By KARA KIMBROUGH
Home-cooked Christmas gifts
are remembered all year long
Christmas gifts made with time and love mean the most. It pains me to walk through the supermarket baking aisle these days and see it relatively empty. Instead, shoppers are putting frozen pies and desserts in their carts and, for gifts, selecting prefabricated, cellophane-wrapped baskets of coffee mugs, hot cocoa mix and s’mores kits.
Instead of buying everything this year, why not bake a few select items for Christmas gifts? Even the simplest baked goods will be remembered and appreciated all year long.
MAKE-AHEAD COCONUT CAKE
- 1 box white cake mix, baked to package directions
- 1 16-ounce carton sour cream
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1 to 2 cups grated coconut, frozen slightly
Bake cake mix to package directions in a 9×13” Pyrex dish. Once it’s baked, pop the cake out onto a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, slice the cake into top and bottom halves, equal in size. Place bottom half back into the dish, then mix together sour cream and ó cup sugar and spread the mixture over bottom half of cake. Put top half over sour cream mixture.
In a mixing bowl, beat heavy whipping cream with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Slowly add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar while beating cream. Use a spatula to frost the cake with the whipping cream mixture, then top with frozen coconut.
Cook’s tip: Cover cake tightly with aluminum foil and pop it into the freezer — not the refrigerator — for about two days, or at least overnight. Before serving, allow cake to defrost completely in refrigerator or at room temperature. The freezer is the key to the cake’s super moist texture and flavor-dense taste.
CHRISTMAS CHERRY BREAD
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup juice from 10-ounce jar of maraschino cherries (reserve cherries)
- 1/2 cup each, white and brown sugar
- 1/4 cup softened butter
- 2 eggs
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon each, salt and baking soda
- 1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 to 2 teaspoons milk
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
To make bread:
Add everything except cherries to mixing bowl. Beat well, scrape sides of bowl and beat again. Add chopped cherries and mix well. Bake in a greased and floured bread pan at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes. Cool on rack, then invert onto a serving dish.
To make glaze:
Mix ingredients. Beat and add milk until you get desired consistency. Drizzle over warm bread.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS! CAKE
- 2 baked 9-inch round white cake layers
- 1 4-ounce package red gelatin, strawberry flavor
- 1 4-ounce package green gelatin, lime flavor
- 2 cups boiling water, divided
FOR BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:
- 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Red and green candy canes, crushed (candy canes are thought to symbolize the shepherds’ hooks present on the night of Jesus’ birth)
To make cake:
Grease and flour cake pans and bake the cake layers according to package directions. Cool on rack; do not remove from pans. Punch small holes one-half inch apart in cake layers, using the tip of a knife. Stir a cup of boiling water into dry gelatin, stirring well until dissolved. Pour red gelatin over one cake layer, green over the other. You can reduce gelatin to 3/4 cup if you desire less filling. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.
Place bottom of one cake pan in warm water for a few minutes, then un-mold onto cake plate. Spread with a layer of frosting, then add second cake layer. Ice the top and sides of cake. Crush red and green candy canes in food processor or place in Ziploc bag and beat with a hammer or mallet. Sprinkle over top of cake to decorate.
To make frosting:
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients on low speed until thoroughly combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for 3 to 4 minutes until frosting is fluffy.
Note: Double the recipe to create a four-layer cake with alternating red and green layers. Frosting recipe doubles easily.