Cottage Strawberry Cake…

Cottage Strawberry Cake… www.camelliascottage.com

There may be no Spring layer cake that’s as welcome as Cottage Strawberry Cake. I’ll admit my skills as a cake decorator are few- yet decorating this cake with fresh strawberries makes it look so appealing and beautiful! I sort of went overboard and pulled some wild and domesticated strawberry leaves and runners (washed well mind you! Then kept them fresh in damp paper towels until time to decorate the Cottage Strawberry Cake.

Whole strawberries may be served alongside the slices and provide a welcome tang to the sweet cream cheese frosting. Not being a proficient Cake baker either, with few exceptions. I used a name brand good quality cake mix and enriched it with milk, melted butter, pure vanilla extract and an extra egg to make a denser more flavorful cake.

I think anytime you use a boxed cake mix of any kind, it’s a good idea to enrich it and also to make homemade frosting! This frosting has fresh strawberries in it- which changes the texture a bit- the recipe has a few suggestions if you prefer the smoother texture. Here’s how you make Cottage Strawberry Cake

Cottage Strawberry Cake

A beautiful 2 layer cake with cream cheese icing and sugared strawberries. Impressive showing for Spring- especially if fresh strawberries and if you can find wild strawberry leaves and stems! 
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 Box Duncan Hines Strawberry Cake Mix * made according to our swap outs
  • 3/4 Cup Whole Milk (reduced by 1 Teaspoon)
  • 7 Tablespoons Melted and cooled Butter Plus more unmelted butter for pans
  • 3-4 Large Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 Cup Fresh Strawberries- hulled and chopped Sprinkle sugar over berries and cover
  • 12 Ounces Cream Cheese Room temperature
  • 2 Sticks Butter Room Temperature
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1-1 1/4 Pound Powdered Sugar Sifted
  • 1 Quart Fresh Strawberries- whole for decorating the cake

Instructions

  • For Cake- prepare 2 - 8 inch cake pans: grease with butter, then flour lightly. ( Lining pans with parchment paper rounds is also a good idea) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (If using dark coated pans- reduce oven temp to 325 degrees) Blend cake mix, milk, melted and cooled butter and 4 eggs(3 eggs unless you want a denser cake)  in a large bowl until moistened. Add vanilla extract. Blend well.  (Do not mix according to box Directions!) Divide the batter equally between prepared pans. Bake cake layers on center oven rack for 26-30;minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. (Check after 25 minutes) Cool layers in pans on a rack for 15 minutes! Turn out of pans and cool completely - this is important! 
  • For Frosting- In a deep bowl or your stand mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment- not whisk! Blend together cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract. Add powdered sugar until thick consistency. Drain Room Temperature! sugared strawberries very very well. Fold into frosting. * Frosting may change texture when strawberries are added, you may add more powdered sugar if needed. Chill frosting until slightly firm before frosting cake layers. decorate with whole strawberries and greenery- if you don’t have wild strawberry leaves, mint leaves work well. Chill cake before serving. 8-10 slices. 

Notes

Feel free to add a few drops of red food coloring to Frosting, though strawberries should add the color you want. If concerned about the texture of the frosting, you may substitute up to 1/2 cup of strawberry jam. 

 

Our Cottage Strawberry Cake reminds me of a sweet and dear friend every time I make it, and isn’t that what any dish we make supposed to do? Good memories of sweet folks we’ve known and loved is the best reason I can think of to bake or cook anything! Hope you’re enjoying this Spring weather and dreaming of all the good things ahead…

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

Camellia’s Roulage…

D894872E-91AB-4372-BA0E-FD462A1AE946My first serving of Roulage was at a tiny tea room where ladies met for elegant brunch, where mother-daughter luncheons or bridesmaids’ met the day before a wedding to dine with the bride and her female family members. This beloved place was down a cobbled lane on Southside, a place aptly named Cobb’s Lane. When I was a mere teenager, yet I believed I had never tasted any dessert that was more decadent. A deep rich chocolate roll around a cloud of whipped cream. Yes, there were other dishes we enjoyed there, a beautiful salad plate, a chicken imperial, if not in name- regal in taste, though as someone recently recalled- ‘We went to Cobb’s Lane for the roulage.’ And we did.

