Growing up here in Fort Lauderdale I was lucky enough to attend a grade school close to home, with all my friends from kindergarten, boasting a killer baking staff. The East Side School cafeteria ladies didn’t open boxes when it came to cakes, pies and cookies for us kiddies. No ma’am. The predominantly black women who staffed the cafeteria were accomplished cooks and bakers who cranked out old school baked goods on a daily basis. They were kind to all of us students and we in turn bowed down to them with reverence and respect because they were grown ups…you watch your p’s and q’s around grown ups. These ladies were experts in the kitchen and coming from a home where Mama didn’t cook or bake I was highly appreciative and anticipated lunch every day knowing it would be far better than anything I would ever be served at home. Do you recall the peanut butter cake you had in grade school? The squares were heavy and thick in texture yet the cakes melted in your mouth leaving a certain salty sweet taste. Oh, heaven. Lately I’ve been craving that same salty sweet sensation and set about to have it. I came up with this. Alone in the house with two pans was virtual diet suicide. I took four squares over to my friend Rob’s house. He had fiddled with my father’s ancient bedside table lamp which wasn’t working. At 94 years old Daddy really depends on that lamp for the inordinate amount of reading he does. And after 5 minutes of fooling with it Rob had tightened it up, fine tuned the sockets and turned the on/off chains to a place where Dad could control the lamp with ease. Make my Daddy happy, make me happy. I made Rob take a bite of the cake and watched his reaction like a hawk. His first words after clearing his palate of the dense stuff were, “I’m sorry Miz Whitcomb, but I don’t have my math homework cuz I didn’t do it!” He was back in grade school and that’s what I wanted. Old school peanut butter cake will take you back…and in a good way.
This is a crazy simple cake recipe. It’s best served with coffee or milk. Iced water will do but coffee or milk are best. When the cake smells done it probably is done. I have light-colored baking sheets however if yours are dark keep an eye on them as they’ll bake your cake much faster. It’s a thin cake, not big and puffy and you don’t want it to burn. When preparing the icing you must stir continuously. I can’t stress that enough. Peanut butter scorches easily. But if you use a whisk and keep stirring until smooth you will be rewarded with a trip back in time. When you serve this to your children or grandchildren you can regale them with stories of how you had to walk 10 miles uphill BOTH WAYS to school. Enjoy!
Southern Peanut Butter Squares
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
- 3/4 cup butter (12 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 cups confectioners sugars
- Pre-heat oven to 400°. Set aside a standard 12’X17″ light-colored baking sheet with a lip or 2 12″X9″ light colored baking sheets each with a lip.
- In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan combine peanut butter, butter, water and whisk over medium heat until completely combined.
- Remove from heat and whisk in milk, eggs and vanilla extract.
- Pour the peanut butter mixture over the flour mixture in the large bowl and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
- Pour into baking sheet/ sheets and bake 18-20 minutes or until the sides of the cake pull away from the pan. If using dark-colored baking sheets test for doneness at 15 minutes.
- Remove cake from oven and cool on cooling rack, make the icing as the cake cools.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine peanut butter, milk and butter and whisk until all ingredients have dissolved and are combined.
- Add confectioners sugar and continue whisking until completely smooth.
- Remove from heat and pour over cake.
- Allow icing to set, about 30 minutes.
- Cut into 3″X3″ squares and serve.