Grandma Newell’s White Cake with Lemon Filling

Left, Bruce Frank and Linda Emmerton pose on their wedding day in 1970 with the lovely wedding cake that was custom-made by her maternal grandmother, Minda Newell.  Right, the cake has a lemon filling and white frosting.

“This recipe is from a book my maternal grandmother used to make my wedding cake in 1970,” Linda Emmerton Frank said. “My grandma Newell took classes to make it for me. I remember Grandma working on it in her apartment behind our house. I would go upstairs and watch her as she decorated it. It is a sweet memory. She set up the cake in the reception area too. She was a special lady. It was beautiful.”

I met Linda when I was doing research on the history of a ranch that my family owns. The property used to be owned by her great-uncle Orville Colburn, whose family moved from Maine to California in the 1860s, and his wife, Lillian Emmerton Colburn.

This white cake recipe was very easy to make from scratch and tastes absolutely delicious.  

Grandma Newell’s White Cake with Lemon Filling

Servings: 12


2 ½ cups cake flour

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup shortening

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup milk

½ teaspoon lemon extract

5 egg whites

½ cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

Combine, cake flour, salt, shortening, baking powder and sugar; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Combine milk and lemon extract; add to flour mixture and beat 1 more minute. In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and ½ cup sugar; then add to flour mixture and beat 1 minute. Pour batter into two 8-inch round layer pans and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, make lemon filling as follows:

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 eggs

1 cup water

Juice of 2 large lemons

Grated rind of 1 lemon

¼ stick butter

Mix the sugar and cornstarch. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with a rotary beater and add water, lemon juice and lemon rind. Combine with sugar mixture. Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler. Add the sugar mixture and stir. Place the pan over boiling water and stir constantly until the mixture becomes thick and smooth. Remove from heat and cool.

Spread the filling on top of the first cake layer. Gently set the second cake layer on top.

Frost the layer cake with white frosting. Here’s an easy recipe:

2 egg whites

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoons light corn syrup

Dash of salt

1/3 cup cold water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, salt and water in the top of a double boiler. Beat for 1 minute with a rotary or electric beater. Place the pan over boiling water and beat constantly until the frosting forms peaks, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the boiling water. Add vanilla and beat until the frosting is of a spreading consistency, about 2 minutes. Chill frosting in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Frost the tops and sides of the layer cake.

Garnish the cake with fresh flowers and serve.

Game Day Loaded Potatoes

Here’s a delicious Game Day appetizer! For this year’s Super Bowl, I can’t say who I’m rooting for because I have family members in both Kansas City and Tampa Bay. As the home chief (oops! I mean, chef) I’ll just keep my mouth shut and cook; except, of course, when I’m eating tailgate-party food during the big game!

Game Day Loaded Potatoes


Vegetable oil

6 medium potatoes, washed and dried

6 slices of bacon, cut into pieces (one slice bacon per potato)

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup diced onion

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon red pepper sauce

Dash of dried parsley


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rub vegetable oil on potatoes. Pierce potatoes with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 45-55 minutes until soft.

While potatoes are baking, cook bacon in a skillet; remove from pan and place on paper-towel-lined plate.

Mix together in a medium bowl: cheese, sour cream, bacon, onion, Dijon mustard and red pepper sauce.

When the potatoes are baked, remove from oven and slice lengthwise on top. Scoop out potato flesh, leaving about a quarter-inch in the skins, and add to cheese mixture. Stir together and then stuff the mixture into the potato skins, creating mounds.

Bake in oven until cheese melts, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley, and serve. This recipe serves 6, and can easily be doubled, tripled, etc., depending on the size of your crowd.

Tip: Serve this along with party sliders and breaded mozzarella cheese sticks–feel free to check out my recipes.

Party Sliders

Party Sliders

This is the perfect finger food to serve to your family and friends. It’s an easy-to-make appetizer that’s tastes butter-licious. And you just can’t go wrong with melted cheese.


½ cup butter

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ cup French fried onions, pulsed until finely chopped in food processor

1 package of 12 Hawaiian-style dinner rolls

¼ cup mayonnaise

Sliced turkey lunchmeat, 4 ounces

1 large tomato, sliced

12 slices of dill pickles

Sliced cheddar cheese, 6 ounces


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt butter in sauce pan, remove from heat and stir in Dijon mustard and French fried onions.

