Janet Dusek’s mother, Marilyn Muellner, has always had a knack for making the Christmas season special for her family. As long as Janet can remember, her mom lovingly decorated their home and tree with angels and other treasured ornaments, baked cookies of all kinds and one year sewed each of her children special stockings that they cherish to this day.
A holiday tradition that warms Janet Dusek’s heart is baking Candy Cane Coffee Cakes with her mother, and her sister, Jill Muellner. Marilyn has been creating the festive sweet breads since Janet was in elementary school.
“I really have fond memories of these coffee cakes,” Janet said. “They are rich and full of fruit — and also encourage the act of giving. The recipe makes three beautiful cakes. Our family tradition was (and still is) to keep one and give the other two away. Making these cakes is time-consuming as there are several steps in the process and the dough has to rise for about an hour. But, I love that as it allows us to spend more time together and we can use the time to drink coffee and catch up with each other.
“My assignment this year was to chop the sticky fruits,” Janet added. “Jill kneaded the dough and, after all these years, Mom is a master at braiding it.”
2 cups sour cream
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°F)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
About 6 cups flour
1 1/2 cups finely chopped dried apricots
1 1/2 cups drained, finely chopped maraschino cherries
Extra soft butter or margarine
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. water
Heat sour cream over low heat just until lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sour cream, 1/4 cup butter, sugar, salt, eggs, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough of remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.
Turn dough onto well-floured board; knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375° F. Punch down dough; divide into 3 extra parts. Roll each part into 15×6-inch rectangle; place on greased baking sheet. With scissors, make 2-inch cuts at 1/2-inch intervals on long sides of rectangles.
Combine apricots and cherries; spread 1/3 of mixture down center of each rectangle. Crisscross strips over filling. Stretch dough to 22 inches. Curve to form cane. Bake the cakes at 375°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Create icing by blending confectioner’s sugar and water. If icing is too stiff, stir in a few drops of water.
While coffee cakes are warm, brush with butter and drizzle canes with the thin icing. If desired, decorate with cherry halves or pieces.
Yield: 3 coffee cakes
Notes from Janet: Mom always uses butter for this recipe. The original recipe is from the 1971 edition of “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook.”
A note from Carol: Janet Dusek is the administrative assistant for the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family. She and her husband, Rod, and their children, Katie and Andrew, are members of St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. Marilyn is a member of St. Joseph Parish in Grey Eagle. (Katie took the pictures for this blog post.)