The Roulage recipe I have is old, it has no attribution, yet I’ve always been told it was the famous Cobb’s Lane Roulage. And while I’ve updated the technique, the ingredients are essentially the same.  Eggs separately beaten, confectioners sugar, a few tablespoons of cocoa- no flour no butter- poured into a squeaky clean and dry jelly roll pan. Filled and rolled with lightly sweetened whipped cream – the presentation is always impressive even if the cocoa is uneven when dusted or whether the roll cracks a bit. It’s imperfections are just part of a fresh made Roulage.0D5D4885-50C6-4B54-BEEB-4E6A403203C1

The French call the method a roulade, other cultures call it a Swiss Roll. Some have been redundant in calling this version- a chocolate roulage- in the the South, the essence of a Roulage is that it’s a chocolate roll. I suppose I thought of roulage as a jelly roll, but it’s not exactly a simple sponge cake, since the batter does contain egg yolks, but no flour- though the baker does indeed use her jelly roll pan. There are those who’ve tried to improve the unimproveable by adding Bourbon or Grand Mariner to the whipped cream, or by setting a slice of Roulage in a pool of raspberry sauce- still, the classic is best. To be honest, I don’t make Roulage often enough. Or at least that’s what I think every time I make it. Still. When I make a roulage, it takes me back to a tiny, elegant, hidden-away place, called Cobb’s Lane. BD24B08F-2F33-4DA2-B9EA-615C94A40DD9

Here’s how Camellia’s Roulage is made….

Camellia’s Roulage

The classic dark chocolate roulage, is a light flourless sponge cake filled with whipped cream and rolled, then dusted with cocoa powder. 

Ingredients

  • 5 Large Egg Yolks
  • 1 Cup Confectioners Sugar Sifted
  • 3 Tbs Dutch Processed Cocoa Plus more for dusting
  • 5 Large Egg Whites Stiffly Beaten
  • 1/2 Pint Heavy Cream Whipped and chilled

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With the whisk attachment, stiffly beat 5 large egg whites and set aside. In another mixing bowl Beat 5 egg yolks until pale yellow. Add 1 cup confectioners sugar. Blend in 3 Tbs of Dutch Cocoa until blended well. Fold in gently, the stiffly beaten eggs whites. Smooth mixture lightly into an untreated 9x13 jelly roll pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes making sure mixture springs back lightly to the touch. During bake time, dampen a kitchen towel *Or you may use a silicone baking mat, which is what I have used with very good results. Put 3-6 Tablespoons Dutch Cocoa in a small bowl with a small sieve. Sift cocoa over a large piece of parchment paper.  When roll is baked, turn out onto silicone damp towel immediately. (You may  need to quickly loosen lightly before turning out) Trim edges of roll, then roll in damp towel - while still hot. Cool , while covered with an additional kitchen towel. ( Note: I have had excellent results turning the Roulage base in a silicone baking mat, instead of the damp towel, then wrapping the mat in a damp towel. When cool, remove the towel covering the  roll and unroll  on a cocoa covered parchment which coats the outside of roll. Spread whipped cream over surface, then roll. Place roll on waxed paper, cover. Cover this in plastic wrap securely and chill. With a serrated knife, slice roulage and serve on dessert plates, garnished with berries. ( Roulage may be frozen,if not serving right away. Serves 6 beautifully.  

Notes

You will need a 9x14 jelly roll pan with a 1 inch rim or a similar size baking pan with rim.  The pan must be squeaky clean and undressed to accept the batter.
A silicone baking mat or a dampened flour sack kitchen towel must be used to roll the roulade for cooling. A good grade of parchment paper or a second dry silicone mat or flour sack towel  covered with sifted cocoa must be ready to unroll the  Roulage, before filling with slightly sweetened whipped cream( you will need 2 approximately 2 cups of whipped cream- please do not use non-dairy whipped topping!
Very old recipes call for the dampened flour sack towel, I used silicone baking mats to roll and cool- with excellent results. 
Roulage is best served fresh rolled, chilled and cut, however it may also be made a day ahead, placed infilled with whipped creamin freezer. The roulade must allowed to thaw  completely to unroll. Fill with whipped cream, roll gently. Slice and place carefully on dessert plates. 

