Our dearest friend has Pamela gives us some insight into her recipe choices. Thank you Pam!

I come from a long line of non-bakers. Growing up, deserts at our holiday table consisted of frozen pies and Jello no-bake offerings. I carry on that tradition, relying primarily on boxes and the local bakery for baked treats. While I do love to cook, baking just isn’t my thing. Not one to miss out on a party, I was determined to participate in this swap to celebrate Villa Fortuna. I sent my swap partner and friend Joy four different treats in the hope that at least one will be good enough to go back for seconds. Only one, the lemon ricotta cookies, is made from scratch. I have made these in the past for DH’s co-workers and they enjoyed them, so here’s hoping Joy and her husband will, too. The rest are assembled more than baked, but are delicious. I assure you that each offering was made with love and excitement for the launch of Villa Fortuna. I listened to Dean Martin and pretended to be Nicki while I was mixing! Mangia everyone and Happy Everything!

Easy Fudge

3 cups white chocolate chips
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
Melt chips in microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each one until melted. Add milk and stir. At this point you can add extras. I added dried cranberries, orange extract and chopped walnuts. Mix well then pour into a 8x8 pan lined with wax paper. Chill for at least 2 hours. This is a soft fudge, so cutting it into exact squares can be tricky. I prefer the rustic look. ;)

White Chocolate Party Mix

1 12 oz bag of white chocolate chips
3 cups Chex
1 cup Cheerios
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup m&ms
1 cup pretzel sticks
Melt chips in microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each one until melted. Mix together the rest of the ingredients and pour in white chocolate. Stir until chocolate covers the mix well. Pour onto wax paper to harden. Break into pieces and store in airtight container. 

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container.

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I am unashamed to say that my last offering is take and bake cookies from the cooler at the grocery store. Don’t judge, Joy said they are John’s particular favorite.

A favorite of her sons, baker extraordinaire and my baking buddy shares with her delicious recipe. (Gone in 2 days in my home) Thank you Elizabeth!!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cookies Recipe
2½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1½ cups raw (turbinado) sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt.)

In another medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla; beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Use a cookie dough scoop or two spoons to drop one tablespoon of dough onto a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet. Flatten each cookie slightly.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle the baked cookies with a light dusting of powdered sugar and transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.


Seasoned Christmas baker, Claudine, shares one of her favorites: Russian Tea Cakes!  Stop by her blog JustJane1813, for a special post on her love of baking

Russian Tea Cakes
2 sticks of softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup, toasted & chopped pecans
With electric mixer on med-high speed, combine butter, sugar, vanilla and salt, until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes.Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour, mix until just combined. Add pecans until evenly distributed. Place dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and onto a baking sheet. Bake until edge are slightly golden,about 10 minutes. Cool five minutes after taking them out of the oven.

Put confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and dip each cookie into the sugar, then place the cookie on a rack to sit. Cool the cookies to room temperature and then dip them in the sugar once more. The sugar will appear heavier after this second dip in the sugar. Enjoy!


Another master baker, Joy has “baked” today for her buddy, Pamela, and tomorrow they will go in the mail. There will be three goodies in the box: Marshmallow Popcorn Cake, Milk Chocolate Fudge, and homemade Almond Roca. 

Thank you, Joy for sharing these wonderful goodies. I am so impressed, girlfriend
Marshmallow Popcorn Cake

6 cups popped popcorn
10 oz. bag of mini-marshmallows
3 Tbsp. butter
1 bag mini-M&M’s

1) Line an 8”x8” aluminum foil pan with aluminum foil
2) Spray lightly with non-stick spray
3) Melt butter and marshmallows in a saucepan, stirring constantly over medium heat until smooth
4) Pour over the popcorn and stir until coated (or until your arms fall off)
5) Immediately press into the aluminum pan (to make it easier, spray your fingers with non-stick spray) Note: I waited until it cooled off a bit. It’s HOT just out of the pan.
6) Sprinkle M&M’s on top of popcorn and press down with your hands.
7) Cover with foil until set.

Milk Chocolate Fudge

4 c. white sugar
1/4 lb. butter
1 pt. marshmallow creme
1 tall can evaporated milk
2 pkg. chocolate bits or chips

1) Combine sugar, milk and butter in a saucepan.
2) Boil ingredients until reaches soft ball stage.
3) Stir frequently to prevent sticking and burning.
4) Add chocolate and marshmallow creme.
5) Pour fudge into greased 8”x8” pan and allow to set.

Almond Roca (homemade – or you can buy it on sale right now in a can – your choice!)

1 lb. butter
2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup (uh-oh!!! I just realized I read the recipe wrong! I put 2 CUPS!!!)
6 Tablespoons water
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 bag milk chocolate chips

1) Chop the almonds.
2) Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray
3) Over medium heat, melt butter in a large pot.
4) Add corn syrup, water, and sugar and cook until temperature reaches 290 degrees OR until the mixture becomes the color of a brown paper bag (about 20 minutes) stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (it’s normal for the mixture to rise and bubble)
5) Remove from heat and stir in ½ the almonds
6) Pour mixture onto a greased cookie sheet with EDGES!!!!
7) Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over surface.
8) Smooth the chocolate chips with a spatula until they are all melted.
9) Sprinkle over the top the rest of the almonds.
10) Press almonds lightly.
11) Cool and either cut with a knife or break into pieces to serve.


