Soft Sweeties


Over many years, I have developed a theory that the kind of food textures you prefer reveals the kind of personality you have. The chew-and-crunch person is happiest gnawing on bones, cracking shellfish, tearing away at crusty breads. The creamy-soft food person is in tune with life while letting each bite melt in the mouth. To put it in terms of character, if you have a passion for smooth foods such as custards, you are probably a gentle, sensitive person, a Type B, someone who takes time to smell the roses. If you love tough foods such as dry biscotti, you are likely to be the dynamic, aggressive, Type-A person.

Dessert, more than any other category of food, divides the easygoing from the intense eater. When in a restaurant, I find the easygoing always order a dessert that is soft, sauced and sweet; the challenger asks for anything that requires an effort to eat, such as crisps, crumbles and dishes with nuts and chunks.

I have a feeling that the moms of yesteryear tried to cajole us into being Type Bs. But children often spurn the soft way--they’re natural crunchers. My memories of the desserts my mother made go back to the late Twenties. The popular sweets at our house were all Type-B pleasers: rice pudding, caramel custard, pineapple upside-down cake and hot-milk sponge cake with chocolate frosting. Mother didn’t pretend to be a good cook, but she did make desserts often, and I ate them all with relish. They certainly seemed splendid at the time. So in concocting these desserts, I have tried to infuse them with reminiscent echoes and familiar flavors of childhood in lively new ways.



1/2 cup half and half

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup butter

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups cooked Basmati or long-grain white rice (not converted or quick-cooking)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine cream, brown sugar and butter in large saucepan over medium heat and cook until sugar melts and mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Stir in beaten eggs, cooked rice and walnuts. Pour into buttered 2 1/2-quart baking or souffle dish.

Bake at 325 degrees 20 to 30 minutes. Remove custard from oven when center is still soft. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

356 calories; 88 mg sodium; 74 mg cholesterol; 14 grams fat; 52 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.48 gram fiber.


An electric mixer is almost a must for this recipe.


5 eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar

Cranberry Jelly

Cranberry Whipped Cream

Combine eggs and granulated sugar in mixing bowl and beat until pale, fluffy and light, about 4 minutes.

Put flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl and stir with fork to blend well. Turn mixer to lowest speed and sprinkle some of flour mixture and vanilla extract over egg mixture, mixing just few seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and, using rubber spatula, gently finish folding flour mixture into egg mixture until no white streaks show.


Spread batter evenly in buttered 15x10-inch jelly-roll pan lined with lightly floured wax paper. Bake about 12 minutes at 350 degrees, or until top of cake is golden.

Spread tea towel on counter and sift little powdered sugar evenly over towel. Invert cake onto towel. Remove wax paper and roll cake wide-side-up in towel. Leave rolled up until ready to fill.

To assemble, unroll and spread evenly all over with Cranberry Jelly, right to the edges. Roll cake again and place, seam-side-underneath, on serving dish. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar.

Slice jelly roll and serve with Cranberry Whipped Cream. Makes about 10 servings.

Each serving contains about:

373 calories; 146 mg sodium; 139 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 66 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.65 gram fiber.

Cranberry Jelly

1 1/2 cups water

1 pound (4 cups) fresh cranberries, washed

2 cups sugar


Bring water to boil, add cranberries and boil 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from burning, especially at end of process. Puree cranberries in food processor or through strainer or food mill.

Return cranberries to pot and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sugar and salt to taste and cook 2 minutes more. Pour into bowl and chill. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.


Each 1-tablespoon serving contains about:

25 calories; 2 mg sodium; 8 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.03 gram fiber.

Cranberry Whipped


1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons sugar

1 cup cranberries, finely chopped

Combine heavy whipping cream and sugar in bowl and whip until fluffy. Mix with chopped cranberries.


If apricots are so dry that they are difficult to chew, place them in a bowl and pour boiling water over. Let stand for 10 minutes and drain, pressing out any excess water.


2/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups finely chopped dried apricots

Brown Sugar Filling

Combine sugar, eggs, milk and butter in large mixing bowl and beat well.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl to blend well. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture, mixing until well blended. Stir in apricots.

Spread one-third of batter over bottom of buttered and floured 10-inch tube or Bundt pan. Be sparing with batter at this point. Spread half of Brown Sugar Filling over batter. Spread another third of batter over filling, then spread over remaining Brown Sugar Filling and top with remaining batter.

Bake at 350 degrees about 50 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean when inserted into center. Remove from oven and let cool about 5 minutes in pan. Carefully invert onto rack to cool completely before slicing. Makes 1 (10-inch) tube cake, about 8 servings.


Each serving contains about:

551 calories; 474 mg sodium; 113 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 89 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 1.63 gram fiber.

Brown Sugar Filling

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl, stirring with fork until cinnamon is well distributed. Stir in walnuts and set aside. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.