Christmas Coffee Cake

A Christmas morning delight . . . .

A Christmas morning delight . . . .

This luscious coffee cake was served on Christmas morning in our house for many, many years.  The recipe came from a Redbook magazine published in the 1970’s, and every year the magazine appeared on the kitchen counter to begin the creation of yet another delectable cake.  Loaded with butter, sour cream, and a streusel filling of nuts, cinnamon and brown sugar, this is the ultimate in coffee cakes.

Last year a request came from one of the boys for the recipe, and the search began anew for the magazine which by now was dog-eared, splattered with mixing bowl spillovers and a variety of smudges of indescribable origin. It had been kept all these years in a cardboard box, along with a variety of other holiday editions of Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, Sphere and several other holiday issues of Red Book.  I spent the better part of an evening trying to find the recipe, to no avail.  The magazine that I sought was nowhere to be found, and had obviously been loaned out or misplaced.  I had not baked the Christmas coffee cake in many years, and could not remember when I had last seen the magazine.

An Internet search produced a similar recipe, but with several minor differences.  I passed it along and got a good report on the cake that my son baked for his Christmas morning.  He posted a photograph on his Facebook page and it looked just like the cake we had grown to love.

This year my husband and I decided to have Christmas at the cabin and do our own holiday meal preparation in lieu of a resort vacation. After reminiscing for a few days about holidays of years gone by, we discussed what would be good to prepare in advance to take along with us.  The coffee cake was top of mind, and after another Internet search, a recipe nearly identical to the one I had prepared for nearly twenty years rose to the occasion.  I hope and pray it tastes as good as I remember it and will share the recipe if it is.

We will have it with a compote of fresh fruit and naturally cured smoked ham–on Christmas morning.

Granny Rosa’s Orange Fruit Cake


“those fuzzy little bits are orange pith” . . . .

This has been a family favorite dating back as long ago as the collective memory of the current descendants can recall.  Made two loaves at a time, it makes great gifts during the holidays or at any time.  This cake is an excellent keeper as it is rich with dates, walnuts, orange zest and fresh-squeezed juice.  Our Christmas gift to all.


1 C sugar

1/2 C butter or half & half butter and lard

2 eggs

1 C sour milk

1 tsp. soda

2 C flour

1 C nut meats, coarsley chopped

1 C dates, chopped fine

grated rind of two oranges, juice from oranges

Cream butter and sugar well; add eggs one at a time.  Fold in orange zest (a box grater works to grate orange rind in lieu of a zester).  Measure flour and soda in separate bowl, mix well (add 1/2 tsp of salt if using unsalted butter).  Add 1/2 flour mixture with 1/2 of sour milk and beat; add remaining flour and milk — beat.  Fold in dates and nuts, mix well.  NOTE:  add 1 tsp vinegar to 1 C milk to create sour milk if none is on hand.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan (spray with Pam for baking, douse with flour – this step is important to get cake to release easily).  While cake bakes, mix 1/2 C sugar with orange juice from two oranges.  Ladle over hot cake right out of the oven, let soak in, cool completely before removing from loaf pan, place upside down on rack.  Drizzle remaining orange juice over bottom of cake.  Wrap in cheese cloth or foil and keep in cool place.

Enjoy!  Happy Holidays

What’s For Dinner?


“I’m hungry, it’s supper time, and we had to let you know!” . . . .

This is the face that met us at the front gate to our house this past week.  Abraham, (a.k.a. Abe the Babe, Feed Lot, T-bone, Rib-eye, Meat ball) came wandering into the driveway with Tilly on his heels looking for his supper.  We heard Rosie and her friend Sally from up the lane barking like crazy from the safety zone inside the fence, and upon inspection, discovered the barnyard escapees.

Abe is growing into a pretty hefty steer, and he doesn’t realize that his playful antics are a little scary at times.  As we lead them back to the barn, he bucks and snorts, kicking up his heels, butting his head at the dogs (he sent old Lady, our black lab sprawling one day, which would have been quite hilarious except we knew it hurt her arthritic old bones to be tipped up on her head) and such carrying on as a two-year old child would engage in.  Weighing in at around 650 pounds, I rue the day when he decides to trot up behind me and send me to the moon, if only for a few short seconds.

"I know I'm simply gorgeous" . . . .

“I know I’m simply gorgeous” . . . .

He has become quite the pet, and his familiarity with us began at birth.  He loves his treats, which are small cylindrical cakes of supplemental livestock feed, and he will hose you down with his tongue searching your pockets and clothing to find them.  Creatures of habbit, he and Tilly know that at the end of the day it is time to go back to the barn for hay and treats.  Tilly spends her night in the corral attached to the loafing shed, and Abe wanders to the neighbor’s fence that separates him from his mother.  He settles down in the sagebrush, chews his cud, and communes with Mom.

What’s That? A Cat?


“What’s this little furry thing–haven’t seen one before!” . . . .

Tilly and Abe wandered into the yard one day this week, quite to our surprise.  A fence that will contain them in the lower pasture did not get built in the autumn rush to finish the chicken house and forty-odd things, and since Abe knows his way around the acreage, he led them right up to the front gate leading to the house.  Tilly adores Abe and has adopted him as her companion, paying little attention to the neighboring horses that she could visit at the fenceline.  She follows him around most of the time, and seemed quite interested in the unusual creatures that habituate the front yard on this particular occasion.  I expected her to spook at the guinea fowl and geese, but she ignored them.  What really interested her was Mouse, our barn cat who just happened to be headed across the driveway.


“Why won’t this little critter stand still long enough for me to sniff him?” . . . .

Tilly followed Mouse around in a wide circle, not giving up until he crawled through the wire of the fence.  It occurred to us she might not have seen a cat before, since Mouse doesn’t wander to the barnyard and Tilly’s former home did not have barn cats, or any we observed.  It is hard to imagine what Mouse thought of this intrusion, but he was beating a hasty retreat!

Winter Lettuce

001With the help of heavy plastic sheeting over p.v.c. hoops, we have managed to grow a little crop in the garden in December!  The lettuce is doing fairly well in spite of no heat source other than sunshine, but the kale and spinach is still too small to harvest.  They will, however, rise to the occasion in the spring and produce a prodigious crop beginning in April, lasting well through May when we will plant a new crop.

This is know as “poor farm” gardening–a greenhouse with lights and heat would produce a real crop all winter but is expensive to build.  It would have to withstand the Wyoming winds which blow fiercely and are often accompanied by tree limbs, flying gravel, tumbleweeds, cardboard boxes, feeding tubs and anything else that is left unattached or without an anchor to hold it down.

We have about finished the last of the garden cleanup, and delivered a load of frosty collard greens and kale to neighbor Tom’s pigs, who will enjoy gnoshing on this late harvest bounty.  A row of young potted cottonwood trees line the garden fence and are mulched with two feet of straw and leaves.  Hopefully they will survive to be planted in the spring.  The rest of the garden has been tucked beneath black plastic weed barrier which prevents the weeds from getting the jump on us before planting time next year.

And now for a long winter’s nap!

Wintry Wonders


033When it snows in Wyoming, it usually blows  the snow sideways and hard until most of it lands in South Dakota or Nebraska.  Rare is the morning when you find the snow has fallen softly in the night, and is layered like frosting upon everything.  So beautiful this day that it was necessary to rush out the door and record the magic. This wintry wonder of a snowfall makes everything look softer, more beautiful and sets the stage for early December thoughts of Christmas.