authentic-Italian sponge cake

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via

I hope you enjoy this recipe re-post! I want to make this and enjoy this authentic Italian dessert and so it was good timing to share and keep it at the top of my “want-to-bake” list. Take care, Mili

This recipe takes me back to my childhood. Being raised as a first-generation American in a great big Italian family, meant there were many old-country recipes being cooked and baked around me at all times. If it’s possible to duplicate or enjoy the past, to bring back good memories and authentic flavors, then I’m all in.

I found scratchings of an old Italian recipe and followed it. The chemistry wasn’t there to make it work and it failed. I modified it until this dream of a cake happened. It’s simple and dead-on for flavor and texture.

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via

Real Italian sponge cake is a lot like biscotti/sweet bread. The crust is full of flavor. The outer edge has a smokier texture but is soft and easy to cut through. It tastes a lot like biscotti. It’s not overly sweet and soaks in any flavor you can pour into it. The texture inside the cake is bouncy and lovely. I love it!

I’m sharing two versions of this cake: Tiramisu-Sponge and a Strawberries & Cream Sponge.

The flavor possibilities are endless with this recipe! It’s all about preparing what to soak-in. I can see making a Paradise Sponge with either passionfruit puree or pineapple sauce. An Orange Dream Sponge would be next on my list. I’d even love this cake soaked with dulce de leche or tres leches.

Let’s start with the base:

Authentic-Italian Sponge Cake recipe by Mili’s Sweets

Here’s what you’ll need:

6 large egg yolks

6 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup canola oil

2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via

Here’s what you’ll do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Separate 6 large eggs so that you have 6 yolks and 6 whites. Set the egg whites aside. In the bowl of your standing mixer, place the egg yolks and sugar. Mix with the paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy (1 minute). Add the one cup canola oil and pure vanilla extract. Mix until completely incorporated.

Slowly add the remaining dry ingredients, including baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour. The result will look a lot like choux pastry dough. Set this cake “dough” aside as you make a meringue with the egg whites.

In a separate bowl, with a whisk attachment, add the egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Whisk on high until stiff peaks are formed.

Add the mound of prepared meringue onto the cake dough mixture. Mix these together with a paddle attachment until completely smooth. It will take two-to-three minutes for the meringue to break down into the dough, to make a perfectly smooth cake batter.

I used one 8″ (Fat Daddio Cake Pan) and prepared it with cooking spray before pouring all of the batter in.

Bake for 50 minutes.

This cake definitely takes longer to bake than most other cake recipes. Don’t open the oven until at least 30 minutes have passed. Once your cake tester (skewer or toothpick) comes out clean, you can remove the cake from the oven.

It will look a lot like rustic bread at the top – harder than a typical cake and very golden. Don’t worry. That’s what’s suppose to happen. Think biscotti on the outside and fluffy cake on the inside. You’ll have to trust me, even though the result might seem like it’s over-done, it’s not the case.

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via

Tiramisu Sponge

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup fresh brewed espresso, plus 1/4 cup amaretto syrup

either one batch freshly made, unset vanilla pudding or custard, with 1/4 cup amaretto syrup added into either recipe

(I use Torani syrup for amaretto flavor. I must have a completely peanut and tree nut-free kitchen, and this rich, delicious flavoring does not contain peanut or tree nut products. Please see the Torani allergen chart for more information.)

plastic wrap

prepared whipped cream

(For my whipped cream recipe, please link to my previous post.)

sweetened cocoa for dusting

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via milissweets.comHere’s what you’ll do:

Prepare either custard or vanilla pudding and set aside. Add 1/4 cup of amaretto syrup into either recipe.

Cut off the top of the cake, to have one even layer. I don’t allow the cake to completely cool. It’s really not necessary since I pour on hot toppings, and the cake is easily removed from the pan. If you can’t handle the heat, wait until the cake has completely cooled. When you’re ready, place the cake on a serving dish. Use a fork to create additional holes in the cake.

Mix together 1 cup fresh-brewed espresso and 1/4 cup amaretto syrup. Pour this mixture onto the cake layer.

