08 August

Mary Queen of Heaven Cake

August 22: Feast of the Queenship of Mary

Hail, Holy Queen! Mary Queen of Heaven was the inspiration for the cake we made for a prayer party at a Catholic university in South Texas where Islander’s brother ministers/works/lives on campus. The sparkly accents reflect her regal splendor while the white cake symbolizes her virginity and purity. The contrasting blue cake balls inside represent the precious baby boy, her son Jesus, whom she carried in her womb.

Many honorific titles are given to Mary. This down-to-earth maiden who was chosen to be the Mother of God had a great responsibility, which she accepted gracefully. For her love and sacrifice, she is both humbled yet exalted. Likewise, our Mary Queen of Heaven cake is simple yet elegant. But it was appropriate for our celebration during the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.


For the blue cake balls


In a bowl, combine the cake mix, water, oil and egg whites. Blend until the batter is smooth. In a greased cake ball/pop pan, fill the wells with the batter. Secure the top part of the pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Cool and remove from the pan. Trim the excess from the cake balls.

For the white cake


Line two 8-inch round pans with waxed paper. Mist with cooking spray. Arrange blue cake balls in the pan. In a mixing bowl, combine the white cake mix, water, vegetable and egg whites. Blend until smooth. Divide batter into two. Pour over the cake balls in each pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, testing the cake for doneness. Remove from the oven and let cool completed. Slice off the top mound to make the cake even. Smear a cake board with a little vanilla buttercream. Invert the cake onto the board.

Frost the top and sides with vanilla buttercream. Dust a clean surface with powdered sugar or cornstarch to prevent the fondant from sticking. Roll out 1/8 inch thick and large enough to cover the cake.

Smooth the fondant on the cake and trim away the excess. Position the decorations on the cake (crown, initial M and rhinestone ribbon). Place the cake on a pedestal. Slice and serve.


  • We used two blue cake mixes to make several cake balls. We used two white cake mixes to make two 8-inch cakes and one 10-inch cake.
  • Try changing the color combinations of the cake mixes for different occasions.



August 21: National Spumoni Day

Another hot summer day calls for a cool dessert like spumoni, a colorful confection created by the ever-clever Italians with three layers and flavors of gelato (or ice cream). Similar to Neapolitan ice cream with its pink (cherry or strawberry), vanilla and chocolate layers, spumoni, which is the plural form of spumone, derived from the word “foam”, consists of cherry, pistachio and either vanilla or chocolate Italian ice cream flavors. Some have fruit and nuts between the layers.

We chose to make our spumoni with the fruit and nuts already embedded in the gelato. And we combined pistachio, vanilla (instead of chocolate) and cherry flavors to make a pastel version of the Italian flag.

Have a slice of simple spumoni during the summer and on National Spumoni Day.



  • Pistachio gelato or ice cream, softened
  • Vanilla gelato or ice cream, softened
  • Cherry gelato or ice cream, softened
  • Red food coloring


Line a large loaf pan with plastic wrap, extending over the sides so that it is easier to lift out when unmolding the spumoni. Spread the softened pistachio gelato or ice cream as the bottom layer about an inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm. Remove the loaf pan from the freezer and take off the plastic wrap. Spread the softened vanilla gelato or ice cream on top of the pistachio layer about an inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm.

Remove the loaf pan from the freezer and take off the plastic wrap. In a large bowl, stir the softened cherry gelato or ice cream with a few drops of red food coloring until it turns pink. Spread this on top of the vanilla layer about an inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm.

Remove the loaf pan from the freezer and take off the top plastic wrap. Grab the plastic wrap from the sides and lift out the entire spumoni and unmold onto a cutting board. Slice and serve immediately.


  • Canada’s National Spumoni Day is on November 13.
  • Neapolitan ice cream is also of Italian origin (Naples). Inspired by the colors of pink, white and brown, we made macarons and a rosé wine-chocolate naked wedding cake.
  • Search our blog for other ice cream recipes.


