Woulda, shoulda, coulda


Right about now, I would have been eating my very favorite brunch dish — Eggs Benedict — at our favorite Twin Cities breakfast spot. But then a winter weather advisory happened and our weekend plans got changed. Instead of catching up with good friends, Hubby Bryan and I spent the weekend at home, where we should have caught up on things around the house that needed to be done. But we weren’t that ambitious.

Oh well.

I should have posted a blog here a number of days ago, but life got in the way. I got sidetracked by unexpected events and getting ready for the weekend getaway that didn’t happen.

Oh well.

Bryan and I could have been eating one of our favorite make-at-home morning meals — avocado and over-easy eggs on toast (or better yet, on biscuits!) — if we’d thought to buy an avocado when we were at the grocery store yesterday.

Oh well.

So what do we have on hand to make Sunday brunch? Oh yes, there’s part of a loaf of French bread, perfect for making what I consider to be the very best French toast recipe ever. Once again, it’s from the pages of DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” What makes this French toast unique is mixing orange juice with the eggs instead of the more traditional milk.

Oven French Toast

½ cup butter

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

3 eggs

¾ cup orange juice

8 or 9 slices French bread, cut into 1½-inch-thick slices


Melt the butter in a 15- by 20-inch sheet pan in a 425-degree oven. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the butter.

Slightly beat the eggs and combine with the orange juice. Dip bread in the mixture until it is well soaked but does not fall apart. Arrange the slices close together in the pan and bake for 20 minutes or until set. It’s not necessary to turn the bread, but we often do to get them evenly browned.

Serve with maple or — even better in my opinion — butter pecan syrup.


My kind of valentine


I got an early valentine after posting my last blog on social media. As it was the beginning of what I intend to be a breakfast/brunch series, I posed the question “What’s your favorite brunch recipe?” when I shared it on the “Growing Up in Worthington — What Do You Remember” Facebook page.

“Growing Up” frequenter David Erickson (a Worthington native who now lives in Montana) quickly commented, “It has to be my mom’s recipe for coffee cake. Eat while warm so butter you put on melts.”

Well, that got my mouth watering immediately for coffee cake. And soon other “Growing Up” frequenters were chiming in with their remembrances of Mrs. Erickson’s cooking.

After that, it didn’t take long for David’s sister, Barbara Erickson Van Langen (who now lives in Florida), to be persuaded to share that celebrated coffee cake as well as a couple other of her mother’s specialties.

Shared recipes are my favorite kind of valentine.

So if you’re looking for a sweet treat to make for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, here’s that coffee cake, followed by the appropriately-named-for-the-holiday Honey Bun Cake, and finally candied popcorn, which could be colored red or pink for a Valentine’s treat.

Mom’s Coffee Cake

1 cup shortening

1½ cups white sugar

3 eggs

1 cup milk

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup melted butter

For streusel:

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup chopped nuts
Thoroughly mix the shortening, sugar, eggs, milk, flour, baking powder and vanilla.

Spread half the batter in a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Combine the struesel ingredients and top the batter with half of the streusel mixture. Add remaining batter and the rest of the streusel. Drizzle the melted butter over the top.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Honey Bun Cake

1 box yellow cake

⅔ cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

8 ounces sour cream

1 cup packed brown sugar

⅓ cup chopped pecans

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- by 13-inch pan.

Beat the cake mix, oil, eggs and cream on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for 2 minutes. Spread half the batter in the pan.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon; sprinkle over the batter. Carefully spread the remaining batter over the top.

Bake for 44-48 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another bowl stir together the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla — mixture should be think enough to spread.

While cake is still warm, prick it with a fork or skewer several times. Spread the frosting over the top.

Candy Popcorn

2 large bags microwave popcorn

1 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup white corn syrup

½ cup hot water

½ teaspoon vanilla

Food coloring

Pop the popcorn and put in a large mixing bowl (Barbara specifies a Minnesota yellow one — LOL). In a saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, vanilla, corn syrup and hot water. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until it spins a thread (223-235 degrees according to online sources).

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and food coloring. Pour over popped corn.

Brunch is the bomb

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I know, I know. I should always start my day off with a good breakfast.

Problem is, I’ve never been good at eating first thing when I get up in the morning. I’m more of a morning minimalist, settling for a yogurt and a piece of toast before I head out the door.

I don’t even do coffee.

