Second Prize, Illinois State Fair, 2019

Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance


Illinois State Fair

August 12, 2019



Second Prize:

Aunt Toni’s Astoria Red Velvet Cake
Michael Marchizza, Chatham, Illinois


Most of my family’s “special recipes” are linked to some holiday, like Easter or Christmas or Thanksgiving. But there is one recipe that is special and was done at random times for mini-celebrations, or just because someone was in the mood to have it. I am talking about Astoria Red Velvet Cake, and especially the recipe that belonged to my dear, loving Aunt Toni.


Oh my God, her Red Velvet Cake was to die for. Everyone knew her cake, the way it looked, the taste, and most of all the love put into it. There would be fights over who would have the last piece because no one knew for sure when they would see it again. And no matter how hard you tried, how many attempts you made, if you chose to make your own Astoria Red Velvet Cake, it was not going to come out like Aunt Toni’s. Never! The cake itself was difficult to master. Aunt Toni’s cake had to be perfectly shaped, visually appealing, proper height, etc. And the taste had to be spot-on. What was unusual about Aunt Toni’s red velvet cake was her icing. She did not use a cream cheese-based icing. No, that would have been to normal, too easy, and too common. No, Toni had her own icing. I always thought it was unique as I have never seen it done on a red velvet cake before, but I don’t know where she got the recipe. All I can say, along with dozens of others who have tasted it, is that it is one of the most delicious icings out there, and though it requires some effort to make, it is well worth it in the end.


Aunt Toni’s icing recipe consisted of just 5 ingredients: flour, milk, sugar, butter and vanilla. The effort needed was to stand and stir the ingredients over a stove continuously for several minutes (although when standing there it seems more like several days). And even with all the care you put into it, it often came out lumpy or watery or flavorless. Not at all like Aunt Toni’s which each time was a model of perfection. Of course, whenever someone was going to be lucky enough to get one of Aunt Toni’s red velvet cakes, she would also send along an extra bowl of her special icing. Just to have the cake iced would never be enough. You had to have extra….to put on the slices, to add more to the cake, or to just eat out of the bowl.


So maybe it was your birthday, or just a nice summer day, or maybe a rainy Monday. Whatever the occasion it was made extra special if Aunt Toni made her Astoria Red Velvet Cake with her own special icing.



Second Prize:

Aunt Toni’s Astoria Red Velvet Cake
Michael Marchizza, Chatham, Illinois


This recipe will require 2-3 whole Oranges and 1 Lemon, depending on their size. It is recommended when prepping the citrus to first zest the rind, then harvest the pulp, and then the juice (if needed).


The below recipe is what I have come to understand works best after years of my mother and J making these cookies at Christmastime. A picture of the original hand-written recipe taken down by my mother, as shared by my great-grandmother, and the version that I copied when I got married are included for reference.


Ingredients-For the Cookie:
1 Cup Butter
2 Cups White Sugar
2 Tbsp Heavy Cream
4 Tbsp Orange Pulp
3 Eggs
4 Tbsp Orange Rind (grated)
1 Tbsp Lemon Rind (grated)
½ tsp. Lemon Extract
1/4 tsp. Salt
4 Cups Flour
1 tsp. Cream of Tartar


For the Icing:
2 tsp. Orange Rind (grated)
2 Tbsp. Orange Juice
1 Cup Powdered Sugar



Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the heavy cream, orange pulp, and eggs. Beat well. Add the rest of the ingredients for the cookies and mix thoroughJy but lightly. Chill the dough for at least 5 hours or overnight.


When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper. Break off bits of the cookie dough and flatten them down into 1-2 inch disks spaced 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies look dry and appears a light white color. The cookies will not necessarily brown much on the top or edges.


Cooled cookies should be glazed with the icing and left to set before eating. To prepare the icing, mix the ingredients together. The icing should be readily pourable, like a thick glaze. If it is a slow pour, add more orange juice until the proper consistency is reached. Keep cookies in a tightly sealed container until sharing at holiday gatherings.


Above: my mother’s handwritten recipe for Orange Creams from her original cookbook
Below: the recipe that I copied when I got married

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