Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cake Stories....

Here are two recipes that some of you have requested.  Of course, I had to include the stories behind them.  Enjoy!

The first recipe is for Caramel Cake.  My introduction to this delightful piece of sweetness was almost 20 years ago while I was on staff at my church.  One of my fellow staffers, Glendar Haskin, shared my love of sweets.  She knew of a local bakery that made a caramel cake that she raved about, and one day she got a taste for it.  Her description of the wonder of this cake got me hooked.  She called the bakery and they would only sell it in a sheet cake, which cost about $20.  Neither of us had much money to spare, but we bought the cake with the hope that the rest of the staff (most of them shared our sugar addiction) would be willing to donate to support our habit and buy pieces of the cake.

We took a road trip to the bakery, brought the cake back to the church office and we shared the "spiritual" experience of this cake...it was delicious!  The cake was tender and moist, yet solid...the indicators of a homemade cake.  The butter and caramel taste just "oozed" out of it, helped along by the delicious caramel frosting.  The frosting was soft and creamy and smelled of perfectly blended brown sugar and butter.  I had never had anything like it.  I had made my own cakes for years, but had never made one like this.  I was hooked.

Our co-workers flocked toward us to join in our delight and gladly put up the $1.00 we charged for each piece.  We had no problem recouping our investment and probably wished it had not been so popular.

The next time we got the "urge" for this cake we were devastated to find the bakery had closed.  What to do?!  My quest for the perfect caramel cake began and after much trial and error, I have ended up combining two recipes, which you will find below.  The first one I found while searching the Internet.  It's called "Fran's Funeral Cake" and I was intrigued by the description of it by Fran's daughter (who posted the recipe).  She said "Theres a tradition in the South of taking lots of food to mourning relatives when someone dies.  We call this funeral cake because Mom, ever prepared for the hand of God, always has one in the freezer to take to the newly bereaved!"

It is wonderful both in cake and frosting, but the cake is really a pound cake consistency and sometimes I want something a little lighter.  So, now I use Fran's frosting and a cake recipe called "Brown Sugar Caramel Cake" from the magazine "Taste of the South".

2 sticks butter or margarine
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
6 eggs
1 cup milk
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat over to 325 degrees.  Cream shortening, butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.  Mix flour, baking pwd and salt.  Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour.  Stir in flavorings.  Grease and flour a large tube or bundt pan, or two 9 inch round pans.  Pour batter into prepared pan(s).  Depending on pan used, bake for 30 minutes to an hour or so (tube pan will take longer).  Cool about 15 minutes before removing from pan.


Combine 1 stick butter or margarine and 1 cup brown sugar in heavy saucepan.  Boil hard for about 1 minute.  Add 1/2 cup milk, whisking to keep from separating.  Boil 2 minutes.  Cool.  Then beat in 3-4 cups confectioners sugar.  You may need more depending on how cool your syrup is and how thick you want the frosting.  When using a tube or bundt pan, I like to make it thinner.  It will thicken up when completely cool.  Spread on cooled cake.

CARAMEL CAKE #2  (Lighter version)


   1. 2 cups all-purpose flour
   2. 1 teaspoon baking powder
   3. 1 teaspoon salt
   4. 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
   5. 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
   6. 4 large eggs
   7. 3/4 cup vegetable oil
   8. 1/2 cup buttermilk
   9. 1/2 cup sour cream (I also use yogurt)
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  11. 1 teaspoon maple extract (I used a TBL of real maple syrup)

   1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with baking spray with flour. Line with parchment-paper rounds. (I just spray the pans and sprinkle with flour) Spray parchment rounds. Set aside.
   2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
   3. In a mixing bowl, beat brown sugar and eggs at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth, approximately 3 minutes. Add oil and beat until combined. Set aside.
   4. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, and extracts.
   5. Add flour mixture to brown-sugar mixture, alternating with milk mixture in 3 batches and beating well between additions. Pour batter into prepared pans, smoothing tops.
   6. Bake until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean, approximately 30 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for 20 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

The second recipe is for a cake I call "Miss Ceilie's Chocolate Cherry Torte".  We used to serve it in our cafe, "The Peaberry" and it is my husband Bill's absolute favorite cake ever.  It too is a combined recipe.  The frosting is from my dear friend Ceil.  My friend Marce and I used to visit her when she lived in Ann Arbor several years ago.  Her home was a retreat for the weary and wayword soul and she always had great wine and food.  One visit she made this delightful cake and she graciously shared the recipe.  It used a mix for the cake, but the frosting was homemade and a decadant, fudgy dream.  The filling is canned pie filling and I always promise myself that one day I will make my own cherry filling, but have not as yet.

