The History of Ginger and Gingerbread Houses!

The history of this gnarled root goes back more than 5000 years to when the Indians and ancient Chinese thought of it as a “tonic root for all ailments.”

Ginger’s migration can be traced from Asia to India to Rome and finally to Europe.  Citizens of the Roman Empire consumed it in great quantities, but when Rome fell from power its use disappeared.  

With Marco Polo’s  travels to the Far East, ginger reappeared in Europe and became the most popular spice in wealthy households.  

Medicinally, ginger was believed to soothe an upset stomach or prevent influenza (a common cold), and once again became the center of the spice trade.

In the 16th Century during the Middle Ages and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, ginger was already available as a powder for use in various ways.  Baking bread with the ginger powder mixed into the flour inhibited the growth of nasty molds and made the bread last longer. 

During that time in the Middle Ages credit was given to the English Queen, who apparently made the first Gingerbread Man. It then became a custom of the ladies of the court to present gingerbread, an ornately decorated flat bread, to their favorite knights.  Later a ginger candy was developed.

It took 200 years before breadcrumbs were added to the candy mixture that turned the flatbread into the sweet gingerbread we have today. 

During the 17th and 18th centuries Catholic monks became the bakers of these flatbread gingerbreads using religious art motifs as decoration.  Inspired by the monks, people began designing floral and geometric patterns to decorate their gingerbreads. As time went on bakeries adopted them into their business, and baking them in huge numbers for fairs and festivals.

When the cost of ginger decreased more people were able to purchase this spice and bake their own gingerbread.  

Soon it became everyone’s favorite holiday cake.

Creative decorations, often highlighted with edible gold, gave these Gingerbread’s added importance.  The elaborately decorated gingerbread, Lebkuchen found its popularity in 1614 at the first Christkindle Markt in Nurnberg, Germany.

People with artistic abilities used gingerbread to construct replicas of their churches and official buildings beginning the tradition of today’s gingerbread houses.

The candy decorated gingerbread house, or Knusperhauschen, as they are called in Austria, came into being with the folk tales of the Brothers Grimm and was brought to the United States by German Immigrants and in many homes they have become a family Christmas tradition.  


Contact….. Maria Reisz Springer….. if you woulod like to attend a Gingerbread House Workshop !




Kahlua-Kaffee Torte

A Kahlua-Coffee Cake helps Celebrate a Birthday!!!


Creating “original” cakes…is simply composing the layers of a cake in a special order.  This Kahlua Coffee Cake is a multilayered cake filled with Vanilla Butter Cream, home-cooked Blueberry Jam and covered with Bitter-Sweet Chocolate Cream… The cake layers were generously moistened with Kahlua…..

You might have read this in one of my other blogs….but a fancy cake is nothing more thatn a huge “sandwhich” layered and composing a delightful array of flavors between the layers.


This time I had two cakes. and made it into one. The top and bottom layers were chocolate cake, and the middle layer was a Vanilla Cake. The chocolate layers were filled with chocolate cream and blueberry jam.  The middle layer, the Vanilla cake was filled with Vanilla Cream and blubery jam.


When the layers were filled than I covered it with the …

Swiss Bitter-Sweet Chocolate Butter Cream!

Then began the fun part…I LOVE to decorate cakes…not ever was one the same…I have no particular pattern that I absolutely love…It all sort of happens when I hold that pastry bag in my hnads and let my imagination do the work….


For the Chocolate and Vanilla creams , please, go to the Archives on the right hand side….and find the blog titled… “Chocolate and Butter Creams and Cakes”


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Maria Reisz Springer



Four Cheese Pate….


This Cheese Pate can be used in various ways….It can be made into a pie/like version….or it can be used as a filling to be placed between slices of bread or  piped onto cucumber slices…or used as a filling for small sandwitches or topped as a rosette on various vegetable slices…

OR…..pipe it on slices of apples…see the pictures that I have added to this page….!!

It realy is a wonderful and quick way of serving this deliscious cheese mixture at any occasion when you celebrate an occasion with friends or have to bring something to a party where friends share their creations at a buffet table….

Here is the recipe…  that I have used in the past.

Four Cheese Pate….served with apple slices…

1 – 8 oz pkg Cream Cheese- softened

1 4.5 oz pkg Camenbert Chese- softened

1 4 oz Wwiss Cheese, shreded and softened

1 4 oz pkg Blue Cheese

2 Tbsp sour Cream


Garnish: Pecan Halves

Green or red Apple wedges


Combine Cream Cheese, Camenbert Cheese (including the rind), Blue Cheese and Swiss Cheese

in the food processor.

Mix until cramy but a little lumpy


To serve…..cut apples into thick slices, and add a dollop of the cheese on to the apple slices and add a pecan half to the top.

***** Note: Rinse apples slices in Lemon juice to prevent discoloration.




Maja’s Viennese Kitchen

Maria Reisz Springer




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During any Season of the year…..

I look for flowers, to decorate my home!

Any Season of the year it is a pure delight to make arrangemens in baskets, vases and different containers filled with water…placing the lovely blossoms ….one by one with some thought about color, size and length of the stem.  Most of these arrangements last about two weeks or longer while changing the water and clipping the bottoms of each stem…..until they hang their little heads and tell me that they have gone to sleep!

It is differen in the Fall….Most of what we call Fall Flowers finish blooming at the very end of Summer, and then we are left with the breathtakingly beautiful colorful leaves on the bushes and trees, only to find when they are placed in a container with water to decorate our tables in our homes….the leaves soon drop off as quickly as the lightest breeze of our air conditioning/indoor wind blows over them…

This is the reason why I have succumbed to ….Silk Flowers…!!!

