- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Thanksgiving used to be my favorite food holiday, and I’d like to figure out a way to make that possible again.

Don’t get me wrong: Feeding 30 family members is rewarding. But it’s also exhausting. Last Thanksgiving, I realized why my mother lingered so long at the table after the turkey was polished off. Her feet were sore from standing, and she wanted to sit and appreciate the table setting, the flowers and the company.

We’re embarking on a new version of Thanksgiving this year, where recipes are made in advance. When you think about it, you can assemble casseroles a day ahead, refrigerate and then bake, and you can make most a week ahead and freeze them.

The rolls, the pumpkin pie and even the bread that goes into the stuffing can be baked and frozen until needed. And isn’t it nice to know you’ve got another dessert, a moist and flavorful cake, prebaked?

Every time I bake this cream cheese poundcake (a great alternative to pumpkin pie), someone begs for the recipe. It’s based on a plain golden cake mix, can be assembled in no time and can be baked now to freeze for Thanksgiving. The cream cheese gives it richness and texture.

Five time-shaving desserts to stash in the freezer:

Thanksgiving and the other hectic holidays just around the corner test our ability to produce stellar desserts. To plan ahead, here are some sweets to keep in the freezer until time to serve.

• Bundt cakes such as in this recipe are perfect. Because they are not frosted and because they are so sturdy in shape, well-wrapped bundts will last six months.

• A recipe of cupcakes is fine for the Scout troop, but most families without teenage boys, of course, cannot finish off a recipe of two dozen. Stash them unfrosted into gallon-size zipper-lock bags and freeze up to three months. Remove, thaw and then frost.

• Pile your favorite (slightly softened) ice cream into a prebaked graham cracker or chocolate cookie pie crust. Cover and freeze until time to serve, and then slice and serve with hot fudge sauce or whipped cream. These pies keep frozen up to two weeks.

• Bake fudge or coconut pie in smaller tarts, let them cool, and then place them in large zipper-lock bags in the freezer for up to two months. They can go frozen into a toaster oven, slightly covered, until they are warmed through.

• Buy a loaf of frozen poundcake, let it thaw slightly, remove it from the foil pan and slice it in thirds lengthwise. Sandwich soft ice cream between the layers of cake, return the cake and ice cream loaf to the pan, cover with foil and then refreeze until it’s time to slice and serve. These terrines keep up to a month frozen.

Almond cream cheese poundcake

Freeze this cake, wrapped in aluminum foil, for up to 6 months.

Flour for dusting the pan

Vegetable oil spray to mist the pan

1 18.5-ounce package plain-butter-recipe golden cake mix

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature

4 large eggs

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil, such as canola, corn, safflower, soybean or sunflower

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

Lightly mist a 10-inch tube pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour; set pan aside. Place cake mix, cream cheese, eggs, water, sugar, oil, vanilla and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look well-blended. Pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place pan in the oven.

Bake cake on center rack of preheated 350-degree oven until it is golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove pan from oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edge of the cake, invert it onto a rack and then invert it onto a serving platter so that it is right side up. Slice the cake while it is still a little warm. Makes 16 servings.

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