Festive Eating: Week Two

A white plate of Natchez Cookies against a wood background.

The staff at the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) hope patrons enjoyed perusing, and perhaps preparing, the recipes that we shared last week. We had lots of fun compiling them and welcome your feedback!

Patrons are invited to send their own favorite holiday recipes to BPL.Development@cobpl.org. Submissions will be published on the BPL's website and social media throughout December.

This week, we offer yet another menu of savory and sweet fare. Mary Anne Ellis of the Southern History Department contributes a cake flavored with classic holiday spices, while Catherine Frey of the Development Department shares two dishes that her family enjoys every Christmas night. 

Please remember the Birmingham Public Library in your year-end giving plans. Your donation helps the Birmingham Public Library further its mission of providing the community with the highest-quality experience of lifelong learning, cultural enrichment, and enjoyment. Thank you! 

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Holly garland

Mary Anne Ellis, Central Library—Southern History

I was tasked with making a spice cake for Thanksgiving but couldn't find the recipe my Mom always used, so I went searching and found one that works great. This makes a very moist, tender cake and it's tasty with or without the icing. NOT a health food. But it will make your house smell wonderful for the holidays!

For this cake, you will need a 10-cup Bundt pan. This makes a LOT of icing. You can either pipe it onto the cake with a decorating bag/tool or just swipe it on with a spatula. I covered the entire cake with it. 

Cake ingredients

2½ C all-purpose flour, sifted

1½ C dark brown sugar 

½ C granulated sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 C sour cream

1 C vegetable oil

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 Tbsp baking powder

11 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1½ tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp ground cloves

2 tsp vanilla extract

Icing ingredients

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

3½ C powdered sugar

½ tsp salt

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

Cake directions 

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, add flour and spices, whisking together until combined. In another large bowl, add butter, oil, and sugars and blend together using a mixer or whisk. Add the vanilla, eggs, and sour cream, mixing together until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix together until blended. Spray your Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Bake for 35–40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting the cake. Once the cake is cooled completely, apply the icing.

To make the icing

Place the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and mix until combined using a stand or hand mixer. Add the vanilla and salt while mixing. Add the powdered sugar ½ cup to 1 cup at a time, mixing until combined. If too thick, thin with a little milk. Add the frosting to the cake as desired. 

Holly garland

Catherine Frey, Central Library—Development

My family eats Standing Rib Roast on Christmas Day with Yorkshire Pudding. We are pretty full after a big lunch, but we always make Hot Bacon Swiss Dip for Christmas night as my children really love it, along with Red Velvet Peppermint cupcakes that my husband makes (see below). The dip can be made in 30 minutes and serves 4 to 6.


8 oz cream cheese, softened

½ C mayonnaise

1 C Swiss cheese, grated

2 Tbsp green onions, chopped

8 slices bacon, cooked 

½ C Ritz crackers, crushed


Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Swiss cheese, and green onions in a bowl. Crumble 6 slices of the bacon into the bowl. Combine all ingredients well and transfer to a baking dish. Crumble the remaining 2 slices of bacon. Combine the crumbled bacon and crushed crackers. Sprinkle on top of cream cheese mixture. Bake at 350° for 15–20 minutes. Serve the dip on Ritz or any other type of butter crackers. 

Holly garland

Catherine Frey, Central Library—Development

Cake ingredients

1 box of Betty Crocker    Red Velvet cake mix

1 tsp coffee or expresso powder

8 ¼ Tbsp melted butter

7 oz yogurt

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp peppermint extract

Frosting ingredients

2 Tbsp melted white chocolate (or white        vanilla almond bark)

7 oz cream cheese

7 oz whipping cream

Crushed peppermint


Preheat oven to 350°. Grease muffin tins and line with cupcake paper liners. Beat the egg, yogurt, coffee, vanilla, peppermint extract, and cake mix until fully mixed. Spread evenly in muffin tin. Bake 25 minutes until toothpick inserted is clean. While baking the cupcakes, mix the first three ingredients for the frosting. After cupcake have cooled, spread on frosting and top with crushed peppermint. 

Holly garland

Margaret Splane, Central Library—Development

Even though I grew up in Mississippi, my mother came across these easy-to-make cookies in the magazine Bon Appétit almost 40 years ago. A guest at a bed-and-breakfast in Natchez had them and asked Bon Appétit to get the recipe. I remember making and enjoying them with my sister.

For those following a gluten-free diet, substitute the regular Honey Maid graham crackers with the Schär brand (available locally at Walmart) or with Kinnikinnick S'moreables. 


Graham crackers

1 C unsalted butter

1 C dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1 tsp vanilla extract

1⅓ C pecans, toasted and chopped

6 oz semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter an 11x17 cookie sheet. Arrange graham crackers side by side, edges touching on prepared cookie sheet. Stir butter and brown sugar in medium pan for 1 minute. Pour caramel mixture over graham crackers. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake until caramel topping bubbles and becomes deep brown (about 10 minutes). Remove from oven, sprinkle chocolate chips over cookies. Cool 4 minutes. Cut along graham crackers edges to separate. Carefully transfer to rack and cool completely. Cut each cookie in half. Store in an airtight container. 

Holly garland

Read our Season's Readings: Week Two blog to find more book recommendations. 

By Margaret Splane | Library Assistant Ⅲ, Development Office