Monthly Archives: July 2015

When Baking Brings Back Memories


Collier County Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Features Oranges

One of the most popular desserts of the 1960s was Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. The way I remember it, there rarely seemed to be a gathering where someone didn’t bring one, and church suppers often featured two or three. At home, my mom sometimes made one when it was her turn to host her weekly bridge group or monthly League of Women Voters meeting.Upside-Down Cake is easy to make. It was one of the first desserts my mom and I made together, although I doubt I did much more than lick the spoon, or arrange pineapple slices into a pretty pattern. The very idea that the cake is flipped after it’s baked, with the bottom becoming the top, made the process quite exciting to a five-year-old.

Because my “Miss Dreamsville” novels are historical fiction set in the 1960s, one of my characters in the new one (to be released Sept. 8) mentions making the familiar cake, which, in a round-about sort of fashion seemed to give me the perfect excuse to make one. After all, this was research, right?

My husband, who grew up in Collier County, Florida where my novels are set, found it amusing that I was planning to make an Upside-Down Cake, just for old times sake. But to my delight he suddenly remembered the way they were made in Collier County, with orange slices as well as pineapple. (Note that they must be Florida oranges! Never from California. If the produce manager at Winn-Dixie was foolish enough to try to sell California oranges, he got an earful!)

Here’s the recipe:

Collier County Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Two tablespoons butter (unsalted, preferably)
One-third cup packed brown sugar
Three pineapple slices, each cut in half (drain if from a can)
One medium-sized Florida orange, peeled and cut into small sections. Remove seeds and segment walls where fibrous
4 maraschino cherries (cut into halves)
One and one-third cups of flour
Two-thirds cup of white sugar
Two tablespoons baking powder
Two-third cup of milk
One-quarter cup butter (soften by leaving on counter)
One egg
One teaspoon of vanilla

Step 1. Melt the two tablespoons butter in a small fry pan. Add brown sugar and one teaspoon water. Stir. Pour mixture into a nine by one and one-half inch cake pan (round). Place pineapple and oranges in any design you choose. Add cherries to decorate. Put on side burner.

Step 2. Using a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir flour, white sugar, and baking powder. Then add one-quarter cup of butter, one egg, vanilla, and milk. Combine by hand. Beat with electric mixer for at least one minute on medium speed. Using a spoon, carefully spread batter on top of the fruit in the pan that was prepared in Step 1.

Step 3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until a fork inserted near center comes out clean. Remove from oven and leave on wire rack for five minutes. Use a knife to loosen cake. Flip upside down onto a flat serving plate.

Best if served warm with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

P.S. I’ll be posting more recipes on my website,

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New Book Trailer!

Florida Gulf Coast: Photo by Barbara Hill Feichtinger

A book trailer (or short video) is a way for an author to connect with her readers and let them know what her book is about.At 5 minutes and 49 seconds, my new one is a little longer than most. While it focuses on my new book, we found it necessary to provide some context by including a little background about my early career as a newspaper reporter and my nonfiction books. My novels are historical fiction, and they are inspired by real people (mainly, my late mother-in-law), so there is a lot of ground to cover!

But part of the reason my new book trailer is on the hefty side is that I couldn’t resist asking the filmmaker to use some spectacular photos of Florida, where my novels are set. In the midst of creating the video, I noticed that my niece, Barbara, a lifelong Florida Gulf Coast resident, had posted a spectactular storm photo on Facebook. I asked if I could use it, and she enthusiastically said yes. In fact, she sent a bunch of them for me to use.

After the storm: Florida Gulf Coast. Photo by Barbara Hill Feichtinger.

My book trailer also features a bona fide soundtrack of the Everglades itself – a place that is never silent – along with the rumblings of a thunderstorm coming up
over the Gulf.

I hope you like it! Here it is:

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The Lazy Days of Summer: Where Did They Go?!

One of the saddest moments when you’ve become an adult is when you realize that summer is not what it used to be.

Gone are the days of playing hopscotch, climbing trees, and getting on your mother’s nerves.

Gone are the days when the only deadline is getting home in time for supper.

The lazy hours reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books, or playing King of the Mountain with the kids next door, has become a thing of the past. Long afternoons sprawled out in the grass, with nothing to do except study the shapes of clouds, are a luxury.

Strange that you have failed to notice that Mom has been working very hard to make your summer carefree. Picnic food miraculously appears in the refrigerator. It is prepared to perfection and placed in front of you, its nutritional value calculated in Mom’s ever-vigilant mind. Dad comes home from work, where he has earned the money to pay for the summer road-trip, which he will plan with care. (We will, as always, stay one night at a roadside motel because the owners have a goat, and all year long you – the youngest child – have been hollering, “Can we stay at the place with the goat?” Not only do you stay at the place with the goat, but Mom, who thinks of everything, has thoughtfully brought carrots.) Somehow, the station wagon has got itself tuned up and filled with gas. Somehow, everything falls into place.

The hardest thing you have to do is decide which toys and books will fit into your little suitcase.

Next thing you know, you’re in junior high. You are now moody and hormonal. Skinned knees have been replaced with zits. You have braces on your teeth. You quarrel constantly with your older siblings. Mom suddenly decides that what you need in the summer is a “schedule.” You become a babysitter with regular gigs and a five-day-a-week volunteer at United Way.

You now own an alarm clock, and you own a watch.

In a flash, you have grown up. You have graduated college. You find your first real job, and are shocked to realize that you will work 60-plus hours a week, including most weekends and holidays, and – gasp – all summer long. There is nothing special about summer. Alas, it is just another part of the year.

You grieve.

But somewhere along the line, you fight to get summer back. Your older siblings begin to have children, which provides you with a great excuse. You take time off from work to be a doting auntie, and get to act like a child again.

You now look for ways to re-live the summers of your childhood. You arrange for the old family boat to be removed from storage, and rehabilitate it. You learn to pilot the old boat yourself.

You read outside. You lay in the grass.

You watch the clouds float by.

And you thank dear old Mom and Dad for teaching you the joys of simple summer pleasures which last a lifetime.

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