SEPTEMBER: Cherry Ricotta Coffee/Dessert Cake

This recipe was in Bon Appetit this summer. Being cherry season I had to try it with cherries instead of the suggested raspberries. I always buy a bag and then cannot eat them all fast enough. This was a great solution.


1.5 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup of ricotta cheese
.5 cup of sour cream or any combination of the two to make 1.5 cups
.5 tsp vanilla
1 stick, 4 oz, unsalted butter, melted
1.5 cup of fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half
dusting of sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and line a 9 inch pan with waxed paper or parchment paper. Butter the paper or use a nonstick baking spray.

Whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Whisk ricotta, sour cream and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.
Fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in melted butter. Fold 1 cup of cherries into the batter gently. Pour in to the pan. Scatter the last .5 cup over the batter.

Dust with regular sugar.

Bake until golden brown and the cake tester comes out clean. This should be 45 – 55 minutes depending on our oven. Wait 20 minutes before unmolding.

You can do this 2 days ahead wrapped in saran at room temp. I have also frozen this successfully.

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February: Poached Pears

One of my favorite winter desserts is poached pears with pound cake. No frosting, just the rich delicate cake and the red colored pears in their syrup. A beautiful presentation on a cake stand with the bowl of pears beside it. I make my own pound cake but if you are in a rush there is always Sara Lee!


5 lbs of Bosc pears
1 lemon, squeeze for the juice
3 cups of Zinfandel, rosy or red
1.5 cups of sugar
1.5 cups of water
6 black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks

Peal pears and cut into quarters or eighths. Drop in a bowl of water with the lemon juice while you prepare the rest.

Bring the wine, sugar, water, peppercorns and cinnamon to boil in a wide pot.

Let that boil for a few minutes. Drain the pears and add to the boiling liquid. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Store the pears in their liquid in a covered bowl in the fridge. They absorb more color as they sit.

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March: Easy Pineapple Dessert

I had to go to a dessert event one night and chose to garden instead of bake. I came up with this in a hurry. It was even better the next night.


1 Pineapple, cut into eighths and sliced
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger or to taste
1/4 cup ‘Craisins’ (dried cranberries) or to taste

Toss all ingredients in a bowl and marinate.

Season with more lime juice or salt to taste.

Chill thoroughly before serving. At this point I put in in a glass and drink it. To be more formal they suggest serving it in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, basil chiffonade and black pepper.

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July: Pavlova

This is a wonderful dessert. Sweet and time consuming but well worth the effort. The recipe that I like the best is from Epicurious. I like it with either lemon or lime curd and fresh seasonal berries. If you do not have curd you can always fill with jam and top with whipped cream.


1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 T cornstarch
3 lare egg whites at room temp.
3 T. cold water
1 tsp distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 300 F with the rack in the middle. Trace 6 – 7 approximately 5 inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. turn over and place on baking sheets.

Whisk together superfine sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt un a standing electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Add water, a little at a time, and rebeat until it holds soft peaks again.

Increase speed to medium and beat in sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all of the sugar has been added beat for another minute.

Add the vinegar and beat at high speed until the meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes more. If you are using a hand held mixer it might take longer.

Put the meringue into a piping bag with an open circle tip. Using the 5 inch guides, create a single bottom layer and then go out and up the sides two rounds. This is what will hold the curd in place.

Bake the meringue until it is a pale golden color and has formed a crust. About 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooded spoon. Cool the meringue in the oven for 1 hour before removing.

You can make the meringue 2 days ahead or bake and freeze by wrapping each serving gently and separately.

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December: Almond Ricotta Cheesecake

When I was young my parents would often take us to NYC during  the Christmas holiday vacation. We always stayed with my aunt and uncle on Central Park West. Around the corner from their apartment was a little bakery that made Nesselrode Pie. If I tell you that I have been trying to replicate this recipe for the last umpteenth years I am not joking. You used to be able to buy Nesselrode in a jar. Probably you could find it on Amazon. This is the closest that I have come and I am going to stop here. So far everyone who has tasted it has given it the thumbs up. So try this for the holidays and wow your guests.


