Countdown to Christmas: Holiday Cookies & Cocktails

Countdown to Christmas: Holiday Cookies & Cocktails

 

The holidays are here, and cookies and cocktails are the name of the game as we countdown to Christmas Day!  Check out my favorite recipes with a healthy dose of Yuletide cheer.

Our cookies give new meaning to “tree trimming”, and sparkle with Fancy Sprinkles.  Read On

I came up with a holiday punch idea for my next party: a coconut margarita punch that had me saying Mele Kalikimaka! Read On

These cookies are perfect when you’re looking for just a little something, as Doreen would say.  Pair with a spiked hot chocolate, vodka martini, or a big red wine like a spicy zin.  Read On

Moscow Mules aren’t just for summertime!  Try cranberries and rosemary for a holiday twist.  Read On

These ginger cookies are perfect to stack and pack and safely share.  Read On

Once you make these lovelies, just about any candy or specialty chips work in a batch!  Read On

It Started With Gravy…

It Started With Gravy…

My gift to you this holiday season is a foolproof, make-ahead recipe for the best, most delicious gravy…ever.  Click to skip to the recipe

 

 

Right after Al Gore invented the Internet, a good friend reached out to me to help her with the launch of her website BlueSuitMom.com.

It was and continues to be a website filled with content to help busy working moms balance childrearing with their demanding jobs.

She appointed me Director of Lifestyle content and gave me a list of food-related questions that she gleaned from her marketing surveys.

The number one asked question was, “how do I make gravy without lumps.” I found this question fascinating.

Of all the food questions you could have, this was the most disconcerting? Gravy is gravy. Sauce is sauce. It just comes together, right?

Well, apparently not. I did my research and answered the question with several tips on how to make lumpless gravy.

I answered this and other questions and my food-writing career was born.

It’s been almost twenty years since the birth of BlueSuitMom and the publishing of my first book, At Home in the Kitchen.

I featured a recipe in that book for roasted turkey with a really good gravy.

Jump to 2020, when we are all spending way too much time in our kitchens and I think I finally get why that gravy question was so important to so many cooks.

It’s not about lumps. It’s about accenting your meal with love.

It’s about texture, depth, richness, velvetiness, pourability. It’s about the icing on the cake, the cherry on your sundae, the crème de la crème.

Gravy is the crowning achievement lavished on a meal well-done.

This might be stretching it a bit. But you get the point.

Every fine dish prepared by a dedicated cook has a splash of sauce or a puddle of gravy somewhere on the plate.

A warm, silky gravy takes a humdrum chicken breast to a level of refinement. A wine-laced sauce takes your supermarket beef steak from commonplace to company-worthy. Each and every Southern knows that a sauce made from butter, milk, and a crumb or two of sausage elevates the every-day biscuit to the star of Sunday brunch.

When you get right down to it, it’s all about the gravy.

My gift to you this holiday season is a foolproof, make-ahead recipe for the best, most delicious gravy…ever.

And what’s even better is that you can use this recipe as a guideline for creating any sauce that you like.

Simply by switching the ingredients from poultry to beef and swapping the veggies and seasonings, you can create a lovely sauce to go with your standing rib roast on Christmas Day. And I guarantee you no lumps!

Enjoy this and a few of my other favorite holiday recipes included in upcoming posts. Stay healthy and safe and I’ll see you in 2021.

 

Make Ahead Gravy

This full proof make-ahead gravy recipe not only saves you time but is also the most flavorful gravy you’ve ever made!!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 heads garlic, halved

2 medium onions peeled and cut into chunks

4 large carrots, trimmed and cut into chunks

6 celery stalks, cut into pieces

4 large turkey wings, about 3 pounds 

2 (or more) tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons course black pepper

1 teaspoon ground sage

Serves A Crowd

Time: 30-minute prep cuisine with some roasting and simmering

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 450°. Drizzle the olive oil onto a baking sheet with lip. Place the vegetables and turkey wings into the baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and roast until the turkey wings are golden brown, about another hour. During that time, check to make sure that the veggies are not sticking to the baking sheet. You can add water to loosen everything. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool slightly. Scrape everything into a large pot or Dutch oven. Place the pot on the stove. Add 1 cup dry white wine and simmer over medium heat until most of the liquid disappears, about 5 minutes. Cover the vegetables and turkey wings with water, about 1 quart. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the stock until it is reduced by half, about 1 hour. 