Next, pour the prepared (and unset) pudding or custard onto the soaking cake to completely cover the top. (For this example, I used vanilla pudding with the extra amaretto syrup.) Place plastic wrap over the entire cake and allow to set in the refrigerator until you are ready to cover/frost with whipped cream.

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via

** For my tips on how to frost a cake with whipped cream, please see my tutorial photos below. **

I top the Tiramisu Sponge with a dusting of cocoa powder before serving.

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via

Strawberries & Cream Sponge

Here’s what you’ll need:

freshly-prepared Strawberry Sauce (please see my recipe below)

one batch freshly made, either unset vanilla pudding or custard

plastic wrap

prepared whipped cream

(For my whipped cream recipe, please link to my previous post.)

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via - strawberries & cream version Here’s what you’ll do:

First, you’ll need to prepare fresh Strawberry Sauce.

Mili’s Sweets Strawberry Sauce Recipe 

2 cups fresh-cut strawberries, smashed by-hand

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Take fresh strawberries, thoroughly wash them and remove the tops. Smash them with your fingers to cut them up, break them down and to release their natural juices. Keep smashing until you have two full cups. Place the smashed strawberries and sugar in a saucepan. Cook at medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir from time to time, once the mixture comes to a boil.

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via - strawberries & cream version

When you are ready to assemble the Strawberries & Cream Sponge, remove the top of the cake with a serrated knife, to have an even layer. Use a fork to create additional holes in the cake. Pour the hot Strawberry Sauce onto the cake layer. Use the fork to push the fruit down, into the holes.

Next, pour the prepared (and unset) pudding or custard onto the soaking cake to completely cover the top. (For this example, I used custard.) Cover the entire cake with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to set.

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via - strawberries & cream version

** How to Frost a Cake With Whipped Cream **

Once the custard or pudding has set in the refrigerator, you can frost the cake with whipped cream.

Here’s how I covered the Strawberries & Cream Sponge:

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via - whipped cream topping tutorial

First, make the fresh whipped cream. I double the recipe so that I have a nice, thick layer and I don’t run out as I’m trying to frost.

I take a circle-tip (Wilton 1A) and fill a 16″ or 18″ pastry bag. I start at the bottom base of the cake and apply pressure to the pastry bag to evenly pipe from the bottom-up. Using a turntable/revolving cake decorating stand will be your best friend when applying any frosting to cakes. Once you reach the top edge, pipe the top portion, with a mostly-even, circular motion.

With an offset spatula, I use the cake plate as a guide and smooth the sides. I then smooth the top. I take the spatula and cover the sides one more time, pushing the excess up to the top. Next, use a pastry scraper to push (with a slight amount of pressure) and smooth the edges toward the center of the cake.

Top the cake with a garnish of fresh strawberries, or if you have extra Strawberry Sauce, you can blend it until smooth and cook at medium heat for an additional 15 minutes, stirring constantly, for a lovely, thicker sauce to drizzle and decorate the cake.

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via - strawberries & cream version

Frosting the Tiramisu Sponge was even easier. I used a large, open star-tip and made small, circular piping motions, (like piping mini cupcakes, one at at time) covering the cake from the base and moving upward, until the last one was made at the top-center.

The inside of Sponge Cakes should be soft, delicious and flavorful. Nothing about the cake will be overly-sweet, and the whipped cream is the perfect, delicate topping for any flavor you decide to soak into the sponge.

authentic-Italian sponge cake, recipes via milissweets.comI hope you enjoy this post! Please let me know if you attempt this recipe, or any of my other recipes.

Thanks for being here.

Take care, Mili

wedding desserts for C&J

I loved working with Caroline and JJ, and I could tell, right off the bat, that they are a wonderful couple.

I’m so happy for them, and I was honored to be chosen to set and cater their wedding dessert table.

wedding desserts for C & J

The Booze Brothers in Vista, has a really cool and beautiful room that they rent out for weddings and events. I love the idea and the layout, and have been fortunate enough to cater desserts there a number of times. Next time I go, I’ll have to take photos of the wall and floor details. It’s super cool and perfect for receptions for around 100 people. I love that it is tucked away in Vista, and only a five minute drive from the kitchen I work in, at MiaBella.

wedding desserts for C & J


They have a super-talented florist friend, who did all of their beautiful greenery and arrangements.(She did the work on the farm tables too. They were absolutely gorgeous!)

