Mom’s Yellow Cake

by Sandra Merville Hart

My mom has been gone for several years. I always miss her but I find myself thinking of my parents more often during the holidays.

After I got married, I loved being invited to dinner at their house—especially when there was no specific reason. “Come to supper on Thursday,” she’d call me to say. “No need to bring anything since you’ll be working all day. I’ll make a cake.”

What a precious invitation! No need to worry about supper. My mom was cooking. And she’d make dessert. She often made yellow cake because the ingredients were readily available. I got nostalgic for that cake and recently made it.

Here’s her recipe:

(Makes 2 9-inch layers)

2 ½ cups sifted cake flour

1 tsp. salt

3 ½ tsp. double-acting baking powder

1 2/3 cups sugar

2/3 cup shortening (I use butter)

¾ cup milk

Blend all these ingredients thoroughly by hand or mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add:

½ cup milk

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

Blend by hand or mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Spray cake pans with cooking spray and pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees about 35 minutes or until lightly browned. If using self-rising flour omit baking powder and salt. Cool and frost.

Just reading the recipe took me back in time to my mom’s kitchen where she blended everything together in her stand mixer. We’d get a spoon of leftover batter from the bowl. Yum!

Hint: I didn’t have cake flour but this is easily remedied. Remove 2 tablespoons of flour per cup of all-purpose flour and replace with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

This makes a nice, creamy batter. Remember to sift the flour—it removes any clumps and lightens the batter.

We usually ate unfrosted cakes because we didn’t have confectioners powdered sugar to make the icing. When my mom did make icing, it was either vanilla or chocolate. I no longer have her icing recipe. I made chocolate buttercream frosting.

Delicious! It’s a basic yellow cake yet the flavor took me back to my childhood when desserts were a rare treat. It was my mom’s “go-to” cake when guests arrived unexpectedly.

I hope you enjoy the cake!


“Chocolate Buttercream Frosting,” Live Well Bake Often, 2020/12/13

Cherry Cake

by Sandra Merville Hart

I’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show and learning a lot about dishes that are new to me. Even more helpful is The Great British Baking Show Masterclass, where talented bakers Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry demonstrate their own recipes.

Mary Berry demonstrated a recipe for cherry cake. I watched it a couple of times. It looked so delicious that I had to make it.

I didn’t find red glace cherries as suggested by Mary’s recipe so I bought maraschino cherries instead. I found a   recipe to make these candied for use in the cake. This took about an hour.

Once the candied fruit was cool, I sliced about a cup of them into quarters. This took a few minutes. I rinsed the quartered fruit, dried them with a paper towel, and then set them aside.

I had extra cherry juice left over from the maraschino cherries so I added ¼ cup of it to the batter. Otherwise, I followed the  recipe.

Unfortunately, my cake stuck to the Bundt pan even though I had buttered it well. Not well enough, apparently. Also, I think the cake needed to cool a few minutes longer so I’ll give it an extra half hour next time before turning it out.

The lemon icing was delicious with the cherry cake. Everyone who tried it enjoyed the flavor of the candied fruit that didn’t overpower the cake.

A very nice cake! I will bake it again.

I’m so glad I tried it. Let me know what you think if you make it.


“Cherry Cake,”, 2020/11/243

DIY Candied Cherries, King Arthur Baking Company, 2020/11/24

Keto Chocolate Mousse

by Sandra Merville Hart

I planned to make dessert for a family gathering over the holidays. My son-in-law, who has been following the Keto diet for months, asked me to make something he could eat without cheating.

Since I was making a frozen chocolate mousse pie for everyone else, I decided to make a version for him that he felt good about eating.

Searches online revealed lots of possibilities. I settled on a Quick Keto Chocolate Mousse, partially because I had all the ingredients in my fridge or pantry.

I melted unsweetened baking chocolate and used it instead of cocoa powder. My zero-calorie sweetener was Sweet’N Low because the package contained a great chart showing exactly how many packets equaled ¼ cup, 1/3 cup, ½ cup, and 1 cup of granulated sugar. The original recipe calls for ¼ cup powdered zero-calorie sweetener.

To ensure there was leftover dessert, I tripled the recipe.

