Archive for category Desserts

Frannie’s Anise Cookies

anisecookie2This is my mother’s anise cookie recipe. Of course, because she never wrote anything down, I had to actually sit down and make sense of this thing. I’m posting this now because it’s the Christmas season, and this is a great treat to have in the house on Christmas morning. These are awesome with a nice cup of hot coffee.

I use anise oil in this recipe, not anise extract. They are much more authentic when you use oil and, because the oil has a very strong flavor, you use less than you would extract. It is not always easy to find anise oil. You may have to order it online, or find a local Italian shop. Luckily, I have one close to home.

I prefer my anise cookies without icing, but I realize I’m in the minority here. I’ve included the icing recipe. By the way, this makes a shitload of cookies, but they have great staying power.


6 cups of all-purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 lb butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp anise oil


Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream together the softened butter, sugar, anise oil. Then, add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between.

Once you’ve creamed the wet ingredients, add the flour and milk. Start with flour and end with flour, adding a little at a time.

It’s important to wrap the dough and chill it overnight before actually making the cookies.

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Here’s the important part. I make the “dropped” cookies, like in the photo. I also form the dough into anise rings, and I don’t mean small rings. Roll a long log of dough, and form into a circle. Slightly press it down. You can cut these into wedges. I like to make these because these are the ones I leave without frosting. Do not ask me for the logic here. That’s just the way my mother did it.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until they are slightly brown on the top. Once the cookies have cooled, apply the icing and the decorations (see icing directions below).

Anise Icing


2 cups confectioners sugar

10 tbsp milk

1/4 tsp anise oil

Multicolored nonpareils


Place the confectioners sugar in a bowl. Add the anise oil. Then add the milk a little at a time, stirring in between additions. You should be able to apply the icing with a spoon. It should not be thick. If you think you need to add a little more milk, do not hesitate to do so.



White Chocolate Chili Cheesecake

White Chocolate Chili CheesecakeI’m not much of a sweet eater, but I do have my weaknesses. Cheesecake, in all of its various iterations, is one of those big weaknesses. So, it’s probably a good thing I don’t make it often.

This particular version of cheesecake is extremely outrageous, combining sweetness with just a hint of heat. If you think dark chocolate is great with chili, just wait until you get a taste of white chocolate with chili. The combination of cream cheese, Mascarpone and heavy cream makes for a very dense, rich cheesecake.

This recipe calls for cookie crumbs as the base. The last time I made this, I used graham cracker crumbs because I had a limited amount of time to get this done for company. Feel free to get creative. Crushed Nilla wafers maybe?  It also calls for 14 oz of white chocolate. Make it a high quality brand. I used Ghirardelli the last time around.

You will also need an 8-inch springform pan.


1.5 cups cookie crumbs

1 stick melted butter

8 oz of cream cheese, softened

1 cup heavy cream

9 oz Mascarpone cheese, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp Trappist hot pepper jelly

14 oz white chocolate, melted


Line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper. This will make it easier to transfer the cheesecake to a serving dish when done.

Combine the cookie crumbs and melted butter thoroughly in a medium-sized bowl. Press onto the base of the springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 15-20 minutes.

To melt the white chocolate, place in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering (not boiling) water and stir constantly until melted.

Beat softened cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer until it is smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients, and beat until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the chilled springform pan and smooth the top. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours.

Prior to serving, garnish the top with Ghirardelli white chocolate morsels.




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Pumpkin Spice Trifle

Pumpkin Spice Trifle 2It’s fall. And it’s time for all things pumpkin. I am not much of a dessert maker, although when I decide to do it I’m pretty adept at it. But if we have a dinner and somebody asks me what to bring, I usually say dessert.

The other night we had a dinner and I stepped outside the norm and made a great pumpkin trifle. Of course, you can get carried away with this kind of thing. I confess that I didn’t make my own cake. It’s not that I can’t. It’s just that I don’t feel the need unless I’m working at a leisurely pace and feel the urge to do so. There are just some days when there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. I simply bought a Duncan Hines spice cake. That being said, I do have a spice cake recipe that was given to me by a friend whose aunt swears it’s the best spice cake ever. Therefore, I’m including it here!

For this recipe, you’ll need a 2-quart trifle bowl. They’re worth the investment because they are versatile and can be used for many things, like fruit salads at your summer cookout. You’ll also need a 13″ x 9″ pan for the cake.