I couldn’t believe how cool they made the center backdrop look, with this decorated wood palette, and pieces of fresh ivy vines.

The look and feel was spot-on for what they were trying to achieve, and the letters they mounted were lit at the reception.

wedding desserts for C & J

wedding desserts for C & J

I used both my rustic wood plating pieces, and clean, ceramic pedestals, to go with the look and feel they wanted for this table.

There was a little shimmer with the table cloths they placed.

wedding desserts for C & J

wedding desserts for C & JOf course, I loved their menu, for their fall-wedding. They had a really nice assortment of standard-size cupcakes, to satisfy a generous single portion for their guests.

They included a custom-rendition of Apple Pie, (Caramel Apple Churro, with fresh apple pie filling at the center, topped with

vanilla cream cheese frosting and a drizzle of our handcrafted cinnamon glaze.) alongside Churro, Chocolate Chip Pumpkin and Cookies & Cream.

wedding desserts for C & J

Believe it or not, this lovely couple chose Oreo Cookies & Cream as the flavor for their wedding cake! I just love it! It’s what they really wanted and why not?

I covered it in smooth vanilla buttercream frosting, with some petite pipping at the bottom.

I created the fresh floral arrangement for the top of the cake, on-site, with the extra flowers that I was given to use.

I really loved how it turned out and I’m so happy that they loved it too!

wedding desserts for C & J

They also chose to enjoy mini Lumberjack cupcakes, with bacon. I think it’s super smart to offer minis of a “different” flavor, so that guests can have a taste.

Everyone who tries the flavor I made for my husband (years ago, before bacon was cool on cupcakes) loves it. It’s especially great as a groom’s cake flavor.

wedding desserts for C & J

I love the main floral arrangement placed for the table. It was absolutely gorgeous!

wedding desserts for C & J

As part of their custom labeling, we created a simple etiquette sign, asking guests to please enjoy dessert, after the cake cutting ceremony.

It’s nice and polite to have a reminder! I’ve been to many receptions where guests dig in, thinking it’s a buffet for them to enjoy right away. It’s better to be safe, then to have an accident or embarrassing moment, especially before the photographer has taken all of the photos.

wedding desserts for C & J

I know, it can be hard to have  the temptation of Churro, right in front of you! (After all of these years, this is the cake recipe that proves to be my best creation and biggest re-order.)

wedding desserts for C & J

So there you have it! It was a fun and wonderful opportunity! I hope to bake for this couple again desserts for C & J

wedding desserts for C&J

gingerbread joy

gingerbread cookie pops by Mili

This holiday treat is a mandatory part of our family’s “countdown to Christmas” traditions.

I’m sharing my classic gingerbread cookie recipe, a gluten-free version and how I make royal icing. You’ll also learn my tricks to making fuss-free, cut-out cookies and different ways to assemble and decorate special, gift-worthy treats with gingerbread.

First the recipes, then the steps for how-to.
fun with gingerbread - recipe on

Mili’s Sweets Gingerbread Cookies (Classic Recipe)

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 cup (one stick) salted butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup organic molasses *

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups all-purpose flour (the gluten-free recipe can be found at the end of this post)

2 tablespoons filtered water

* INGREDIENT TIP: I confess that before this beautiful, unsulphured, organic molasses from Wholesome Sweeteners came along, I couldn’t even stomach the smell of molasses. I love the aroma and taste of this product. It simply outshines anything else I’ve used, and I have tried a handful of other brands of molasses. I highly recommend it, for the best results and the best tasting gingerbread cookies.

gingerbread cookies and the best molasses by Mili

Here’s what you’ll do: 

In a standing mixer, with the standard paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda until mixture is smooth. Add molasses. Blend in flour and water to make a stiff dough.

MIXING TIP: As per the third photo below, you’ll know you’re done mixing when the dough completely lifts from the bowl.

fun with gingerbread - recipe on

Cover the cookie dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until you are ready to start rolling out the cookies.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. (I understand that most cookies bake at 375. However, this is too hot for my desired, end result. I prefer my gingerbread cookies to have a chewy center and have a crisp outside, without burning.)

fun with gingerbread - recipe on


Here’s the easiest way to roll cookies, with less fuss, so that you don’t have to transfer cut cookies onto your cookie sheet, which typically leads to distorting the cut.

fun with gingerbread - recipe on

* Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of your cookie sheet. Lightly dust it with flour.

