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From the kitchen, and from the heart


"In these busy times, nothing says I care more than a homemade gift from the kitchen," says Zella Junkin.

Ms. Junkin should know about busy times. A home economist, she works for the Wilton Company, where her titles are many: consumer affairs manager, director of the Test Kitchen and Confectionary Arts School, manager of consumer communications and public relations. She has worked on many of Wilton's books and videos, and is one of the most creative people working in foods today.

Ms. Junkin's new book, "Gifts from the Kitchen," is full of ideas to make for the special people in your life.

Traditionally, Wilton has done beautiful, reasonably priced books on cake decorating. This book, another beautifully photographed collection, expands the expertise to food gifts for any occasion.

The directions are so well written that even a beginner can make the recipes. Most of the dishes are easy to take along to a party and many are perfect for shipping. The book also has great ideas for the holidays and recipes to make with and for children.

Following are some recipes from "Gifts from the Kitchen." The Sandwich Cake in particular is a real conversation starter. It looks like a traditional two-layer cake, but is really a layered sandwich.

We trimmed the cake with decorative candles that look like beer cans, but you can change the theme with other decorative candles.

Buttercream Icing

Makes 3 cups

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 teaspoon clear vanilla or regular vanilla extract

4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons milk

In a large bowl, cream together shortening and butter or margarine until smooth. Add vanilla. Gradually add confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well on medium speed after each addition.

Scrape bottom and sides of bowl often. When sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered with a damp kitchen towel until read to use or refrigerate until ready to use. Icing can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Pizza Cake

Serves 12

floured baking spray or nonstick vegetable spray

1 cup sugar, divided

2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

5 large eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 1/3 cups slivered almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs

1 1/4 cups Buttercream Icing

1/3 cup cherry or strawberry jelly

Yellow and red food coloring

1/2 cup flaked coconut

12 to 15 small green gumdrops

cinnamon sprinkle decorations or cinnamon red hots

2 teaspoons milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch-round by 3-inch-deep cake pan with floured baking spray or nonstick vegetable spray. In a large bowl, cream together 3/4 cup of the sugar with the butter or margarine until smooth. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add almond extract. Gradually sprinkle in toasted almonds and bread crumbs. Blend well.

In a separate large bowl with a clean beater, beat egg whites until frothy. Continue beating and add in remaining sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Stir half the egg white mixture into the batter just until blended. Fold in remaining egg white mixture.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until top is golden brown and wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a rack 10 minutes. Invert onto cooling rack and cool completely.

When cake is cooled, spread 1 cup of the Buttercream Icing over top of cake. (If the cake is not to be eaten right away, note it will dry out if the sides are not frosted) Top cake with cherry or strawberry jelly to resemble pizza sauce. Place coconut in a plastic sealable bag or jar with tight-fitting lid.

Put a few drops of yellow food coloring and 1 drop of red food coloring in bag or jar. Seal bag or cover jar and shake until color is even and resembles orange Cheddar cheese. Sprinkle tinted coconut over jelly. To make olives, flatten gumdrops with palm of hand or rolling pin. Using the large end of a pastry tip as a cookie cutter, cut a circle in the gumdrops. Immediately press in 1 red cinnamon candy. Scatter gumdrops over cake. In a small bowl, )) mix milk with remaining 1/4 cup Buttercream Icing to thin. Drizzle thinned icing over pizza to resemble mozzarella cheese and serve. Serve in a pizza box if desired. Serves 12.

(To toast almonds, heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds on a shallow baking dish and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden).

Sandwich Cake

Serves 12

nonstick vegetable spray

1 pound loaf frozen whole wheat or favorite bread dough, defrosted

1/4 cup butter, softened, divided

2 to 4 tablespoons horseradish or to taste, divided

1/4 pound thinly sliced roast beef

1/4 pound thinly sliced provolone cheese

12 ounces roasted red peppers, well drained, divided

2 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, divided

1/4 pound thinly sliced turkey

1/4 pound thinly sliced Swiss cheese

1/2 cup favorite sprouts

2 to 4 tablespoons honey mustard, divided

4 to 5 large leaf lettuce leaves, washed, dried

1/4 pound thinly sliced ham

1/4 pound thinly sliced Cheddar cheese

3 packages, 8 ounces each, cream cheese, softened

12 pimento-stuffed green olives

decorative candles such as beer cans or cola bottles

Spray an 8-inch-round by 3-inch-deep cake pan or 8-inch springform pan with nonstick vegetable spray. Punch down defrosted dough. Form dough into 8-inch round loaf; press into prepared pan. Cover and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

When dough is doubled, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread 20 to 25 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven, place on cooling rack and cool 5 minutes. Invert onto rack and continue cooling. Cool thoroughly. Cut bread into 4 equal horizontal slices.

To assemble cake: Line the 8-inch-round cake pan or springform pan with plastic wrap, letting enough wrap hang over sides to wrap bread. Working in layers and placing each layer back in the cake pan, spread 2 tablespoons butter and 1 to 2 tablespoons horseradish on cut side of the bottom slice of bread. Top with roast beef, provolone cheese and half of the roasted red peppers.

Spread second slice of bread with butter and horseradish and place it with butter/horseradish side down on top of first layer. Spread top of this second layer of bread with 1 to 2 tablespoons mayonnaise; top with turkey, Swiss cheese and sprouts. Spread third slice of bread with remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons mayonnaise and place, mayonnaise-side down, over turkey layer.

Spread top of this third slice with 1 to 2 tablespoons honey mustard; top with lettuce, ham, remaining half of red peppers and Cheddar cheese. Spread cut side of loaf top (fourth slice) with remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons honey mustard and place, mustard-side down, over ham layer. Bring plastic wrap up around the cake to cover. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours or overnight. To make cake more compact and easier to ice, during refrigeration place a plate that fits inside the cake pan over top bread layer. Weigh down with a couple of cans of food to force the layers to even out and be flat and smooth.

To ice cake: In a large bowl, beat softened cream cheese until light and fluffy. Remove cake from pan and place on serving board or bottom of a cake saver. Spread top and sides of cake with cream cheese. Using star tip fitted on pastry bag, pipe cream cheese to make bottom shell border. Garnish with olives. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with decorative candles.

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