Ingredients for Spice Cake

spray oil and flour (for preparing baking pan)

2 cups cake flour*

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 tsp baking soda

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

2 tbsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp salt

8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup buttermilk (not powdered)

2 eggs

*This will work out fine if you use all-purpose flour, but cake flour makes it a bit more crumbly. 

Ingredients for Pumpkin Mousse

2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

30 oz of pure pumpkin (canned is perfect)

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3 tbsp pumpkin pie spice*

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups chilled heavy cream

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

*This should be readily available at the supermarket. If not, you can make it from cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.

Ingredients for Whipped Cream

2 cups chilled heavy cream

4 tbsp granulated sugar

1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract

Ingredients for Garnish

Pumpkin Pie Spice



The first order of business is to make your cake, whether you’re using the boxed variety or making your own.

Make the Cake

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, spray your 13″ x 9″ cake pan with baking spray and lightly flour it.

Place the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, salt and brown sugar into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together uniformly. Add the buttermilk and butter to the flour mixture and beat for 2 minutes until completely incorporated and the batter begins to look fluffy. The batter should be thick at this stage.

Add the two eggs, and beat for about another two minutes. The batter should now be the texture of homemade whipped cream.

Pour it into your prepared 13″ x 9″ baking pan, evening out the batter with a spatula. This recipe calls for baking for about 50-55 minutes because it is in a traditional cake pan. However, I’m suggesting that this might be ready in about 22-26 minutes in the longer, thinner pan. Keep an eye on the bake.

Make the Pumpkin Mousse

Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over cold water in a small saucepan. Allow it to sit for about a minute to soften. Bring to a simmer, stirring it well until all the gelatin has dissolved. Allow it to cool for a few minutes.

Whisk together the pumpkin, gelatin, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a large bowl until it is well incorporated.

Beat the heavy cream and vanilla using a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Then, incorporate the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture. Mix this gently but thoroughly.

Make the Whipped Cream

Beat heavy cream and vanilla in a bowl with a hand mixer until it holds peaks. The peaks for the whipped cream should be slightly stiffer than those on the whipped cream used for the pumpkin mousse.

Assemble the Trifle

Once the cake has cooled, slice it into 1-inch pieces. Put half of the spice cake in the bottom of the trifle bowl. Top with half of the pumpkin mousse, then half of the whipped cream. Repeat this process one more time with the rest of the cake, pumpkin mousse and whipped cream. Sprinkle pumpkin pie spice on the top layer of whipped cream and sprinkle with pepitas (raw, shelled pumpkin seeds).





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Lemon Berry Trifle

Lemon Berry TrifleI don’t eat many sweets, but this is one I could not resist. When Bill made this for one of our cookouts, Susan and I ate the leftovers for breakfast for several days after. There are two key elements that make this so amazing. One is the lemon curd. The other is using Limoncello. (And here I thought only of using Limoncello in my Lemon Drop Martinis! Who knew?)

Of course, the pound cake is important as well. There are any number of great lemon pound cake recipes out there already, so I won’t bore you with that. Just remember one important thing if you bake your own: You’re not going to glaze it.


6 egg yolks

1 cup of sugar

4 lemons, zested and juiced

1/2 cup of unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 pint each fresh strawberries (cut in half), fresh blueberries and fresh blackberries

2 cups of whipping cream

1 lemon pound cake, sliced

1/4 cup Limoncello

1 cup (1/2 pint) of cold heavy cream

3 tbs sugar

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Fresh mint leaves (for garnish)

About a dozen fresh, whole strawberries (for the top)


Making the Lemon Curd

Combine the sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice and lemon zest in a glass, heat-resistant bowl.

Whisk vigorously over a simmering pot of water until the curd has doubled in volume and becomes very thick and yellow. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the heat and then whisk in the butter.

Cool in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Making the Whipped Cream

Whip the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer. When it begins to thicken, add sugar and vanilla.

Whip until stiff peaks form.

Place in the refrigerator.

Assembling the Trifle

Mix the berries in a bowl.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the lemon curd to lighten it.

Line the bottom of a trifle bowl with pieces of the lemon pound cake. Brush the cake with Limoncello.

Add a layer of lemon curd, and then add a layer of the berries.

Repeat the process until all of the ingredients are used.

Finish the masterpiece with berries on top (remember to use the whole strawberries on the top of the trifle). Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Chill for at least one hour before serving.



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