Sweet Baker, Zoe, shares with her buddy a Christmas tradition that began with her mom, giving this moist, marble coffee cake as gifts!  Thank you Zoe for continuing the spirit of gift giving sweets in VF Bakery. 


Baker supremo Gail has shipped traditional Jewish recipes to her two baking buddies. VF Bakery is honored that she would share these prized recipes.

Cele’s Mandel Bread/Biscotti

3 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup shortening (Butter Flavor Crisco) or ¼ lb. (1 stick) margarine
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp. each of Vanilla & Almond extracts
1 cup chopped nuts (usually use walnuts, may use almonds)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets (does not need parchment paper). Beat shortening until creamy and slowly add sugar. Add eggs, one at a time and incorporate completely before adding the next one. Add vanilla & almond extracts, then baking powder and salt. Add flour, 1 cup at a time and mix well. Stir in nuts.

Shape dough into 5 thin logs & place across the width of the cookie sheet. Make sure to leave room between the rolls for them to expand when they bake. (3 rolls on one pan & 2 on another unless you have an extra big cookie sheet.) Sprinkle top of dough with cinnamon sugar (Gail’s note: I put one cup of sugar and one Tbs. cinnamon in a sandwich ziploc bag and mixed it together for the cinnamon sugar.).

Bake 30 minutes, turning sheets 180 degrees at 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes. Slice cookie rolls at an angle at ½ inch intervals. Lay cookies flat on baking sheet (Gail’s note: I regreased the sheets to prevent sticking.), sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and return to 350 degree oven. Bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.

Remove from oven, let cool and store in a sealed container. Cele puts them in ziplock bags with the air removed and then in a plastic container with a tight lid.

Mitzi’s Old Fashioned Crumb Cake
 2 ¼ cup sifted flour
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon (divided)
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup oil
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, salt & ½ tsp. cinnamon into a large bowl. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar and oil. Mix until well blended and fluffy. Measure out ¾ cup of this and separate for the topping.

Add to the topping the nuts, remaining 1 tsp. cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add to the flour mixture the baking soda, baking powder, lightly beaten egg and buttermilk. Mix well until completely smooth. Turn into a greased 9x13 pan and level the top. Sprinkle all over with the topping mixture and lightly press in with the back of a spoon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm. Makes 12 servings.
Shipping tomorrow, 11/27, two of Cat's recipes are in Villa Fortuna. The Almond macaroons below are so easy, but are not listed in book due to copyright on back of Solo Almond Paste box!

Almond Macaroons
1 carton Solo Almond Paste
1 egg white (extra large)
1/2 cup sugar
10 marachino cherries (optional)

Preheat oven to 325. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Break almond paste into small pieces and place into food processor or mixer. Add sugar and mix well. Add the egg white and mix until moist and sticky (tacky); Approx. 2 mins. Spoon almond mixture into large pastry bag fitted with a #6 star tip. Pipe into stars about 1 1/2 inches in diameter or drop by rounded tablespoons onto lined cookie sheets about 1 inch apart. Top with 1/2 marachino cherry. Bake 20 mins. on middle shelf; move to upper shelf for about 8 mins until light golden brown. Move to baking racks to cool.


VF Baker, Debbie has shipped her sweet to her buddy, Gail! Perfect and yummy just in time for Thanksgiving. Thank you, Debbie!

Pumpkin Cake
3 C. Flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 ½ tsp. cinnamon
4 eggs
2 C. sugar 
1 ½ C. vegetable oil
1 lb. canned pumpkin
1 C. chopped walnuts
1 C. raisins
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and
 put aside.
Beat eggs.
Slowly add sugar and beat until thick.
Add oil.
At low speed, blend in dry ingredients and pumpkin – alternating and beating after each addition until smooth.
Stir in nuts and raisins.
Pour into UNGREASED bundt or angel food pan.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour 10 minutes.

Ice cake after cooled!

Pumpkin Cake Icing
½ C. butter
1 C. dark brown sugar
¼ C. milk
2 C confectionary sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter.
Stir in brown sugar and cook for 2 minutes.
Add milk and cook until it boils.
Cool until lukewarm in a bowl.
Add confectionary sugar and vanilla at low speed.
Beat for 2 minutes at high speed.
Frost cake immediately after making icing.  It will harden!

Note:  Dark brown sugar is a must.  The light brown sugar does weird things       and does not harden.  As for butter, I have used both salted and unsalted, it doesn’t seem to matter.  I have also used whole milk, low fat milk, skim milk, and coconut milk (such as so-delicious coconut milk) and all varieties have made a delicious icing.       



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