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Joni Woolf: Cooking up cakes for Thanksgiviving

All of us enjoy preparing food for our loved ones who gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas — and many days in between. Elaborate recipes are often the order of the day, and deservedly so. We want to do our best for those who come to our table. However, it can be stress-producing and we can become overwhelmed by wanting to do so much, so well.
I have found at least two cakes that are easy to make (made with mixes for the base) and are admired and enjoyed by all. In fact, when I took the Japanese Fruit Cake to a church lunch recently, it disappeared quickly, and several said “This reminds me of my mother’s cake.”  Well … it’s probably not. It is much easier than the one, for instance, that I made last year, using Craig Claiborne’s recipe that I found on the Internet. This is just as good. And it is easy. Another very popular cake around the holidays is German Chocolate. I learned a long time ago that it is the frosting that turns this cake into a most-sought-after dessert at Thanksgiving. Again — I use a mix and then increase the frosting recipe and voila — a masterpiece. Try these two for Thanksgiving. They are easy to prepare, and make a lovely presentation.

Japanese Fruit Cake
1 box Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden Cake Mix. Mix according to directions. Divide into three portions (I do this with cereal bowls). In one layer add 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 teaspoon allspice. Put in three pans (I use parchment paper to line the pans; some prefer to use shortening and flour for pan preparation). Cook according to box directions. Cool layers in pan 10  minutes.
Meanwhile, make the frosting while the cake is baking. In heavy pan, combine 4 beaten eggs, 2 cups sugar, 1/2 stick butter, 1/2  cup lemon juice, grated rind from 3 lemons and 1 cup drained, canned, crushed pineapple.  Cook until thick. Add 6 oz. frozen coconut, 1/2 cup chopped pecans and 1/2 cup raisins. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, for one minute.  While cake is still warm, frost, with spiced layer in center.

German Chocolate Cake
1 box Duncan Hines German Chocolate Cake Mix. Mix according to directions. Bake in three pans instead of two (I use 8-inch pans). Adjust time for baking accordingly (about 5 minutes less than indicated). Cool layers.
Filling/Frosting: Mix 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk, 1- 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cups butter, 4 slightly beaten egg yolks, and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla in large saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat about 12 minutes, or until thickened and golden brown. Remove from heat. Stir in one 7-oz. package coconut (about 2 1/3 cups) and 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans. Cool to room temperature and spread between layers and on top of cake. (Do not try to frost the sides; frosting will trickle down.)
If you must make it a little harder on yourself, and want to present the cake that takes all prizes, then make the pound cake that tops all other pound cake recipes, in my opinion (and I have tried quite a few). It is made with cream cheese, and it never fails, as long as you follow the directions carefully (butter at room temperature, etc.) So if you have time to make one more cake, and want to impress all who will gather at your table, here it is:

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
3 sticks butter, softened
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
3 cups sugar
Dash of salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla flavoring
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups plain flour, sifted
Cream butter and cream cheese in heavy-duty mixer, add sugar, cream until smooth. Add vanilla and salt. Add eggs, one at a time and cream until smooth. Add flour by cupfuls and mix well. Grease and flour a large tube pan. Pour mixture into pan and bake in preheated oven at 325 degrees for 1 hour and thirty minutes. Cool on rack for 15 minutes, remove gently, return to right side up, and let sit until cool before covering.
The foods we offer are just one way of saying, “We are glad you’re here. We hope you come back next year — and that we w ill all be here, gathered once again.”

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net