* Hand-kneed enough dough to cover your sheet and place in the center with a floured rolling pin.

* Roll out your dough to fit inside the parchment paper. I like to have the dough down to a smooth, 1/8 of an inch.

* Place as many cuts with your cookie cutter(s), without having the cuts touch.

* Lift off  and remove the uncut portions of dough from the parchment paper.

* Move the cut pieces, so that they can bake with enough room, and without touching.

* Hold the paper by opposite corners of the parchment paper and place it inside your cookie sheet.

fun with gingerbread - recipe on


My cookies bake perfectly in my home oven for 13 minutes. You will want to check them after 11 minutes. It will also depend on how thinly you roll the dough.

The number of servings will depend on the size cutter you use.

Leave out to completely cool before decorating.

Cut-Out Cookie Pops

Now, let’s make something super cute for treat-giving. My daughter and I came up with the simple idea of creating a sandwiched cookie onto a pop, using royal icing and pretty sprinkles. I love this as an idea for a gift the kids can make for their friends at school, since it’s a treat most anyone (even those with food allergies) can enjoy. This recipe is nut-free, egg-free and can be made gluten-free.

un with gingerbread - how to make gingerbread cookie pops - recipe on

Here’s what you’ll need:

* Baked and cooled gingerbread cookies in the same shape, two for each pop

* Lollipop sticks – I use ones sized 4 1/2″ x 1/8″

* Prepared royal icing (please see my recipe below)

* Colored sprinkles – for this project, we used white and silver crystalized sugar.

* Your work station should have parchment paper, with a cooling rack to allow your cookies to set and receive their sprinkles, and a bowl under the rack to catch the extra sprinkles.

How to assemble:

This is super fun and simple. I allowed my daughter to do all of the “work.” I recommend making one pop at a time.

First, place the two cookies upside down. Pipe an outline and center line on each. Place the stick on one of the lines and then put the cookies on top of one another, creating a lined-up sandwich.

Next, pipe royal icing to completely cover one side of one of the cookies.

Place the pop on the cookie rack, over a bowl. Completely cover the royal icing with sprinkles. Allow to set until firm to the touch. (The drying process should take no more than 5 minutes.)

gingerbread joy - how to make gingerbread cookie pops - recipe on

Here were the Cut-Out Cookie Pops on my auntie’s Christmas dessert table. The ladies absolutely loved how delicious and fun these were to eat.

un with gingerbread - how to make gingerbread cookie pops - recipe on

Good, Old-Fashioned Fun with Gingerbread Cookies

It’s time to make a memory. Once you introduce the joy of decorating cookies with your loved ones, you will want to be sure it’s an annual holiday tradition.

When you are decorating cookies with kids, remember that you’ll need a broom. There’s no way to do this without making a sweet mess, so be prepared for it and remember to enjoy this precious time! They are only kids once, so simply embrace it and have fun!

The trick to succeeding with this project, is to let go of total control. Each child should have their own piping bag, with royal icing. If you don’t have piping bags, I recommend gallon-sized, plastic freezer bags, cut down to size for small hands.

fun with gingerbread - recipe on Using piping tips is too complicated and unnecessary. I recommend cutting a very small hole at the tip of the bag. Show the kids once, how to get the icing out of the small hole, with having as little as possible come out of the “big hole” on top. They’ll figure it out. 

It’s great to offer as many sprinkles as possible. This was a nice way to share my stash of way too many sprinkles and candy decorations. They were so excited! You have to allow the kids to “test” them, to make sure they are yummy.

Make sure to have your camera ready. There are going to be a lot of smiles, pride and joy in their little creations! You’ll have to snap quickly, before the cookies magically disappear. I adore all children and these are the moments that I just want to hug and kiss each of them for being so adorable!

fun with gingerbread - recipe on

Royal Icing Recipe

(I use a version from

Here’s what you’ll need:

4 cups powdered/confectioners sugar (I do not sift.)

