My Communal Table

Wacky Cake

I am not baker by any means. Actually, I do not even have much of a sweet tooth, but do expect a quick fork jab in your hand if you even try to take a french fry from my plate. Now, I have a son with real sweet tooth and I have a inclination of indulging it because he is allergic to everything else. He is so patient when we are at school or social events and the food that is served is nothing he can eat due to his allergies. He’ll say, “It’s okay, mommy. I was not hungry anyway.” Ohhh, it just breaks my heart a little, but my pride of how well he handles these situations everytime heals the heart break immediately. So I bake…so I indulge.

Wacky cake, crazy cake or depression cake are some of the names that I have heard it called. This spongy rich cake is made with oil, cocoa, and vinegar, but no eggs and dairy. Eggs and dairy were not readily available during the Depression, so the wacky cake was born. You can make it with everything you have in your pantry. It was present at almost every Methodist potluck I attended in my childhood. I also remember that is was the only cake my mom ever made right it in the same pan that she baked it in. I revisited this recipe when I learned that my son had allergies. I have heard it touted as a vegan cake, but giggle at the thought of explaining to the ladies at the church social back in the 70’s-80’s what the word “vegan” meant. How the world has changed, huh? This cake is just good, fast and easy to make and my son can eat it.

Original Version:
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
4 T. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 T. vinegar
6 T. vegetable oil
1 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a 9inch square baking pan, mix all the ingredients through salt. Make sure that it is all blended well.
3. Then add vanilla, vinegar, oil and water. Stir well.
4. Bake in oven for approximently 25-30 minutes. You want to make sure that is not over cooked.

My version:
Add 1 banana mushed
Use only 5 T. oil
Replace 1/2 of the water with coffee

4 T. butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 T. Cocoa powder
1-2 T. Milk/Rice Milk

1. In microwave safe dish, melt butter in microwave.
2. Stir in the sugar and cocoa.
3. Slowly add in milk until smooth

Banana Cake version:

Omit cocoa powder
2 mashed bananas added
only 4 T. oil
add extra 1/2 t. vanilla
a few grates of nutmeg

Note: We placed a few ripe pear slices on top before we baked it. Turned out great. Do not know why you could not add strawberries or blueberries. Endless possibilities.

I am here to say Wacky Cake is one sane and satisfying cake. I would love to hear about your different takes on this recipe and about the wacky family members you make it for. Super good and cost effective on top of it.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth


Summer Peaches and Apricots

My son and I have a beautiful peaceful habit on Sunday mornings. When we wake up we break the fast by gobbling down whatever seasonal fruit we have on hand. I make the important first cup of coffee and heat up Gabriel’s apple juice with lemon slice. I read the newspaper and Gabriel watches the TV he has been long denied all week.

An hour or two later, we have our second course of the morning. It usually consists of eggs, bacon, and crispy bread. Sometimes its pancakes or a frittata. This tides us over until the late afternoon when I make our Sunday dinner, hopefully with more of the tribe around our table as well.

On this particular morning I had apricots and peaches on hand. I have grilled fruit before, but never for breakfast. I had always made it for a dessert, but heck, why not? When I announced that I was going to grill the peaches and then cover them with warm honey. I received a big hooray. Gabriel has several food allergies (dairy being one of them), but it does not stop me from slathering my grilled fruit with greek yogurt, then the warm honey. Amazingly simply, but huge flavor. It was great way to start the day.

Grilling stone fruit is a no brainer. Whether it is plum, peaches, or apricots.

1. I just heat up my grill pan with just a little butter over medium high heat.
2. Place flat side down for just only 2-3 minutes.
3. Zap honey in the micro for about 30 seconds just to get it warmed up

Serve with greek yogurt for a touch of tangy cream and slather with warm honey on top. You will lick your plate. I have also put blue cheese on the top of the fruit with honey on top and it taste amazing. It makes a great first course as well as a dessert, depending on your mood.

This bowl of fruit was demolished in about 5 minutes on that sunny Sunday morning. We have nectarines for next week.

Aunt Marge’s Sugar Cookies
April 25, 2010, 7:57 pm
Filed under: Desserts | Tags: , , ,

My mother remembers as a child discovering a big clay crockery filled with sugar cookies down in the root cellar below her grandparents house. The perfect cool place to store these delicious morsels. Her grandparents lived on a farm in northern Michigan. I have a great visual of my mom and her cousins sneaking down into the cellar grabbing big fluffy cake like cookies through out the day of play.

My Great Aunt Marge was the one of my grandmothers’ generation that earned the family’s respect for having the best “hand” for making these cookies. She made these almost everyday of her over 50 year marriage to Uncle Lyle because they were simply his favorite cookie. She wanted to make sure that he always had one when he got off the tractor at the end of day. Aunt Marge never made another sugar cookie after Uncle Lyle passed away. She could not bear it. Now that is food of love.

The batter needs to be chilled for 24 hours after making it. You also need to roll out and cut out one tray of cookies at a time, because it is so important to keep the dough cool. I bet my Aunt Marge kept the dough in the fridge and just cooked up one tray at a time. I can not imagine that the dough would not be good for a week in the fridge.

My sister, Suzanne, makes these the most of our generation, because it is one of her childrens favorites. It is one of her foods of love. Her advice is to keep everything chilled, work fast without too much handling, and no substitution of ingredients. When I asked her if the cookies freeze well, she said, “I have no idea, they never last that long.”


