Simple Swedish Cake

In "Harvey the Baker" by Lars Klinting, Harvey the Beaver and his pal Chip, bake a lovely Swedish birthday cake.  It couldn't be simpler to recreate with on-hand ingredients.

Beavers were hunted to extinction in Sweden in the last century, but they were successfully reintroduced.

4 ounces or one cube butter

4 ounces or ¾ cup sugar

4 ounces or 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

2 eggs

1½ teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla

1½ ounces or 3 tablespoons milk


Preheat oven to 350.

Melt the butter, over a low flame, in the cake pan.

Pour the melted butter into a mixing bowl and spread what remain around the side and bottom of the pan.

Coat the pan thoroughly with breadcrumbs.

Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy.

Add the vanilla.

Mix the flour and soda in another bowl.

Add the rest of the butter, milk, and egg mixture and blend.

Pour into the pan and bake for 35 minutes until risen and golden.

Serve with berries and powdered sugar.

Little House Pemmican

The idea of pemmican was so interesting to me when I read about "Indians" as a child. I had a dribble of Indian blood and so felt I should be eating dried berries and dessicated venison. I never did until I found this recipe in "Inside Laura's Little House". It's interesting, but I doubt many kids will be switching out Goldfish for this "trail mix" of the Native American.

2 ounces beef or other jerky cut into small pieces

2 ounces lard or shortening

1/2 cup dried fruit, especially blackberries 

2 ounces cornmeal

Combine the ingredients in a morter and pestle or, inauthentically in a Cuisinart.

Form into cakes and dry over a cooling rack (so the air can circulate)

Then sling the papoose on your back and strike out at the head of the Lewis and Clark Party. 

Plum Puffs from "Anne of Green Gables"

Anne of Green Gables, a favourite children's book for over a century, has been transformed into cartoons, movies, plays, and TV series. A neighbour in London, born in England of Canadian parents, played Anne in the BBC versions from the 1970s. In those days, many British televison series where  stylized, stagey, and black and white. I was pretty disappointed when I saw it. The 1980s Canadian CBC version strikes the right note with excellent, naturalistic acting, beautiful scenery, great costumes, and a real sense of childhood yearning, imagination, and misadventure.

Plum Puffs

They sound delicious, but they also sound as if they should be made with puff pastry. A little too rich for Marilla (Colleen Dewhurst) to whip up in her farm kitchen I would think. And indeed in the televsion version we see her mixing up a batter and pouring it into muffins tins. I found this recipe online and the author agrees that Marilla would be more likely to whip up muffins. Get some plums from your farmers' market or pluck them off a tree. Any kind except Asian will do. The muffins will be sweet or slightly piquant depending on the ripeness of your fruit.

2 pounds washed plums, made into pulp (see below)

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup cream or milk  ( I use cream)

1 egg, slightly eaten

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375.

Grease twelve muffin tins or fill with paper cups

Mix together the dries then add the plum pulp, cream, egg, and butter and blend quickly until mixed. 

There will be lumps--- don't worry.

Spoon batter into tins at ⅔ full.

Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

½ cup sugar

½ to 1 teaspoon cinnamon 

Combine the sugar and cinnamon.

Place the melted butter on a saucer and the sugar mixture on another saucer.

When you can handle the "puffs" dip the tops first in the butter and then in the sugar. 

Serve hot spread with butter or room temperature with hot or iced tea.

Plum Pulp

Add the plums to a big pot with ¼ to½ cup water.

Heat gently until soft. 

Remove the pits and skins by pressing through a collander, seive or food mill.

Should make about three cups. 

Thunder Cake from Thunder Cake

Its hard to make chocolate cake look pretty in a photo.

Author Patricia Polacco certainly knows how to make young mouths water! In Thunder Cake a Ukrainian grandma uses baking to allay the fears of her granddaughter unused to calamitous sounding Midwestern thunderstorms.

Kids who have been baking awhile love getting surpised by unusual ingredients. What! Tomatoes in chocolate cake! Summertime is ideal for making this recipe when tomatoes are juicy and plentiful, but you can use canned as well. 

This recipe is included in the back of the book. 

Cream together one at a time:

1 cup shortening 

1 ¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs, separated 

Blend in only the yolks.

1 cup cold water

⅓ cup pureed tomatoes

Sift together:

2 ½ cups cake flour

½ cup dry cocoa

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Beat the whites until stiff.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter then gently fold in the stiff whites.

Bake at 350 in 2-8½ inch round pans for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool.

Frost, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or serve with berries.

Peanut Butter Fudge from Peeny Butter Fudge

This charmingly simple book for small kids by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and her late son Slade, is about the prerogatives of grandmahood, the good intentions of motherhood, and of course peanut butter fudge. The recipe in back of the book is simple and delicious. My daughter is ape over it.

1 Tablespoon butter

1-cup full fat milk

Two one-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate

2 cups sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup creamy peanut butter

1) Butter the inside of an 8-inch square pan.

2) In a saucepan, melt the chocolate in the milk.

3) Add the sugar and bring to a low boil over medium heat for at least five minutes.

4) Try the softball stage.

5) Drop a drip or two of the mixture into a glass of cold water.

6) If ready, it will it not dissolve but will form a unit. The Morrisons think it looks like a tadpole and it really does!

7) Turn off the heat.

8) Add the vanilla and stir.

9) Cool off in a sink or pan of shallow, cool water. Don't splash any water into the fudge!

10) When the bottom of the saucepan is cool enough to touch, stir in the peanut butter.

11) Beat until the mixture loses its sheen.

12) Pour right away into the buttered pan and smooth down.

13) Cool.

14) Cut into squares.

15) Find a good hiding place to keep any uneaten pieces for later. 


We could surely do with some skyborne meatballs to break the monotony of several days of fog in summer- resistent San Francisco.  Or if none happen to fall from the heavens you can make some with the kids to break the chill. 

These meatballs are lightened up by the addition of ricotta. They taste really good! 

1 cup ricotta

1 ¼ pound ground beef or pork

1 large egg

¼ cup grated Parmesan

½ cup dry breadcrumbs

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Combine the ingredients. 

Form into pingpong sized balls. This is where the kids excel.

Saute in an well-oiled pan until golden brown. 

Toss these into your favourite spaghetti sauce, serve them in chicken broth with or without rice or noodles, or eat them on their own.