3 tablespoons Meringue Powder **

9 tablespoons warm, filtered water

Here’s what you’ll do:

Using a standing mixer, with a scraping, paddle attachment, place all of the ingredients in the bowl and start mixing at a low speed until ingredients are incorporated together. Increase to a medium speed, for 5 minutes.

Spoon icing into piping bags and use immediately. Royal icing dries quickly so anything not used should be placed in a air-tight container.

** ALLERGY TIP: If you are allergic to eggs, do not use Meringue Powder, as it’s made with pasteurized, dried egg-whites. Instead, I recommend substituting this ingredient with either OrgaN, No Egg, Natural Egg Replacer, or Bob’s Red Mill Vegetarian Egg Replacer powders.

Cookie Ball Pops 

Another lovely idea for gingerbread is to make cookie ball pops. I understand the desire to have a pretty treat on a stick so I came up with cookie pops, to replace cake pops, that I do not make.

fun with gingerbread - recipe on

Here’s what you’ll need: 

9 x 13 pan

non-stick cooking spray

lollipop sticks

royal icing or melted/tempered white chocolate

small bowl of crystalized sugar sprinkles

parchment paper

Here’s what you’ll do:

Prepare the Classic Gingerbread recipe (above) and without refrigerating the dough, flatten it into a 9×13″ pan, prepared with non-stick cookie spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until completely baked through.

Do not allow it to completely cool. Use a butter knife to cut serving-sections of the baked cookie. Roll one section of dough into your hands, to make a ball. Place the lollipop stick in the top center and onto the parchment paper to cool. This is the tricky part, as most people can’t handle the heat to their hands that I can endure. If you aren’t sure and do not want to burn your hands then don’t attempt it. If you wait too long, or allow the cookie to cool, then it will not roll and cool in a ball.

Dip the ball of cooked dough, cooled onto a lollipop stick, into prepared royal icing or melted/tempered white chocolate. Cover with sprinkles.

Mili’s Sweets Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookie Recipe 

Please note that gluten-free flours allow for a different textured dough, that you’ll have to manipulate to get the results you need.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 cup (one stick) salted butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup organic molasses

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill, Gluten-Free, All Purpose Baking Flour ***

1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum (Place this ingredient when you add the flour.)

2 tablespoons filtered water

***  I contacted Bob’s Red Mill, asking about this product and their facility, so that I had a clear understanding of what is done to be sure there was no cross contamination with tree nuts. They were gracious enough to provide me with a prompt answer. The great news is: There are absolutely no peanuts used at/in their facility. There are some tree nuts used in their facility, which I would be concerned about, had I not received the explanation of their process between production runs. It’s my understanding that there is no cross contamination. However, if you have tree nut allergies, you have to decide for yourself, whether or not this product is for you.

Here’s what you’ll do:

Please review my how-to mix and cut-out instructions, via the classic recipe version, posted above.

Refrigeration: This dough is much softer than the classic recipe-version, so I recommend wrapping your finished dough in plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least one hour, or until you are ready to roll out cookies.

Bake Time: This recipe requires less baking time. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In my home oven, they are perfectly baked in 10 minutes. I would check your cookies at 8 minutes, and see what works best for your oven.

Take care and enjoy!


[…] sweet. I love a good drizzling of royal icing to start. To see my same classic recipe paired with Gingerbread Cookies or iced Shortbread Cookies, please go to my recipe […]

cookies for Santa » Mili's Sweets - December 22, 2014 - 9:52 am

[…] the days before Christmas, we make and decorate Santa’s cookies. On the must-have list: gingerbread and sugar cookies (which are also egg-free shortbread.) Please go to my blog-links for my […]

Rachelle Nolan - May 21, 2016 - 2:25 pm

Hello! I was just researching allergen-free royal icing and came across your recipe from the gingerbread recipe. You mentioned using BRM vegetarian egg replacer instead of meringue powder. My question is, do you sub this at an exact ratio? Also 3 tablespoons? Anything else you add or omit?
Thank you SO much!
Rachelle - May 24, 2016 - 10:33 pm

Hi Rachelle,

Sorry for my delay. I’m not on the blog as often as I’d like to be! I use any egg replacer as instructed on the packaging. The best one I’ve found is available at Sprouts. If you ever have other specific questions, please feel free to text me anytime! (760)571-9876

Thanksgiving specials

Over the years, many of my family’s special recipes come back into play for Thanksgiving. Through handcrafted food, we create a home filled with love, care and tradition.

