Thanks to the happy twist of fate that I finally have some breath­ing room on my work cal­en­dar I was able to spend most of yes­ter­day prepar­ing for Harry’s birth­day din­ner. It’s yet another step toward my slow lifestyle.

And, as my friend Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”

For his birth­day cake, I made one of our fam­ily favorites, Ital­ian Cream Cake. I first found this recipe years ago in Bon Appetite mag­a­zine. Since then, the recipe has mor­phed some­what, but it essen­tially remains the magazine’s ver­sion. I tried valiantly to find the orig­i­nal in the Bon Appetite repos­i­tory that is now at one of my favorite web­site, Epi­cu­ri­ous, but I sup­pose this recipe was pub­lished before the inven­tion of the Inter­net. (Don’t laugh. It’s entirely pos­si­ble that I have recipes from the Stone Age.)


As an added bonus to being a super­hero wife and all-around star party-maker for my hub­bie, my house smells fabulous—better than those wanky can­dles you buy at the mall. And if you need to know what “wanky” is, visit Urban Dic­tio­nary where you can learn all sorts use­ful expres­sions such as “jack­ass o’clock” (time to be a jack­ass) or “e 40” (a Bay Area rapper).

This week­end, why not slow down and make a fab­u­lous dessert—or how about make THIS fab­u­lous dessert?

Ital­ian Cream Cake


¾ cup but­ter, softened

1 ¾ cups sugar

4 egg yolks

1 tea­spoon vanilla

1 ¾ cups cake flower

1 ½ tea­spoon bak­ing powder

¼ tea­spoon bak­ing soda

¾ cup half and half

4 ounces flaked coconut

4 egg whites

1 recipe for cream cheese frost­ing (see below)

Addi­tional coconut, as desired


In a large mixer bowl beat but­ter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and vanilla and beat well. In another bowl, com­bine flour, bak­ing pow­der and bak­ing soda. Grad­u­ally add this mix­ture to the egg/butter mix­ture, alter­nat­ing with the half and half. Stir in coconut.

In a small mixer bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir in about a third of the whites into the cake bat­ter. Then gen­tly fold in the remain­ing whites.

Pour the bat­ter evenly into three but­tered and floured 8” cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 min­utes or until a tooth­pick or knife inserted near the cen­ter comes out clean. Do not overcook!

Cool for 10 min­utes and then turn onto wire racks to fin­ish cool­ing. When cooled, place the first layer on a cake plate and frost with the cream cheese frost­ing. Sprin­kle on coconut and add the sec­ond layer and repeat, fin­ish­ing the frost­ing all around. Pat coconut onto the crème cheese frost­ing for a dec­o­ra­tive finish.

Store any left­over cake cov­ered in the refrig­er­a­tor for up to 3 or 4 days (if it lasts that long).

Cream Cheese Frosting


12 ounces cream cheese

6 Table­spoons butter

1 ½ tea­spoons vanilla

6 cups sifted pow­dered sugar (maybe a bit less)


In a mixer bowl beat cream cheese, but­ter and vanilla until smooth. Grad­u­ally add pow­dered sugar, beat­ing until smooth.


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I am happy to report that, so far at least, mush­rooms grown inten­tion­ally seem to grow as rapidly as those grown unin­ten­tion­ally, i.e. those that grow in your lawn.

Remem­ber how I just started my mush­room patch a cou­ple of days ago? Well, lookee here.


That shi­itake mush­room is about the size of racketball!

Take another look. (This is the beauty shot.)


I mist the mush­room patch about twice a day, although the instruc­tions tell you to mist it “sev­eral times a day.” I do keep the humid­ity tent in place. And although you might think that the mush­room patch should reside in a dark closet, the instruc­tions say that you just need to keep it out of direct light. So that I don’t for­get it and acci­den­tally kill all those pre­cious mush­room spores, my mush­room patch is liv­ing on the floor of the kitchen next to the cab­i­nets. So far, the lit­tle dogs have taken no interest.

In other news about pet projects…

Remem­ber Steve Mar­tin in the movie The Jerk excit­edly yelling, “The new phone book is here!!! The new phone book is here!!!”

I did my own Jerk impres­sion the other day, yelling “The new cheese press is here!!! The new cheese press is here!!!”

The lit­tle dogs were con­fused, but unim­pressed. I think the UPS guy was just a wee bit curi­ous about why I was skip­ping back to the house with the box.


I waited about three or four months for this cheese press from the New Eng­land Cheese­mak­ing Sup­ply, which was hav­ing some ven­dor issues get­ting these made. They were excel­lent about com­mu­ni­cat­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties and I decided to hold out for this cheese press. I have been work­ing my way through Ricki Carroll’s book on Home Cheese Mak­ing with excel­lent results, so I trusted the source. In fact, we have become addicted to all sorts of home­made soft cheeses thanks to Ricki. My friend Angela said the neufcha­tel is like crack and she can’t stop eat­ing it.

Off to adven­tures in cheese mak­ing now!


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Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, will be released later in 2014 from Taunton Press.

Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


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