December is an extra busy and super festive time for our family. We celebrate three birthdays, the Other Fisherman and I celebrate our wedding anniversary, and we host holiday parties and attend special get-togethers in addition to celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Lots of cooking and washing dishes goes on as well as baking and shopping.
The power company loves us this time of year as we put up Christmas lights galore inside and outside, the oven is on a lot, visiting family and house guests enjoy taking long hot showers, and the wash machine and dryer run non-stop. Sound familiar? The grocery stores love us too. We are probably at the store picking up groceries and special ingredients every day.
For family birthdays everyone gets to request their own special home-made cake and dinner. Oldest son Rob’s birthday is first, but he’s not usually home until just before Christmas. This year he’s home with us and I got to bake him a cake for the first time in many years. His request for a red velvet cake was just fine with the rest of the family as we all enjoy it. It’s a birthday favorite at our house, but perfect for the Christmas holiday at your house.
Red Velvet Cake
• 1/2 cup shortening
• 1 1/2 cups white sugar
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoons cocoa
• 4 tablespoons red food coloring
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Combine these two ingredients just before adding:
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9-inch round pans.
2. Cut parchment paper to cover bottom of pan. Place in pan and grease paper as well.
3. Beat shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar until very light and fluffy.
4. Add eggs and beat well.
5. Make a paste of cocoa and red food coloring; add to creamed mixture.
6. Mix salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and buttermilk together.
7. Add the flour to the batter, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, mixing just until incorporated.
8. Mix soda and vinegar and gently fold into cake batter. Don’t beat or stir the batter after this point.
9. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cakes completely on wire rack.
This beautiful frosting isn’t overly sweet or dense. It’s wonderful on a carrot cake as well as just about any other cake you want to frost. It’s also very sturdy and holds up well.
Cream Cheese and Whipped Cream Frosting
• 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
• ½ cup white sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 teaspoon almond extract
• 2 cups whipping cream
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth. While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a few times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.
I first tasted this delicious and different drink long ago. I loved it so much I served it at every holiday party the Other Fisherman and I hosted for many years as our guests loved it as well. For some reason I stopped making it and that was that. It had its’run and it was a good one. I haven’t made a special cocktail for a holiday party in a long time. Last week, I was planning a party and thought it would be fun to serve a holiday cocktail. We thought we should make a batch of brandy slush. I did and we taste tested it and wondered why we ever stopped making it. I think the orange spice tea you can get these days is much more flavorful than what was available 35 years ago. My guests agreed it was a wonderful choice to serve and everyone asked for the recipe.
Holiday Brandy Slush
Your guests will be delightfully surprised with this delicious, frozen slush drink to serve at your next get-together. It is wonderfully festive and a little spicy courtesy of the mandarin orange spice tea. This recipe is good even without the brandy.
• 9 cups boiling water
• 8 Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice tea bags or any good orange spice tea
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 (12 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
• 1 (12 ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate
• 2 cups brandy
• 1 (2 liter) bottle lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage or Squirt grapefruit soda
Garnish of a maraschino cherry with stem and a little piece of orange on a pick
1. In a very large bowl or pan, steep tea bags in 9 cups boiling water for at least 30 minutes up to 1 hour.
2. Remove tea bags and stir in sugar until dissolved.
3. Stir in lemonade concentrate, orange juice concentrate and brandy.
4. Pour into 9-by-13 pan and a smaller loaf pan.
5. Freeze overnight.
6. To serve, scrape frozen slush in pan to break up for easier serving. Keep frozen.
7. Fill an old-fashioned size glass 1/3 way full with frozen slush, if desired add ½ jigger brandy and then top off glass with 7-Up or Squirt. Stir gently.
8. Garnish with cherry and orange before serving.
Cookie baking is next. The fruitcake is done and stored out in the cool garage mellowing. I’m not mellowing, though, and am in crazy, busy mode cooking and baking for another birthday or get-together. I still take time to sit down in the evening in my comfy chair with my soft fuzzy blanket and admire the beautiful Christmas tree decorated with ornaments acquired over the last 41 years and lit with lots of multi-colored lights. With love, Mrs. Santa.