Tucked away on a shelf at my parents home are dozens of “vintage” Taste of Home magazines. They are little time capsules back to a period when people cooked and baked without the use of dry mixes or pre-made ingredients. Particularly because they didn’t even exist yet. Everything was made from scratch and lots of love.

Many of our family tradition recipes have come from those magazines. No holiday is complete without them.

Sometimes my mom and I will pull out a couple of issues and flip through them for inspiration. Our conversation always flows like this:

“Oh do you remember this soup? It was so good.”

“Cookie dough brownies! How could we have forgotten about these?!”

I love reading the brief descriptions or stories that accompany each recipe. A re-occurring theme in many of them is this whole concept of ‘the Sunday dinner’.

Sundays were that one day during the week where everyone was guaranteed to be home, and it was an opportunity for the matriarch to make a special (and often labor-intensive) home-cooked meal. Everyone would sit down together as a family. All the stops were pulled out for this one. Usually it was some kind of roasted meat, with side dishes that would make a buffet jealous.

And my favorite part? The dessert. Most of these Sunday desserts were simple, straight-forward layer cakes. Because if there was any day out of the week to have a non-birthday cake with dinner, it was Sunday.

From now on I think I am going to try to make a cake every Sunday. Whether I keep it for my own plans or give it away, I feel that cake is such a beautiful reminder of what’s really important in life.

A cake is always made to share. We gather around it at any occasion, even if it’s simply a Sunday. So take in the people who surround you today.

Enjoy this day of ‘leisure’.

Pause for a moment and relish the simple pleasures of living.

And bake a cake.

I love this recipe because it has all the old-fashioned goodness of a classic layer cake without being overly sweet. Both the cake and the maple meringue are subtly flavored, but together they truly shine.

How to make this high altitude recipe:

Spice Layer Cake with Maple Meringue Frosting (adapted from The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley)

Cake layer:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon dark rum


1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup, grade B or C
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk and rum, so that you start and end with the dry mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes, until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched, and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of each cake comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare the frosting: Bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook to 236 F (you will need a candy thermometer for this). Meanwhile, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they are soft and foamy, similar to the foam you find on top of a beer. When the maple syrup is ready, immediately pour a thin, steady stream directly over the whites, while the mixer whips on medium-high speed. Once added, increase the mixer to high speed, and whip until thickened and spreadable. The frosting will still be warm and should be used before it cools, otherwise it will become stiff and tacky.

Frost the layers and enjoy.

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  • 6 May, 2012

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