1 cup sugar, plus more for dusting the top of the cookie
1 cup lard
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/4 cup white karo syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon flavoring
3 cups flour, plus more for bench flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

1. Beat lard and sugar together.
2. Dissolve baking soda in the buttermilk and then add to sugar and lard.
3. Add egg, karo syrup, and lemon flavoring.
4. Beat together.
5. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg all together.
6. Add dry ingedients to wet ingredients and mix together.
7. Chill dough for 24 hours. Yes, 24 hours.
8. Preheat oven to 425F.
9. Generously flour your board. Take 1/3 of the dough out on floured board and put the rest in the fridge.
10. Roll the dough out to about 3/8 inch thick. It is really delicate, so work fast. Warm dough is a lot harder to work with.
11. I use an old stewed tomato can with each end cut out as my cookie cutter. Make sure that is floured as well.
12. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Dust tops of cookies with sugar.
13. One tray at a time in oven and bake for 6-8 minutes. They puff up nicely, but pull them out before they look done. Overcooking these cookies is a crime. A crime, I say!

It is hard to discribe what these cookies mean to my family. I think of the love that Aunt Marge had for her husband every time I make these cookies. I remember several generations back have made these exact cookies for the people that they love. I smile knowing it will go on.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins
February 24, 2010, 4:06 pm
Filed under: bread, Desserts, Vegan | Tags: , , ,

Okay, okay, okay… I know whole wheat muffins are usually horrible, but I think that I found a recipe that I actually like and will make again. It started when I was reading Mark Bittman’s recipe for whole wheat muffins and my son said that he had never had a muffin in his entire life. I thought, of course, he hadn’t with severe dairy and egg allergies. Well, I converted Mark’s recipe to a vegan one, so my son could eat it.

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (I use beet juice sugar, which drops the calories and glycemic index)
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 cup mashed or pureed banana, sweet potato, apple, zucchini, pear, etc.
1 1/2 t. egg replacer (available at Whole Foods)
1/2 cup + 2T. soy milk (vanilla)
2 T. vegetable oil

1. Mix dry ingredient first, then add wet. I used mashed pear for my fruit and a handful of blueberries tossed in flour after everything was mixed.
2. Baked for about 20 minutes at 375F.

This recipe made 14 cupcakes making every muffin about 100 calories, when I did the nutritional breakdown on it. Better yet, my son loved his first muffin. He actually requested I put some in his lunch box.

Cranberry and Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
February 7, 2010, 5:27 pm
Filed under: Desserts | Tags: , , ,

Some friends justed stopped by and we decided to have a cup of coffee and I reach in to the freezer and pull out whatever sweet something I have. What a nice treat for my guests.

Sometimes I have two or three different recipes made up, cut and placed in a ziplock bag so that I can pull out one cookie at a time. Baked goods cut up in fairly small pieces thaw out in about ten minutes. I will put a variety on a small plate, which will satified everyones sweet tooth without overwhelming them. I usually bake one recipe every week or two.

This oatmeal bar recipe is much like making the chocolate chip cookie recipe from the back of the chocolate chip bag. I have made these oatmeal bars as a cookie, but the bar is just as good and is a bit faster.


1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cardamon
3 cups oats
1 1/4 cups of good stuff: dried cranberries or dried cherries, chocolate chips, almonds or pecans*

Preheat oven to 350F
Grease cookie sheet or 13×9 casserole dish. (Depending if you are making cookies or bars)
1. Cream butter and sugars together
2. Add eggs and vanilla
3. Dry ingredients combined except oats.
4. Add dry ingredients from the bowl slowly in to the wet ingredients.
5. Stir in oats and the good stuff.**
6. Bake approximently 12 for cookies and 25 minutes for bars.

*Note: I love to put dried cherries into this recipe, but cranberries is usually what I have on hand. I usually put in 1/2 cup dried berries, 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup almonds slivers or pecans. Sometimes I am run short of one these, then make it up in one of the other ingredients.

**Note: It will look like there is not enough batter for all the oats, but it fits. Just keep stirring.

Luscious Lemon Cake
January 12, 2010, 5:02 pm
Filed under: Desserts | Tags: , , ,

If I post a dessert, you know that it is easy and delicious, because I am a horrible baker. I do not have a instinct for it. This lemonade cake is great. I got it out of Cooking Light over ten years ago, so it even is low in fat and calories. Bonus. I make this recipe into cupcakes, layer cake or just in a 9×13 cake pan. It tastes great out of the fridge, but is good at room temperature.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 T. butter, softened
1 T. grated lemon rind
3 T. thawed lemonade concentrate
2 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 cups all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
cooking spray

2 T. butter, softened
2 t. grated lemon rind
2 t. thawed lemonade concentrate
1/2 t. vanilla extract
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven at 350F.
2. To prepare cake, place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
3. Pour batter into 2 (9-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
4. To prepare frosting, place 2 tablespoons butter and the next 4 ingredients (2 T. butter through cream cheese) in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, and beat at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat). Chill 1 hour.
5. Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer.

Salted Brown Butter Rice Cereal Treats
December 13, 2009, 9:05 pm
Filed under: Desserts | Tags: , ,

Rice Cereal Treats are hard to improve on, but I have found a way, thanks to a fellow food blogger, She posted this recipe and I knew that I had to try them. I altered the recipe a little and substituted real butter to earth balance (a vegan butter substitute because my son has dairy allergies), so my son can partake in eating them.

The salt and extra butter put these treats on a whole new level. Browning the butter makes it that much better or should I say that much nuttier. I was not sure if kids would like the new version, but it was a huge hit.

1/2 cup butter or earth balance
1 teaspoon salt
1 10.5 oz bag of marshmellows
6 cups puffed rice cereal

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Let it turn a light brown to add an extra layer of flavor.
2. Add salt.
3. Add marshmellows and stir until completely melted.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Stir in cereal and continue to stir until well coated.
6. Using a buttered spatula or waxpaper, press mixture evenly into13x9 pan.
7. Cut into squares when cool.

I do not know anyone that does not like a rice cereal treat, so for it and make them and share. I have even froze them, but you will not have any left if you make them.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth