Tag Archives: Baking

Hummingbird Cake for Alice’s 87th Birthday

Today is my Sous-chef Dish-washing mom’s 87th birthday! I am thrilled  to dedicate this blog post to her. She was born in 1931 during the Great Depression and her mother and father lived in Omaha, Nebraska. Her father died when she was young and she and her sister, Mary, were taken to an orphanage shortly afterwards. She spent many years in the Nebraska Children’s Home orphanage being adopted when she was 9. Even though her 87 years have dealt her many ups and downs you would never know it by her daily attitude of smiles, love, and gratitude.

She raised three sons and one wonderful daughter! (Hey, I am writing this so it is my perspective!😜 ) However, there are many, many others who call her “mom.” It doesn’t matter where we go she becomes the resident mom! All of my friends know her name is Alice but everyone chooses mom.  The name fits perfectly and looks awesome on her!

Even though she has been a Christian throughout her life, in 2011 she began studying the Bible in-depth through Community Bible Study.   At 80-years-old she let the Word of God totally transform her.  In 2014 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she persevered through 2 surgeries and radiation treatment with a strength and attitude that she credits coming from her faith in God.  Not once did she question her situation with a “why me?”  As a matter of fact, she was usually comforting and giving encouragement to others going through the same thing.

My brother Michael and his wife Kay drove from Lee’s Summit Missouri on Sunday to surprise her.   We had made an elaborate plan that included taking her to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for her birthday week.  You know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men!  Last week an almost 87-year-old tooth abscessed and the process of getting that fixed has derailed travel this week.

But that didn’t stop us from celebrating her birthday Sunday evening before Michael and Kay left for East Tennessee without us!  My brother John and his wife Jeanne participated from afar as we gifted mom with some green stuff to go shopping!  It looks like Michael got the giggles watching mom blow out the candles!

As I am writing this blog post she received this lovely floral arrangement from dear friends, Catherine and Russ.  I couldn’t resist a quick photo!

Now … on to the cake! When the latest Southern Living magazine arrived I immediately knew I wanted a Hummingbird Cake for mom’s birthday.

First of all, she is enthralled with hummingbirds and much of our spring is spent waiting for them to arrive.  In the summer we watch them daily and in the fall we sadly say goodbye.

Mom has even had her great-grandkids on hummingbird watch!  All winter my hummingbird-watching mom wonders if they will be back in the spring!

Last fall my Chief Dessert Tester and I decided to cut out most sugar in our diets by cutting out desserts.  (I know!  Me? No sugar?)  So, I knew if I started baking a cake she would know something was up.  That is when I asked my neighbor and blogging partner, Abby Hughes to make the Southern Living Hummingbird Cake.  Abby is an accomplished chef, baker, and extremely good friend.  Quickly she said “sure!”

Abby made the cake and secretly brought it over the night before Michael and Kay arrived.  Whew!  Mom didn’t suspect a thing!

Since the Hummingbird Cake recipe originally ran in 1978, it has become the most requested recipe in Southern Living history.  Besides the usual suspects of flour, sugar, and eggs, this cake includes oil instead of butter, giving it an almost quick-bread like texture.  Undrained, crushed pineapple adds flavor and keeps the batter moist.  Chopped bananas are a surprise ingredient.  But the real southern flavor comes from the toasted, chopped pecans! Yum!  A cream cheese frosting is the perfect covering.  Abby added her own flair with edible glitter!  Beautiful and tasty!

The updated recipe is found here and includes a quick video that shows how easy it is to make this from-scratch cake!

1976 Paulsen Family Photo! Left to Right, Steve, Cathy, Dale, Mike, Alice, and John

With each passing year, we thank God for the life of our mother and father.  This year is no different when we remember our father and our brother Steve who have gone to Heaven before us.

This was our 2014 family reunion photo from Fort Robinson Nebraska.  We look forward to another reunion this summer.  We love you, mom!

Happy Birthday mom and many more!

Love and blessings,


Grandma Schultz’s Best Butter Cookies

Lee, Richard, Nathan photo-bombed by Sue!
Over the new year’s holiday, we traveled to Missouri to spend time with our nephew, Richard.   We were invited to spend New Year’s Eve with friends Robert and Susan.  Robert’s parents Bob and Sue joined the party as well as my sous-chef dish-washing mom and Robert’s son Nathan.
Susan, Bob, Catherine, and Alice
 We had lots of fun, food, and laughs.  Starting with an array of appetizers, Robert treated us to his $40 Lasagna.  It is a recipe he has perfected over the years and after one bite I knew why it is his specialty and why it is aptly named $40 lasagna.  This lasagna was so packed with delicious ingredients and was in a HUGE party-sized baking pan.  I am even wondering if $40 would cover that grocery list!  Salad and garlic bread rounded out the menu.
Bob, Robert, and Nathan
Then Sue disappeared into the kitchen and returned with this plate.
Grandma Schultz’s Best  Butter Cookies
Butter cookies … ah, I’ll bet you can’t eat just one!  My Chief Cookie Eater and I decided last fall that we were going to cut out or at least cut back on our daily sugar intake.  I can down on mine, he basically cut the sugar in the form of dessert out of his diet.  So, having any dessert, let alone sugar cookies was tempting.  Actually, on the way to the dinner party we both agreed that since it was New Year’s Eve if we wanted dessert, we would enjoy a little.
A little … well, I’ll betcha can’t eat just one!  That was definitely the saying of the evening!
Later my sous-chef dish-washing mom admitted, “I’m pretty sure I ate 6!”  Yes, they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  These cookies are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  My Chief Cookie Eater says “they are perfect.”
I quickly told Sue about my blog and asked if I could share the recipe.  She quickly said “yes!” and emailed me the recipe.  Sue says “the recipe originally came from my mother.  I’m not sure where she got it, but as a child, we lived in New Jersey, about 25 miles from NYC.”   Sue and Bob report these cookies have been enjoyed on three continents that they know of — North America, Europe, and Asia!
Several weeks ago we were going to have a fellowship lunch at Community Bible Study.  Since my husband, my mother and I are all in CBS we needed to take a BUNCH of cookies to share.   Mom and I made 4 batches.  The entire house had that sugar cookie candle fragrance except it was the real thing!
Anxious to share with our CBS friends we carefully divided up the cookies freezing them for the big share day.  That is when mother nature decided to put nearly 3/4 of the United States in a deep freeze.  Then it rained, turned to sleet and eventually snow.  School was canceled for 3 days and Community Bible Study was also canceled.  A little snow and ice paralyze the South because the back roads just get impossible to drive on.  Oh, my word!  We have a lot of cookies in our freezer.
 This recipe makes between 3 and 4 dozen cookies depending on how big you make them.  Sue made them small, so we made them small.  I tried one panful of larger cookies and we just didn’t like them as well.  We sprinkled some with a little sugar and left some plain for those who want less sugar.  All-in-all these are the best butter cookies I’ve ever made.
Thank you, Sue Schultz, for sharing Grandma Schultz’s Best Butter Cookies!  We are thankful for family who are friends and friends who are like family!
Enjoy and happy baking!
Grandma Schultz’s Best Butter Cookies
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Yes, they really are the best butter cookies! And easy too!
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 4 dozen
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 4 ¼ cups sifted flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Candied Cherries (red/green) for decoration * Optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet.
  2. With the mixer on medium speed, cream softened butter, add sugar and cream thoroughly.
  3. Add egg yolks, flour, salt, and vanilla. Mix well.
  4. Form small balls of dough using a small cookie scoop or 2 teaspoons of dough.
  5. Place each ball on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
  6. Flatten with the heel of your hand.
  7. Brush tops of cookies with lightly beaten egg whites. This is an important step because it causes the cookie to have that shiny browned look!
  8. Top with bits of candied cherries or sprinkle with sugar.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes or until lightly brown on top and around the edges. These burn easily because of the high butter content. Watch the first batch carefully to adjust oven time accordingly. Convection ovens may take less time.
  10. ENJOY!