 

It does take a bit of self confidence to make a Roulage, just remember that the imperfections of a Roulage, only add to its beauty. For really, it’s a dessert that shouldn’t-couldn’t-wouldn’t want to be mass produced perfection. Here’s hoping that some time, you’ll challenge yourself to make a Roulage.

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

‘Can’t tell a lie’ Cherry Crumble

63D8CAAD-C974-410C-B96E-2B2852568EE4When I was in grammar school, George Washington’s birthday was apparently an opportunity to teach students about our very first president, to have us do a coloring sheet of Washington’s profile or standing beside a cherry tree with an axe in his hand and to teach a basic value- truth telling.

The way the story went… as a young man, George chopped down a cherry tree on his home property. Some teachers embellished it by saying how valuable the cherry tree was or that Washington had been told not to cut down this particular tree and in show of strength and prowess with an axe or as an act of rebellion, young George chopped down the cherry tree. I’m not sure exactly how the story goes, but I imagine the whole country became fond of cherry pies because of this famous legend.

Allow me to digress here… I went to grammar school after oil lanterns and quill pens went out of style- the electric light bulb had been in use for decades by then… and we had heroes like Superman- who leaped tall buildings in a single bound and lo and behold-here he comes to save the day … Superman even hopped through windows in a swirling cape, tights and a rigged up superhero outfit as the announcer proclaimed that Superman was for ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’. A holdover no doubt from patriotic reels during World War II.  I miss those old black and white yet colorful TV shows!

Anyway, Truth was taught as a value though the retelling of George Washington’s youth– for when the harsh question was asked- ‘Who chopped down the cherry tree?’ George didn’t shift blame…he boldly said, ‘I cannot tell a lie, it was I who chopped down the cherry tree.’ Now, lest you think we as a nation were the only ones profoundly affected by the tale of George and the cherry tree- the nation of Japan, donated cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin right in the midst of our capitol city- also named Washington! A celebration which is well attended every year- the Cherry Blossom Festival.

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So! Recently I concocted a humble cherry crumble and had to name it-  ‘Can’t tell a lie’ simply because… the cherry crumble was a failure on my part. I was trying to recreate my grandmother’s beloved recipe for Apricot Casserole by substituting sweet cherries! The failure was due to the fact that I didn’t calculate how many cherries would be needed and it just didn’t come out as I hoped it would. Still. I liked the flavor and the texture. And! Here it came to save the day! An heroic crunchy dessert topper for Sunday Dinner. I thought I would save this recipe for President’s Day weekend after we’ve all had lots of Valentine’s chocolate and need to get back to simple honest food. So here’s how you make Camellia’s Can’t tell a lie’ Cherry Crumble:

‘Can’t Tell a Lie’ Cherry Crumble

To honor Our first President, George Washington- According to legend, as a young man, Washington cut down a valuable Cherry Tree. Rather than allow someone else to shoulder the blame- The young George uttered the famous line ‘I cannot tell a lie.’ This cherry crumble is a particularly good topping for ice cream. 

Ingredients

  • 1 Stick Butter Melted
  • 2 Sleeves Ritz Party Crackers Crushed roughly
  • 2 14 ounce cans Sweet Cherries Reserve liquid from 1 can
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pure Almond Extract
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg Freshly grated
  • 3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar Plus 1/2 cup sugar for reserved cherry liquid
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar Packed
  • 3/4 Cup Sliced Almonds

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt one stick of butter. In a small saucepan, add 3/4 cup reserved liquid from cherries and add 1/2 cup sugar and boil gently to make a simple syrup. Add almond extract to this mixture. While syrup is cooling- add drained cherries.  Crush party crackers roughly, add spices and sugars, then pour melted stick of butter over the  crumbs. In a buttered deep dish pie pan or 9x9 baking dish, press one half of buttered cracker crumb mixture. Layer cherries and syrup over the crumbs. Top this with the rest of the crumb mixture and top with sliced almonds. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool.  Cherry Crumble is delicious over ice cream. 