Pour the stock through a wire mesh colander and into a medium-size bowl. Use the back of a spoon to push the veggie and turkey pieces into the bottom of the colander to push through all the juices. Place the bowl with the stock into the fridge to chill for up to one hour or for several days. (You can sift through and gather enough turkey meat for a couple of yummy hot turkey sandwiches!)

To make gravy from stock, remove the bowl from the fridge. Use a large spoon to skim off and discard the thin layer of fat from the top. Transfer the stock into a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk together 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water. As the stock slowly boils, stir in the cornstarch slurry. The gravy will begin to thicken. You can add as much thickener as you like to get your desired gravy consistency.

Reduce the heat to low and let the gravy simmer slowly. Season the gravy with sage, salt, and pepper, stirring in just a bit at a time and tasting while you stir.

Tip:

Here’s another great tip. You can use this same method for beef stock that turns into a lovey gravy or sauce. Simply exchange beef bones for the turkey wings! I use beef short rib bones. I choose the skinny ones from the package and reserve them until I collect enough to make a really good beef stock. I use red wine instead of white and adjust the seasonings from sage to thyme and rosemary. It’s pretty darn delicious!

A Trick for Your Treats: Pumpkin Spiced Melt-a-Ways

A Trick for Your Treats: Pumpkin Spiced Melt-a-Ways

Whether you’re socially distanced, staying at home, or just driving around the neighborhood, make the best of this Halloween weekend. And enjoy the treats of the seasons!

Click to skip to the recipe

 

If you are choosing a Halloween costume and moving on from your sweats and pj’s you may have turned a corner during this crazy 2020. Bawdy parades and close-quarter parties of the past may not be in vogue this year, but, hey masks are all the rage… right.

I’ve seen all sorts of socially distanced candy transfers and in-car Halloween parade plans. Some neighborhoods are allowing door-to-door tricking while others are suggesting at-home treats. 

I for one, feel the young moms out there need some sort of normalcy in the first holiday of this upcoming season. I hope you get it.

Whether you’re socially distanced, staying at home, or just driving around the neighborhood, I do have an easy, delicious treat for you and the kiddos

These simple cookies are easy to make, FUN to decorate, and easily packable for handing out. 

I use my favorite sources for these cookies. Fancy Sprinkles for the colors of the season and The Spice and Tea Exchange for flavored sugars

Make the best of this Halloween weekend. And enjoy the treats of the seasons!

 

Pumpkin Spiced Melt-a-Ways

These cookies are so much fun to make that you will want to make them for any and all occasions. Just vary the spices in the dough, the flavor of the sugar and the color of the sprinkles to make them your holiday go-to!

Ingredients

4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups cornstarch

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cloves

3 pounds unsalted butter, at room temperature (that’s a whopping 12 sticks!)

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

Sanding sugar (I used Apple Pie Spiced)

Fancy Halloween Sprinkles

Makes: 4 dozen 3-inch cookies

Time:   30-Minute Cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 300°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a 2-inch ice cream scoop to portion out balls of dough. Place the balls onto the parchment paper about 3-inches apart. Use the tines of a fork to flatten the balls into circles. Sprinkle each cookie first with sugar and then with sprinkles. 

Bake until the cookies are firm to the touch and just beginning to turn golden on the bottom about 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

4th of July Party, Safely: A Socially-Distanced BBQ Get-Together Plan

4th of July Party, Safely: A Socially-Distanced BBQ Get-Together Plan

Host a social distancing get-together this July 4th with tips to stay safe and recipes to make it delicious!

Click to skip to the recipes

With so many large-scale activities canceled for the 4th of July holiday, small gatherings with appropriate social distancing are the sign of the times.

This year, my family barbecue is trimmed down to immediate family with only a few (very close) family friends. I will miss the annual get-together of friends and neighbors. Mostly, I will miss seeing the kids that grow from children to tweens to teens to young adults each year.

But, with my “glass is always half-full” vision, I appreciate the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones and less time preparing for a big bash. After all, those glow-in-the-dark bracelets will last ‘til next year!

We are who we are, and we Americans will celebrate! Trying to plan for my slimmed-down annual party, I started by putting my caterer’s hat on.


Back in the day, when my pals and I were planning a Memorable Occasion’s (the name of my old catering company) party we would lay out the menu and then come up with some clever way to serve it. We were always short of staff, so serve-yourself food was a great solution when feeding a crowd.