Southern Living’s Skillet Caramel Apple Pie

Southern Living’s Caramel Apple Pie

Every once in a while I get out of the kitchen and make way for my Sous-chef dishwashing mom to create something wonderful! That is exactly what happened recently after she was leafing through the fall Southern Living magazine and came upon this recipe.

The minute she saw it she knew it was meant for us! Even though I adore Southern Living magazine, I leave it to mom to let me know what I need to see and read!  We have several cast iron skillets — and even though skillet is well-worn and not too pretty — oh my what a nicely browned, flaky crispy crust it makes! This recipe works in a regular pie plate, but dig out the cast iron if you have one.

I was reading through the recipe before typing this blog post and I read “The rich, bourbon-y caramel sauce makes the tender, lightly spiced apple filling, and flaky crust even more irresistible.”   Whaaat?  Bourbon? Maybe Jack Daniels?   

Hmmm …. I am going to have a little chat with my Sous-chef Apple-pie making momma because I am pretty sure she didn’t include a local hometown ingredient. (Have I ever mentioned that we live only a couple of miles from the only place on earth where Jack Daniels Whiskey is made? )  I am sure we are now going to need to make another one and include a little Jack. Maybe their Tennessee Honey.  Yum.

Skillet Caramel Apple Pie (without any tasty JD!)

The recipe calls for Fuji apples.  Mom used Fuji.   Although this recipe works made with most apples, you will want to get the Fuji if you can because the tart-sweet flavor works well with the sweet caramel, and the apples hold their shape when baked instead of turning to mush.

Mom made a second pie and I asked her to use up some Macintosh apples we had on hand.  BIG MISTAKE!  They really did turn to mush and just made one big gob of apple in the center of the pie. (Not pretty, not too tasty either.)

The recipe calls for two store-bought refrigerated piecrusts, but you can use your favorite homemade pie dough recipe if you prefer.  If you use store-bought, we suggest Pillsbury.  For $1 or more per box, you can get Kroger brand or another brand.  Don’t do it, the crust will be a disappointment.  If you have time to make your own crust you can check out my favorite recipe and a little tutorial:

Favorite Pie Dough

Flaky Pie Dough, Part 1
Flaky Pie Dough, Part 2  Tips and Tricks!

Mom was concerned that the pie crust wouldn’t stretch up and over the skillet edge.  We discovered it really doesn’t need to.  Just place the crust in the skillet up to the edge and gently fill.  Then when placing the top crust crimp edges of bottom and top crusts together.

Place the skillet in a preheated oven on the middle oven rack until the crust is golden, the apples are tender, and the filling is bubbly, about 55 minutes to one hour.  IMPORTANT:  Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil after about 40 minutes to prevent excessive browning — or earlier if the pie begins to over-brown on the top. 

Let the pie cool completely before serving to allow the filling to set. This is also important so that each piece will come out picture perfect!

Besides the really flaky crust, the homemade salted caramel sauce is what separates this pie from all the rest!  The caramel sauce goes in the pie and on top of the pie!  Oh my goodness, can’t you just taste it?

Top each serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and extra caramel sauce, there is plenty to go around!

Thank you to my Sous-chef Dish-washing Apple pie-Making momma for this wonderful dessert!

Happy Cooking!

Southern Living's Skillet Caramel Apple Pie
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Nothing says "southern" quite like making an all-American apple pie in a cast iron skillet! Top it with homemade caramel sauce and you will be the talk of the town!
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 1 (14.1-oz.) pkg. refrigerated piecrusts
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or whiskey *(optional)
  • 3 pounds Fuji apples (about 4½ medium apples), peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 2½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water
  1. Fit 1 piecrust on the bottom and press up sides of a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Transfer skillet to refrigerator, and let chill while assembling caramel sauce and apple filling.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  3. Stir together light brown sugar, butter, half-and-half, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Cook, stirring, until butter melts and mixture begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to thicken, about 2 more minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla extract, and, if desired, bourbon or whiskey*. Let caramel sauce cool to almost room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  4. Toss apples with cornstarch in a large bowl.
  5. Pour ⅓ cup caramel sauce over apples, and toss to coat. Reserve remaining caramel sauce for serving. Pour apple filling into prepared skillet.
  6. Place remaining piecrust over apple filling. Crimp edges of bottom and top crusts together.
  7. Using a sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 (1-inch) slits in top crust for steam to escape. Whisk together egg yolk and water in a small bowl; brush over crust.
  8. Bake pie in preheated oven on middle oven rack until crust is golden, apples are tender, and filling is bubbly, about 55 minutes to 1 hour, shielding loosely with aluminum foil after about 40 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Transfer pie to a wire rack, and cool completely, about 3 hours. Serve with reserved caramel sauce.
*Bourbon or Whiskey optional for a little boozy-flavoring.


