Joni Woolf: It’s time to plan Thanksgiving desserts

Published 10:09 pm Friday, October 26, 2018

This column has not featured any desserts since the end of peach season. The passing of that season is always a little melancholy, so we talk about other foods for a while, hoping that we’ve stored away enough peaches in the freezer to tide us over till next season. Now a new season is upon us, and Thanksgiving is a bit early, so it’s time to shift gears and plan for that big family event.
When we sit down to plan Thanksgiving menus, most of us put turkey and dressing at the top of the list. Not far behind will be a listing of several desserts: cakes, pies, ambrosia, cookies of several kinds, an occasional pudding. My family members, I’m sorry to say, are not fans of ambrosia, which I love. But it is time-consuming and tedious, so I should be grateful that all I am expected to do is make two or three cakes and a couple of pies (and make turkey and dressing and gravy, and … a few other things). So here are some tried and true recipes, sure to please the palates of many family members — both yours and mine. The first one is for Lemon Cheese Cake, a favorite of mine since youth, when I really believed that somewhere in there I would find cheese. Theories abound regarding the name. But if a rose by any other name is just as sweet, a cake by any other name would still be delicious, even if no cheese is to be found.

Lemon Cheese Cake
(For the layers)
1 cup butter
1 ¾ cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
6 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Cream butter and sugar. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to butter and sugar mixture alternately with milk. Fold in beaten egg whites. Bake in 3 greased and floured pans at 375 degrees F. about 25 minutes, until a pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 15 minutes, then turn out on wire racks to cool completely.
(For the filling)
6 egg yolks, beaten
1 stick (1/4 pound) butter
2 cups sugar
Juice of 6 lemons
Grated rind from 6 lemons
Mix all ingredients in top of double boiler. Cook over boiling water till thickened, about 12 minutes. Spread between layers, but not on top layer. Frost the entire cake — top and sides —with 7-minute frosting, made as follows.
(For the frosting)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 egg whites
5 tablespoons water
Pinch of cream of tarter
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large marshmallows (or 60 small ones)
Put all ingredients except vanilla in top of double boiler over simmering water. Cook, beating constantly with electric mixer at high speed for about 7 minutes or until icing becomes stiff and glossy. Remove from heat and add teaspoon vanilla, mixing thoroughly.

My friend and colleague the late Louise Dodd, a well-known food writer and publisher of a fine cookbook entitled Eating From the Whitehouse to the Jailhouse, said of the following recipe: “If this doesn’t fire you up, your wood’s wet.” If Louise said it, it has to be so.

Rum Trifle
½ cup light rum
¾ cup golden raisins
¾ cup slivered almonds
1 (3 oz.) package vanilla pudding (not instant)
2 ½ cups milk
1 cup chilled heavy cream
8 cups angel food cake, cut into ½ inch cubes
8 maraschino cherries
Sliced almonds, toasted
Pour rum over raisins and slivered almonds in a small bowl. Let soak 1 hour. In a medium saucepan, mix pudding with 2 ½ cups milk. Cook over medium heat until it boils. When pudding has cooled, whip the chilled cream and fold ½ whipped cream into pudding. In trifle bowl, layer 1/3 of cake cubes. Sprinkle with 1/3 rum/raisin/almond mixture, then 1/3 pudding. Repeat each layer twice, ending with pudding. Cover and refrigerate a minimum of 3 hours and a maximum of 24 hours before serving. Garnish with remaining whipped cream, maraschino cherries and toasted sliced almonds. Your family and guests will love this one.

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