Later this month, we’ll celebrate another Thanksgiving together. It is my family’s main event. It is the day when my husband and I roll up our sleeves to start cooking at 5am for a 1pm meal, with a ton of prep done in the days beforehand and all hands on deck from the kids. It doesn’t matter if we are feeding our family of six or our extended group of more than 30 in our home – our menu is typically made up of about 15 dishes, plus desserts and assorted appetizers. We love it and pace ourselves for one of the best days of the year.

As you begin your grocery-shopping plan and menu, let me share a few of my tried and true Thanksgiving menu items that you might claim as your own for this holiday and many more to come.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

Let’s talk pie. It’s a mandatory part of our celebration. I always make no less than three. One has to be pumpkin, one has to be apple and the third has to be a berry pie.

Cherry Pie: gluten-free, with a flakey, butter crust. As you know, all of my recipes are completely free of peanuts and tree nuts. But more than likely, you will be attending Thanksgiving this year where at least one person has a food sensitivity or chooses not to eat gluten. Well, even if you don’t love the idea of cherry pie, (Could that be possible?) you’ll want to use this crust for other fillings.

cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via

Another wonderful berry pie offering: Blueberry Pie.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

The pie filling is the ultimate! If you aren’t sure about making a pie to bring or serve, let me suggest a very cool gift: just the pie filling. Make this incredible filling, as per my recipe, place the goodness in a sealed mason jar and offer it to the host/hostess as a thank you for the invite.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

I’m a little obsessed with meringue. If I’m going to go there, I want to have a ton of it. It’s amazing on pumpkin pie. If lemon is your thing, try making a Lemon Meringue Pie. My recipe for fluffy vanilla meringue is on this same post.

lemon meringue pie, lemon curd and vanilla meringue - recipes via milissweets.comAnd then there’s pumpkin pie. It’s a must. I tried to take it to another level with a phyllo crust. For the recipe, please see my post, where I share how to make my Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate-Pumpkin Layer Pie with Phyllo Crust. I love the way this looks but really love and prefer a traditional crust with my pumpkin pie.

pumpkin & chocolate-pumpkin layer pie, with phyllo crust - recipe via

If for any reason, you’re not in the mood to make pies for Thanksgiving this year, then please allow me to do the baking for you! Now that Mili’s Sweets is at retail, I’m offering pies for the holidays. On the menu: either classic, gluten free or vegan Apple Pie and either classic or gluten free Pumpkin Pie. If you live in San Diego County or are willing to travel to MiaBella (the shop where I work and offer my products) then you can place the order and pick up as late as Wednesday, November 25th.

If you love pumpkin, but are not a fan of pie (personally unthinkable), maybe you’d like to try other pumpkin treats to offer for dessert? Try my recipes for Pumpkin Flan (another great offering for your gluten-free family and friends) or Pumpkin Spice Churros.

Next up, My favorite Cranberry Sauce. It’s not about having a lot of it, but it’s a must-have menu item for our Thanksgiving. Over the years, this is our favorite way to prepare it, with orange juice and zest, and bites of Granny Smith Apples.

sweet side: favorite cranberry sauce by Mili

Now, it’s really up to you, but in our family, Buttermilk Biscuits are a must-have on our Thanksgiving table. They are the very last item to go into our oven. The “crowd” goes wild for them!

how to make the best buttermilk biscuits by Mili

If rolls are more your style, then I say go for Trinity Rolls. We save these for our Christmas meal, but they are good for any special occasion.