Apple Praline Cake


Has the season changed where you live?  Are the leaves falling, the days are cooler, and the nights are made for snuggling?  Today, September 30 is the FIRST day since early spring that I can remember the temperatures anything less than 80’s and 90’s!  Whew, I am so over summer.  A month ago I changed out my summer clothes to fall clothes.  BIG mistake.  Then 29 days ago I started bringing summer clothes back into my closet one pair of capris pants at a time!

Apple Praline Cake - Fall's Delight!
Apple Praline Cake – Fall’s Delight!

If clothes and the closet aren’t enough hassle I totally wanted to start making and baking autumn food!  We had  White Chicken Chili that my sous-chef dish-washing mom made for us early in September and we sweat it out eating it while the sun blazed 80 degrees outside!

Red Rome Apples
In my mind fall is here when the apples are ready, or it should be that way.  But in middle Tennessee mother nature has a mind of her own and the temperature drops when she says it drops!

Our friends, Ed and Joan have an apple orchard and they share their fall bounty with us each year.  What a blessing to receive 3 or 4 different kinds of apples freshly picked!  Even as the temperatures soared this month we started cooking apples and it has been lovely. This Apple Praline Cake has turned out to be a real keeper!  I have made it twice already and decided it was high time I share it with you, because I know you are going to want to make and bake it with fresh apples of your own!

apple praline cake dof

The original recipe came from Inside Brucrew Life and I changed it up just a bit.  The recipe listed southern pecan coffee creamer for the icing and I used Coffee Mate’s new creation of Vanilla Caramel.  This stuff is so good you can drink it straight – but save some for this frosting!  I also used homemade vanilla.  Btw- it’s not too late to make homemade vanilla extract for this year’s holiday gift giving.  Check out this recipe!  Since my cousin Jill taught me how to make my own vanilla extract I cannot imagine using anything else!

Apple Praline cake closeup

For this cake, you can use any variety of apples you want — or mix it up and use a couple different kinds.  That is what I usually do.  If you make the cake please let me know how it turns out and what a hero you are to your friends and family!

Happy Baking!

I love this quote from C.S. Lewis, and I hope it blesses you today:

“I pray because I can’t help myself.  I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me.”     

Apple Praline Cake
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Apples and praline pecans - oh my this is fantastic cake. Not your ordinary cake by a long shot. Happy Fall!
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 24
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups finely diced apples (any variety, or a mix of varieties works well too!)
Praline frosting
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup flavored coffee creamer, I recommend Vanilla Caramel but Southern Pecan works well too
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup pecan chips
  1. In your large mixer bowl, beat the oil and sugars until they look like wet sand.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla, continuing to mix.
  3. Stir together flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Slowly beat it into the sugar mixture.
  4. Stir in the apples.
  5. Spread the batter in a greased 9" x 13" baking dish*. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  6. When the cake is nearly cooled, place the butter, brown sugar, and coffee creamer in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir for one minute. Remove from the heat and let cool for 8 to 10 minutes.
  7. With an electric mixer, beat together the cooled butter mixture and the powdered sugar. Stir in pecan chips.
  8. Quickly spread the frosting over the top of the completely cooled cake. This frosting will set up quite fast.
  9. Cut into 24 squares and serve or store at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.
  10. *See Note
* This cake can be baked in the 9" x 13" baking dish, a BUNDT pan, or cupcake tins. I have even made it in mini-muffin tins. Time should be adjusted for the cupcakes and mini-cupcakes.



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