Tag Archives: cake

Deep South Co-Cola Cake

This past weekend was the annual oratorical competition for the regional at Saint Demetrios church here in Fort Lauderdale.  Middle schoolers and high schoolers from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi came for the weekend each hoping to take home the gold, a chance at the national competition to be held this June in Boston.  Although it is voluntary, “the oratorical” was a mandatory exercise for our son James; mean, demanding parents that we are.  But James did well.  Extremely well and, I have to say, the competition certainly honed James’ public speaking skills.  To this day he has no self-doubts, fears or hesitation taking a microphone and making a presentation in front of any one, no matter the number of people gathered.  Representing the southeast region, James competed the last three years of high school traveling to New Orleans, Knoxville and Clearwater.  It was in Clearwater, his senior year, that I met a girl who made such an impression on me.  We were drawn to each other like magnets and the more we talked the more we found in common with each other.  Her name was Harriet, born and raised in Rome, Georgia, a sassy, stunning Southern belle through and through.  At the Saturday night celebratory dinner in Clearwater, I invited the moms at our table for a late night drinking and gab fest in the lobby of the hotel where all of us were staying.  Any mom could join us the only caveat being was you had to wear your pajamas and bring your own hooch, every Southern girl’s dream.  The kids all knew each other, the Greek network is positively astounding, and had planned a midnight pool party.  Sippin’ and sassin’ in the lobby also allowed us to keep one eye on the kids.  It goes without saying, we had a blast!  All of us tried to outdo the others with tales of our husbands and children.  We screamed and cackled with laughter until tears came out of our eyes.  At some ungodly hour the bottles of booze were empty and we all stumbled back to our rooms but not before Harriet and I exchanged emails and cell numbers.  By then we were solid, blood sisters.  Back in our home towns we texted and emailed frequently, learning about each other and liking each other more and more.  She lived in Warren, Georgia, a rural town, with her husband and two hunky sons on a working farm.  They had a lake or stream where the boys brought home tons of freshly caught fish all neatly strung waiting for Harriet to fry ’em up.  Harriet’s role on the farm besides wife and mom was raising baby lambs.  All this was straight up my alley but this was the clincher…she, also, had a blog.  We gave each other shout outs on our posts, commiserated one with the other frustrations we encountered,  encouraged and  supported the habit of daily writing .  We shared intimacies only lifelong friends divulge.  Serious stuff.  And we laughed.  Boy, did we laugh.  Harriet had been published several times in different local publications, her forte being daily life in rural Georgia.  I recall one Thanksgiving article she wrote dealt with the most shameful fact that she, the only living Southern woman, could not, to save her life, make gravy.  She crept into the local Piggly Wiggly, surreptitiously grabbed a couple of jars of ready made gravy and casually ambled up to the check out line.  Her heart was pounding like a rabbit on crack as she looked around to see if anyone she knew had seen her.  Didn’t matter.  She knew she was dead meat…small town like Warren an’ all.  Sure enough, the jars wouldn’t scan.  The sweet check out girl took one look at them and asked, “Miz Jacobs, you shore you wont that gravy stuff in the jar?  Whah don’ chew jes make it?”  In spite of Harriet’s protests the check out girl reassured her saying, “Now don’t chew worry, Miz Jacobs, ah kin git that price fir ya.”  Harriet hissed, “No!  No!  Ah don’t wont it!  Stop!  It’s okay.  Ah don’t wont it.”  Too late.  BobbySue, the check out girl was on the microphone an’ you know what she was sayin’.  “Price check own aisle 4.  Ah don’ know wah, but Miz Jacobs wonts some a that store bought gravy an’ ah don tole ‘er is B-A-D, bad but she wonts it so could somebody puhleeze check the price?”  The manager replied on HIS microphone, “Miz Jacobs wonts that? Joo tell ‘er it ain’t as good as homemade?  Wale, okay…ah guess.  Tell ‘er tuh hang own an’ ahl check.”  Harriet and I howled with laughter.  “Oh, my stars! Whad joo do?”, I asked.  “Ah jes threw some money down, grabbed the gravy and ran.  I had to have gravy fer Thanksgiving!  My boys get hungry an’ wont all the fixin’s!”  Oh, my goodness, but that girl could tell a story.  Tragically, she died in the Fall of 2014 and I miss her terribly, as I would blood.  I still cry for her in the privacy of my bathroom, where I do my best crying.  I wasn’t able to attend the kid’s presentations at the oratorical competition yesterday.  Brings back too many memories.  But I made this cake.  An old-fashioned, Southern, country cake, sinfully sweet made in her honor.  Meanwhile, Harriet, I know you’re in heaven showin’ everybody just how Southern sassy’s done!