The cake recipe I use is from Hershey and I love it because it is so easy, yet the best chocolate cake I have ever had.  Be sure to use a good cocoa and feel free to add more to taste.  Bill likes really dark chocolate, so I usually add a little extra and cut back on the sugar a bit.

This cake is beautiful to serve with the red cherries against the dark chocolate cake.  Be sure to refrigerate left overs, as the frosting has egg yolks in it.  If you get really adventurous, add a little rum to the frosting...mm mm good!


2 cups sugar (I like to use a little less to intensify the chocolate flavor)
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup cocoa (feel free to add a little extra if you like dark chocolate)
1 cup milk
1 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water (I NEVER use a whole cup, more like 3/4 of a cup)

1 cup butter, room temperature
4 1/2 cups confectioner sugar (a little more or less, depending on your preference)
3/4 cup cocoa
3 egg yolks
A little milk or water to thin frosting out

1 can cherry pie filling (I use light)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.

In large mixer bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking pwd, baking soda and salt.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed of mixer for 2 minutes.

Remove mixer, stir in boiling water (I only use about 3/4 of a cup).  If using the whole cup, batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pans.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, testing with a toothpick.

Cool for 15 minutes or so, and remove from pans.

Combine butter, confectioner sugar and cocoa.  Beat with mixer, add egg yolks and beat till smooth, adding a little water or milk, just a TBL or two at a time, until of spreading consitency.  Beat till fluffy.

To Assemble cake:
Place one cooled layer on plate and spread with frosting, creating a 1/2 inch border around the edge (helps to hold in the cherries).  Carefully spread the cherry pie filling on top of frosting, being sure to reserve 10 cherries for garnish (I like to spoon out the cherries into another bowl, leaving off most of the pie filling "goo" before spreading onto the frosting).  Top with remaining layer and frost.  To garnish, you can used some shaved chocolate and then garnish each piece with a cherry.


Friday, October 9, 2009


I wrote this piece because I was so disturbed by what I see many in the body of Christ use as an excuse for hiding their "true" selves from people...haters. I had heard it just one too many times in finding out news about people I had shared my life with for years, then finding out from someone else news that should have been shared personally with those that loved them.

Others must share my sentiment, because at poetry events, it is my most requested piece.


Haters, Haters everywhere…Haters, Haters, I don’t care!

I am sick of hearing about haters as if they are a threat
Why worry what they say; why do we break a sweat?

We talk about the haters and the damage that they wield
The only damage I can see is when we choose to conceal

Afraid that news of what you do will be out on the street
The bad news and the good news to yourself you keep

You keep things under wraps, afraid the haters just might hear
Since when do things of darkness cause people of God to fear?

Concealing all your business because you are afraid
But was keeping out the haters worth the price you’ve paid?

Behind your guarded gate, you’ve locked out lovers as well
Because you choose to hide yourself behind a darkened veil

Those that love and care are hurt and dismayed
What happened to all those years together, the prayers that were prayed?

The faith that said we can overcome anything
Seeing that faith snuffed away brings quite a sting

Locking out the lovers for fear of those who hate
Keeps transparency behind that guarded gate

My God is mightier than any hater’s words
He alone will choose my fate, He will be my guard

Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me
We forget the lessons learned as early as the nursery

I cut my teeth on adversity, scandal and hard times
Having my first child at 14 wasn’t considered sublime

My divorce and remarriage created quite a stir
Causing some peoples vision to temporarily blur

I can’t say it doesn’t hurt me that people act up so
But I won’t shut out my friends because I worry about a foe

The word says the power of life and death is held in our tongue
I believe life trumps the death of the hating one

Whatever you focus on is magnified the man of God has said
So why focus on the haters and what they choose to spread?

Haters haters everywhere; haters haters I don’t care!

Why focus on the haters when lovers are the key?
Haters only want to bind, but lovers set us free

Free to be honest, real, who we truly are
With this kind love and freedom we don’t have to be a liar

Can’t you see the lovers just waiting for your call?
People who reach out to you, even when you fall

Lovers who long to share in your pain, triumphs and joys
Yet you choose to keep them away with elaborate ploys

Some say I’m a hater because I make my thoughts known
I say come back and see me when your mind has grown

Haters, Haters everywhere…Haters, Haters, I don’t care!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Falling Off...

I write a lot about seasons, nature and the beauty of creation. They speak to me and add so much to my life. As we go into the next season, it once again teaches and inspires me.

