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In your kitchen, in your corner

Maida Heatter appears on the front cover of many of her nine cookbooks, surrounded by sumptuous spreads of cookies, cakes and pies.

I was always struck that here was someone who stands by her products. Little wonder the legendary dessert maven and cookbook author is often called the Queen of Dessert.

Now, two new treasuries — "Maida Heatter's Cakes" and "Maida Heatter's Cookies" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99) — of her life's work gather together recipes from five of her dessert cookbooks. Gone are the stand-by-your-mandel-bread images, replaced with covers resembling textile prints you might find on a kitchen towel used to proof bread.

Yet inside everything remains quintessentially Heatter, especially the way she talks to her readers — a conversation for every dessert, with brief, informative notes like a trail of crumbs you follow from page to page.

It is not long before you feel that you know Heatter, what she knows and how her kitchen must smell when she bakes. There are no secrets. Maida Heatter is in your kitchen corner. The conversation is easy to follow, and you pick it up wherever you crack open one of her books.

Heatter does not just list ingredients and instructions. She retells a recipe and does so with such meticulous dedication that she will republish and update recipes that she or a reader discovered needed fixing.

This includes her pecan squares Americana, now found in "Maida Heatter's Cookies," in which she improved the technique for preventing sticking by lining the jelly roll pan with foil, buttering the top of the foil, and then freezing it until ready to use.

Or her lemon buttermilk cake #2, now appearing in "Maida Heatter's Cakes," retold as follows: "Shortly after my first dessert book was published, I received several calls and letters from people who said there was something wrong with the Lemon Buttermilk Cake. I said it couldn't be. I had made the cake many times. I had taught it …Then I made the cake from the book and there was indeed something wrong. … Recently I rewrote the recipe completely. It is #2. This works."

Most important, Heatter has recipes for everyone. There are cookies, of course, brownies, lots of them, cakes in loafs and layers, not to mention chocolate pudding from scratch, doughnuts and crackers.

And now, with her new books, there are more reasons to get the conversation started.

Lemon buttermilk cake #2

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Servings: 12

Note: Adapted from "Maida Heatter's Cakes."

Ingredients:
Fine, dry breadcrumbs
3 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
Finely grated zest of 2 or 3 large lemons
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Glaze:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar

1. Place a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven; heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-31/2-inch (10-cup capacity) tube pan; line the bottom with wax or parchment paper. Butter the paper; dust all over with dry breadcrumbs. Tap to shake out excess crumbs. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2. Beat the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer until slightly soft. Add the sugar; beat until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, add the sifted ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, scraping the bowl with a spatula, and beating only until smooth after each addition.

3. Remove from the mixer; stir in lemon zest and juice. Turn into the prepared pan; smooth the top. Bake until a cake tester gently inserted into the middle comes out clean and dry, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, make the glaze as soon as the cake goes in the oven. Mix lemon juice and sugar in a bowl; let stand, stirring occasionally, while the cake is baking.

5. Remove cake from oven; let stand in the pan, 5 minutes. Cover pan with a rack; invert very carefully. Place over a large piece of foil; remove the pan. (If you used paper lining, peel it off now.) Brush the glaze all over the top, sides and tube of the hot cake with a pastry brush. Let stand until completely cool.

Nutrition information:
Per serving: 417 calories, 35% of calories from fat, 17 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 64 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 190 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

foods@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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