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Jett Superior laid this on you on || December 15, 2008 || 10:25 am

When I was a kid, my mother baked constantly. It was something she loved to do; it was something to relieve stress. Consequently, if the table was lined with pies and cookies when we came home on any given day, my sister and I knew to make ourselves scarce because Momma was likely very, very on edge.

So baking was A Thing in our home. This made Christmas baking A Really Big Thing. It was something we looked forward to with the same amount of eagerness a visit from Santa would evoke. We got to be a part of our mother’s ritual then; we got to glean secrets and tips and advice from her personal storehouse of pastry wizardry. We got to play with the cookie press and the frosting bags and the myriad of not-everyday utensils that she kept on hand.

We got to lattice the pies. We got. To Lattice. Those Piiiiiies.

When I got old enough to move out and away –across the country, then over the ocean, then around the world– two things that went with me were my little book of carefully-collected recipes and a set of basic cookie cutters mother had stuffed down into my Christmas stocking one year. No matter where I found myself, no matter how much or how little I had, I always managed to bake, and most especially at the holidays. If I can decorate a tree and turn out some carefully-crafted sweets and pies to share, I am content and have need of nothing else.

This holiday tradition has grown exponentially more enjoyable by the ability to fold my own children into it. Each year we bake (they each have their own favorites they like to play assistant on), storing up our creations in colorful tins which we pull from to make plates for neighbors, friends and parties we attend. All the baking culminates in an afternoon event where I lay out sprinkles and tubes of icing and our sugar cookies cut into various shapes; Scout and Sam and Mathias then have friends over to help decorate (but mostly to giggle and act a fool). This is Christmas to me: Kids in aprons ringed around my table, laughing.

Every year I have the stock recipes I draw from; these are the proven favorites that people have requested and requested again over the years. Every year, though, I try to make one or two ‘floaters’…usually a different kind of cookie or bar or tart that I’ve never tried before, just to keep things interesting. Last year my friend Fran made these amazing little lemon cakelets that I fell in love with. This year she gave me the recipe and I made them for the first time this weekend. They taste phenomenal, they keep well (last year’s gift of them stored up for over a week and were still terrific after all that time) and they make enough to share with loads of people, all from one batch. Enjoy, awesome Muffinasses!

Miss Fran’s Lemon Tea Cakes

1 1/2 c butter (no substitutes), softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/4 c sugar
6 eggs
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
3 c all purpose flour

5 1/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 c plus 3 tbsp milk
3 1/2 tsp lemon extract

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in lemon juice, extracts and peel. Gradually add flour. Fill greased mini muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes or until cakes pull away from sides. Cool for 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Combine glaze ingredients. Dip tops of cakes into glaze; place on waxed paper to dry. Makes 8 1/2 dozen.

Feel free to leave one of your own favorites in the comments!

13 worked it out »

  1. cIII 12.15.2008

    I, to this very day, have my greatGrandmother’s biscuit cutter. It’s as old as time and a neccasary ingredient.

    *Peanut butter Cookies*

    1 cup – peanut butter (I find that the Hippie Store peanut butter is best. But, make sure you get the Salted variety)

    2/3 cup (firmly packed) brown sugar

    1 tsp vanilla

    1 egg

    Mix together well with your favorite spoon.

    Then go wild with mix-ins

    Dried fruits

    butterscotch chips

    toffee pieces

    chocolate chips


    (seriously if you add and ounce of Bourbon add 1/3 cup extra brown sugar)

    Add 1 tall glass of Cold milk and chill.

  2. Jettomatika 12.15.2008

    Er, bake at? For how longs?

    (I also make mighty, mighty PB fudge, yo)

  3. cIII 12.15.2008

    Bake at tree-fitty for 10-12….or until set.

    Personaly, I bake @ 420.

    har har har har…….

