A grandmother and grandson share the gift of baking

Luke Brumfield and his grandmother Dawn Brumfield prepare their latest sweet creation. Photo by Collin Richie.

Looking for the perfect holiday gift? There’s a one-size-fits-all for everyone on your list, and it’s not available in any store or even online. It’s the gift of your time. Dawn Brumfield, a retired East Baton Rouge Public Schools educator and grandmother of 11 children in the preschool to college age range, relies on this gift year round. The recipients are delighted. 

“Something I’ve always tried to live by is the best thing you can give a child is your time. I think baking together is a great way to do just that!” she shares, beaming in the kitchen with her grandson, 13-year-old Luke Brumfield. The grandkids lovingly call her Ghee, and she calls Luke her best baking pal.

Luke has grown up in Ghee’s kitchen, graduating from his first pint-size red apron with Chef Luke painted on the front to his adult-size professional apron, charcoal gray with pinstripes. With starry eyes, he describes the first thing he remembers baking with her. “My first baking memory is grasshopper pie when I was five. That’s how it started. It had a crushed chocolate cookie crust with a mint cream filling and more cookies sprinkled on top. We still make it.” 

Dawn chimes in, “Everyone just devours it. If you don’t jump up when they’re serving it, you’ll miss out. Even when we make two!” 

The baking duo conquered an advanced-level project for Christmas 2019, the Peek-a-Boo Cake. It’s a chocolate pound cake baked with mint Christmas tree shapes hiding inside, adorned with glossy chocolate glaze and festive sprinkles. When the cake is cut, the hidden trees are revealed for a dramatic surprise. 

The Brumfield family photo album is filled with the traditional shots of smiling people with a special section devoted to Luke’s kitchen creations. The happy chef poses with ornate prize-worthy cakes, a gorgeous assortment that could fill an illuminated pastry case and fetch a handsome price. These cakes aren’t for sale, though. They are baked with love and shared with family and friends. “I can’t emphasize enough how sweet he is about sharing!” Dawn says. “They delivered things he baked during the pandemic. He baked his grandfather’s 85th birthday cake.” 

This year, the Peek-a-boo Cake is back on the menu after a long period spent apart, and all the grandkids will resume their tradition of gumbo and cake at Ghee’s for Christmas Eve, with the added annual activity of decorating gingerbread cookies that each child takes home for Santa. 

After their extended time apart, Luke and Dawn had a dress rehearsal for their holiday treats in Luke’s family’s kitchen. As Dawn packed her handmade basket with the supplies she brought over and headed for the door, Luke said, “Bye, Ghee! I love baking with you!” She replied, “I love baking with you! You’re the best!” 

Her gift keeps on giving.


Chocolate Mint Christmas Peek-a-Boo Cake

Teacher knows best! Since this recipe has three different components, be sure to read the instructions carefully and keep the ingredients for each component separate. Measuring things in advance and staging them on small cookie sheets is helpful during preparation. Most importantly, follow Chef Luke’s instructions and cook with a partner to make it the most fun!

Photo by Collin Richie
Ingredients for Green Christmas Trees:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2 tsp. water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus a little extra for pan
1 1/3 cups extra fine granulated sugar*
1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1/2 tsp. green food coloring
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and cover with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit pan with a little excess overhang for easy removal from pan. (Butter keeps the parchment in place.)
Whisk together eggs, egg yolks and water and let stand at room temperature until needed. 
Beat butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft and creamy. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 to 6 minutes, scraping bowl once or twice. With mixer running at medium speed, slowly pour in egg mixture, along with peppermint extract and green food coloring. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. With mixer on low speed, mix in salt, baking powder and ½ cup flour. Scrape bowl and mix in remaining 1 cup flour in ½-cup increments, mixing on low just until combined. 
Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake until a wood skewer inserted into center of cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs, 65 to 75 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool for 45 minutes. 
Cut green cake into ½- to ¾-inch-thick slices. Cut out 12 trees using a small Christmas tree cookie cutter (approximately 2 inches long). Place trees in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place in freezer for at least 15 minutes while preparing Chocolate Pound Cake batter.
*Blend granulated sugar in a food processor to make extra fine sugar. Measure after blending.

Ingredients for Chocolate Pound Cake:
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 oz. (1/4 cup) mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus a little extra for pan
1 cup extra fine granulated sugar*
1/4 cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and cover with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit pan with a little excess overhang for easy removal from pan.
Spoon cocoa powder into a medium-size bowl. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips over the top. Bring the water to a boil, then pour over chocolate mixture. Cover and let rest for 2 minutes. Stir in peppermint extract (mixture will be a thick paste). Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer. Add butter, extra fine sugar and brown sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer running on medium, add eggs 1 at a time until each is fully combined. Add salt and 13 cup flour, and mix on low to combine. Scrape bowl and add remaining 23 cup flour in 13-cup increments.
Pour about ¼ of batter into prepared pan, and smooth out in a thin layer. Run a spoon down center of batter in pan to create a well.
Remove green trees from freezer and arrange standing in a row down center of pan in the well, pressing flat sides of each tree up next to each other, but leaving enough room at either end of pan for some cake batter. Pour remaining cake batter around and over top of trees. Bake at 325 degrees until a wood skewer inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, about 60 to 70 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove and set on a wire rack to cool completely, at least 2 hours. 

Ingredients for Chocolate Glaze:
2 oz. (1/4 cup) mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
Red, white and green sprinkles for garnish (optional)
Stir mini chocolate chips together with cream in a small microwavable bowl. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is melted and glaze is smooth. Let cool a few minutes to thicken slightly so glaze will adhere to cake without completely running off. Pour glaze over top of cooled cake. Decorate with sprinkles if desired. To serve, cut to reveal Christmas trees hiding inside.