What an easy dessert to prepare! My son-in-law was thrilled to enjoy chocolate mousse while everyone else ate pie.

You might prefer a different sweetener.

I’m so glad I tried it. Keto lovers, let me know what you think if you make it.


“Quick Keto Chocolate Mousse,” Allrecipes, 2020/11/26





by Sandra Merville Hart

I’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show and learning a lot about dishes that are new to me. Even more helpful is The Great British Baking Show Masterclass, where talented bakers Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry demonstrate their own recipes.

Paul Hollywood demonstrated a recipe for flaounes, a new dish to me. With the cheese filling baked with the pastry, it looked delicious. I watched him prepare the flaounes several times and wrote down all the instructions.

Finding the ingredients for this Cypriot pastry challenged me. I found Pecorino Romano cheese at a cheese shop while on vacation. The shop sold a wide variety of cheeses but I didn’t recall the name of the Halloumi cheese at the time. I found it later at a specialty grocery store.

Semolina flour is a new flour for me. My local grocer carries it.

I wasn’t able to find sultanas, which are made from green seedless grapes. I substituted raisins for sultanas.

Mahlepi, a Greek spice, wasn’t available in specialty grocery stores near more so I left it and the mastic powder out of my recipe. I’m certain this made a difference in the flavor, but I have to say it was delicious without them too.

Other than those differences, I followed his recipe. May I say that I appreciated his skills with pastry more than ever after making the dough. There is something to be said for years of experience.

Flaounes are a completely new flavor for me. The Halloumi cheese, a crumbly wet cheese, was also new to me.

The cheese filling really made the whole dish. It’s a filling lunch. I ate several bites before deciding that I really liked it.

I’m so glad I tried it. Let me know what you think if you make it.


“Flaounes,” BBC Food, 2020/11/23

“Raisins vs Sultanas vs Currants: What’s the Difference?” Healthline, 2020/11/23

New Year’s Day Dinners in the 1870s

by Sandra Merville Hart

My dad always wanted black-eyed peas as a side dish on New Year’s Day. He said that it brought good luck into the new year. I’ve carried on this tradition for my family.

Looking for ideas for meals to serve on the first day of the year?

Here are some suggestions for New Year’s Day from an 1870s cookbook.

Suggestions for meat dishes:

Raw oysters, mock turtle soup;

Boiled turkey with oyster sauce;

roast haunch of venison, currant jelly;

deviled crabs;

cold sliced ham

There were plenty of side-dishes:

Beets, stuffed cabbage, potato souffle, baked turnips, lima beans, dried corn, canned pease (peas);

Indian bread, French rolls, biscuits, rye bread;

Chicken salad;

Celery, cold slaw garnished with fried oysters, pickled walnuts, variety of pickles;

Plums, peaches, sweet pickled cucumbers, gooseberries, spiced currants

There were lots of dessert choices:

English plum pudding, Bohemian cream; Orange souffle,

Pies—mince, potato, and chess;

Cakes—black, Phil Sheridan, pyramid pound;

Oranges, figs, nuts, raisins

Beverage choices were coffee, tea, and chocolate.

If you are wondering what to serve for New Year’s Day dinner, there are plenty of choices here!


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.



by Sandra Merville Hart

I recently found that Christmas dinner in the 1870s included lots of desserts. One of them was a cookie called peppernuts. This Danish cookie is also known as Pfeffernusse. To my knowledge, I’ve never eaten or even seen this cookie and decided to try it.

There are no nuts or pepper or spices in the 1870s by Mrs. Emma G. Rea, so I imagined the cookie earned its name from being small-sized. I found a modern recipe that contained ground almonds and several spices—cardamom, cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. I decided to make both recipes and compare.

For the 1870s recipe, combine 1 cup of sugar with ½ cup butter until completely blended. Stir in 2 beaten eggs and 2 tablespoons of milk.

Mrs. Rea’s recipe then calls for “flour enough to roll.” There’s a lot of guesswork with these historical recipes. I started out with 1 cup of flour and mixed in 1 teaspoon of baking powder with it. Then I added a ¼ cup of flour at a time until it was just “enough to roll,” about 1 ¾ cups in total.

I chilled the dough for about 30 minutes.

