Wednesday, December 21, 2011



This is the most magical, joyful time of year for me. We've packed a lot of stress and high expectations into the month of December. But all things considered, there's no way to exceed the ultimate gift of Christmas.

It's the time of year when all over the world, believers, and many nonbelievers feel the tug to be with their families and loved ones and celebrate their ties to each other. Love is love, no matter what you call it, how you give and receive it, or how you celebrate it.

For a long time love involved a Rum Cake. It was my Daddy's favorite. No matter what I cooked, or how long I worked in the kitchen, my food didn't always suit Daddy. He was nice about it, and appreciative, and even supportive and complimentary, but there were times when the jar of peanut butter sitting on the table was his favorite thing. He said it wasn't what was on the table, but who was around it that really mattered. Except for the Rum Cake—the same rum cake you all have made over and over again—nothing new or different—no added twist. He loved my Rum Cake, and I tried to always have one on hand. It made me so happy to see him really enjoy something I prepared just for him.

The last Rum Cake I made he hardly touched. He was already on a journey that would separate him from worldly things. We saw it happening day by day, little by little, but that love I felt when I was close to my Daddy never went away. Even when the spirit left his tired body, his love was still there.

So, I'm making another Rum Cake for Christmas, in gratitude for his Love, and in memory of all the wonderful, happy times we shared, and the deep conversations, and the life lessons, and even the hard times. I am so grateful for that Love that continues to be part of my life.

Celebrate the season and enjoy each moment with those around your table!

Merry Christmas!

Rum Cake

1 cup chopped pecans

1 package butter golden cake mix

1 package vanilla instant pudding mix

One-half cup light rum

One-fourth cup water

One-half cup Mazola Corn Oil

4 large eggs, beaten

Hot Rum Glaze*

Preheat oven to 325ยบ.

Grease and flour a bundt pan. Crumble pecans in bottom of pan.

Mix cake mix, pudding mix, light rum, water and corn oil until blended. Add eggs and beat for two minutes on medium speed.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes.

Remove from oven, and while cake is still hot pour Hot Rum Glaze over cake. Leave in pan for 30 minutes.

*Hot Rum Glaze

1 cup sugar

1 stick butter

One-half cup light rum

Boil all ingredients while stirring for three minutes. Pour over hot cake.

Wrap the cooled cake in saran wrap, and then foil to store. This cake tastes better a day or two after baking. The cake seems to take on a more intense rum flavor.

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

(The sweet potato part of this pie is adapted from a recipe in Well, Shut My Mouth! By Stephanie L. Tyson and is absolutely one of the BEST pies I have ever tasted.)

(makes 2 deep dish pies)

Pecan Layer

2 deep dish pie crusts (Marie Callender's are great if you don't want to make your own)

One and one-half cups pecan pieces

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

one-half cup brown sugar

one-third cup melted and cooled butter

Preheat oven to 350°.

Divide pecan pieces evenly over the bottom of the two pie crusts.

Beat eggs, corn syrup, vanilla and brown sugar until thoroughly combined. Add melted butter slowly while continuing to beat. Divide this mixture between the two pies. Bake for about ten minutes while preparing the sweet potato layer.

Sweet Potato Layer

2 medium sized sweet potatoes, baked and mashed (I cook them wrapped in saran wrap in microwave for about ten minutes)

one-half cup sugar

1 T flour

3 eggs, beaten

1 can sweetened condensed milk

one-half tsp. Cinnamon

one-half tsp. Nutmeg

1 tsp. Vanilla

1 tsp. Lemon extract (optional)

one-fourth cup butter, melted

Mix the sweet potatoes, sugar and flour. Add eggs and combine. Then add sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, lemon extract and butter, mixing to thoroughly combine.

Remove pies from oven and pour this mixture gently over the pecan mixture. Fill the pies to the top and return to oven for 45 minutes, or until set. May have to cover crust edges with foil while baking. Some pecans and filling will rise into sweet potato layer.

Cool for one hour before serving with whipped cream.