But weekend brunch? That’s a whole other matter.

Brunch is perhaps my favorite meal. It’s a hybrid that encompasses a wide range of foods, refusing to dictate exactly what you can eat and when you can eat it.

Pancakes at noon? Sure — it’s brunch!

Prime rib and eggs at 10 a.m.? Why not?

Hubby Bryan and I have spent many weekends experimenting with the options that encompass brunch, and we’ve come up with some favorites. I’ve also gotten some suggestions from others about their favorite brunch items, and I’m hoping some of you might chime in, too.

So for the next few weeks or so — until our repertoire is exhausted — I’m going to focus on favorite brunch/breakfast recipes.

The food item that inspired this series?

The humble pancake.

Which is weird, because I’ve never really been a pancake person, much preferring French toast or a waffle.

But Hubby Bryan is a pancake enthusiast who comes from a family of pancake enthusiasts. His mom still orders pancakes just about every time we take her out to eat.

If we did occasionally cook pancakes at home, they were usually out of a boxed mix. But recently we happened upon a FROM SCRATCH recipe that didn’t seem that much more complicated than the mix. And when we gave it a try, the resulting pancakes were so much better than the mix — I don’t think we will ever buy a box of pancake mix again. In fact, they were so delicious, that I became a pancake devotee.

We also recently tried a lemon-ricotta version that was better in theory than in reality. The ricotta didn’t really add anything to the texture, so I would suggest just adding 1 tablespoon lemon zest to the batter for a lemony version. Delicious topped with fresh berries!

Way Better Than the Box Pancakes

1¾ cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

1½ cups buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, you can mix 1½ tablespoons lemon juice with enough milk to total 1 ½ cups; let stand 5 minutes before using)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk and oil.

Add the liquid ingredients all at once to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. The batter will still be a bit lumpy, but overmixing will make the pancakes tough.

Heat a lightly greased griddle or nonstick skillet. You will know it is the correct temperature when a few drops of water dances across the surface.

Using a ladle or scoop, pour ¼ cup of the batter onto the griddle. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side; when the top is all bubbly and the edges look set, the pancake is ready to flip. Serve with warm syrup or fresh berries.

Supper’s in the freezer

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It’s probably one of the most frequent questions uttered in our household.

“What should we have for supper tonight?”

Hubby Bryan is much more of a planner than I am, and he often has several days worth of meals sketched out — whether he puts the final product together or I do. (I know I am a very lucky woman!)

But there are still those nights when we don’t have anything in mind for the menu or we need a really quick meal for one reason or another. So I try to stock the freezer with things we can pull out in a pinch or for those nights when we don’t have the energy to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

As I was looking for a completely different recipe in DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook” recently, the page fell open to a recipe that I hadn’t considered for quite a few years. I used to make Pizza-wiches when Bryan and I played in a weekly dart league and needed a quick supper before we headed out the door for that week’s match. That was eons ago, but I remembered how easy it was to pop a few of them under the broiler and make up a quick salad as a side dish.

And once my memory was jogged, I decided it would be nice to have a batch of Pizza-wiches in the freezer for those “I don’t feel like cooking” nights. So on my way home from work earlier this week, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up the two key ingredients that weren’t in our pantry, and within a short time I had a bunch of Pizza-wiches ready for the freezer.

They are what’s for supper at our house tomorrow night.

One note about this recipe: The ripe olives are one of those key ingredients. Even if you don’t particularly like ripe olives, don’t leave them out. I used a small can of pre-chopped black olives, and they pretty much melt into the sauce, but add depth of flavor. Kids probably wouldn’t even know they were there if you use the pre-chopped ones, as they are very finely chopped. You don’t need to add the whole can if you are reluctant, but I’d try at least half the can.


1 pound ground beef

¾ cup chopped onion

1 can condensed tomato soup

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon dried basil

1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese

1 small can chopped ripe olives

15-20 English muffin halves

Brown the ground beef and onions. Add tomato soup, oil, garlic salt, oregano and basil. Let mixture cool slightly. Stir in the cheese (I set aside a small amount to sprinkle on top of each “wich”) and olives.

Place the muffin halves on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Spoon meat mixture onto each of the muffin halves. Top with a sprinkle of the reserved cheese, pressing it into the meat mixture. (The picture here shows them at this point, ready to go into the freezer.)