This is probably the sweetest cake I’ve EVER tasted!  Consequently, a little goes a long way.  All the recipes I have call for 2 cups of sugar.  I cut it back to 1 1/2 cups.  Also, most of the recipes list 1 1/2 cups of miniature marshmallows to be mixed into the batter.  I’m not a fan of marshmallows so, like Cracker Barrel, I chose to spread Marshmallow Fluff over the still hot out of the oven cake followed by a chocolate coca cola frosting.  Some recipes call for a scattering of toasted, chopped pecans either in the cake batter or on the icing and I happen to embrace this idea.  The savory pecans offset the wallop of sweetness each bite delivers.  It’s best to let the cake cool for a few hours prior to serving so that the icing can set.  Wrapped tightly with tin foil and left in the pan, this cake will keep for a good 3-4 days out of the refrigerator.

Deep South Co-Cola Cake

  • Servings: 15-20
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup Coke
  • 1/2 cup whole buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 7-ounce jar Marshmallow Fluff

Second icing:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 6 tablespoons Coke
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Cover a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  3. Toast chopped pecans in oven for 7-10 minutes and set aside.
  4. Pour flour and sugar in a medium size bowl and sift together.  Set aside.
  5. In a heavy bottom pot melt the butter then add the cocoa powder and Coke and bring to a boil stirring well.  Take off the heat.
  6. To the pot add the flour sugar mixture and stir well.
  7. Add the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla extract mixing thoroughly until all ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth.
  8. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes until the middle of the cake springs back when touched.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and, using all the Marshmallow Fluff, immediately drop four or five dollops (the entire jar) on the top of the hot cake.
  10. With a spatula or the back of a spoon gently spread the Fluff taking cake not to tear the cake.
  11. While the cake and topping cool a bit, prepare the second icing.
  12. In a medium saucepan melt the butter and add the cocoa and Coke.  Stir until completely combined.
  13. Remove from the heat and add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract to the pot.
  14. Mix until smooth and there are no lumps.
  15. Spoon the icing over the Marshmallow Fluff stirring the icing all the while.
  16. Allow the cake to cool at least 2-3 hours before serving to allow the cake and icings to set.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Advertisements

Southern Peanut Butter Cake Squares

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.

img_4302

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

  • Servings: 24 squares
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Cake:

  • 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

Icing:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups confectioners sugars
  1. 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.
  2. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan combine peanut butter, butter, water and whisk over medium heat until completely combined.
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in milk, eggs and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the flour mixture in the large bowl and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  6. 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.
  7.   Remove cake from oven and cool on cooling rack, make the icing as the cake cools.

Icing:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine peanut butter, milk and butter and whisk until all ingredients have dissolved and are combined.
  2. Add confectioners sugar and continue whisking until completely smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and pour over cake.
  4. Allow icing to set, about 30 minutes.
  5. Cut into 3″X3″ squares and serve.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

No-bake Diplomatico Cake

Part store bought, part homemade, this cake is a winner.  How can you lose when you’re working with coffee, rum, chocolate and cream?  I started making this cake back in the ’80’s and it has never let me down.  Light yet rich and luxurious, Diplomatico cake is typically credited to Marcella Hazan.  I lost my original recipe, however, this one is quite close to hers.  A cheap, store bought pound cake is best as it’s sturdy and will keep its shape.  It’s a super easy going recipe…a little more of this and a little less of that is not an issue.

