The Nice List


Every year for the past many years of my adult life, I have made grand plans to send out cards (!) and bake holiday treats (!) for friends and family. In January 2004 I stockpiled Christmas cards to be prepared for Next Christmas. Oh,  Next Christmas… I would buy special baking molds to make little cakes from family recipes! I would be ready to tuck the dainty goodies into cellophane wrappers and tie them up with festive ribbon! I would buy Mason jars and fill them with homemade, triple-chocolate hot cocoa mix and (also homemade!) peppermint marshmallows! LOTS of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!

It’s 2010—Next Christmas, Part VI. Those cards are still in my stationery drawer. Next to some Mr.-&-Mrs. Sacasa stationery which I am pretty sure were meant to be used for wedding present thank-you-notes in 2003. Hhhmmm.

But, wait. What’s that? Do I hear sleigh bells? Are you about to witness a Christmas miracle? I finally made Next Christmas happen!

And there’s still time to squeeze into my Nice List.

This delicately orange-scented cake was a constant at our breakfast table. I don’t know who Mary (pronounced “Meh-ri” at home) was or is, but we love her recipe. I made this with my Green Star Elite 5000. I’ve added cranberry sauce to this version for some Christmas zhoozh—feel free to use Thanksgiving leftovers, make your favorite family recipe, or leave it out altogether.

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest, plus 3 tablespoons orange juice
3 large eggs
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
4 teaspoons baking powder
*Optional: 2 cups homemade cranberry sauce

– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter (or spray with Pam) a Bundt pan.

– Cream the butter and sugar (use the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) in a large bowl on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the orange zest and mix until incorporated, about 10 seconds. Add the eggs, one by one, beating about 30 seconds after each egg is added to ensure incorporation. Stop the mixer and, with a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

– With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the flour and salt, alternating with the milk. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl once more, and mix just until the batter is smooth, about 30 more seconds.

– In a small bowl, mix together the orange juice and baking powder (it will foam). With the rubber spatula, fold the orange juice mixture into the batter. *If using, fold in the cranberry sauce.

– Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted, 45 to 60 minutes. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let sit for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, invert the cake onto a platter and let cool completely—at least 2 hours—before serving.

I used individual, 6- by 4- by 2-inch baking containers.