This strategy works perfectly when you are planning an appropriate socially distanced backyard Fourth of July barbecue. Allowing your guests to choose their own items from individual containers is smarter in today’s climate.


Here are some pointers for a safe and social distancing get-together:

 

  1. Fresh air is best for this year’s celebration. If it’s possible sit outside. Sit on your back porch, in your back yard, even in your driveway.  If you are rained out, or don’t have enough space, open the windows to let the fresh air in. 
  2. It’s still okay to ask your guests to bring a dish. No one says you, the host, must do it all. But we’re going to ask either that the dish is brought in individual portions, or that you dish it up in the kitchen before serving. This is not the time for a buffet supper. 
  3. Serve right from the grill. For example, let guests bring their bun to you when grilling dogs and burgers! Condiment packs are key here for mustard and ketchup, but you can also be safe by providing several bowls of condiments and allowing each guest to use his or her own spoon for scooping diced onions and peppers.
  4. As much as you can, serve everything individually. Use whatever you have around the house as containers. My plan this year is to serve scoops of potato salad in metal cups, shrimp on skewers, and stuffed mushrooms on porcelain tasting spoons. A homemade milkshake served in a mason jar, dripping with chocolate and nuts, or doused in sprinkles is the best of the best when you’re talking personal desserts. Get creative with what you have, but also take a look at all the clever paper goods that are available to hold sides and desserts. 
  5. Don’t forget to get the kids involved. Kids can pass around trays of individual appys and help prepare those decorative shakes. The more people involved, in the safest way… the better!

There are lots of ways to celebrate what is a most important American holiday, but there’s only one way to make it perfect. And that is by sharing it with your friends and family who you love and who love you back! 

Happy Fourth, everyone.

And here are a couple of my favorite recipes for you to try.

Spicy Potato Salad

Ingredients

Potato salad is a picnic and cold supper staple. When spiced up with a little hot sauce, it becomes a devilish addition to most everyday meals. Feel free to make this day a day in advance to allow the spicy flavors to marry with the potatoes.

5 pounds small red creamer potatoes, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 bunch (6 to 8) green onions, chopped (about ½ cup)

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon paprika

4 to 6 drops hot pepper sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Servings:   6 – 8

Time:  30 minutes, plus chilling

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Drain and place into a bowl.

Add the onions to the bowl. Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard paprika and hot sauce.  Pour this mixture over the potatoes. Toss the potatoes with the dressing.

Season with salt and pepper and if you like with additional hot pepper sauce.

Chill the salad for 1 hour or overnight.  Sprinkle the salad with fresh cilantro.

Beer Basted Baby Back Ribs with Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

This is a foolproof way to prepare moist, tender, and never over-cooked ribs. By steaming the ribs in a slow oven, the meat cooks in advance of grilling; therefore, the time spent grilling is significantly reduced.

For ribs:

6 pounds baby back ribs

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Garlic powder

1 (12-ounce) can beer

For sauce:

1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup cider vinegar

½ cup dark molasses

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup Jack Daniels whiskey

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 or more drops hot pepper sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Servings:   4 – 6 

Time:  Several hours in the oven and about 20 minutes on the grill

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Season the ribs with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Place them onto a rack in the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Pour the beer into the pan.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Place the pan into the oven.  Cook until the ribs are quite tender, but not falling off the bone, about 2 to 3 hours.

For the sauce, bring the tomatoes, vinegar, molasses, canola oil, whiskey, mustard, chili powder, cinnamon, and as much hot pepper sauce as you like, to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the ribs to an outdoor grill over medium-high heat.  Cook, turning often until well browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Baste the ribs with sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Transfer the ribs to a board and slice into individual servings.

Invite guests to bring their plates to you and serve with a drizzle of extra sauce on the side.

Traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage Made Right!

Traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage Made Right!

Several years ago, I attended a St. Patty’s Day party at a friend’s house. It was one of those annual parties that grew in guests every year, and by the time I got invited, there was quite a crowd!

The hostess served traditional corn beef and cabbage, which, if you’ve ever been served this dish, you know tends to be on the bland side of the taste spectrum.  Thin slices of corned beef are served with braised cabbage, boiled potatoes, and a couple of dollops of mustard. Not too terribly exciting.