Put the baking sheet into the freezer for several hours, until the Pizza-wiches are frozen. Place into freezer bags.

To prepare, remove the desired number of Pizza-wiches from the freezer and defrost. (I usually do this the night before, putting them in the refrigerator.) Broil until heated through, bubbly and lightly browned.


Baking cookies with Alice

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My Grandma Alice was an amazing woman. She was a businessWOMAN long before that term existed. She worked side by side with Grandpa Harry and later my dad and his brother in the family photography business.

Not only was Alice a working woman, she was also a good cook, and most memorably for her grandchildren, a great baker. No matter how busy she was, there were always fresh cookies in her cookie tin. Whenever we visited our grandparents either at their apartment or their summer home at West Lake Okoboji, we grandchildren headed straight for that cookie tin, hoping to find gingersnaps or one of her other sweet specialties.

Grandma Alice is long gone, and those cookies play a prominent role in my memories of her. I have tried over the years to emulate her gingersnap baking skill, but they just don’t taste the same. But I have managed to master a couple of cookie recipes of my own, and I think I make a peanut butter cookie that rivals those Alice turned out all those years ago. I think she would be proud. I feel like she is in the kitchen with me every time I bake up a batch.

I found this recipe in one of those wonderful vintage church cookbooks and have tweaked it a bit to make it a bit more peanut buttery and a bit more chewy. The recipe is also a nod to my DotMom, who always made chocolate chip cookies with oatmeal in them — her way of sneaking something “healthy” into those sweet treats. The oatmeal contributes largely to keeping these peanut butter cookies chewy rather than crisp.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

¾ cup butter, softened

¾ cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup milk

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2¼ cups quick oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla and milk. Blend in the flour, soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the oatmeal and blend just until incorporated. Chill dough for half an hour or more.

Drop the dough onto ungreased cookie sheets with a cookie scoop. Use a fork to flatten and mark the top of the cookies, dipping the fork in water to prevent sticking. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar over the top (optional).

Bake for about 12 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through the baking time. Let cool on the cookie sheets for several minutes before transferring to a wire rack or paper towel.

Makes about 50 cookies.

Oh fudge!

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The month of January is generally devoted to feeling better about ourselves by eating healthier, losing weight, exercising — that whole resolution thing. So I know that I should be sharing some health-conscious recipes.

But the first couple weeks of the month are almost over, and I figure some of you might be ready to indulge yourselves … just a little bit? Besides, I had promised a few people that I would share this recipe after gifting some jars of it during the Christmas season.

So the topic today is fudge. Hot fudge. Decadent hot fudge. The kind you pour lavishly over ice cream.

It is definitely not diet food. It contains butter. It contains sugar. It contains chocolate.

But it is delicious and worth the splurge. (Especially if you serve it with homemade ice cream, but that’s a topic for another blog.) And it is amazingly simple to make in the blender.

In my mom’s cookbook, the recipe is credited to late longtime family friend and my godmother, Beverly Lueth. For gifting, I change up the recipe by adding a few drops flavored extract. My favorites are peppermint and raspberry, although I also like almond, orange, hazelnut. If you have a favorite flavoring, try it.

The recipe calls for a 5 ½-ounce can of evaporated milk, and that small size does work perfectly. However, if you only have the large can, the amount is equal to a scant ¾ cup of evaporated milk. Oh, and the amount of unsweetened chocolate is half of the standard package size, so you can get two batches out of one large can and one package of chocolate.

Blender Hot Fudge Sauce

One 5 ½-ounce can evaporated milk

¼ cup butter

⅔ cup sugar

Dash of salt

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla

Several drops flavored (peppermint, raspberry, almond, etc.) extract, optional

In a small saucepan, combine the evaporated milk butter, heat until just simmering.

Meanwhile, in a pint-size blender jar (a pint canning  jar will work with most blenders), put the sugar, salt, chocolate, vanilla and optional flavoring. Pour the hot milk-butter mixture over the sugar and chocolate and blend immediately.

Serve over ice cream. Store in refrigerator.


A wild (rice) start to 2018

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We are already a few days into 2018, but I can’t quite wrap my brain around it being 2018.

Maybe it’s because I’ve got yet another cold virus (that’s what happens when you work with first-graders!), and my head is clogged up with snot.