img_3549

I’ve made it with 4 eggs and I’ve made it with 6.  Sometimes I have espresso and at times I’ve only had the morning’s cold coffee available.  It all works beautifully.  The coffee and rum are strong and aromatic.  The intense chocolate mousse inside is…well, it’s chocolate, it’s heavenly.  And that cloud of whipped cream softens and compliments the entire cake.  Keep in mind the eggs are raw, not cooked, so if anyone has allergies or food issues maybe they should have their own little dish of berries.  Hope you’ll try it!

fullsizeoutput_14db

No-Bake Diplomatico Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup brewed espresso
  • 3 tablespoons rum, preferably dark or golden
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 12-ounce store-bought pound cake, cut into 1/4″-1/2″ slices, you’ll need about 16 slices
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Line a 1 1/2 quart loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. Lay the cake slices out flat so they are not overlapping each other.
  3. Combine espresso, rum and 3 teaspoons of sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Using a pastry brush,  paint the espresso mixture evenly over one side of each slice.
  4. Line the bottom and sides of the loaf pan with the cake and the pan and remaining slices aside.
  5. In a medium bowl whip the egg yolks until pale and thick.  Add the remaining 3 teaspoons of sugar and mix well.  Set aside.
  6. Melt chocolate over a double boiler and slowly mix into the whipped egg yolks.  Do not allow to cool completely.
  7. Whip the egg white until stiff peaks form.  Mix a little of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture just to loosen it up then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
  8. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared loaf pan and cover with the remaining cake slices, coffee side up.
  9. Cover cake with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator over night.
  10. Prior to serving turn cake onto serving platter and discard plastic wrap.
  11. Pour whipping cream into a medium size bowl and whip until soft peaks form.  Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract and continue whipping until stiff, firm peaks form.
  12. Smooth the cream over the cake and garnish with berries, shaved chocolate or nuts.
  13. Store in the refrigerator.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Greek Spiced Pound Cake – Melomacarona Cake

I started working on the recipe for this cake after dreaming of the spice sheet cake of my youth.  And the creamy icing that topped the perfectly cut cake square the nice cafeteria lady handed me.  But I wanted the cake updated…steeped in a syrup of some sort…something denser than my grade school fluff cake…with hints of rum…and orange.  No easy feat for me.  My projects, culinary or otherwise, are typically crazy great or resounding, flat-out failures.  And if the project was too involved there was a good chance I might lose interest and walk away.  That happened often when I decided to rearrange my bedroom during those difficult teen years.  I couldn’t move my furniture around until I had separated the mountains of clothes  into ‘these are to be hung up and put away’ and ‘these are dirty’.  They had to be addressed; there was no manner of walking through my room without shuffling through clothes up to your knees.  That in itself was project and took the better part of a couple of hours.  But let’s pretend I did tackle that portion of redecoration.  Because after that labour books, shoes, plates, record albums, tennis racquets and tennis balls  all had to be dragged out from under my bed and also put away.  I know I drove my mother cray-cray.  By then I was exhausted and the bedroom truly looked as though a bomb went off.  There was a good chance my “new look” would take a day or two.  Dust bunnies the size of grape fruit were not uncommon.  Eventually I would finish because I had to sleep somewhere.  What a mess.  And Mama always, without fail, instructed our housekeeper, Frankie, NOT to help me in any way.  Well, sometimes my recipes are kind of like that.  I add this, I take out that.  I go back to the grocery store for the third time that day.  I forget to take out my butter…or eggs.  I spend a fortune on quality ingredients and the end result turns out to be disappointingly mediocre…at best.  But every now and again I come up with something even I like.  And this is one of those recipes.  It was a spiced rum cake steeped in a brown cane sugar syrup until my son, James, had a taste.  “This isn’t new.” Me, “Yes, it is!  I just made it for the first time.”  James, “Mama!  C’mon. You make this all the time.”  And that’s when I realized why the cake tasted so familiar.  The ingredients are somewhat similar to the celebrated Greek honey and spice cookie, the Melomakarona.  Except my cake doesn’t call for honey.  Rum, baby.  It calls for rum…not much, just enough to make its mark.  Hope you enjoy it!