But what I remember most about my friend’s preparation of the dish was the smell. In order to accommodate her growing number of guests, my ingenious friend opted to cook both the cabbage and the corned beef in her slow cooker. Well, her slow cooker and every slow cooker she could borrow!

You see, if you snuck a peek into her garage, you would find several (and by several, I mean dozens) of slow cookers with their electrical cords inserted into multiple plug strips and placed onto tables, ledges and even the floor!

Now you may know this about cabbage…

It can be a tad odiferous when it’s cooking. If you take into consideration my friend was slooooow cooking her corned beef WITH her cabbage in multiple machines….. well, you can guess what the neighborhood smelled like as you drove up to her house.

It was memorable; so memorable in fact, I created another whole dish for St. Patty’s Day that minimizes the aroma of cooking cabbage, and maximizes the flavors of the season.

For my dish, I slow cook cured (already brined) brisket with root vegetables. I puree the flavorful veggies, and then, in a separate pan, I sauté the cabbage with bacon and onion. A creamy mustard-horseradish sauce tops off the dish. Yes, it’s pretty darn tasty and yes, your neighbors will thank you for choosing a not-to-too aromatic Irish holiday meal.

P.S. If you’ve never experienced the Blarney Stone, I encourage you to read all about my hilarious visit there in Canvas and Cuisine (page 62)!

 Slow Cooker Corned Beef

with Root Veggie Puree and Sautéed Cabbage

Makes 6 to 8 servings

For the Corned Beef and Veggies

1 (4 pound) raw corned beef brisket

2 (12-ounce) bottles dark beer

2 dried bay leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

6 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 medium rutabagas, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

4 small white onions, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place the corned beef into the slow cooker. Cover with beer. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns and mustard seeds. Cook on high for 7 to 8 hours. During the last 2 hours of cooking, add the veggies to the slow cooker. Cook until the veggies are fork-tender.

Transfer the cabbage to a platter and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables from the slow cooker to the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse to puree. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

For the Cabbage

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ pound bacon, about 4 to 5 slices, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

1 medium head Savoy cabbage, cut into 2-inch slices

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Cook the bacon in the pan until browned and crisp, abut 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan and place onto paper toweling to drain. Add the onion to the pan and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage to the pan and cook until just soft, about 8 to 10 minutes more. Transfer the cabbage to a bowl. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle on top of the cabbage. Keep warm.

For the Sauce

2 tablespoons horseradish

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

Whisk together the horseradish, sour cream and mustard. You can add a spoonful or two of the corn beef cooking liquid to thin and add flavor to the sauce.

Cut the corn beef, across the grain, into thin slices. Place a generous spoonful of puree onto a plate. Top with a spoonful of sautéed cabbage. Lay slices of corned beef on top. Dollop with a tablespoon of sauce.

 

Your Perfect Holiday Menu + Reasons to Shop Small

Your Perfect Holiday Menu + Reasons to Shop Small

Since I was seventeen, I spent my Christmases in Florida… most of them in Fort Lauderdale. While the palm trees swayed from ocean breezes outside, we watched old movies and drank hot cocoa inside.  It was a fun way to pretend we were having a White Christmas!

While the Season included baking and tree trimming, shopping and wrapping were not far behind. I remember all the personalized gifts purchased from Paper Mpressions and all the beautiful tablescapes on display at Special Additions. I remember buying the boys matching holiday outfits from Flora Ottimer and finding crafty creations at Cross Stitch Cupboard.

Small businesses have always been a part of our community, like patchwork squares in a storied, family quilt. Our friends are their owners, our families are their customers and together we keep each other wrapped in friendship.

While some of these stores have disappeared, some are still going strong. Cactus Flower, owned by Candy Johnson has been in business for over 30 years. Her customers are not only her friends, they are each other’s friends. In the spirit of friendship (which is celebrated in Canvas and Cuisine), I hope my Fort Lauderdale pals will drop by to say hi, sip some bubbly and support Candy Johnson’s store this Thursday. I look forward to seeing you!

3020 N Federal Hwy

While you’re there, take a look around. Cactus Flower’s vendors are both old and new, and the combination leads to whimsical tables perfect for entertaining.

Meanwhile, please accept this simple, yet elegant holiday party dinner plan as my gift to you. It allows you to prepare everything in advance, so that you can enjoy your party as much as your guests do. And, if you are looking for the perfect serving platter for the salmon, or cake stand for the jam cake… then I’ll see you at Candy’s on the 12th! Merry, merry!