Black Cherry Sparkling Ice Pops

August 26: National Cherry Popsicle Day

When an unbearably hot summer day is even more humid and hazy, we feel especially lazy and crazy and just want to stay indoors, blast the air conditioner and cool off with a frozen treat such as cherry popsicles. They aren’t as heavy like cherry ice cream but they are simply light frozen juice on a stick.

We dragged our lazy bums to the kitchen to make something minimal in observance of today’s food holiday with a cheap, plastic popsicle mold from the dollar store and a single bottle of fizzy black cherry-flavored beverage (we used Sparkling Ice brand because it literally sounded cool). Black Cherry Sparkling Ice Pops were nearly an effortless treat to make and post on our blog for National Cherry Popsicle Day.



  • 1 bottle of cherry flavored juice/beverage (sugar powder mix, bottled concentrate or flavored vitamin water)


In a plastic popsicle mold, pour the cherry juice/beverage into the wells, leaving about half an inch from the top. Close the mold with the popsicle stick covers. Freeze for several hours until firm. Unmold. Enjoy frozen.


  • Watch Nat King Cole sing about “Those Hazy Lazy Crazy Days of Summer”, the title track of his 1963 album.

Solar Eclipse Sugar Cookies

August 21, 2017: Solar Eclipse Across the USA

On July 11, 1991, Islander was able to experience a solar eclipse in Hawaii. The path of 100% totality was over the Big Island, but 96% over Oahu was still a good percentage. Unfortunately, it was cloudy that day so the moving rain clouds kept interrupting the views for everyone, even at the observatories with the telescopes. Islander woke up at 6:30 a.m. (okay, NOT a morning person!) and started watching the TV news for coverage about the eclipse. Almost an hour later, she went out in the backyard, put on her sun peepers (79 cents at 7-11 convenience store) and watched the heavens above. At 7:28:48 a.m., the sky became dark gray, almost like dusk. Four minutes later, the sun peeked out again after the moon slowly finished crossing its path and a beautiful morning continued on to become another blessed day.

Today we experience partial totality in Texas at approximately 1:17 p.m. Highlander is working at that time but Islander baked cookies for his co-workers to commemorate the rare occasion that a solar eclipse happens across America. The last time it occurred on the mainland was on February 26, 1979; the next one will be on April 8, 2024.

Along with these solar eclipse sugar cookies, we are snacking on Sun Chips, Moon Pies and Moon Cheese, eating chicken salad “crescent” roll sandwiches, drinking Capri Sun apple juice and Sunny D orange juice and chewing Eclipse gum. These fun foods all make for a memorable meal when celebrating the solar eclipse!



  • Sugar cookie dough (we use the recipe from Kitchen Lane)
  • Yellow fondant
  • Black or dark chocolate fondant


Make the sugar cookie dough. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Use a circle cookie cutter to cut out cookie shapes. Bake and cool.

Decorate the round sugar cookies by rolling out yellow fondant 1/8 inch thick. Use the same circle cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Brush water on the top of a round cookie and place a yellow fondant circle on top. Smooth out the edges.

Roll out black or dark chocolate fondant 1/8 inch thick. Using the round cookie cutter, cut different shapes according to the partial moon shadows (quarter, half or ¾ full crescents). Brush water on the back and position it on top of the yellow fondant. Arrange in phases to show the gradual eclipse movements.

Bonus Recipe: Gold Star Cookies


  • Extra cookie dough
  • White fondant
  • Clear extract (almond, lemon, etc.) or vodka
  • Gold edible powder/non-toxic luster dust


With the extra cookie dough from above, roll out to ¼ inch thick. Use a small star cookie cutter to cut out star shapes. Bake and cool.

Roll out white fondant 1/8 inch thick. Use the same star cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Brush water on the top of a star cookie and place a white fondant star on top. Mix a little extract or vodka with gold edible powder. Brush over the star cookies. Let dry. Serve with solar eclipse sugar cookies.