Slice the entire slab of dinner rolls through the center to separate from top to bottom. Place the bottom half on a sheet pan; spread mayonnaise on it. Add the turkey, tomato, dill pickles, cheese and top half of dinner rolls. Sprinkle the butter mixture evenly over the top. Bake in oven until cheese is melted and tops of sliders are browned, 15-20 minutes. Cut into individual sliders and serve. Serves 6.

Breaded Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

Guests will devour these breaded mozzarella cheese sticks, which are especially yummy when served with a side of marinara sauce or ranch dressing.

Breaded Mozzarella Cheese Sticks


1 cup vegetable oil

1 package of 12 string-cheese sticks

3 eggs, beaten

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ cups seasoned bread crumbs

Optional: Marinara sauce or ranch dressing


Heat oil on medium heat in a frying pan.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Put the flour on a plate and the bread crumbs on another plate.

Take each cheese stick and dip it in the egg; flour; egg; flour; egg and bread crumbs.

Take a pair of tongs and place each breaded cheese stick in the hot oil. Brown one side, which takes about 10-15 seconds, then turn onto other side and brown. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate. Serve mozzarella sticks on a platter with a side of marinara sauce or ranch dressing. Serves 6.

Blonde Brownies

Here’s a quick-and-easy recipe for blonde brownies, which are similar to chocolate brownies, but the batter is flavored with vanilla instead of chocolate. They are also called blondies or butterscotch brownies. In addition, if you add chocolate chips, which is what I like to do, they are known as chocolate chip cookie bars. I actually learned how to bake blonde brownies when I was in first grade and my teacher taught our class how to cook. That’s one of two memories that I have of Mrs. Gunner–the other was that she wore Keds sneakers in a wide variety of colors to match her clothes. I recall that we consumed our blonde brownies with our individual-sized cartons of milk. So grab yourself a glass of milk and enjoy!

Blonde Brownies


2 sticks butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

2 ¼ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups chocolate chips

Optional: 1 cup chopped nuts


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Add eggs and beat until creamy. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips and, if desired, nuts. Grease a 13” x 9” pan. Spread prepared dough into pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve. Makes 2 dozen bars.

Rancher’s Slow-Cooker Soup

Here’s an sausage soup recipe that’s perfect for cold winter weather as well as a busy lifestyle. After you put together the soup ingredients, you can slow-cook it for a few hours and then enjoy a delicious meal. This recipe calls for pinto beans, but you can substitute other types of beans that you have on hand. After you transfer the soup into serving bowls, you can garnish it with cheese, sour cream, sliced avocados and/or cilantro. Whether you live on a ranch or in the city, this slow-cooker soup is easy-to-make comfort food.

Rancher’s Slow-Cooker Soup


1 pound fresh sausage

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups water

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed and soaked overnight

1 bell pepper or 3 stalks of celery

1 can Rotel tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

Black pepper to taste

To garnish: shredded cheese, sour cream, avocados, cilantro, etc.


1. In a large pan, cook sausage over medium heat; remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add onion to pan and sauté until it’s soft, 5 minutes or so.

3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute or so.

4. Transfer cooked meat and sautéed vegetables to crock pot. Add the water, chicken broth, beans, bell pepper or celery, Rotel tomatoes, salt and pepper. Slow-cook on high 8-10 hours.

5. Transfer the soup to serving bowls and garnish as desired.

TIP: Serve along with a green salad and cornbread, butter and honey.

Persimmon Boozy Cake

Here’s a cake that’s full of spirit. It combines persimmons and whiskey. Persimmon trees are very attractive fruit trees that happen to grow where I live in Northern California. After the trees lose their leaves, you can see the orange fruit hanging from the branches. Whenever I’m lucky enough to get a bag of persimmons from someone I know, I let them ripen on my kitchen counter; once they become very soft, I scoop out the flesh and puree it in my food processor. My husband grows distillery corn that’s fermented to make whiskey, so I like to use that in my recipe. You can substitute brandy if you prefer. I bake this in a decorative Bundt cake pan but any tube pan will suffice. It’s a tasty way to disguise an alcoholic beverage as a dessert. Cheers!

Persimmon Boozy Cake


¾ cup raisins

¼ cup whiskey or brandy

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 ½ sticks butter, softened

1 ½ cups persimmon puree

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts or pecans


4 ounces cream cheese

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2/3 cup powdered sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a Bundt cake pan with butter.

Pour the whiskey or brandy in a small sauce pan over medium heat, and add the raisins. When the liquid starts boiling, stir the raisins around for a minute and then remove from the heat; cover and set aside.

Place the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl and stir. In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, persimmon puree, eggs and vanilla; add to the flour mixture. Fold in the raisins and whiskey or brandy. Add the nuts.

Transfer the batter into the greased Bundt cake pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 60-70 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack. Once the cake is cool, carefully invert it onto a cake plate.

To make icing, beat together the cream cheese, butter, lemon juice and vanilla with a hand-mixer or stand mixer on high speed. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Gradually add the water so that the icing is easy to pour. Spoon the icing over the cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides. Garnish with the remaining nuts and serve.

Bloody Mary Cocktail

As a tomato farmer’s wife, I’d like to share this tomato-juice-based recipe for a well-liked adult beverage–the Bloody Mary. In the United States, this is a traditional cocktail consumed during the morning or early afternoon, and is popular for its reputation as a cure for a hangover. It contains vodka, tomato juice and various seasonings, and is garnished to create an appealing presentation. If you don’t want to drink alcohol, just skip the vodka for a tasty “mocktail.” Whatever version you choose to make, rest assured that you’re helping support tomato farmers. Cheers!

Bloody Mary Cocktail/Mocktail


Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice

A splash or two of Worcestershire sauce

A splash of tabasco sauce

A dash of garlic powder

A dash of paprika

A dash of salt

A dash of cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon green olive juice

Juice from one lemon or lime

1-2 ounces Vodka, optional

Green olives

1 lemon or lime, sliced into wedges

Celery stalk

Crispy slice of bacon, optional


Pour Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice into a highball glass. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce; if using tomato juice, add a couple of splashes. Add tabasco sauce, garlic powder, paprika, salt, cracked black pepper, green olive juice, and lemon or lime juice. Stir. If you want to drink an alcoholic beverage, add the vodka to desired strength and stir. Garnish with green olives and a slice of lemon or lime on a toothpick; a celery stalk and/or a crispy slice of bacon; and serve.

Prime Rib

Prime rib is a favorite food in many families, including mine. We enjoy eating this tender cut of beef, particularly during the holidays and other special occasions.

Prime Rib

Serves 14-16 people


1 standing rib roast of beef, 10-12 pounds

3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

Seasoning salt


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Make small slits all over the roast with a knife and insert garlic slivers. Rub roast all over with seasoning salt. Place on a rack in roasting pan, with fat side on top, and roast for 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and roast the meat for 16 minutes per pound (about 2 hours), or until a meat thermometer reaches 135-140 degrees F for a medium-rare (pink) center. Remove beef from oven, loosely cover with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving. Carving from the outside to the center, everyone gets a slice done just to his or her liking. Tip: Serve with horseradish cream or your favorite chutney.

Beef Burgundy

Beef burgundy, also called beef bourguignon, has its roots in the historic Burgundy region of France. This region, located southeast of Paris, is known for its wine and architecture, as well as for its white Charolais cattle that produce distinctively tasty beef. While this dish started out as peasant food that depended on slow-cooking tougher cuts of meat, eventually it was elevated to haute cuisine status that was served in expensive Parisian hotels. It was also featured by famous American cookbook author and TV chef Julia Child. While it’s classically served over boiled potatoes or pasta, my version includes serving it over a bed of hot, cooked rice—I live on a rice farm, what more can I say? I guess that would be, bon appetit!

Beef Burgundy


1 ½ cups white rice

3 cups water

1 pound beef steak, sliced into 1-inch-long strips

Drizzle of vegetable oil

2 cups sliced onions

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups sliced carrots

½ cup Burgundy or other dry red wine

1 ¾ cups beef broth

2 teaspoons seasoning salt

Dash of thyme and/or dried parsley

2 cups sliced bell pepper (or celery)

2 tablespoons corn starch

¼ cup water


To cook rice, boil water in a saucepan, add rice; then reduce heat to low, cover and let it simmer until rice soaks up the water, 15-20 minutes. As rice is cooking, heat oil in a large pan and brown the beef. Add onions and garlic, stir and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add the carrots, wine, broth, seasoning salt and herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Mix in the bell pepper, cover and cook another 5 minutes. Dissolve the corn starch in ¼ cup water and add to beef mixture. Continue cooking and stirring for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Serve over hot cooked rice. Makes 4-6 servings.