I used a method from the modern recipe that suggested rolling the dough into half-inch ropes and slicing into half-inch pieces. This was quick and easy.

Bake at 375 degrees 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly brown.

The cookies flattened out in the baking, so I’ll increase the flour next time I bake them to 2 cups.

These cookies were delicious! What an easy cookie recipe with ingredients usually kept on hand. The cookies reminded me of vanilla wafers, even though there is no vanilla in them. Family who tried them went back for more again and again.

I then made the modern recipe that used ground almonds and several spices. Delicious! I chilled this dough about 30 minutes the same as the first recipe. These cookies use more flour and retained their shape in the oven.

My husband prefers the old-fashioned recipe. They are so different that it didn’t seem like the same cookie to me. I liked them both.


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.

Ojakangas, Beatrice. “Peppernuts, Food Network, 2020/11/23

Christmas Dinner in the 1870s

by Sandra Merville Hart

Christmas dinner is a big meal at our house. We roast a turkey large enough to feed the family and provide leftovers for pot pies and sandwiches. There are plenty of side dishes with everyone’s holiday favorites. Dessert always includes at least pumpkin and chocolate pies. There are plenty of Christmas cookies too.

I thought this was a big meal until I read suggestions for Christmas dinners in an 1870s cookbook.

Here are the meats:

Clam soup, baked fish, Holland sauce;

Roast turkey with oyster dressing and celery or oyster sauce, roast duck with onion sauce, broiled quail, chicken pie

There were numerous side-dishes:

Baked potatoes in jackets, sweet potatoes, baked squash, stewed carrots, turnips, canned corn, southern cabbage, tomatoes, canned pease (peas);

Graham bread, rolls; plum jelly, crabapple jelly;

Salmon salad or herring salad, pickled cabbage, mangoes, French or Spanish pickles, Chili sauce, gooseberry catsup; and

Beets, sweet pickled grapes, and spiced nutmeg melon.

There were lots of dessert choices:

Christmas plum pudding with sauce, Charlotte Russe;

Pies—mince, peach, and coconut;

Cakes—citron, White Mountain, pound, Neapolitan, and French loaf;

Cookies—peppernuts, ladyfingers, centennial drops, almond or hickory nut macaroons;

Candy—coconut caramels, chocolate drops;

And even ice cream!—orange or pineapple

Beverage choices were coffee, tea, and Vienna chocolate.

If large families (grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) prepared even a third of these dishes, they undoubtedly had one thing in common with us—leftovers!


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.




Pita Bread Recipe

Today’s post is by fellow author, Patricia Meredith. We both have stories in Christmas Fiction off the Beaten Path, a collection of inspirational Christmas stories. Sandra’s nostalgic story is about a hard-working family  man in a difficult place called “Not This Year.” Patricia’s story was inspired by the song “Mary, Did You Know?” Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Patricia!

 by Patricia Meredith

Joseph was working late again, so it was just me and Jesus. I cut up his lamb into small pieces, praying that maybe this time hed eat the meat without complaint.

Like most children Id known, he hadnt yet acquired a taste” for meat, but it seemed to me the only thing he had acquired a taste for was bread. Bread for every meal. My hands were growing sore with all the kneading.

You cannot live on bread alone!” I cried when he refused once again to touch anything else before him.

His lips puckered and his eyes widened, and then he shoved in another fistful of bread.

I shook my head. At least he was growing.

                                   — “Mary, Did You Know?” by Patricia Meredith

Like Mary, I love baking bread. One of my favorites is a simple Pita Bread recipe that makes a delicious, chewy bread perfect for wrapping around fresh vegetables and hummus. It’s cooked in a cast-iron skillet, which means if you cook it over an open fire, you get that nice outdoor smell and flavor added to the food, reminiscent of the way Mary might have cooked it in her home.


1 cup warm water

1 packet (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast

2 ½- 3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp salt

1 tablespoon olive oil (+1-2 T olive oil for cooking)


Mix the water and yeast and let stand for about five minutes. Add salt, olive oil, and 2 ½ cups of flour. Mix until combined and then knead with more flour for about 5-7 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Try to be sparing with the extra flour—less is better.