Trinity Rolls - recipe on

Last but not least, you will want to have some special spreads for either your biscuits or rolls. Check out my recipes for Beautiful Butter. Orange Butter is my personal favorite and one I try to offer my family throughout the year.

butter trio, recipes by Mili

I hope you enjoy a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Please contact me if you have questions about any of my recipes. If you do try them out, let me know how it turned out!

xox, Mili

Ashley Norris - November 30, 2014 - 12:05 pm

Hi Mili! I just wanted to let you know I made your blueberry pie and cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, and they both turned out fabulous! I’ve had a lot of problems making berry pies in the past and getting the consistently of the filling right and not too liquidy. It turned out great! Everyone loved the cranberry sauce too, so I’m sure that will become a staple for our Thankgiving’s from now on. Thank you for the awesome recipes! - December 13, 2014 - 9:51 am

Thanks for your note Ashley! It means so much to me! Take care and great big hugs!

old fashioned caramel for apples & jars


Making caramel the old fashioned way is a labor of love. Deciding to make it happen depends on how badly you want it. There are plenty of short cut recipes for sauces and dips that taste similar, but they can’t compare. Once making caramel this way, it’s really hard to turn back to store bought versions, that tend to be thin, runny and lack real flavor. I like the thick texture and richness of the real thing.

MiliTo avoid running out, I typically make big batches and put the goodness into sealed glass jars. I’m going to share the recipe that was passed down to me for making caramel apples or to store in glass jars for later.


Once you take the time to make the caramel, all of the hard work is behind you. Warming it up into a sauce once stored in a jar, takes only 30 seconds in the microwave!  Caramel is candy. It requires both work and precision for the right results. It’s amazing.

I’m giving the recipe and showing what it takes to get the candy to “Soft Ball,” or 240 degrees. This is the temperature and texture I use for canning and for setting onto caramel apples. One of the beautiful thing about this sweet concoction is, once it has reached the stage/temperature you wish and has been set and cooled, you can bring it back to a pot and cook it for not much longer, to achieve “Hard Ball” or “Soft Crack,” to be used as wrapped candies or to set other flavors to it. (I’ll share tricks for candy caramel in a future post.)

All right, let’s get to work!


Caramel Recipe for Canning and Caramel Apples

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups light corn syrup

4 cups granulated sugar

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 and 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup butter (2 sticks) salted butter, cut into pats

1 teaspoon vanilla (Reserve for after caramel has reached “Soft Ball” stage.)

Tools: one large pot (the taller, the better), long wooden spoon, clip-on candy thermometer


Before you get started, plan ahead with the understanding that you will have to tend to stirring the pot for approximately 3 hours! You might need a good helper or two to take over from time to time. Otherwise, you are guaranteed to have soar feet and possibly soar shoulders/arms if you aren’t used to constantly stirring in the kitchen. As I mentioned above, you have to really want caramel to make it! xox

Here’s a little math so that you can plan ahead, based on what you are hoping to use the caramel for. I tend to make at least two batches at a time, but what I’m sharing with you is a single batch. It will make about 64 oz of caramel, that can be placed in the size of glass jars that you see fit or can be used to dip apples as soon as it has reached the “Soft Ball” stage. When giving a gift, I pour it into pretty 4oz. glass jars. When keeping it in jars for my pantry, I tend to use 8 oz jars and there’s nothing fancy about them. It takes between 1.5oz. – 2 oz. of caramel to cover one standard sized apple for caramel apples so you should be able to dip about 32, if that’s what you are going for.

Here’s what you’ll do:

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the pure vanilla extract, into a large pot and place at medium heat. Clip on the candy thermometer. Cook and stir constantly until candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees, or “Soft Ball” stage. Seems simple and it is simple. It’s just that some good things come to those who wait and this project requires a lot of time and patience.

MiliHere’s what to expect:

Making caramel this way takes planning ahead and some serious time-dedication. It can actually be a really fun tradition and around this time of year, it’s a family-activity. Be prepared for a lot of stirring.

When the butter melts and all of the ingredients are starting to heat, the thermometer will read 200 almost right away. The mixture will be a creamy white color. You’ll notice a warming of color when the mixture reaches 220. However, it will stay at 220 for what seems like an eternity! All the while, you need to stir with the wooden spoon. It can overheat and come over the top of your pot if it is not large enough, so make sure that there is ample room in the pot when you first pour in your ingredients. You don’t want a messy or dangerous accident. You can’t leave the caramel cooking by itself, so make sure you have a caramel-buddy to hang out with, in case you need to leave the room.