Or perhaps it’s because just days ago Hubby Bryan and I were celebrating Christmas on a beach in Florida. My mind is still on vacation — or else it’s still numb from the shock of coming back to the bitterly cold temperatures of Minnesota.

But more than likely, it’s because it always takes me a few weeks to adjust to a new year. It will be February before I can routinely write the right date on checks and other documents.

Truthfully, I’d rather still be sitting on that beach, soaking up the rays and contemplating the brilliance of the blue sky overhead rather than dealing with the realities of January weather in Minnesota.

Bryan and I went to Florida to spend the holiday with my sister Margaret and her husband, Don. They winter in the Fort Myers area, helping out at a Lutheran church there that has a large influx of snowbirds each year. Don is a retired pastor, and Margaret is a director of Christian education and musician extraordinaire, so we were able to enjoy their respective talents at several Christmas worship services.

Plus we ate, we drank, we sang carols, we ate some more, we sat on the beach, we sat by the pool — you get the picture.

It was a lovely idyl, and we are grateful to our relatives for hosting us for Christmas week.

In our luggage, we toted along some wild rice, as it is the key ingredient in one of our Christmas food traditions. Each Christmas Eve, Bryan and I make up a pot of wild rice soup. So while Margaret and Don were busy at church, we whipped up a batch in their Florida condo kitchen, and it was consumed between all those Christmas Eve services.

But this soup isn’t just for special occasions. It’s one of my favorite soup recipes and is regular on our Monday “Soup Night” rotation. Here’s the recipe:

Minnesota-to-Florida Wild Rice Soup

6 tablespoons butter

½ cup diced onion

½ cup diced celery

½ cup flour

4 cups chicken broth

3 cups cooked wild rice

2 carrots, grated

1½ cups diced cooked chicken

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup half and half

2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)

¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

In a large saucepan, melt butter and cook the onion and celery until tender. Blend in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the chicken broth, and continue to cook while stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir in the cooked rice, grated carrot and cooked chicken. Add salt and check seasoning. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the half and half, sherry and almonds. Simmer for several more minutes before serving.


Hey! It’s Cookie Time!

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It really should be a holiday unto itself. Cookie Time. That day or days before Christmas that bakers devote to concocting a plethora of sweet bites to feed or gift to family and friends.

When I was growing up, DotMom would spend days in the kitchen, mixing up all of our family favorites, many of which can be found in her “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” There would be trays of cookies, candies and bars to deliver around the neighborhood and farther afield.

Today I’m going to share my personal top two cookies, but first, I’d like to encourage you readers to share your own favorite Christmas treats. What’s the one cookie that is a must-bake during these last few weeks leading up to Christmas? I’d love for you to share your memories and your recipes. Please email me at bnamanny@gmail.com, or share them through the comment section on this blog.

So here are mine:

This first recipe — No-Roll Sugar Cookies — was DotMom’s go-to sugar cookie recipe, and she didn’t just make it at Christmas time. She had an assortment of small cookie cutters for various seasons, which she would use to imprint a design in the top of these melt-in-your-mouth cookies. They were, without a doubt, DadDon’s favorite, and he would raid the cookie jar nightly in search of his cookie fix.

This is also the cookie that DotMom made most often with her granddaughters when they were young, as it was easy for them to press out the balls of dough, create the design and sprinkle with colored sugars. It’s much less messy and time-intensive than traditional cutout cookies.

The second recipe — Forgotten Kisses — is at the top of my own must-make list. I love the crispy meringue and the bite of mint. During the holiday season, I make them with either the candy-cane striped mint chips that are available at this time or year, or there is one company — Guittard, I think — that makes a chip that is a pretty shade of mint green.

I was both annoyed and fascinated with these cookies when I was young. It was annoying to have to wait until the next morning to eat them (Mom always put a “Do Not Open” sign with  threat of consequences on the oven door handle) but it was quite fascinating to see how they turned from the soft pillows of fluff into crunchy meringue cookies overnight.

These days, I also love their simplicity. My stand mixer makes quick work of beating the meringue into hard peaks, then I just have to fold in the chips, drop them onto the cookie sheets, put them in the oven and forget them (hence the name!).

No-Roll Sugar Cookies

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
4 cups plus 4 heaping tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream sugars, butter and oil until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Add dry ingredients, then vanilla. Mix well.