Run a little olive oil into a clean bowl, roll the dough in the oil, and then let the dough rest in the bowl, covered, until it’s doubled (about 1 hour).

Turn the dough out and divide it into smaller pieces. Depending on how thick you like your pita, you can usually get about 12-16 out of the risen dough. Using a floured rolling pin, roll each piece into a flat circle.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Drizzle oil in the pan. Lay a pita on the skillet and bake 1-2 minutes, until the bubbles start to form, keeping an eye on it. It should get toasted spots on it. Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes on the other side. It should puff up, forming small pockets.

Remove from heat and cover with a towel. Eat hot and fresh!


About Patricia:

Patricia Meredith is the author of historical and cozy mysteries. She currently lives just outside Spokane, Washington on a farm with peacocks, ducks, guinea fowl, chickens, and sheep. When she’s not writing, she’s playing board games with her husband, creating imaginary worlds with her two kids, or out in the garden reading a good book with a cup of tea. Check out her blog at, or follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @pmeredithauthor.

“Mary, Did You Know?” is one of the stories included in the Christmas Fiction Off the Beaten Path anthology. Ask for it at your favorite bookstore.


Mom’s Chicken and Dumplings

by Sandra Merville Hart

My mom made chicken and dumplings fairly often when I was growing up. As the cold weather approaches, this is still one of my favorite comfort meals. My family likes it almost as much as I do, especially my husband. My grandmother rolled out dumplings but my mom used a recipe for “drop” dumplings, which I like because it’s quicker.

3 chicken breasts

1 quart of chicken stock or chicken broth or 1 quart of water with 5 chicken bouillon cubes

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

4 ½ teaspoons baking powder

6 tablespoons Crisco shortening

1 ½ cups milk

Cover chicken with broth (or chicken stock or water with bouillon cubes) in a crockpot and cook on low at least five hours or until tender.

When chicken is done, remove from broth and allow it to cool. Save this broth. Then shred the meat with 2 forks.

In a large saucepan, add the reserved broth and chicken. Bring to a low boil.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add shortening and blend it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or a fork. Stir in milk until blended together.

When the broth gently bubbles (on medium to medium high heat) drop the dumplings into the broth by rounded teaspoon.

Cook about 10-15 minutes and then serve.

I’d love to hear if you try this recipe. Enjoy!



by Sandra Merville Hart

Marshmallow root has been used for at least 2,000 years to soothe respiratory and digestive issues. It’s been used in desserts, beverages, and cosmetics. Most mallows are edible and were a delicacy for Romans. Folks in other European countries boiled it and then fried it in butter and onions.

Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) is a flowering plant that grows along rivers and marshes. The root is a brown, fibrous husk. It produces mucilage, a substance similar to sap, that has been used as an herbal medicine to treat coughs, dry mouth, and to soothe skin irritations. It may reduce digestive issues like ulcers.

Dried marshmallow root can be used to make a cup of tea.

The marshmallows that we are used to eating today usually don’t contain marshmallow root and had its beginnings in France about 170 years ago. In 1900, corn syrup, egg whites, and water were heated along with marshmallow root and poured into molds.

I followed the Food Network’s recipe to make marshmallows, a new dish for me. I halved the recipe—a mistake because I used a 13 x 9 pan to rest them in and this made a thin layer of marshmallow. (If you halve the recipe, I suggest using a 8 x 8 pan.)

This mistake turned out to be a good thing.

I needed to take a dessert to a family gathering so instead of slicing them into 1-inch squares, I sliced them into cracker-sized shapes for s’mores. It was perfect!

Family members loved this novelty dessert! If you want that “roasted over the fire” gooey taste, then layer a slice on top of a cracker, half of a Hershey’s chocolate bar and microwave for about 5 seconds. I preferred it unmelted (less messy) but everyone else preferred it melted.

Homemade marshmallows have to set for at least 4 hours or overnight so plan accordingly if you want to use them for your next campfire.


“Althaea (plant),” Wikipedia, 2020/10/12

“Homemade Marshmallows,” Food Network, 2020/10/12

“Marshmallow Root,” Mountain Rose Herbs, 2020/10/12

“What are the Benefits of Marshmallow Root?” MedicalNewsToday, 2020/10/12