IMG_2751

This cake has the density of a pound cake and, like pound cake, the flavor is markedly better, fuller, a day or two after baking.  The syrup is rich and earthy due to the base of panela, also known as piloncillo, a minimally processed product of cane juice boiled down to a thick syrup which is then hardened into a hard-as-a-rock brick or cone-shaped “pilon”.

IMG_2760

Panela is pure and clean with deep notes of earth and smoke…an almost scorched flavor.  It speaks of rum and caramel and butter.  Rock hard, it can be grated into baked goods, BBQ sauce, rum and tequila drinks or, as in this recipe, melted stove top.  It can be found in the Hispanic section of your grocery store or in any Latin American market.  Easy to find, it puts the standard, one-dimensional brown sugar to shame.  This stuff is cheap, stores well and is downright magical.  You’ll love it!

IMG_2730

Greek Spiced Pound Cake

  • Servings: 12-16
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups brown sugar, light or dark
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange zest, about 1 large navel orange
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup spiced rum
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pound Panela or Piloncillo
  • 2 tablespoons spiced rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. Cover the inside of a 10″X3 1/2″, or 12-cup, bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Scatter the pecans evenly over the bottom of the sprayed bundt pan and set aside.
  4. In a medium size bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and salt.  Whisk the dry ingredients until all are completely combined.  Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl cream butter until light and fluffy.
  6. Add the brown sugar to the butter and mix well.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat the batter at each addition only until you no longer see the yolk.
  8. Add the orange zest and mix just to combine.
  9. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternating with the milk and 1/3 cup of spiced rum.  Begin and end with the flour.  Mix only until ingredients are incorporated to avoid a tough cake.
  10. Pour batter into bundt pan and smooth the top of the batter.
  11. Bake for one hour or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.
  12. Cool on a rack
  13. While the cake is cooling, pour into a medium saucepan 2 cups water.  Add the panela and simmer, stirring occasionally to help break up the panela.
  14. Simmer until the syrup thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
  15. Remove from heat and stir in the 2 tablespoons of spiced rum and vanilla extract.
  16. Spoon evenly over the top and sides of the warm cake, cover with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit in the bundt pan over night.
  17. So as not to scratch the pan, use a plastic knife to loosen the inner and outer edges of the cake.
  18. Invert onto a platter and serve.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Peanut Butter-Fudge Cake

This is the cake of your childhood.  This is the cake the sweet cafeteria ladies served you in grade school.  I went to East Side School, as did all my childhood friends, and I positively loved it.  Five minutes away from our house, East Side was our neighborhood public school.  Mint green in color, the stucco two-storied building was connected by open air hallways so, although we didn’t have air conditioning, we could always enjoy our tropical breezes.  Our playground was carpeted by thick, emerald-green grass and seemed immense to us.  Dotted through the campus were mammoth ficus and banyan trees, perfect for shady rests after rousing games of “dodge ball” and “red rover”.   The cafeteria was set away from the  school connected by a lengthy open-air breezeway.  I remember walking single-file in the heat of the day for lunch.  Everyone bought.  I don’t think I know of one child who brought his lunch.  And we ALL had our favorite lunches.  My older sister, Cynthia, loved fish sticks, always served on Fridays.  I enjoyed them as well except the cafeteria ladies only gave you two and I was always left hungry.  She also mentioned, as all the food was made from scratch and hand-made, they made a mean meatloaf and their mashed potatoes were the stuff dreams are made of.   I called my best friends, Dana and Andrea, to find out what their best-loved meals were at East Side.  Dana and Andrea both called me right back and it turns out we all have the same fave…spaghetti!   It had such flavor; something we never, ever had at home.  Dana’s little sister, Dawn, LOVED the tater tots.  She also reminded me the absolute worst to eat was the spinach and pointed out we always seemed to have it after the grass was cut.  To quote her, “Yuck!”  But what we all agreed was the best was the selection of desserts, again all made from scratch and by hand.   Thick, creamy chocolate pudding was scooped out of enormous bowls.  Generous wedges of apple pie were cut.  But the best had to be the chocolate cake squares with peanut butter on top.  Oh man.   The icing and peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth while the cake melted in your mouth, all washed down with a healthy gulp of cold milk.  Heaven on earth and all for a whopping 35¢!