  • Also appropriate for a solar eclipse celebration are cinnamon-pecan crescent cookies and brown sugar shortbread star cookies.
  • We also made some silver crescent moon cookies in the same manner as the gold star cookies above. We just substituted the colors and cookie cutter shapes. Combine these with the solar eclipse cookies for a celestial celebration!

Homemade Hula Pie

August 18: National Ice Cream Pie Day

We used to visit our godsister Min V. in Kekaha, Kauai, for a long weekend getaway from our home island of Oahu. We would take a morning flight from Honolulu over to Lihue where Min was waiting for us. She did not greet us locals with a lei but she showed her Hawaiian hospitality by treating us to the famous hula pie at Duke’s restaurant instead. It was filling for famished travelers before heading to her house (about an hour’s drive).

We also split a hula pie whenever we wander around Waikiki playing tourists. We even bought the iconic plate from Duke’s restaurant (but the special spork was not available at the time).

Hula pie is simply an ice cream pie. It was developed a long time ago at Kimo’s restaurant, a sister (brother?) eatery to Duke’s in the TS Restaurant family (‘ohana). According to their website: “Hula Pie is made with Kimo’s favorite macadamia nut ice cream piled high on a chocolate cookie crust and topped with chocolate fudge, whipped cream, and more macadamia nuts.” The website also gives suggestions on how to eat a hula pie. Sometimes the chefs serve a specialty hula pie in their menu (variations of the classic recipe using different flavored ice creams).

Home chefs can prepare hula pie themselves and indulge in an abundance of aloha. Especially on a hot summer day, hula pie is perfect for National Ice Cream Pie Day!


(Adapted from Hawaii Magazine and Baking Bites)


  • 1 Oreo cookie pie crust (or chocolate graham cracker pie crust)
  • 1 ½ – 2 ½ gallons of vanilla ice cream (we used Breyer’s brand), slightly softened
  • 1 ½ cups macadamia nut pieces, divided use
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder (we used Kona coffee), finely ground
  • hot fudge sauce, room temperature
  • whipped cream


Freeze the chocolate pie crust until ready to use (this prevents the crust from cracking too much and leaving too many crumbs). In a large bowl, mix the ice cream with ONE cup of the nut pieces until well blended. Work quickly so the ice cream will not melt too fast.

Pile the ice cream mix on the pie crust, making a dome. Freeze until firm (overnight is best). In a microwavable bowl, melt the semi-sweet chocolate and butter. Stir until smooth.

Mix in the ground instant coffee powder. Let this chocolate sauce cool for about 15 minutes at room temperature. Remove the frozen pie from the freezer. Pour the chocolate sauce over the top of the pie. Use a spatula to quickly smooth the sauce all over the top of the ice cream dome (it sets and hardens fast). Freeze again for a couple of hours.

When ready to serve, remove the entire pie from the foil plate and place on a large tray. Warm a sharp knife in hot water, wipe dry and slice the pie in six serving pieces. Put an individual slice on a dessert plate.

Drizzle some fudge sauce on top, allowing it to pool on the bottom of the plate. Sprinkle with remaining macadamia nut pieces. Decorate the edge of the pie with a generous piping of whipped cream. Serve immediately.


  • Some recipes for hula pie say to spread the fudge sauce over the ice cream. But some sauces are too runny so we used a homemade chocolate sauce that sticks to the surface of the ice cream dome and sets into a sort-of shell.
  • We had used lactose-free vanilla ice cream before but it has a soft-serve consistency that does not work too well when spreading the chocolate sauce on top. Sometimes if the ice cream is not frozen firmly, the sauce will pick up the softened ice cream and makes a messy mix (see the Food Flop photo).
  • The whipped cream decoration looks like the white foam from the waves of the ocean but it is supposed to represent the sway of the hula skirt—hence, the name “hula pie”.
  • See how the real hula pie is made at Duke’s. Watch a TS Restaurant video from the Cooking Channel’s “Ice Cream Nation” segment on YouTube.