Notes

If desired, more butter may be dotted over top of crumb and almond mixture before baking. Cherry crumble is a quick and delicious dessert any time of year! 

Full disclosure, with the leftover crumble, I decided to try making an ice cream dessert with some of the crumble on the bottom of a loaf pan, vanilla ice cream layered on top, then added more sweet cherries and to finish, topped it with more of the cherry crumble. The sweet cherries may freeze, so if you decide to do this variation, here’s my suggestion: Slice the ice cream dessert ahead of time- to allow the cherries to thaw out a bit! Or.. omit the sweet cherries and save them as a topper! I can’t tell a lie about this- if I make it again, I’ll probably make the ice cream cake and add the sweet cherries as a garnish but- oh my! it did make a pretty dessert!

I hope y’all are having a restful enjoyable President’s Day weekend. I also hope they’re still handing out coloring sheets and teaching about ‘Honest’Abraham Lincoln and ‘Cant tell a lie’ George Washington in schools- I personally colored his hair light brown with reddish streaks instead of the all white styled wig we see in his portraits. Oh me! I hope we won’t forget to tell the stories and be thankful for this nation and our historic heroes!

Love y’all, Camellia

  • *All photographs are obviously mine.
  • *We’re still working on and updating this site, thank you for your long suffering patience! Just blame it on the tech challenged blogger!
  • *Soon, I’ll be posting that famous Apricot Casserole so you can try it or save it, with our new features- the WPRecipe Makerand the shopping app from Chicory.
  • *While this site is being updated, I hope you will follow us on Instagram- @brendawyatt7769 or click the icon link on this page…we’re posting something almost everyday over there!  And… any advertising you see on this page does not necessarily represent the views of Camellia’s Cottage!

Camellias,Chocolate and Love…

If there’s one thing about February that always delights me- it’s that camellias are in bloom, chocolate is on the menu or in a heart shaped box and love seems to be in the crisp cool air. This year, the red camellias are showing out, a bumper crop of ruffled blooms, and this tickles me because they’ve taken their own sweet time about getting to a point of consistent blooms- the shrub was chosen for it’s double ruffled petite blossoms- in honor of my mother in law- who I loved with all of my heart- who was petite, beautiful and …well, it just seemed fitting to plant a camellia to honor her life with our state flower, the Camellia.

Valentine’s seems to be an oddly conflicting  holiday. Oh yes, it’s supposed to be all about flowers and chocolate and romance, yet it’s often a disappointing holiday, even with all of the gift ideas, hearts and beautiful sentimental cards- disappointment often stands in the shadows. Still. Love itself comes in many forms- romantic love, yet also love of family, love of friends and yes, love of place. Other than my own home- there is possibly no place on this earth that I love more than a beautiful historic hotel in Point Clear, Alabama which combines all kinds of love… camellias bloom profusely and a certain form of chocolate stole my heart many years ago.

The Grand Hotel is her name. Close by is Mobile Bay and  a quaint town called Fairhope; just down the road is a beautiful small town named Magnolia Springs…now if fair hope, beautiful sunsets, camellias, magnolias and a grand old lady doesn’t give you a clear point of view… I don’t know what possibly could. The pace is slower, Afternoon Tea is served every afternoon, the grounds are filled with huge live oaks that have long gray beards of Spanish moss- under their spreading branches- camellias, azaleas and all manner of distinctly southern plants bloom in profusion around a mossy lagoon. I have visited there during every season of the year, yet February is the time of year I’ve probably enjoyed most- in the lower coastal south- it might get chilly but never so cold as to discourage the camellias or the guests. I’ve been there in formal dress several times in February- it seemed to me, the most glamorous place anyone could be!

