November Means Gingerbread Cake . . .

November is here!  Did you all remember to turn over your calendar page today?  When you do (and if it’s mine), you are going to see the MOST delicious recipe for Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Sauce — my idea of what November is all about!

And although it’s lots of fun decorating and making our front hall look good; getting everything ready for Halloween . . .


And fun to fill the candy baskets and imagine how happy these kids will be who come to our door and see all the goodies we have for them.






And fun carving the pumpkins and smearing the cinnamon on the tops to make them smell good . . . fun to arrange them on the front porch and decorate with branches and leaves and bittersweet, with things in the windows, and little pumpkins over our door . . .


And fun when it’s finally time to light the candles in the pumpkins and remember to stop everything I’m doing to run out and get a photo of it before it all begins, before the moment passes, just before dark . . .

And fun to see the first kids wandering the streets in their costumes, it’s a beautiful clear night, not raining, and not snowing, not even windy, so the candles won’t need relighting  . . . and suddenly I remember I better get myself back into the house because I know what’s coming  . . .

That’s when it all becomes a blur, and pretty much every photo I have looks like this!  We had over 400 kids come to the door; it was a mad house!  It was spectacular! It was “people fireworks!”

But besides handing out candy, we were also stirring the chili pot, pouring the Corn Pudding batter into the pan and putting it into the oven, chopping garlic and melting butter for garlic bread, putting out dishes and silverware, setting up a bar, heating up the cider . . . because we were getting ready for a party —  something we do most every year; when our friends finish with their halloween duties, they all come over — we eat chili with sour cream, chopped red onion and cilantro out of little bowls in the dining room and talk in front of the fire, laughing as the last embers die down.  Around the witching hour of midnight they stumble home to their beds and we crawl up the stairs to ours. TGIO.

We only did the basics before bed, put away the food, got one load of dishes into the dishwasher, and left everything else high and dry . . . so I spent this morning tidying up.  This is all that was left of the Corn Pudding!

 The day after Halloween is always one of my favorite days, because all the “fall getting ready” is finally done, and we have the decorated house all to ourselves and no one is coming over!  I padded around in my slippers this morning, taking stock and surveying the party chaos which wasn’t bad, only skin deep; made myself a strong cup of tea with lots of honey and cream, and put some food in Girl’s bowl, and got busy.  I plumped the pillows on the sofa, gathered the tablecloth from the dining table. Pulled out all the burnt-down candles and threw them into the fireplace. Girl watched as I emptied the dishwasher, refilled it, and washed the big stew pot and the pudding pan by hand.  The refrigerator hummed while I put in a load of laundry, and ate a bowlful of Chili, let girl out; let her back in; took Joe his tea, feeling very domestic, and thinking about Thanksgiving and who’s coming, and putting on my list, “order turkey.”

I did the last of the hand washing; Joe was up by then and I heard Christmas music upstairs, so he’s happy too.

I took out the burned-down votive candle holders I’d put in the freezer earlier.

You know this trick for getting a candle stub out of a votive?  After it’s frozen, you whack it lightly on a wooden surface (or somewhere soft) . . . and

Voila!  Out they come, usually clean as a whistle.  I brought in one of the starry pumpkins off the porch for our kitchen table, and dust-busted up all the fallen bittersweet berries from the kitchen floor.

And to me, this day is the beginning of winter.  We are battened down; the storm windows are all on and locked tightly.  The wood pile is full, there are good leftovers in the fridge, my house is clean and decorated for the season; my heart is full from the memory of last night; and I have the rest of the day to go into my studio and work on a new page of my book, with the fireplace to keep me company. ♥  

Happy Day-After-Halloween everyone!

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230 Responses to November Means Gingerbread Cake . . .

  1. Janie Phillips says:

    As AngieTink would say, “Pure magic” 🙂

  2. pat addison says:

    good morning Susan, its a frosty november morning here..34 degrees and the frost is on the rooftops and on the lawns. have a nice warm fire going in the woodstove, and girl kitty would love this . all the cats curled up in their basket by the woodstove enjoying the warmth and snoozing. all the Halloween decorations are down and out lovingly away for another year, the graveyard is gone and put away for next time and the bones and tombstones are bagged up and in the shed. the pumpkins have been turned around and will sit out on the porch until after Thanksgiving. have all the Thanksgiving decorations up, and have to get busy pricing the turkeys for the holidays, we have one at Thanksgiving and another one on Christmas. the farmer’s markets will be closing soon and the local veggie stands out here, so better get out and stock up on all the veggies needed for Thanksgiving dinner, i love fresh veggies and buy at the local stands and farmers’ markets instead of the grocery stores. you get a better deal i think and better quality. time also to rake up some of the leaves, and bring up some more firewood, the nights are getting colder here and the snow level is dropping. soon we will have snow, but for now its hot spice tea, fresh baked pumpkin bread and looking over recipes for Thanksgiving. by Thanksgiving i have all my shopping for Christmas done, that way i can sit back and enjoy the holidays and get the presents wrapped and ready for shipping to family and friends. gingerbread will be baked in december for the local holiday tree lighting ceremony and party afterwards. have a wonderful day Susan and everyone. Happy Fall to all!!!! 🙂