Lemon Meringue Tarts

August 15: National Lemon Meringue Pie Day

We have not been as lucky with lemons lately when we have failed at making a lemon meringue pie (the filling was too runny and the meringue was overbrowned). So we tried to make the best of the situation and bake mini pies (tarts) using phyllo cups and lemon curd. The filling was too sweet when paired with a supposedly crispy-turned-soggy shell. Determined to overcome these Food Flops, we tried again to make mini lemon meringue tarts using a different crust (from our Pecan Tassies recipe). They turned out terrific for our tea time gathering! And now we can post our version of lemon meringue tarts for National Lemon Meringue Pie Day.



  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • lemon curd
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup sugar, granulated white 


Make the mini pie/tart crust by mixing the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the flour to make a soft dough. Roll into a ball, cover with a plastic wrap and chill it for at least an hour to harden. Then divide the dough into 24 one-inch balls.

Flatten, press and shape the crusts in the wells of an ungreased muffin pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Fill the crusts with a teaspoonful of lemon curd. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until foamy. Continue beating the egg whites and gradually add the sugar until stiff peaks form.

Fill a piping bag with a star tip (we used Tip 1M) and squeeze a little meringue on top of the lemon curd. Bake in the preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 5-7 minutes, being careful not to overbrown the meringue. Remove from the oven (be careful as the lemon curd is hot and liquefied). Use a toothpick to remove the tarts from the pan when cooled. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate any leftovers. Bring to room temperature when ready to serve.


  • See our Food Flops page for a photo of our runny lemon meringue pie and other culinary catastrophies.

Chicken Chop Suey

Chicken Chop Suey

August 29: Chop Suey Day

When Islander was a baby, she and her Mommy and Daddy lived temporarily in a tiny apartment above a strip mall in Aiea, Oahu, Hawaii, while waiting to move into a military base family housing unit in Pearl Harbor. Their apartment was above Waimalu Chop Suey House.

Decades later this iconic Chinese restaurant still remains in its busy location. But its crispy gau gee (dumpling) is more famous than its namesake chop suey. Whenever we go back to visit Islander’s family on Oahu, Waimalu Chop Suey is one of the places where we like to eat—for both nostalgia and the food.

Chop suey, which translates to “mixed vegetables” or “assorted pieces”, has as many origin stories as recipe versions. But the common ingredients include mung bean sprouts and a soy sauce-based gravy. Meat and eggs can be added in this easy vegetable stir-fry dish, if available and if desired. Chop suey can be eaten with rice or noodles for a simple, savory and satisfying meal.

Check out our chicken chop suey recipe version below for Chop Suey Day!



  • ½ pound chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, fresh grated
  • ½ cup onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated or julienned
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups bean sprouts
  • 1 cup cabbage, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • salt and pepper to taste


Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. In a medium bowl, make the marinade for the chicken by mixing together two tablespoons of soy sauce with the sugar, garlic and ginger. Toss the chicken in this marinade, cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.


Meanwhile, prepare the other vegetables (or use a chop suey vegetable mix—canned or bagged—see Notes).


In a large wok or skillet, heat a little oil. Sauté the marinated chicken pieces until brown and the liquid has been reduced. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. In the same skillet, add a little more oil. Sauté the onions until soft. Add the carrot, celery, bean sprouts and cabbage.


Make a well in the middle of the vegetables and pour the chicken stock. Return the chicken to the pan and mix well. In a small cup, mix the remaining two tablespoons of soy sauce with cornstarch to make a slurry. Stir into the wok/skillet until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dish out onto a platter.



  • Serve chicken chop suey hot with rice or over noodles. Or sprinkle won ton strips over it as a garnish and serve as a side dish.
  • Chop suey vegetables are available in a can (La Choy brand)! Take a cooking shortcut with a less tinny taste and use fresh mixed vegetables in a bag (Taro Brand).
  • Watch a YouTube video of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, Flower Drum Song, entitled “Chop Suey”.

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