Category Archives: Desserts and Cakes

Old-Fashioned Yorkshire Parkin

Name: Jennifer Ransom (Baltzer)
Class Year: 1965
Country of Residence: England

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

I never tire of visiting the plethora of historic Cathedrals, Churches and Chapels in the United Kingdom. Their spires and towers welcome you from afar, while their exterior and interior architecture, art, craft and furnishings provide a rich, text-book learning experience. Often, during summer months or on national holidays, worthy parishioners of these edifices, run a café within the main building or in a nearby Parish Hall, or in a sunny summer churchyard marquee. The cakes, buns, muffins, scones, cookies, bars, tray-bakes etc are delicious, often ‘regional’ and usually sourced from a proud local family’s treasured cook book.

On a trip ‘up north’ in autumn 2016, I sought out the magnificent Ripon Cathedral in Yorkshire for a long afternoon’s visit. Founded in 672 AD by Saint Wilfrid, it predates England itself by 255 years! From Anglo-Saxon beginnings, it has been added to over the centuries, so – like many cathedrals – boasts everything from the sombre oldest crypt in the UK, to magnificent medieval carved wooden angels in the high nave ceiling, to a 20thC pulpit with both Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau influences. (Too much to describe here, so please ‘google it’ for more.)

After several hours’ self-guided tour from crypt, to nave and side chapels, through cathedral library, treasury and museum, I was flagging and much in need of a cup of tea and a sweet treat. In the café, I fell upon the home-baked, locally-inspired “Parkin”, so delicious that I begged the recipe from the home-baker who kindly gave me her family version. She cautioned that, “Parkin should NOT be confused with a ginger cake nor gingerbread recipe. True Yorkshire Parkin contains oatmeal and treacle – any cake without it, is simply a charlatan bit of gingerbread!”

In Yorkshire (and Lancashire, but let’s not get into the Wars of the Roses!) Parkin is associated with, and eaten around Hallowe’en and “The 5th of November” or Bonfire Night, aka ‘Guy Fawkes’. (Google again for info) It would warm you on a cold night!

Continue reading Old-Fashioned Yorkshire Parkin

Gajar ka halwa (Carrot halwa)

Name: Vijaya Pastala
Class Year: 1989
Country of Residence: India

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

This is a quick and easy recipe of gajar ka halwa or carrot halwa which is typically prepared in the winter months when red carrots or what are known as “Delhi carrots” are in season. A festive dessert it is prepared during Diwali which is celebrated in winter. 

Traditionally, carrot halwa is boiled and cooked in milk with lots of ghee and is quite laborious with the carrots and milk constantly stirred until the milk is thick and the carrots are cooked. This recipe is basically a cheat version of the traditional carrot halwa – prepared and cooked with condensed milk or sweetened evaporated milk. My husband loves cooking the traditional version of carrot halwa, slaving over the stove, constantly stirring and fussing over the carrots boiling in milk. According to me, this quick and easy version tastes as good as the traditional version and is less work!!

Continue reading Gajar ka halwa (Carrot halwa)

Mom’s Blackberry Pie

Name: Micha Heilman
Class Year: 2019
Country of Residence: The Netherlands

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

This is the blackberry pie that I grew up eating, made lovingly by my mom, and it is a recipe she has been baking since she was 12 years old! Each summer my mom and I would go out to the berry farms in Oregon close to where we lived and pick strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, marionberries, tayberries, and currents. We would then make a mixture of jams and “pie units” as my mom liked to call it when she would freeze 5 cup bags of berries to make into pie. This was the summer haul that lasted us throughout the winter, ensuring we could eat delicious pies and jams year round. I love this recipe because it is simple to make and absolutely delicious.

Continue reading Mom’s Blackberry Pie

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Name: Nadia Babar
Class Year: 2019
Country of Residence: United Kingdom

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

Thanksgiving at Mount Holyoke was always strange because I couldn’t go back home to England, as it was too short of a holiday. Every year, I found myself worrying about what I would do over Thanksgiving, but I was lucky enough to have friends who would invite me back to their homes for Thanksgiving, so every year at MHC, I got to experience Thanksgiving with a different family. During my senior year, I spent Thanksgiving with my friend Shannon and her wonderful family in Reading, Massachusetts. I wanted to contribute to our Thanksgiving feast and make something ‘quintessentially British’, so Shannon and I decided on Sticky Toffee Pudding, an extremely classic British dessert. They were a smash hit with her whole family! While we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK, I now make them every year for Christmas!

Continue reading Sticky Toffee Pudding

Gevulde Speculaas (stuffed speculaas cake)

Name: Silvia Maulini
Class Year: 1980
Country of Residence: The Netherlands

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

The birthday of Sinterklaas, also known as St. Nicholaas, is a magical day for anyone living in the Netherlands or the Flanders, especially when small children are around. The celebration takes place on the evening of 5 December and families prepare for weeks ahead, wrapping presents in creative packages (called “surprises”), writing small poems to accompany the gifts… and eating traditional sweets rich in spices and almond paste. Sinterklaas visits children (and adults) and delivers much coveted presents and sweets, leaving the country the next morning to travel back to Spain, where he lives for the rest of the year, at least according to the legend. Gevulde Speculaas is one of the most popular Sinterklaas sweets and it can normally be found in the shops only between early October and 5 December. My family loves this rather spicy cake and so a few years ago I started baking my own Gevulde Speculaas, willing to please all year around. Needless to say, I received no complaints when I offered it along a cup of coffee in mid-February and I now keep a few slabs of it in the freezer for every occasion.

Continue reading Gevulde Speculaas (stuffed speculaas cake)

Gooey Butter Cake

Name: McKay Yancey
Class Year: 2010
Country of Residence: United States

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

Gooey butter cake is a special cake that my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri is known for around the country! My grandma (known fondly as Granny) has made this original for my birthday every year! Which is extra special because we share a birthday. I always look forward to my Granny making my great grandma’s Gooey Butter Cake.

Continue reading Gooey Butter Cake

Lone Star Pecan, Pumpkin, & Bourbon Pie

Name: Virginia Ross
Class Year: 1966
Country of Residence: United Kingdom

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

Autumn and winter holiday dinners feature a pie made of pumpkins or pecans, but our family favourite uses both ingredients. Pecans, which are abundant locally, come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and tastes – all delicious.

Continue reading Lone Star Pecan, Pumpkin, & Bourbon Pie

Pumpkin Quick Bread

Name: Marcia Brumit Kropf
Class Year: 1967
Country of Residence: U.S.A.

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

Halloween is a fun family holiday in the U.S. When I started celebrating the holiday with my children, the first step was to carve our own pumpkin. We then roast the pumpkin seeds and make pumpkin bread from the flesh we removed when making the jack-o-lantern. This is a reasonably healthy pumpkin bread recipe and has been much loved for decades by my children and now my grandchildren. And it’s a wonderful activity to do together.

Continue reading Pumpkin Quick Bread