Cakes for Spring, Scratch Made

By Chef Judi Gallagher –

cakeGrowing up in Connecticut, cakes were a big thing in my home. The bundt pan seemed to get more use than any other pans. I remember cakes being homemade in the early years of my childhood. My job was to turn the sifter and if I was really lucky I got to lick the hand beaters. Then suddenly there were cake mixes that supposedly made life easier for the busy mom. (This was a time when most men didn’t even make their own bologna sandwich never mind a cake).

As a young child I could tell the difference between scratch-made cakes and the boxed mix. My palate could pick out artificial flavors as easily as I could define a sour cream coffee cake that did not have enough streusel in the middle. I also hated frosting. Make me a cake and put nothing more on top than cream cheese or sour cream. My mom was locally famous for her applesauce-raisin cake and the best family joke was the time she used corn starch instead of baking soda for quite the kitchen disaster. My own cake baking disaster was when I doubled the oil in a carrot cake. My son, eight at the time, begged me to make it that way from then on. The cake was so gooey and never really rose, but I guess kids like cake batter as much as cookie batter.

To be honest, I don’t like to bake. I don’t like to measure and to make sure everything is precise. But, I love to please people and making a homemade cake is truly a labor of love. So I do it. For some reason I associate the coming of spring with scratch-made cakes.

So, this is the month I dust off my own baking pans and, yes, even a bundt pan or two. Here are some cake recipes from the dessert company that I owned for many years in the Boston area. Our cakes were really popular.


Main Street Café Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

(An original recipe from my first restaurant)

Photo Credit:
Carrot cake. Yum. (Photo Credit:

The memories of carrot cakes baking and filling my first little breakfast and lunch café with that mildly spicy aroma still bring a smile to my face. Of course, grating those all those carrots was not as pleasing as the final results. Today, use your food processor and in no time your carrots are ready.


1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

4 ounces cream cheese

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

3 cups shredded carrots

1 cup coarsely chopped nuts, pecans

1 cup raisins



8 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ cup butter soft

2 teaspoons milk

1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan and lightly dust with flour.

For cake:

Cream sugar with vegetable oil. Add softened cream cheese and eggs, one at a time. Sift. Flour with dry ingredients and gently beat into egg and sugar mixture. Add raisins, pecans, and shredded carrots. Pour into pan; bake approx. 40-45 minutes.


Whip soft cream cheese with butter. Add milk and vanilla extract. Slowly blend in powdered sugar. Frost cake, when cake is completely cooled. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Serve cold.


Kahlua Cheesecake

Photo Credit:
A light cheesecake for spring. (Photo Credit:

(From Just Desserts by Judi and Laurie)


2 cups chocolate wafers

6 tablespoons melted butter



3 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese

1 ¼ cups sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons instant coffee granules

4 large eggs

2/3 cup whipping cream

¼ cup Kahlua liqueur



½ cup sour cream

1 ½ tablespoons Kahlua

2 teaspoons instant coffee granules

1 cup confectioner’s sugar


Mix cookie crumbs and butter. Press onto sides and bottom of 10 inch spring form pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat cream cheese, sugar and salt. Blend in flour and coffee granules. Add eggs, one at a time beating well after each egg. Add cream and Kahlua. Pour into crust. Bake until edges are set but center still moves. (One hour to one hour and 15 minutes)  Let cool 10 minutes. Mix together all topping ingredients, making sure the instant coffee is completely dissolved. Spread over cheesecake and bake at  375 for 10 more minutes.


Chocolate Pudding Cake 

Photo Credit:
A spring treat to be sure. (Photo Credit:

When our younger son was in elementary school, he chose a cookbook for his book report and made the class this chocolate pudding cake. No matter the season of the year, something chocolate seems right and in our house this cake is as welcome as Springtime.


¾ cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons butter

11 ounces unsweetened chocolate (squares)

½ cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons milk

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream for serving


For the topping:

2 tablespoons instant coffee

1 ¼ cups hot water

½ cup dark brown sugar firmly packed

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, or a double boiler, melt the butter and sugar and chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the heat. Add the flour mixture and stir well. Stir in the milk and vanilla. Pour batter into the prepared pan.


For the topping:

Dissolve the coffee in the water- let cool.Mix together the sugars and cocoa powder. Sprinkle the mixture over the batter. Pour the coffee evenly the surface, bake 40 minutes. Serve immediately with whipped cream.


Mom’s Applesauce Spice Cake

Applesauce Cake
Mom was famous for this cake applesauce cake.

This cake always made our kitchen smell so comforting. It’s an easy recipe to double.

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted before measuring

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup melted butter

2 cups applesauce


Measure sifted flour and sift flour again into a mixing bowl with sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and baking soda. Gently stir to make sure it is blended well. Add raisins, walnuts, melted butter and applesauce. Stir the batter until well blended. Pour batter into greased and floured 9-inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool. You may top it with cream cheese frosting, but mom didn’t so I would enjoy it just as it is.


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