  4. Suzanne 12.17.2008

    I have fond memories of Christmas baking as well – with my mom, and my grandmother. GMa died in 1984 and circa 2000 or so, my mother gave me xerox copies of some of her handwritten recipes. (I swear when I look at her handwriting, I can feel her soft skin, smell the fudge, taste the 100 lb. pound cake and hear the big pressure cooker playing a tune as it creates the best home made custard for nanner pudding ever put on this earth!)

    I’ve finished all of my Atlanta area baking last night and should have all the deliveries completed tomorrow. Baking Version 2 starts when I get to SC with my family: more goodies & deliveries to make!

    Who needs random $10 store bought gifts, anyway? Baking is sooooooo much more personal.

    ENJOY your tradition!

  5. Anonymous 12.18.2008

    Steve’s Cookies

    1.5kg assumed male helplessness

    1 liter flattering comments

    725g promised handyman chores

    150g begging

    50g appeal to maternal instincts

    Pour comments in to a chilled bowl. Whisk in helplessness 10-15g at a time. Fold in promises and let stand for 3 days.

    Add apeal to taste and dust with begging

    Bake at 200c or whatever temp the oven happens to be at while dinner is being cooked, cause, you know the oven’s hot anyway, you might as well…..

  6. Coelecanth 12.18.2008

    That was me being all anonymous, or perhaps just computer illiterate.

  7. Seaweed 12.19.2008

    Pignoli Cookies

    An Italian favorite, and I had an Italian grandmother questioning: “someone Irish made these?”

    Makes 28, I always double

    Prep: 20 mins

    Bake: 325 for 15 minutes

    7 ounces almond paste, cut into small pieces

    1/3 cup sugar

    2 egg whites

    1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    1/2 teaspoon orange extract

    3 tablespoons flour*

    1/2 cup pine nuts

    1. Position oven rack in top third of oven. Heat to 325. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or foil. If foil, use non-stick cooking spray.

    2. Beat together almond paste, sugar and 1 egg white in medium bowl. Beat in second egg white, then vanilla and orange extracts. Stir in flour until dough forms. *I have always believed this recipe was written wrong, because it usually takes me a LOT more than 3 tbs. Like a cup or more. Just keep adding until you can . . .

    3. Drop batter by heaping teaspoonsful two inches apart on prepared sheets. Cover each cookie with about 1/2 teaspoon of pine nuts.

    4. Bake in top third of oven, one sheet at a time, until edges are just golden, about 15 minutes. Keep a close eye on and don’t overcook. Cool on sheet on rack.

    I’m making these, and your lemon cakes, and more, this weekend. Will be posting pictures.

  8. Seaweed 12.21.2008

    The tea cakes turned out to be delightful! They are my new favorite and I’m already planning on making them in the summer, also. Thank you!

  9. Carolyn Online 12.26.2008

    Man. Those look YUMMY. I’m just getting back to the computer after soooo long away and now i want Christmas cookies.

  10. Jenny, Bloggess 12.29.2008

    Cakelet is my new favorite word. If I ever have another kid I’m naming her Cakelet.

  11. Captain Dumbass 1.1.2009

    Dec 15th? Where the hell you at?

    Oh, Happy New Year.

  12. bejewell 1.11.2009

    I read this a while ago and knew I wanted to try baking these, but it took me a while to work my courage up to it. I suck at most things kitchen-related and don’t expect this to be a big exception to that rule. I can bake the hell out of some chocolate chip cookies but I’ve been a desperate failure at all other attempted projects.

    The point of this is, I HAVE finally worked up my guts and I am headed to the stpre TODAY for ingredient purchasing, but I really have no idea what qualifies as “mini-muffin cups.” Being a cooking retard I obviously don;t already have one of these. Is it something I’ll know when I see it? Can you give me a hint? Something? Anything? Hello? Help?

  13. Jettomatika 1.11.2009

    No worries; I am a baking ninja and have yet to manage the art of cake from scratch but these came out perfect!

    You’re looking for a muffin tin that will bake tiny little muffins instead of your standard size muffins. It looks like this right here. Do yourself a favor and get nonstick.

    I bought mine at Target. >:o)


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