  3. Marilyn says:

    What a thrill to see your gingerbread cake recipe when I flipped the calendar page to November. To: everyone….make this cake, it’s wonderful!! As a side note: get a Susan Branch calendar, it’s also wonderful!!!

    I’m a big fan of Thanksgiving, too, so the month of November is focused solely on this holiday. I love the traditions, special foods and the gathering of friends and family for this special holiday. 🙂

    Susan, I can’t wait to see your blog postings over the next few weeks. I will be borrowing…ok, stealing,….. some of your ideas. 🙂 lol

    Marilyn (in Dallas)

  4. Vickie T. says:

    I loved reading this post and seeing all of those great pictures of your trick-or-treaters, your lovely old home, and those cute star pumpkins! When I flipped your calendar to November yesterday, I was delighted to see the Gingerbread Cake recipe! I can’t wait to try it. I bet it will make my home smell wonderful when it’s in the oven. I am thinking that it will go well with the pumpkin ice cream that I have in my freezer right now…

  5. pat addison says:

    oops i forgot to ask do you put up feeders for the birds to feed at during the winter??? we sure do, we have feeders filled with seed and suet feeders up at this time of the year, and hay is put out for the deer to feed on. we love our birds around here and we love the deer that come in our yard and visit us. such shy and beautiful creatures, and i have to admit the cats love watching the feeders, next to the fish tank that is kitty cat tv for them…LOL!!! we also keep the hummingbird feeders full with nectar for them, during the Fall and Winter its hard for all the lil birds to get food so we lend a hand and help them out . also have a question does anyone know where to find a butter churn, not the old fashioned one but the one that has paddles in a jar, a dazey churn jar i think its called???? we are getting 2 female nubian goats and i want to make butter from their milk instead of spending the money buying it at the store, my grandma used to do it and i can remember helping her by turning the crank on the jar. i loved her kitchen… had such old fashioned things in it and it always smelled so good in there, like fresh bread baking or sweet rolls or cookies. loved being in there at Thanksgiving and smelling the turkey cooking and the sausage stuffing for the turkey…..makes me hungry and happy!!! thanks for the help!!! 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      Oh I love to feed the birds, I have 3 feeders hanging from the wisteria trellis over my kitchen windows, so the feeders are about 3 feet away from me when I’m standing at the sink. I have a birds eye view of everything!

  6. Sherryl says:

    Oh I’m so jealous. We had five trick or treaters come to our door. Count ’em – FIVE. There are lots of kids around, but over the last couple of years they all seem to go to Halloween parties or other community sponsored events. Times they are a changing… so glad they aren’t changing EVERYWHERE! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • sbranch says:

      For years I lived in the woods and never had a single trick-or-treater come to my door, so we are making up for it now!

  7. I love the cozy, warm feel of autumn!

  8. Debbie K says:

    …sigh…Weds afternoon, no Halloween, still no power,and nearly 2 feet of snow…winter is HERE!!!

  9. Dina Meador says:

    I love Autumn too and the corn pudding – we all love it! I serve it with chili and also with stew.

    BTW another trick getting old candles out of votives is to put a little bit of water in the bottom of the votive before you place the candle and it will also get the end of the candle wax out.


  10. Laurie Walt says:

    The magic is in the anticipation-the preparing- and the planning. I’m so grateful that we have much to look forward to!

  11. Renae M. says:

    Dear Susan, I love your blog, books, calendars, etc. Now that you have a blog my husband hears where you are and what you are currently doing for every season. He says we are kindred spirits because we’re often doing or thinking the same things you are. This weekend we were hanging some pictures, and I asked him if one looked OK in the kitchen. He thoughtfully answered that it looked “very Susan Branchish” so it was definitely OK! So cute! He enjoys the notations about the moon on your calendars. Long ago I awoke to water spraying underneath a sink upstairs and in the kitchen downstairs it looked like it was raining! The first thing I rescued was my Susan Branch calendar on the side of the refrigerator! I appreciate you and your work so much. Thank you & God bless you! Renae