 

Simple Holiday Dinner Party Menu

Pan Roasted Veggies

Cumin Crusted Salmon with Tarragon Caper Sauce

Cranberry Jam Cake

Pan Roasted Veggies

serves a crowd

45 minute cuisine

16 to 20 Brussels Sprouts

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

Juice of ½ lemon, about 2 tablespoons, plus more for the other veggies

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the other veggies

1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for the other veggies

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper, plus more for the other veggies

16 to 20 Baby New Potatoes

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme

16 to 20 Whole Baby Carrots

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground curry

16 to 20 Asparagus Spears

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 Large Yellow Onions

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Cut each Brussels sprout in half and steam (or blanch) until they begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with Balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Cut each potato in half and steam (or blanch) for a about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with mustard, Parmesan cheese, garlic, thyme, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper.  Transfer to the baking sheet.

Steam (or blanch) the carrots for a about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with brown sugar, curry, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper.  Transfer to the baking sheet.

Toss the asparagus with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper.  Transfer to the baking sheet.

Cut the onion into wedges leaving the root intact. This will help to keep the onion together. Toss with Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper.  Transfer to the baking sheet.

You can prepare the vegetable up to this point several hours in advance. When you are ready to serve, roast the veggies until they begin to crisp and brown, about 20 minutes. You can serve them warm or at room temperature.

Cumin Crusted Salmon

with Tarragon Caper Sauce

serves a crowd

20 minute cuisine

For salmon:

1 (2 ½ pound) center-cut whole salmon fillet with skin

Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground oregano

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

For sauce:

1 cup sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup cream

3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the whole fillet, skin side down, on a rimmed baking sheet, coated with vegetable oil spray.  Drizzle the lemon juice on top.

Combine the brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and oregano in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Rub this mixture all over the salmon, coating well. Drizzle the top with olive oil.

Place the salmon into the oven.  Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.  Roast until the salmon is rare in the center, about 8 minutes per inch of thickness, or about 15 to 30 minutes for the whole fillet.

For the sauce, stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, cream, capers, tarragon vinegar and fresh tarragon.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the salmon with the sauce on the side. Garnish with fresh lemon or orange slices and fresh tarragon sprigs.

Cranberry Jam Cake

serves a crowd

60 minute cuisine plus baking

For filling:

1 (12-ounce) jar cherry preserves

¾ cup granulated sugar

Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup

1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries, (about 3 to 3 ½ cups)

For cake:

8 large egg whites

3 ½ cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks, room temperature

Zest of 2 large oranges, about 2 tablespoons

Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup

1 cup milk

For frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks room temperature

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 (32-ounce) package powdered sugar

Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup

1 to 2 tablespoons half and half (optional)

Place the filling ingredients into a deep pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cranberries soften and begin to pop, about 20 minutes. Use a potato masher to mush up the cranberries. Remove the pot from the heat and cool. Spread the filling into a shallow pan. (A cake pan or pie plate works well for this.) Place the pan into the freezer to cool thoroughly while you make and bake the cake.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 2 (9-inch) square cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Place a square of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and spray again. Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 3 to 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the whipped egg whites to a large bowl. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Use the mixer to combine 1 cup butter and granulated sugar. Stir in the orange zest. Add ⅓ of the flour followed by ⅓ of the milk. Continue until all the flour and milk have been added. The batter will be quite thick.

Fold the egg whites into the batter using about ⅓ of the whites at a time. This will lighten the batter. Use a spatula to scrape and smooth the batter into the two pans. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the cakes to a rack, remove the parchment paper and cool completely. Now is a good time to remove the cranberry filling from the freezer. You want it to be chilled – not frozen!

Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with cream cheese until fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt. Mix in the sugar a little bit at a time. Alternate the sugar and the remaining orange juice. If the frosting is too thick, you can thin it with a bit of half and half.

Now, here’s the fun part. You can turn this into a four layer cake, by horizontally slicing each of the square cakes in half. Or, you can just use one layer of jam frosting in the middle of the two cakes. It’s up to you how much cranberry to put in the center. Either way you will have cranberry jam left over which is the whole idea. The jam is perfect as an accompaniment to your favorite pork or poultry dish or spread onto your morning Christmas toast! Spread the frosting around the sides and the top of the cake.