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.


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