When the caramel finally starts to reach above 220 degrees, you’re in the home-stretch. It will take about 30 minutes more to reach “Soft Ball.” You are going to think to yourself two hours into it, ‘It must be ready . . . it looks like caramel!’ But trust me, the thermometer is your friend and without it, this job is almost impossible. If you shut it off too soon, you won’t have the result you were hoping for.

You will feel thrilled and accomplished when you see it has reached 240 degrees. Remove from the heat right away. Allow it to stop bubbling and to cool for a few minutes. Add the teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Use the wooden spoon to combine.



If you are placing the caramel into glass jars, do so when the caramel is hot. Line up the cans and use a ladle to pour in the caramel. Cover tightly with a metal lid. Within moments, the heat will create a seal that you can hear. It will only work if you are using new lids that are not punctured and are meant to fit perfectly with the jar. You can use either a mason-jar type lid or other metal lid. You will know it’s sealed because you can hear it close and there is no air to pop the lid. You will only hear the lid after the seal has been broken or it has been opened.

Label the container and be sure to add the expiration date. You can give the caramel a one month shelf life if they have set and sealed properly. Once they are opened, or the seal is broken, the jars must be refrigerated. To be safe, you can give as a gift, and write “keep refrigerated.” Add the expiration date as one month after the made-date. If always refrigerated, it should last up to six weeks, but that is assuming that it doesn’t disappear after the first taste.



If you are making caramel apples, you’ll want to have your apples ready to go as soon as the caramel stops boiling and has reached the 240 degrees. I recruited some little hands to help clean and dry Granny Smith apples. To be safe, we made the skewering a team-effort. These were the only jobs my 7 year old son wanted to do, or could do without getting hurt.

I use prepared, 5.5″ wooden skewers but you can use any wooden dowel, as long as they are cut to size and there there is one end with a sharper side. The easiest way to create the point is with an electric pencil sharpener. As long as the sharper side is not totally blunt, it will work. It’s not a good idea to make it too sharp, so be careful.

If you are using the entire batch of caramel for dipping caramel apples, you’ll be able to make about 32, depending on the size of each apple and how much you want to dip them. I like to go toward the top and if I’m not completely dipping the apple, I always make sure the center, where it was skewered, is covered with caramel. Doing so keeps the apple sealed and fresh and the extra little collection of caramel at the top is an extra special treat. Caramel apples are swooped up and enjoyed right away with this caramel, but I like to be sure that they they are enjoyed within two days of making them. You can go up to 4-5 days, if wrapped and kept at room temperature. Of course, they would last longer in the refrigerator.

MiliHere’s what to do if you are making caramel apples with canned caramel:

Use a spatula to remove the caramel from the glass jars, and place into a pot, with a candy thermometer attached. Place at medium heat. It will only take 10 minutes for the caramel to return to reaching the “Soft Ball” stage of 240 degrees. (As promised, all the hard work from making caramel the old fashioned way is behind you!)

Dip the apples right away. If you want to remove some of the access caramel, use a metal spatula or butter knife to take it from the bottom and then place onto a matt of some sort. A waxy or parchment-type of bottom would be best if serving open or wrapping in cellophane. Although the doilies were very pretty, the ones I used didn’t have a waxy finish, so the caramel had a hard time separating from the paper. If you aren’t packing them to share and want to eat them right away, you can allow them to cool onto aluminum foil before serving or placing directly onto a plate.

MiliI loved giving my little nephew his first caramel apple! He loved it too!

Real caramel can take any dessert over the top, and to another level of awesomeness. It’s a staple in my pantry, as I use it for a bunch of different treats: cupcakes, frostings, cakes, breads, fillings and to drizzle onto vanilla ice cream. If you’ve made my banana caramel cake before, this is the caramel you should use for drizzling. To create a sauce from the caramel that has been canned, simply place it in the microwave for 30 seconds first and then an additional 10 seconds at time. A 4 oz will become a sauce in 30 seconds.

If you are bold enough to make caramel with the notes and recipe I posted, please let me know how it goes! Thanks for being here!

Take care and big hugs,



banana-caramel cake » Mili's Sweets - November 6, 2014 - 7:20 am

[…] make and jar my own caramel. If you’d like the recipe, please see my post for old fashioned caramel for apples and jars. It’s a time consuming and tedious process and I’m completely crazy for doing it. If […]