Here are some arrangments that I have done in the past…still at our big home…and here in the general open areas of the condominium where we now live!!! 

Have a Blessed Fall ..and enjoy the Season of

Colorful leaves where ever you go!!!


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The beautiful plum……….

and its irresistible juiciness is the fact that makes it the perfect fruit to make a wonderful jam

…..or dropping it into a dough and making it a perfect ending…

When the plums ripened in the late summer at my grandparent’s orchard in Croatia…life around the house became very busy. Every morning the maids had to go and pick up all the plums that had fallen off the tree and collected them in large buckets.   These were taken to a building on the property that the distill was kept.  Then my grandfather hired men from the village to set up the distill just outside the door of that building and the process of making Slivovic was started.  Slivovic is the brandy that comes from plums, and Sliva is the word for plum in Croatian.

I cannot describe the process of making Slivovic, which is a type of brandy, all I remember that I was watching the men sitting around this contraption (distill) talking and tasting the drops that came out of a spicket.  One afternoon I found all four of the  men snoozing in their chairs, when I gathered up the courage to taste the next drop that was gathering at the end of the spicket to drop into the container below.  I put my finger under the drop and when it fell on my finger I stuck my finger into my mouth and to my horror it was a most distasteful flavor I have ever tasted.  At this point one of the men woke up and I had just enough time to escape his reaching hand that was going to let me know that I was not to be where I was.

I was about 6 or 7 years old….

You see, my grandfather had an Inn which was a part of the big house and it was called Bela Villa.

And while the Sliovic was in the making, my grandmother was busy making a Plum Cake – Pita od Slive, but not only one, she usually made several cakes because they were sold as dessert at the Inn.

Here is my version of a Plum Cake that I translated from my mother’s recipe.

Plum Cake



3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

 zest of  1 to 2 lemons – depending on the size of the lemons

1 tsp Vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 cup milk


2 lbs of any kind of Plums


Set the oven at 350 F

Prepare an 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom, by greasing and dusting it with flour.

Remove the stone in the plums by cutting it in half and slice each half into 2 quarters.

In an electric mixer or hand mixer beat the butter and sugar until very light in color, and very fluffy.  Add the eggs  one at a time.  Add the zest of the lemons and Vanilla.   Mix theflour with the baking powder.  Add the flour mixture to the butter, sugar and eggs alternating with the milk.   Mix well until it becomes a smooth, soft dough. Transfer the dough to the tart pan and smooth it with a spatula.

Add the cut plum sections on to the dough. 

Bake the cake at 350 F for about 1 hour or until a toothpick come out clean. 

Cool the cake completely then transfer it onto a serving platter.

Serve with softly whipped heavy cream sweetened with powdered sugar before serving.

Or just dust it with powdered sugar and serve it with Coffee or Tea!


Make this cake for a Sunday Afternoon Coffee….

with friends and family….

I am sure it will be a great success….!


Maja’s Viennese Kitchen

Maria Reisz Springer




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A few days ago I had a baking day in my kitchen…..I bake the Communion Bread for our church….For years I struggled with the Bread “crumbling” when broken into little pieces….

Then…one morning I woke up and remembered a class at the ” LaAccademi de Cuisine”a Cooking School in Bethesda, Maryland….we baked a Savarin/Brioche…on one of the days…having spent a whole week there….

I found my recipe …finally….because it is a challenge in itself…since I have hundreds of recipes in numerable binders….that I either created for my cooking classes or saved having attened classes at other Cooking Schools….

Well ….it was a succesful day….the Savrin/Brioche…turned out perfectly….and had NO crumbs when cooled to room temp….and broken into little peices…!!!!!!


Here is the recipe…..


1 pkg  set Yeast +1 tspsugar +1/4 cup warm milk ..

Mix it with a spoon and let it sit until it bubbles up and it is “proofed!

Now …add the following into the mixing bowl….of an electric mixer

3 cups flouer + 1/4 cup more flour …if needed

1/3 cup sugar

dash of salt

4 Jumbo eggs…at room temperature

11/2 cup of warm milk

1 cup of butter softened to room temperature…but still cool to the touch…

Mix all the ingredients …except the butter….slowly into a dough…

When the dough is smooth and well mixed…ad the cool butter slowly to the dough and mix well…

Make sure the butter is well incorporated….

Set tje dough into an ungreased bowl, coverit with plastic wrap, and let it double in size….

about two hours or so…..

Stir down the dogh and let it rise a seond time in the refrigerator …2 to 24 hours…

Now fill baking pans…any size and  any  shape you like….or form little or big loafs…and let them all rise until it NOT quite doubles in size.

Bake the bread at 400 F until browned; or it reaches 190-200 F..tested with a thermometer

If baked in large molds…turn down the heat toward the end of baking.

Remove from baking pan and let it cool…..on a rack!



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Her 87th birthday was very special!   

My friend celebrated her special birthday with her whole family ..

.her children, grandchildren and great-great children..

.Four Generations all got together to celebrat Grammy!!!!!

For that very special occasion I made a Viennese Chocolate Cake…like my mother would have made it.  It was actually a Vanilla Based Cake with a center layer of a chocolate cake.  I filled the cake with a Austrian Butter Cream flavored with a touch of Vanilla and Orange flavoring, and a layer of home made Strawberry jam.    The finishing touch was the Chocolate Butter Cream…and my “fru-fru decoration piped to make the cake look a little “old-fashioned”!

Here are some pictures of this special Celebration Birthday Cake!!!

Happy Birthday …Bernice!



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