry & raspberry filling.  Though delicious, it turned out pretty runny so I tweaked it a bit and tried it again for our belated Mother’s Day barbecue this year (because, of course, Mom wanted pie instead of cake).  It came out perfect so I thought I’d share the recipe now that I’ve worked out the kinks.

Veronica’s Razzcherry Pie

Prepare to be razzle dazzled!

Almond Crust
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 16 pieces
4 to 6 Tbsp ice water, very cold

Raspberry-Cherry Filling
1 (10-oz) package frozen raspberries
2 (14.5-oz) cans sour pitted cherries, drained well (juice reserved)
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp butter
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp. almond extract
½ tsp red food coloring (optional)

milk & coarse sugar for top crust


This slideshow is meant as an accompaniment to the directions and has step-by-step photos & instruction for making a lattice top crust.

The night before you make the pie, put the raspberries into a colander and set it over a bowl.  Put the whole thing in the refrigerator and by the time you use them, they’ll be thawed and drained.  Save the juice.

For the crust (which can be made up to two days ahead), I recommend using a food processor.  Process the almonds until very finely ground—about the texture of cornmeal.  Add the flour, salt & brown sugar, then pulse a couple times to combine.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal & pieces are no larger than peas.  Sprinkle 4 tbsp ice water over the top and pulse until it starts to clump together & holds together when you pinch it with your fingers.  Add additional water if necessary (I personally use 5 tbsp).  Form the dough into 2 disks, dust with flour, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.  Roll out one of the disks on a floured surface and fit it into a 9 inch deep dish pie plate, trimming off the excess (leave a ½” overhang if you will be using a lattice top crust).  Set in the fridge until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees & place one oven rack in the lowest position and one in the middle. If you only have one rack, put it in the lowest position.

Pour the collected raspberry juice into a 1-cup measuring cup (you’ll probably only have a few tablespoons).  Add the reserved cherry juice until you have ¾ cup of liquid. In a saucepan mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in the juice and simmer over medium heat until filling is thick and clear (by clear I don’t mean the red will disappear, but that the cloudy appearance from the cornstarch will go away), about 4 to 5 minutes. Since you’ll be adding more liquid after it’s done cooking and the berries will break down and make the glaze juicier, you want to get it pretty thick.  If it isn’t gel-like after 5 minutes, whisk in more cornstarch (1 tsp at a time) and cook for another few minutes after each addition until it’s very thick.

Remove from heat and stir in the butter, almond extract & food coloring until the butter is melted and incorporated. Gently fold in the cherries & very gently fold in the raspberries.  Yes, the raspberries will fall apart but the more careful you are, the less likely it is they’ll turn to unrecognizable mush. Pour into pastry-lined pie dish and set aside. Roll out second dough disk and cut into 1/2-3/4″ strips.  Arrange the strips on top to make a lattice, trim them to the edge of the plate (slightly shorter than the overhanging edge), fold the edge over & seal.  Pour some milk (I used cream) into a dish and use your clean fingertips to moisten the strips.  Sprinkle the strips with coarse sugar (try to get it on the strips but it’s OK if some falls into the filling).

If you are just using a full top crust, seal & flute the edges, brush with milk/cream, sprinkle with sugar and cut steam vents so you don’t have a royal pie explosion in your oven. Place pie on the bottom shelf of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, and then move to the middle shelf & reduce the heat to 350 degrees F.  At this point, you MUST put an oven liner on the rack below the pie, or cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place it below, because the pie will most likely bubble over and make a mess.  Continue to bake until bubbling & the crust is a golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes more. Cool completely (best if made the day before serving) before cutting & serve with vanilla ice cream.

Will last several days on the counter & longer in the fridge.

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