IMG_2509

This is the Peanut Butter-Fudge Cake of your childhood.  It is beyond sublime and puts all those fancy-dancy, beet for color, salted, chocolate with ancho chile, corn flake and beer creations to shame!  This cake is simple, straightforward and ain’t nothin’ hoity-toity about it.  I suggest using only regular, store-bought peanut butter like Skippy or Jiffy.  A more “natural” or organic, grind your own butter is flat and bland tasting.  The only change I made is I added two teaspoons of vanilla extract to the cake instead of one and also to the chocolate icing but only because I love vanilla.  This recipe comes directly from a pulled out page of an old Southern Living magazine.  The paper is stained and water marked.  The article is titled “Make Mine Chocolate” and I treasure this recipe in the short collection.  So thanks, Marian T. Talley from Huntsville, Alabama who contributed the recipe for this cake.  You have a fan in Fort Lauderdale.

Peanut Butter-Fudge Cake

  • Servings: 20-25
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • Chocolate Frosting
  1. Combine first three ingredients in a large bowl; set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan, stir in cocoa. Add water, buttermilk and eggs, stirring well.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils.  Remove from heat; add to flour mixture, stirring until smooth.  Stir in vanilla extract.  Pour batter into a greased and floured 13X9-inch baking pan.
  4. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Carefully spread peanut butter over warm cake.  Cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 (16 ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Bring first three ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Pour over powdered sugar in a bowl, stirring until smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Yield: 2 1/2 cups

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Mango Upside Down Cake…go South!

IMG_1927

Summer’s here.  We’ve put down our bourbons, pulled out the tequila and now our blenders are humming happily on our kitchen counter and poolside in our tiki huts.  Sunday nights find us with sunburned shoulders making lunches and gearing up to answer the 412 emails waiting for us at the office.  I’m already thinking, heck, dreaming of the weekend ahead.  I want pool time with my family and early morning workouts where I can marvel at creamy magnolias and gardenias with their thick, glossy leaves, brilliant bougainvillea and tropical orchids seemingly growing out of palm trees.

IMG_1868

And although my clothes are sodden with perspiration 15 seconds into the workout, the damp sheen on my skin gives me perverse pleasure.  I want plenty of local fish and vegetables on the grill, the soft “plop-plop” of flip-flops slapping my floors.  Weekdays I take advantage of two major sales at our grocery stores… mangoes and Haas avocados are in season and dirt cheap.  In this house, avocados are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Sliced and on the side, in salads, stuffed or made into guac, we love ’em.  Mangoes, too.  In salads, blender drinks or salsas,  but especially in this summer favorite… warm Mango Coconut Upside Down Cake served with vanilla ice cream slowly puddling in the bowl.

IMG_1861

My family loves this cake.  Loves it.  I’ve had to bake it three times for this post as the first two times the cake was eaten before I had a chance to take some pics.  My boys had had a couple of long, stressful days and this was their reward for persevering.  I added a bit of good rum to the butter brown sugar which intensified the caramel overtones and depth of the syrup.  The alcohol burns off but know the rum is optional.  The recipe calls for creamed coconut, a product found in the international aisle of your grocery store.  The texture of the creamed coconut is that of hard wax.  When ready to use, it is melted stove top with the coconut milk.  Creamed coconut is unsweetened, has tee-tiny bits of coconut meat and adds a richness to foods that is unparalleled.  I keep a box or two in my pantry and boost the flavor of soups and curries with it.  Within the small box, the creamed coconut is in a cryovac bag so it keeps fresh for a good amount of time.  You won’t really notice a coconut taste in the cake but rather a creamy, richness.