  12. Pamela says:

    Your house is so pretty decorated for fall. I love your idea of a “party after”, that would be so much fun, nice way to end a great evening. We had about 5-6″ of snow, so pretty to watch falling through the trees. Glad it was on a Saturday when I had the day to stay in and enjoy. I love your blog – it warms my heart. I so enjoy reading about your daily coming and going’s, it’s like getting a letter from your best friend. Thanks for sharing.
    PS – I wish you had 1,740 banana dishes, that would warm a lot of hearts :>

  13. Susan, I feel the same way. Now that all the prep for winter, that happens in October comes to pass….its official. There is a feeling of…..its done. Now I can just creatively “BE” in November and December. I don’t know if I am explaining it correctly. I just know how I feel….You did a better job of expressing. Thanks, Angel

  14. Ginnie says:

    Over 400 kids! That’s 10 times what we had at our house!

    Love that tip about freezing the votive stubs. I’d stopped using them and switched to tea lights, because I broke an antique cut glass tumbler trying to get the melted wax out. : ( With your tip, I’ll try votives again. But maybe start with something a little less fragile than the cut glass.

  15. Teena says:

    Susan, I really enjoy reading what you share with us all! It makes me feel like I am actually there and I can imagine it all. One goal I have over time, is to try your beautiful recipes in your books…I am currently concentrating on your “Autumn” book, for obvious reasons. I have truly enjoyed your calendar this past year. Today is my b-day, and a request I have placed with my husband, is for the 2012 calendar! I highly recommend it! Enjoy November…Teena

  16. Rettabug says:

    I am making a mental note to purchase one of your calendars for the coming new year, Susan! I just love the way you write…its like you’re sitting in the same room with me, with a fire in the fireplace & capturing the warmth of a cuppa tea between your hands.

    I’m amazed that you could find the energy to entertain so many guests AFTER passing out candy to 400+ children! WOW! BTW, your ghost in the window is wonderfully cute idea.

    Your Kitty Girl reminds me so much of my old Shultzie Kitty. He was a loyal & loving companion for many, many years. Give her a gentle pat on the head for me, please?


  17. Joanna B says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart and home with us through your blog. Finishing up my lunch bread but had to read your latest entry before getting back to work. Love your whimsy & color—all the photos, the “how to” stuff. Trying to convince my favorite Hallmark store to carry your products.

  18. Debbie N. says:

    I have your mini calendar so when I flipped the page yesterday morning I was greeted with the Cranberry Apple Crisp recipe. I am going to make this as soon as I get cranberries. Will miss October but am looking forward with great anticipation to Thanksgiving. Take care.

    • Lydia Alejandro says:

      Hello Susan,
      Listen to me, I sound like I am one of your dear friends. That is what
      your website sounds like. A dear friend, so personalized, and detailed
      about your everyday life… I feel like I’m having a cuppa and sitting back to listen to you. I received your Willard Newsletter this week and was excited to read it (as always!) LOVED IT! I am going to try the cranberries with sugar bake. It looks yummy. I come from a large
      Mexican family and we add frijoles, arroz and tamales and other Mexican dishes to our traditional turkey dishes. The best of both cultures. Si?

      Well, “Gracias” for your lovely Willard newsletter. I enjoy it SOOOO
      much, it warms my soul and soothes me.

      Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
      I am thankful for Susan Branch!

      Lydia Alejandro

  19. Here comes the Holidays’ ready or not!!! It’s hard not to become overwhelmed with all the preparations vs the true meaning of Thanksgiving (FAMILY/FRIENDS)…..Christmas (JESUS/family/friends)….I think the materialism almost ruins Christmas for me, and the financial burden parents put on themselves to give their children all the gifts they think they need? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the money spent for that one day would be given to charities or invested so peoples lives could be made easier. I love the saying “Remember The Reason for the Season”…..all the decorating, baking, and sharing love and memories with family and making the gifts would certainly make it more meaningful for us and less profitable for all the retailers!!! I’m not a humbug by any means; it is just tough times and the economy isn’t great (most gifts will be returned), and I hate to see people feel guilty for not getting the perfect (expensive) gifts when they already have it…..LOVE…..and it’s free!!! May everyone take out time from the hustle/bustle in the next two months, and share their time and homemade goodies with an elderly neighbor….Blessings!!

  20. Kristi says:

    Susan, I wish I was one of your neighbors who enjoyed your after-Halloween party! Your house looked so festive and inviting. I can’t wait to see what you have in store of us for Thanksgiving and Christmas! I hope you post a lot of decorating ideas. And, I must find your 2012 calendar.

  21. Terry says:

    Susan, once again you make me feel warm and cozy. Thank you!