Yet, my best memories of the Grand, are of the ones when my children were young and truly learned the exquisite art of dining and dressing for the occasion at a champagne brunch with live music playing softly- tunes like ‘Stars fell on Alabama’ or the more lively- ‘The Alabama Jubilee’. And if there is ever a place on earth for ‘jubilee’ it’s on the shores of Mobile Bay where that amazing phenomenon happens when it’s least expected!

The first time I ever tasted- Flourless Chocolate Cake was at the Grand Hotel, and I recall thinking- ‘What an elegant dessert! Surely, someone could have come up with a more decadent name!’ Somehow, over the years- I was given their recipe for this decadent chocolate dessert. For years, I’ve thought I couldn’t recreate it- and the truth is? Without the backdrop of the Grand Hotel it would no doubt ever taste the same. So! I took the recipe and tweaked it to make the recipe my own – and while our camellia’s are blooming their fool heads off? I decide to try my hand at making it and decorating it with those festive red blooms! So, it was only  appropriate to name it- Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake. It’s way easier to make it than I’d ever have thought- and decorated with red camellias grown right here at the cottage- it was downright gorgeous and…well, it took me back… Here’s how you make it-

Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake...

A dense rich dark chocolate cake, made with baking chocolate and cocoa, a mere 1 cup of sugar, no flour at all, and- to deepen the flavor- espresso powder is added. A small slice garnished with whipped cream is an elegant dessert. 

Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks Butter Cut in pieces- plus more for pan
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder More for dusting pan
  • 2 Teaspoons Instant espresso or coffee granules
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 8 Ounces Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Chopped
  • 5 Large Eggs
  • 1 Cup Granular Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar As needed for dusting
  • Whipped Cream
  • Fresh Mint Leaf, Berries or flowers For garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9 inch springform pan (or a 9 inch cake pan lined completely with parchment paper) Butter pan and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside. In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat, add baking chocolate pieces and carefully stir until melted. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together large eggs, add granulated sugar, espresso powder and cocoa powder until fully combined. Carefully incorporate melted chocolate and butter until th batter is blended well. Pour batter into prepared pan lightly smooth batter. Bake at 350 degrees on center rack until puffed and set, approximately 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool for a full hour in the pan. If needed run a knife around sides of pan (if a baking pan is used, lift out of pan and fold down parchment ) unmold cake on serving platter. (Cake may be wrapped well after cooling and stored for up to 2 days before serving.) When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar, add whipped cream and  garnish as desired. This is a very rich dense cake, small slices are preferable. 12-16 slices. 

And while we’re talking Camellias, Chocolate and Love… here’s a few ideas to make Valentine’s special:

  • Give or plant a camellia shrub, a special rose even a gardenia to honor a loved one or to beautify your landscape.
  • Bake a special dessert, cookies or a cake to give to friends and loved ones.
  • And, since the Grand Hotel has a spa that has been named one of the best in the country- why not make Spa Water for yourself and loved ones- decorated with rose petals?
  • Or give a spa certificate to a loved one, a friend or even treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure? Maybe find some seasonal flowers (like Camellias) and give a bouquet?

I know. I know. We tend to think of Valentine’s Day as just for couples in love…. I’ve come to believe- love, the sweetest kind is love that’s spread around a bit… so my best idea this year- Determine in the next few days to find folks who could use a hug or a bit of extra love and care- make a card, send a goofy text, write a note, give a call or just visit for a while? Sometimes the best thing of all is to say-

. Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. *The photograph of that gorgeous sunset was taken by me at the Marriott Grand Hotel several years ago- I’ve been reassured the sunsets are still glorious! *Choose flowers to decorate food or water that are organically grown or that you know the source. *The dark chocolate flourless cake can be made ahead two days before it’s served- so you’ll have plenty of time to make it this week!

Health and Beauty tip: Tea Tree Oil is an amazing oil for skin treatments and comes from the same family as the Camellia. And did you know? Dark Chocolate has been known to soothe a cough more readily than hot tea or chicken soup? Of course, that a bite of dark chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth! And, if the weather permits at all- the best health advice I can give you this week- is to try to spend 15-20 minutes outside everyday- it lifts the spirits and fresh air is a total body treatment!

‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread…

The Gulf Coast states from Florida on over to Louisiana is where the sugarcane grows; you’re in cane syrup and molasses country. Sugarcane is responsible for the famous Southern Sweet Tooth, and most folks think the old fashioned molasses pie was responsible for what we know today as Pecan Pie- and where would be without that? Sugarcane is the number one cash crop in Louisiana, molasses is made by milling sugarcane and sugar beets together, it takes an astounding one ton of sugarcane to make just five gallons of molasses! So… what does that have to do with this gingerbread – well… this adaptation of an old gingerbread recipe calls for one full cup of molasses! And it’s full of spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper along with coffee and cocoa- we southerners have always loved our spices! Then, for good measure- this one also uses the zest of several oranges and at least half a jar of orange marmalade and who would argue that southern states like Florida produce bumper crops of citrus! When I was tweaking this recipe- I recalled how my grandmother wouldn’t let a grain of sugar near her cornbread but occasionally she would butter me a slice straight from the oven and say- ‘Put some of that marmalade on it!’ And oh..  it was so good! I don’t recall eating gingerbread very often- mainly it would be a wintertime cake topped with a lemon curd… any citrus does seem to brighten up a winter day! And… while I was at it? Why not make a cream cheese frosting- the classic for Carrot Cake- another wintertime favorite!

So! that’s how ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread came about! Now, you don’t even have to put frosting on it- it’s good with orange marmalade or on it’s own. And since molasses is nutrient rich- and the spices tend to settle a queasy stomach- you might even get away with calling it health food…It’s a dense rich cake filled with enough spices to make the whole house smell wonderful, maybe seem a bit warmer and have a little something sweet on hand! Here’s how you make it: 

 

'Where the Sugarcane Grows' Gingerbread

A moist spicy gingerbread, glazed with orange marmalade while warm then topped with cream cheese icing.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup molasses thick and dark
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated preferred
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 eggs large lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot strong coffee
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest or the zest of one small orange
  • 6 oz. orange marmalade

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 1 stick butter softened
  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 one pound package of confectioner's sugar sifted

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add molasses mix well. Add eggs, mixing well, then add vanilla extract. Sift flour, salt, cocoa, baking soda and spices together. Add dry ingredients- in 3-4 portions mixing well. Add hot coffee and orange zest to mix. Mix thoroughly but do not overmix ingredients. 
     Put mixture into a 9x9 well greased baking dish, bake 30- 40 minutes, or until center is still slightly moist. (If you prefer to make a gingerbread loaf, add an extra large egg; butter and line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for up to one hour.)  Remove gingerbread from oven, allow to cool slightly then glaze with 3/4 cup of orange marmalade being generous. When the gingerbread has cooled- frost with Cream Cheese Icing.  

For Cream Cheese Icing

  • In a mixer cream softened butter and cream cheese, add vanilla extract. Then mix in confectioner's sugar one cup at a time until thoroughly mixed and fluffy. Ice glazed Gingerbread. * May decorate with thin strips of orange zest. Chill iced gingerbread for 15 minutes before slicing.

Notes

Gingerbread often dries out quickly, the glaze and icing help keep it moist. After the initial chilling, any leftover gingerbread should be wrapped with plastic wrap and covered. Makes 9-12 servings. This is a very spicy gingerbread that I think you will enjoy.

Next time you feel like you need a bit of spice in your life – I hope you’ll try… ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread.  And as always…

Love y’all, Camellia

* If you want to make a loaf cake- add an extra egg and an extra 20 minutes more bake time, just don’t peek while it’s baking or it will fall! Or, if you prefer more of a bar cookie- pour the batter in a 10x 15 inch sheet pan- seriously reducing the bake time… just until the center is almost set. Cut in cute shapes or squares… oh just do whatever you want to!

*All photographs are mine.