IMG_7601

This Mango Upside Down Cake shines with a fat dollop of freshly whipped cream atop or a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream speckled with vanilla beans.  I have found, though, that this cake is at it’s best when served warm.  If it is baked in a 10″ skillet, the pan must  have at least 3″ sides to avoid spill over.  A nonstick pan is fine, however, I don’t recommend cast iron as the rum and/or mangos may react to the metal.

Sour Cream Banana Cake with Cream Cheese and Pineapple Icing topped with Grilled Pineapple

 

How disheartening and defeating is it when your own mother laughs then lightly dismisses your secret, chosen, dream profession?  I knew in my eight year old heart-of-hearts that I was meant to be a nun.  I had a serious girl crush on my Saint Anthony catechism teacher, the young and beautiful, hip Sister Cathy, and I was going to be just like her.  Down to her cream colored habit, I  too would have a glossy, black rosary swinging back and forth  from my waist as I quickly made my way to…. oh, I don’t know…. vespers?  And I would look just like Audrey Hepburn in “The Nun’s Story”.  Yes, I was ready to give my life up to our Lord and look good doing it.  So when Mama laughed in the kitchen and pooh-poo’d my top-secret confession I was astounded and overwhelmed.  How could Mama discount my desire so lightly?  Mama… who, my entire life, maintained we could do and be anything we wanted with hard work, perseverance and a few phone calls to the right people.  Straight away she understood my sincere sadness, that she had hurt my feelings and knelt down in front of me.  Cupping my face in her hands, she smiled and sweetly suggested, “Cielo, I know you love Sister Cathy.  Why don’t you bake her a cake?”.  I recall thinking, “Okay.  I can do that!”.  I had never baked a cake in my life but I thought of it as a simple undertaking, much like pouring a bowl of cereal or making a sandwich…I mean, how hard can baking a cake be?  I took down Mama’s one cookbook, The Joy of Cooking,  flipped over to cakes and began perusing.  I wanted a cake that was rich and it HAD to be exotic.  After all, if it was to be for Sister Cathy it had to be exceptional and flawless.  And I had found it.  Banana Cake.  In retrospect I probably decided upon that particular cake because while we never had chocolate in any form, we always had bananas.  We also lacked butter but that was easily replaced by the oleo margarine Mama used and although I had not the time nor the patience to let it soften to room temperature I felt certain that if I just beat the margarine harder the cake would be just fine.  For some unknown reason we had flour in the pantry and it truly is a small wonder as Mama never baked nor fried.  I quickly discounted the baking powder and baking soda called for in the recipe not knowing their purpose.  Besides, we didn’t have any.  We had plenty of eggs, milk and sugar and, quite frankly, I felt that was all that was needed.  And it was perfectly fine that we didn’t have measuring cups or spoons because at such a young age I didn’t know those things existed and, anyway, what difference could they make?  I used tea spoons,  soup spoons and Mama’s formal, china tea cups for measurement.  For those of you who don’t know, Mama didn’t know how to cook or bake but she could dress an exquisite table.  No. Cooking and baking were overrated in her world.  There was always someone to do that for her and if not, well, you either ate the charred, black food she had prepared or you went to bed hungry.  It’s your choice.  Not knowing any better,  ingredients which were to be at room temperature were incorporated ice cold.  Flour and sugar were not leveled and I didn’t feel the need to mix the ingredients in the suggested order.  They were all going to end up in the same pan, right?  I remember cold, pale blobs of margarine suspended in the weighted batter.  The recipe clearly stated to be gentle with the batter and only stir in the ingredients until they were just incorporated.  But how would I get rid of all the lumps if I didn’t beat it?  Arms flailing, I beat that batter until I no longer had life in my arm and into the oven it went.  In one pan.  Because we didn’t have cake pans.  We had one pan.  So although it was meant to be divided into layers it was baked in.one.pan.  “It’ll be fine.”,  I thought.  Clearly I had tired of that chore and only wanted to get my beautiful creation over to Sister Cathy.  The cake finally finished baking and although it smelled wonderful it was so dad gum heavy I could barely pull it out of the oven.  It had browned nicely but with no leavener never rose.  Breaking off a tough crumb I tasted it.  The cake was flat tasting…and kind of salty.  It was a disaster.  And I didn’t care.  Looked good, though, so maybe the inside was okay?  I’ll never know but I’m pretty certain that cake was an inedible, culinary catastrophe.  I couldn’t wait for it to cool; I had to see my girl crush.  I danced with excitement.  I knew this cake would open her eyes to the perfect miracle of ME and she would favor me above every other classmate.  Mama called the rectory or the convent at Saint Anthony and was told Sister Cathy was at the parish school taking advantage of Saturday hours, alone, doing busy work in her classroom.  Mama drove me over; the church and school  only minutes from our house.  I sat with the leaden cake in my lap, the hot plate slowly burning through to my thighs as I looked out the window and felt my shyness take over.  What if Sister Cathy didn’t like it?  What if she didn’t like ME?  Oh, those “what ifs”.  They have plagued me all my life.  Being the weekend, the school was deserted, Mama and I walked through the courtyard and  I called for my heroine.  It was hot, and muggy out, the plate was so darned heavy and the heat radiating from the cake had turned my small hands red.  Looking up to the second floor of the lovely Spanish style building I could see into her classroom but no Sister Cathy. I called and called as I liked but to no avail.  I put the cake on the ground.  I picked up a rock.  And then this tomboy whipped it at her classroom window.  Well, that got her attention!  Her window popped open and out came her head looking for the hoodlum, the rabble rouser who was throwing rocks.  Her angry face melted into a sweet smile when she saw it was me… just a student, a little girl.  “Sister Cathy!  I have something for you!”.  She hurried downstairs and met me outside.  She was so kind and gracious with me.  She pulled me close, her eyes sparkling, as I explained I had baked this cake for her…and no one else.  Earnestly I urged her to keep it for herself, not to share it with ANYONE!  Can you imagine?  Advising a nun not to share? Ha!  She probably took my advice as I imagine the cake probably tasted beyond awful.  Sister Cathy probably didn’t share it because it was inedible!  It didn’t occur to me to ice it.  Or follow the recipe.   Bleah.  But she knew I adored her.  All the girls and boys did.  I believe she was only in her mid to late 20’s but she had such grace and love for us all, far beyond her actual age.  She made us want to be the best little Catholics we could be.  And today, 50 plus years later, I am eternally grateful.  Wherever you are, Sister Cathy, we were blessed to have you!