  22. TJ says:

    My SB collection is now complete!! I came home this afternoon to find your AUTUMN book had arrived in the mail along with HOME COOKING – HOLIDAY RECIPES…I’m so-o-o happy. The recipe book is a XMAS gift for my daughter-in-law. I’m going to fill it with the recipes of all the things she loves…she is alway asking me how to prepare “this” or “that” and this darling book will be her very own treasure trove of goodies. I can hardly wait to shower tonight, climb into bed, and begin reading AUTUMN.

    I noticed that you signed the AUTUMN book…it’s another lovely gesture, thank you!

    • sbranch says:

      I try to sign all the books that come in, want everyone to have signed copies! So happy you got it and what a wonderful gift you’re making for your daughter-in-law!!

  23. Erin says:

    I honestly can’t even begin to express how that picture of your house on Halloween warms my heart. I dream of owning a home in New England like yours every single day, and cannot think of a better way to celebrate such a beauty that is an old house, than decorating it for my favorite holiday: Halloween ♥

    … One day! xo

  24. Sandra Gillanders says:

    Having everything ready and all decorated you can sit back and enjoy the season. Love the idea of a party on Halloween night and the chili and corn pudding is a perfect menu. Love the glassware with the red stripe around them. I almost bought two just like those as I was very attracted to the red but exercised control and passed on them. I always go to the glass aisle first when treasure hunting, it’s my favorite! Thank you for always inspiring me to be a good housekeeper and to find pleasure in small things.

  25. Victoria says:

    What a lovely description of your Halloween, and how cosy and wonderful you and our house feel after a lovely party. I also love my home after a get-together.. There is something about the house and the smells that surround a happy house.
    I’m certain that houses have feelings and are happy when they have been able to host families and friends. And you are right.. November starts the beginning of winter. We live in Oregon and are getting ready for the first snow.. It’s early this year.. and I’m not quite ready to give up my flip flops on a sunny day. But yes, I’m ready for pre-planning for Thanksgiving. Oh, my grandmother made gingerbread too… But not with the lemon sauce, with whipped cream. Something decadent in the fall about all of those yummy spices… 🙂

  26. Mona says:

    Last Friday we had a chili dinner and Halloween party at church, and I finally got to make your Touchdown Chili. Even though I tasted it while it was cooking, I was so looking forward to a bowlful! But by the time I got in line to dish up, it was gone! Of course, that meant I needed to make another pot, which I did, and Oh. My. Gosh. It was the best tasting chili I have ever had (sorry, Mom)! I also made the Iowa Cornbread. Yummy! The smell of it baking was unbelievable. Ala Julie and Julia, I now have to cook my way through your Autumn cookbook. Cinnamon ice cream, here I come!

    Autumn is the season I most look forward to. While reading your blogs I’m there in Martha’s Vineyard in spirit, watching leaves fall and storms rage, dressed in sweaters and hats and boots, braving the cold and battening the hatches. Then I look out my window where leaves are still green, it’s 75 degrees, and I am wearing sandals. Ah, central California. I’m a four season girl, grew up in Nevada; it’s still hard to adjust to all this nice weather. Bless you for sharing your beautiful home, the beautiful season, and your beautiful soul! P.S. Love your Girl Kitty!!! =^..^=

    • sbranch says:

      Oh you will love that cinnamon ice cream! So glad you finally got a taste of the chili! Happy Fall Mona!

  27. Veronica says:

    Thank you Susan,for the ‘magic of the night’.
    You allow us to be blessed in that moment of time and share.
    ‘Pure magic’! Veronica

  28. Christy says:

    ooo Susan, you make my heart so happy! We’re right up the road a piece in Weymouth, MA. Best of the best to you (just ordered my 2012 calendars – you’re welcome *smile*)

  29. Donna Wilder says:

    Have you ever heard of, or even read, the books titled, “What Would Budda Do?” or “What Would Jesus Do?” They’re interesting inspirational books with answers to questions about life from two of our greatest prophets. I want to write a new book,”What Would Susan Do?!!!” YOU are one of my greatest inspirations. Just the other day I was in my kitchen feeling a little blue and I actually thought, “What would Susan do?” ( I always imagine you smiling and just full of life and love!) So I got out a stick of butter and some maple syrup and made myself (and family) your delicious maple butter! That little act just chased the blues away and made me realize that it’s the simple things in life that are so meaningful. Thank you so much Susan for ALL your sweet inspiration! xoxoxox

    • sbranch says:

      ohhhh, so nice! It is truly the little things, make us feel good about ourselves and our world. Thank you Donna!

