You get two Italians together and it’s not long before the conversation settles food and family. Thus began my friendship with Vinny Dejohn, who worked in the wine shop at Whole Foods when I met him. Getting his suggestions for a good vintage was great, but getting his vintage family recipe for an Italian fig cookie was even greater. It’s one of the most delightful and delicious Sicilian holiday treats called Cucidati. Thankfully, Vinny’s mission a few years ago was to rescue this recipe! “Great Auntie Antoinette Arnone was 93 years old when she died. Ten years ago during the holidays, I went back to New York and I made arrangements to spend time with Auntie Arnone and have her teach me how to make ‘Goog-i-dottie’ as she would call them. We spent all afternoon making the cookies. Not only did I leave with Cucidati, but also her hand-written recipe card and her grandmother’s meat grinder that she herself has been using to grind the fig mixture for 60 years! I was so appreciative of her for taking the time to pass along her recipe. I often think of those treasured moments together.” Vinny’s version of this soft, flavor filled fig cookie with icing and little colorful candies is now part of my own holiday tradition. What better way to honor my Sicilian father!
There’s something so wonderful about fall baking, and it all seems to kick off with pumpkin season! So here are three of my favorite cookies and bars with pumpkin as the star! Whether it’s for your Thanksgiving dessert table or Christmas cookie exchange, these treats will get you in the holiday spirit in the most delightful way!
One cake covered in edible cob webs. Another is strewn with white chocolate skeleton bones over a graveyard cake. A third cake is just scary inside and out. Here are three fun last minute cakes Halloween cakes. It’s never too late to scare up some fun!
Watch my Video for Spooky Cakes here!
Let’s make fall official! If you’re crazy for an ultra-moist, rich-tasting cake with a mouthwatering frosting, the Arkansas Pumpkin Cake will help kick off this pumpkin harvest season in a big way! This is a dessert that I absolutely love, and I think you will too! The recipe was sent to me by Mary Koeplin of Glendale, Arizona whose husband John was making the cake for her birthday that day. Little did Mary know that her email actually came on my birthday, and it turned out to be a wonderful gift for me, too!
“Dear Jan, I’m having this cake for my birthday and I think you would love it. I got the recipe in 1973 from my cousin Vivian Hanson who lives in Marietta, Georgia. She gave it to me when I was first married 40 years ago. It’s a very unusual cake in that it stays moist forever! Fall seems to be the best time of the year for this spice cake. We’ve only made it as a Bundt cake and it always turns out well.”
I’ve made Mary’s Arkansas Pumpkin Cake in a large Bundt pan and in a 9X13 inch baking dish. I’ve also made the recipe and divided it into two smaller, 8×8 cake pans and froze one for later. The icing is fabulous with this over-the-top moist dessert, and it’s just as delicious refrigerated as it is room temperature. Thank you, Mary! Yet another reason to be thankful as we kick off the holiday season!
I’ve had the recipe for the famous St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake in my “must bake” folder for several years now. I didn’t really know anything about it. I just knew if it had gooey and butter in the title, it was destined for my oven. Then I forgot about it, until one of my cooking pals, Janne Mahan, moved to St. Louis, Missouri. There, she established a book club, and then the pandemic put a halt to group gatherings. Her book club then began to via Zoom video conferencing. Since the members of Janne’s book club were also foodies, I thought it might be fun to have her poll the group and let me know what their very favorite St. Louis foods are. As it turns out, top of the list was the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. It was the perfect excuse to pull out my folder, dig for the recipe and get to work. Holy Cow. No wonder it’s a favorite! This cake is one sweet St. Louis treat! It’s dense and rich and acts a bit like a brownie with a dusting of powdered sugar baked into the top. It has two distinct layers; the bottom one is the pound cake and the top is a blend of cream cheese, powdered sugar and eggs which provides the gooeyness. It’s perfect as a coffee or snack cake and is a great make-ahead treat to transport to a picnic or party. Not only is St. Louis the home of the world’s tallest arch known as the Gateway to the West, but also the city rich with ooey gooey goodness!
Watch my How To Video for St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake here!