Burning Bush (with just a corner of the Frank Lloyd Wright house behind us)

Autumn has arrived and fills the air with its presence. The crispness of the breeze, the drizzle of the rain. Leaves beginning to turn from green to orange, amber and red. Just the very top of my “Burning Bush” is starting its dramatic change from plain green to bright red, making me look twice out my window whenever it catches my eye. The seed pods on the Magnolia tree are turning “orangey red” and at times looks like there are cardinal ornaments hung all over my tree.

Leaves have begun to fall to the ground, emptying the trees of their clothing, leaving them naked and exposed. The bare branches appearing dead and lifeless, yet reaching up, reaching out with very little left to make a sound when the wind blows.

Magnolia Seed Pods

Autumn is all about the falling off of things, shedding what was once supple, bright and colorful but with the passing of time and changing of seasons will become dry and brittle. Huge trees that provided refuge with all the foliage, now bare, no place for anything to hide in the branches...one must burrow inside to find shelter. My plants that once were green and full get pruned of the seasons growth to ready them for next spring.

This season brings the smell of those fallen, crisp leaves as they crunch under your feet as you walk down the block or gather them in your arms to bag them. I can’t resist giving them a squeeze as I shove them in the bag, allowing the release of the last bit of themselves, the battle over for another year. Never another leaf like them, a new batch already in the making on the tree they just left.

Each day is a surprise, wondering if the sun will shine, will there be frost on the ground...will there be an Indian Summer? Jackets are pulled out of storage, mittens not far behind. Gratefulness whenever we get a warm day. Knowing that you should pull in those plants on that sunny day, but at the same time fooled by its warmth, you think there is going to be another chance. Then that fateful morning when you see the hard frost has come and that plant you were going to nurse through the winter inside the house has succumbed to the weather.

Today I picked my last rose of the season and placed it in my grandma's vase, sniffing it with each pass through the dining room. The tomatoes are slowing down in their maturation, only 1 or 2 a week, instead of a day. Will that squash ever get ripe enough to eat? Can I get one more batch of pesto out of my basil before it’s done?

My last rose of 2009

It’s now October and October brings November and November brings December and then the dreaded January and the foreverness of February and March...oh, but I get ahead of myself, this is only autumn.

I can’t stop thinking about the falling part of this season...so impressive is it we call it “Fall”. The leaves float off the trees when the breeze blows or they are tousled about in a whirlwind tornado as the gusts of wind come. If left undisturbed on the ground, as in the forest, they return vital nutrients to the soil that help the next generation of growth. It seems that is what this season is all about, letting go, stripping bare, clearing away...but first, one last hurrah of color and activity, then silence, dormancy, rest.

Creeper vine of color

In the spirit of fall and releasing of the old, Bill and I have taken time to go though stuff, getting rid of things, putting order to what was chaos throughout the house, paying special attention to our basement. There is more to do for sure, and we trudge on, hoping to clear more clutter. But thankfully we have begun. It’s amazing how holding onto “stuff” keeps you from moving forward and doing things, stunting your growth. If the old leaves keep hanging on, how will the new ones ever appear? 

Lets talk about the basement. I have wanted a new washer and dryer for a long time...but the clutter in the basement would have made it impossible to get through to remove the old and deliver the new. The task of sorting and cleaning and getting rid of things seemed so monumental and overwhelming...yet NOT doing anything made my life so much harder. Seeing the mess every time I went down there, using a washer and dryer that were clearly past their prime (which made washing and drying clothes even more of a chore). But actually taking the time to clean up changed so many things and was well worth the effort. Clearing the basement out made a path to make my life easier: 1) New washer and dryer 2) A smile on my face instead of a frown when I look at the newly ordered surroundings 3) Knowing where things are instead of having to look through mayhem to find something. And best of all... the great portion of my brain that got freed up knowing that this task was finally done! It inspired me to do more so I cleaned out two closets and two dressers...amazing.


Sometimes it is a struggle to actually get rid of or throw something out. I surely have things that I would rather hold onto, and my husband comes from a long line of “keepers". But I find that so much “stuff” only encumbers me, weighs me down. Again, the lessons of nature speak to me, inspire me. It can be a sad thing to see the leaves fall and die, and often it's a cold wind that blows those leaves off the tree. As we were cleaning, more than once the harsh words “What are you keeping that for!?!” were uttered as we pushed each other to let things go.

Hard to give things up...there is an empty space where once was something of value, memories, familiar things. But, it’s only for a time, life goes on, seasons change and new things come. Sometimes we like having more room with a clearer view. Sometimes we find something else to take the place of the old. But for sure if we stay stagnant, never allowing for the plucking out, the pruning and the seeding of new, we will wither and cease to bear fruit. It’s the cycle of life...I can fight it, or agree with it. History proves who will win.