  30. Mama Bear says:

    Thanks for the tip about the burned down candles….I didn’t know that….
    Chili for breakfast? Ugh!
    Mama Bear

  31. Kate says:

    Ok thats mean, to talk about Ginger cake and not give us the recipe! I gave your calendar to my mom, I’ll have to get it from her.
    Great tip on the candle removal, Ill try that. Although I dont often burn candles, my kitten boys will NOT leave them alone, even after singeing whiskers. Same with flowers in vases, they get pulled over right away. And water glasses. I havent had a nice drink in a pretty glass for 14 years, all water bottles after having mulitples spilled. Something about water and paws that goes together! Even my tea has a lid. (cream in there!) They have done that from the day I brought them home from a farm in Northfield MN. Just one of the changes of habits to accomidate my kids. Thanks for sharing your wonderful life.

  32. Janice Hearns says:

    I have the same green checked valances in my kitchen – mine are Waverly – yours look the same

    • sbranch says:

      ‘Cept mine are black and cream. Found a reeeeally long one at a yard sale, cut it up, and there it is, so I don’t know if it’s Waverly.

  33. Sandi S says:

    I made your Gingerbread Cake with lemon sauce and whipped cream last week but made it gluten-free so I could enjoy it too! Just substituted the 2 cups of flour for 2 cups of my gluten free mix (rice flour, corn starch, potato starch and tapioca starch) plus 1 tsp of xanthan gum, 1/2 tsp of egg replacer and Bob’s your uncle! The house smelled delicious and the entire thing was gone the next day! Then I baked your Indian Pudding and brought it with us to Vancouver for our granddaughter’s heart surgery and we eat it between shifts at the hospital. So comforting and tasting of better things to come when we all get to go home with a healthier baby!

    • sbranch says:

      How great; you brought comfort to a place it was really needed . . . sending all best wishes for your granddaughter!

  34. Enikö says:

    How is it that I never knew about freezing the votives to get the wax out easily? Thanks, Sue! Thanks for the tip & thanks for making Halloween so special! XO

    • sbranch says:

      I learn new things here every day! I learned you can get smells off your hands, like garlic and onions and even furniture polish by rubbing them on stainless steel!! How’s that for amazing? I couldn’t believe it when it worked! 🙂

  35. Linda Trokey says:

    Susan, I live for you blog and website and they’re the first “favorites” I go to each morning. If I could paint or draw, I would want to do it like you do. What a wonderful gift and how grateful I am that you share it with all of us! Your house is my dream home and you’ve helped me appreciate the beauty of each season and every day. I don’t care for the cold weather but this year, after seeing your autumn-decorated home, I bought mini-pumpkins, gourds, fresh autumnal flowers and used some of nature’s naturals and decorated my mantel and the rest of my house. I felt so much better and now know to do that every time there’s a reason! Thanks again for your love of the little things!

    Linda T

  36. sondra fox says:

    just read about you & your friend Margot laughing so hard you had to leave a meeting. Reminded me of my best friend & myself at a wedding both of our husbands were in. My friend & I were seated in the front row of the church, while our husbands stood dutifully at the altar, beside the bride & groom, awaiting the arrival of the priest. They stood there for at least five mins., without the priest arriving. My friend & I started laughing & COULDN’T stop. There we were captives of our own uncontrollable laughter, sitting right there in the front row of the church, unable to leave, with the entire body of wedding guests watching our disrespect. The longer the absence of the priest, the more we laughed. Like you & your friend, we couldn’t look at each other without cracking up even more. The shared laughter of friends is a gift from heaven, wouldn’t you agree? Your blogs are a daily “must” for me. Love hearing about your life, especially about your kitties. It makes me feel good knowing that two kitties are having a wonderful life in a loving home.

    • sbranch says:

      Funny Sondra! How things strike us as hilarious at the most inopportune of times! Here is a video I took of the kitties yesterday, so you can see how it’s coming along — have a wonderful day!

  37. Crystal says:

    My poor husband has been saying “Mmmmmmmmmmmm! Gingerbread!” everyday since I turned the kitchen calendar page to November. I took pity on The Boy and made it for him last night. He had a piece while it was still warm and was so happy. I have to say it’s even better this morning with coffee. Every year among my Christmas presents is a package containing your calendar for the kitchen and a Kim Jacobs calendar for my closet door. I usually pick out a third one for at work and it varies but this year, I’m inspired and I think I will make my own!

  38. Rosie Wade says:

    I am surprised, so surprised, at the freezing votives, but I really dont want to put those in my freezer (simply because there is NO room)……What I do , is to put a small layer of water in the candle holder or cup……..burnt votive pops right out!

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