Camellia’s Cottage Cookies

Not a lot of cookies are made here at the cottage. Okay, I make shortbread cookies, they’re my favorite plain and also I’ve have experimented with add ins like pecans or orange zest, have even made a variation with brown sugar and pecans as a unique shortbread, but that’s about it for cookies. I do admit to enjoying bar cookies and the ease of making them,. yet I’ve wanted another cookie to add to my repertoire, if it’s a go to recipe that’s a bit different, with a crisp crumb and a bit of texture added, and of course loaded with southern flavors.

I ran across a cookie recipe- from a community cookbook that I’d kept for over 20 years- it called for walnuts and a few other things I knew would have to change before it would be a cookie I thought would taste good and be worth the time and effort. Now… the baker had called the recipe- ‘World’s Best Cookie’. Southerners do tend to exaggerate when it comes to making up a title for their recipes…everything is – Best, Delight, Divine or named, King or Queen– after Royalty or a famous ranch for all I know… Still. I wondered about this world’s best cookie…it did sound good, and except for the walnuts, had solid southern flavors. I’ve been clearing out my pantry for a fresh start to the new year and I had all of the ingredients on hand. You might have them too!

 I tweaked the old recipe and what do you know? It’s a really good cookie. World’s Best, who knows? Still. For me to put our name on it- well, it’s has to be good!

I’ve named these cookies simply Camellia’s Cottage Cookies… easy to make, even easier to enjoy and the easiest to share! Otherwise… well, let’s just say I was standing there eating them one after another thinking- ‘I’ve got to get these cookies out of here!’  Hope you’ll try them. As always…

Love y’all, Camellia

Camellia's Cottage Cookies

A truly good cookie that has everything but the kitchen sink- pecans, oats, coconut and even corn flakes! The butter makes the texture light and crisp.  It's a great after school snack or with all that fiber even a quick breakfast treat with a piece of fruit of course...
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup regular or frosted corn flakes lightly crushed
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats not quick or instant
  • 1 cup shredded coconut unsweetened is best
  • 3/4 cup coarse chopped pecans
  • 1 cup butter I use salted, if you don't add 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar may use light brown
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg- lightly beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda sifted with flour
  • 4 cups all purpose flour

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, toss to combine- lightly crushed corn flakes, rolled oats, coconut and pecans. Set aside.  With a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars until light, about 4 minutes. Add beaten egg, mix well- then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well. Slowly add vegetable oil until well incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer.
    By hand, carefully add mixture of corn flakes, oats, coconut and pecans. Then, add one cup at a time of the sifted flour mixture. Be gentle but mix well. 
    Drop by rounded tablespoons on ungreased sheet pans. Flatten each ball of dough with a fork dipped in water - making a cross hatch pattern.
    Bake at 350 degrees for 14-15 minutes. Check cookies after 12 minutes. Bake until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes 3-4 dozen.

Notes

I had frosted corn flakes in my pantry and they worked just fine! It's important to cream the butter, sugars, egg, extracts and oil in the correct order- and to do this with a mixer. Folding in the mixture of oats, flakes, coconut and pecans must be done by hand to have that wonderful texture. Depending on the size cookies you make- adjust the baking time accordingly. These are truly good cookies!

*all photographs are mine!

Sweet Potato Pie…

9CA703A3-6DFD-471A-858B-1A5F67E01411Sweet Potatoes… baked, mashed- candied or casseroled- Southerners do love their sweet potatoes. And while we eat them all year round, the fall and winter holidays – all the way through our traditional New Year’s Day meals of Turnip Greens and Blackeyed Peas, Sweet Potatoes signify good fortune in that meal! – all tend to feature Sweet Potatoes.  Last week, I found some beautiful sweet potatoes from right here  at my local grocery store- firm, no blemishes and the color was amazing. When they found their way into my buggy, I wanted to  make- a Sweet Potato Pie.. Somehow sweet potatoes have always been associated with good memories.

My grandmother scooped orange pulp from their shells, then filled them with mashed, buttered and spiced sweet potatoes, then topped them off with snowcaps of marshmallows- oh my! I can still remember the aroma when they were pulled out of her oven.