Roll dough into small balls and press down with a glass dipped in sugar. Use a small cookie cutter to make an imprint in the top of the cookie, if desired, then decorate with seasonally appropriate colored sugars.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, until delicately browned.

Forgotten Kisses

2 egg whites
⅔ cup sugar
6 ounces mint chocolate chips (or more — I like them chock full of chips!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat egg white until frothy. Gradually add sugar, a little at a time. Continue to beat until very stiff, about 15 minutes total.

Fold in the chips. Drop by teaspoonsful onto greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper or silicone baking mats).

Put in oven, shut door, turn off the heat and DON’T PEEK for at least 5 hours or overnight.


Meatball mania

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Making these meatballs brought me to tears.

No, I didn’t cut myself, although that’s a likely scenario when I’m cooking.

I made the mistake of cutting up onion with my glasses on instead of my contacts. The fumes from the onions built up behind the lenses, and soon my eyes were burning and the tears were flowing. I know better, but it was early in the day, and the fog hadn’t quite cleared from my brain.

But I possibly could have also cried tears of joy — due to  the versatility of this recipe. It’s one I used to make a lot, but just hadn’t gotten around to for a while, and I’d forgotten just how good it is.

This big batch will go into the freezer and made enough so I can tote a slow cooker full to a holiday gathering in coming weeks, plus provide the basis for a couple of different meals at our abode. They can be used in meatball subs, spaghetti and meatballs, on pizza and even Swedish-style in a white sauce over egg noodles or rice.

The original recipe was clipped from a magazine many years ago.

The original recipe says it yields about 150 1-inch meatballs, but I’ve never come close to that amount, as I make mine a bit larger, using the largest of my cookie scoops for uniform size.

I’m not going to lie: Forming all those meatballs and cooking them off in the oven can be a time-consuming, but the result is so much better than those frozen meatballs you can buy at the grocery store that it is well worth the time investment.

Oh, and by the way, this recipe is so easy to adapt to other amounts of meat. Basically, for each pound of meat you add 1 egg, ¼ cup onion and ½ cup bread crumbs, so go ahead and make more or less to suit your own needs.

Versatile Make-Ahead Meatballs

4 pounds lean ground beef (or a mixture of pork and beef)
4 eggs
2 cups Italian-style dried bread crumbs
1 cup finely chopped onion (or less if you don’t like onion as well as we do)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (hands are the best tools for this).

Using your hands or a cookie scoop, lightly form mixture into balls. Place on single layers on ungreased baking pans. (I line with parchment paper for ease of cleanup.) Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, turning once to ensure even browning. Cool.

Package in freezer bags, 30 to a bag. Can be frozen for up to 4 months.


Here’s the sauce I use for making the meatballs as appetizers

Sweet and Spicy Meatball Sauce

½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup cherry cola
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (from a can), finely chopped

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients, bring to a light boil and continue to cook until thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add meatballs and continue to cook until heated through, or pour over meatballs in a slow cooker.

A cranberry query

A couple weeks ago, sister Margaret sent me this text message:

“Didn’t mom make a cranberry cake with a rum or vanilla sauce? But it isn’t in the cookbook?”

Hmmmm. Back in the deep recesses of my mind, I had a vague recollection of such a dessert, but had no idea where Margaret would find such a recipe if it wasn’t in the IMG_7444 (1)“Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” I’m sure DotMom published it in her column and likely made it for a holiday bridge gathering when I was a young girl or teen, but back in those days cranberries weren’t on my approved eating list. (Yes, I was a bit pickier in my younger years!)

But as soon as Margaret conjured up an image of that cake now, I started to imagine how it would taste. So when she found a cranberry cake recipe that she was sure was THE ONE, I insisted that she send me the recipe. Margaret not only did that, but she sent photos of the finished product, along with rave reviews from the guest to whom she had served it.

Those reviews were so good, in fact, that she is whipping up another one for a Thanksgiving gathering tomorrow. It might be too late to make for your Thanksgiving get-together, but this is a dessert appropriate for the entire upcoming holiday season. It will certainly be on our table at some point, as I am salivating just looking at Margaret’s pictures.

Cranberry Cake with Butter-Rum Sauce

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted

For the sauce:
½ cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon rum flavoring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; set aside

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cranberries, milk and melted butter; mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan; add the sugar and cream. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the rum flavoring.

To serve, cut cake into squares and spoon the warm sauce over the top.

Makes 9 servings.