Cookie Dough

.5 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
.75 tsp vanilla
1.5 cup sifted all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
.25 tsp salt


4 oz cream cheese
4 oz almond paste
1 lb container ricotta, whole milk
.25 cup sugar plus one tablespoon
dash of salt
1 tsp almond extract
4 large eggs
2 oz chocolate chips
1 oz. chopped citron – soak citron in brandy overnight.
1 oz Cognac or Amaretto
.25 cup toasted sliced almonds

9 inch springform pan
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

I have made this with both Cognac and Amaretto. The Cognac flavor disappears into the cake. The Amaretto leaves a distinct almond finish.

Preheat the overn to 350

Cookie dough crust:  Cream butter and then add sugar and cream thoroughly. Add egg, beat well and then add vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together and add to butter mix. Stir until well blended.  Shape into a flattened ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for .5 – 1 hour.

Remove from frig and roll out on a floured board to 14 inch round.

Place in a 9 inch round springform pan, bringing the sides up about 2 inches. Pat into shape.

Be patient doing this. I have often had to roll it a second time as it can split.

Pie filling: Soak the citron and Cognac overnight. Cream the cream cheese and almond paste together until semi-smooth. Add the ricotta, sugar and salt.

Drain brandy, and add citron and almond extract to the cheese mixture. Gradually add eggs and Cognac to the mix.

Fold in the chocolate chips and toasted almonds.

Gently pour the mix  into the prepared crust in the springform pan. Smooth if necessary. Bake in the oven 45 min – 1 hour.  Let cool. Refrigerate overnight. Gently remove the outside of the springform pan and dust with confectioner’s sugar.  Cut thin slices to serve.

Serves 16 – 20.

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Empress Rice

I know that you are all thinking chocolate for Valentines day, but think again and try this recipe for Empress Rice. A  little complicated but well worth it said my vegan friend who had two helpings.


1.25 cups white rice
1 cup water
2.5 cups light cream or half and half or 3.5 cups whole milk
1.5 tsp vanilla extract, or .5 vanilla bean, split
.5 tsp salt
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
.5 cup cold water
.75 cup fine quick dissolving granulated sugar
2 Tbl Brandy, Cognac or Ginger Liquor  which is what I used the last time that I made this. The original  recipe calls for Maraschino liquor which I did not have.
3 cups heavy cream, whipped
2 cups mixed candied fruits, such as citron, orange or lemon peel, candied cherries, soaked in the liquor or brandy and then drained.
Strawberries or raspberries for garnish
1 pint whipping cream for garnish

  1. Empress RiceWash rice well and drain thoroughly in a strainer. Place in a large saucepan along with water and cream or milk, vanilla bean, and salt. If you are using vanilla do not add at this time.
  2. Simmer, covered, over low heat, stirring every few minutes. Cook until tender but not overdone, about 15 – 20 minutes for converted rice.
  3. If using vanilla extract stir it in now. If using the bean remove it from the cooked rice and scrape seeds into the mixture.
  4. Let rice cool to lukewarm. Do not drain. Turn into a large bowl
  5. Soak gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes, or until soft. Set over hot water in a double boiler until completely dissolved, stirring frequently.
  6. Stir gelatin into lukewarm rice mix, along with sugar, and brandy of your choice.I used the liquor from the drained fruit. Chill about 15 minutes, or until mixture thickens but does not set.
  7. Beat 3 cups heavy cream until stiff and place on top of the rice mixture. Sprinkle with drained candied fruit and fold all in together using a rubber spatula.
  8. Rinse an eight or ten inch cup ring mold or fluted bombe, do not wipe dry, and fill with the rice mixture. Chill overnight in the frig.
  9. To unmold, wrap the outside of the mold with a cloth wrung out of hot water. May need several applications to come out. Turn onto a decorative plate.
  10. Whip whipping cream and pipe onto rice mold. Decorate with fruit. If the rice unfolds perfectly just pipe the top with whipped cream. As mine did not, I also piped whipped cream in to the center  and covered with fruit.

Serves 16 – 20

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