IMG_1796

Like most baked goods containing bananas, this cake is best baked when the bananas are really ripe.  Certainly not rotten, but good and ripe; yellow with lots of little, dark speckles.  And, as with all cakes, the less you mix the batter, the lighter and more tender the final product.  The consistency of the icing depends on the moisture content of the pineapple.  I like a loose, somewhat runny icing so I pressed and pressed the juice out of the fruit through a sieve.  If you prefer a thicker, more dense icing then you would need to squeeze all the juice out through a clean, linen kitchen towel.  The excess juice may be frozen for future use.

Sour Cream Banana Cake with Pineapple Cream Cheese Icing

www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

BANANA CAKE

yield: two 8-inch layers

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 medium sized ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. Grease two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, don’t over beat.
  4. Add eggs and mix until just combined.
  5. Add sour cream, mashed bananas and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.
  6. In a separate bowl mix all the dry ingredients then add to banana mixture mixing only until all the ingredients are well combined.
  7. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until cakes pull away from the sides of the pans.
  8. Cool on rack 15 minutes, turn cakes out of pans and allow to cool completely on rack.
  9. Ice cakes.

PINEAPPLE ICING

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple, all the moisture having been squeezed out
  • 5-6 cups confectioner’s sugar
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla and pineapple mixing until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Add 5 cups of sugar and mix.  Add additional sugar if a thicker icing is desired.