I also recall one of her double first cousins- one of nine children- who recalled his momma’s sweet potato biscuits; and another cousin told of  one memorably cold morning when he was sent to school with a hot baked sweet potato in one coat pocket and a sausage biscuit in the other to keep him warm on his walk to school- he exclaimed that it still remained one of his all time favorite meals.

B5020501-338D-4227-8F81-AE679B73EDB1With the famous Southern Sweet Tooth- it’s no wonder sweet potatoes made their way into sugary pecan topped casseroles and pies- oh yes the pies… Okay. I did a small but significant survey of truly southern folks- who at least had a southern grandmother or two- and yes, it was unscientific – yet the sampling in my survey- There was one main question…

‘Do you remember eating pumpkin pie when you growing up?’ The most memorable answer was: ‘No, punkin’ pie has a whang to it.’ A whang to it? He went on to tell me that they always grew a few punkins for the kids but mostly pumpkins were ‘fed to the hogs, if the possums didn’t get ’em first.’ Please don’t ask me what it means to have ‘a whang to it’– my grandmother had the same sentiment about pumpkins! And these are things that can’t be described, you just know. Still. If I ever heard that something had a whang to it- I didn’t eat it. No ma’am, I didn’t. Sweet Potato Pie is the Southern version of the more universally known Pumpkin Pie. So! I set out to make the best Sweet Potato Pie I could…  I believe this version is the combination of traditional spices and aromas we all love with a old timey twist on the crust. Here’s how you make it-A7A52AC8-42E5-410D-86A5-DB3CDE708411

Camellia’s Sweet Potato Pie

For the Pie Crust: Make your favorite pie crust or use a prepared 9 inch pie crust. *This is an important step to me- if making your own crust- add a tablespoon or two of cornmeal to the pie dough ; if using a prepared pie crust – brush egg yolk all over the crust including edges, then finely sift cornmeal over the crust- pressing slightly.

I’m not sure why the cornmeal is a necessity for a very good sweet potato pie, yet there’s something about the addition that enhances the sweet potato pie- perhaps it strengthens the pie crust; is just a tradition or adds a subtle flavor but do not miss this step! Chill the cornmeal enhanced pie crust while making the sweet potato filling.  *Preheat oven to 450 degrees, after the sweet potatoes are baked and while making the sweet potato pie filling. This is an important step- oven temperature will be reduced in the midst of baking.

For Sweet Potato Filling:

  • Bake 2 lbs of sweet potatoes. *Please do not use canned sweet potatoes for the filling if possible, the quality of the pie depends on the quality of the sweet potatoes. I baked mine coated with butter.
  • Peel baked sweet potatoes, removing any stringy fiber, before mashing using a light hand- you don’t want mushy sweet potatoes! At this point when sweet potatoes are done, remember to preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Spice Blend: 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. I prefer a generous grating of fresh nutmeg. Sprinkle spice mix, a pinch of salt and the zest of one Orange over mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Add 1/2 cup of melted butter, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of granular sugar. Mixture until light and smooth.
  • Beat 3 large eggs until lightened- add to spiced sweetened sweet potato mixture. Then-
  • Add 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice and 1/4 cup of half and half or whole milk and 3 tablespoons of good Brandy.
  • Mix very well- mixture should be a light, rather airy filling.
  • Pour filling into chilled prepared pie crust.
  • *I sprinkled the edges of my pie with raw sugar for a decorative effect.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.
  • Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 25-35 minutes until the pie is puffed and firm.

This is a very good rich fragrant Sweet Potato Pie. Indeed it is my favorite mixture- some add a pinch of ground cloves but I find ground cloves can easily be overdone so please…use just a pinch. A good sherry or pure vanilla extract can be substituted for the Brandy- again this is personal taste. Fresh Orange Zest and Juice is necessary as well- you may also substitute lemon juice and zest, though I find an orange lends a milder and warmer flavor than lemon juice especially in the fall and winter months..

A7A52AC8-42E5-410D-86A5-DB3CDE708411Now , I’d like for you to make your Sweet Potato Pie like I do- you’ll have a superior pie I think. Or go ahead and use your grandmommas recipe- why, even my Great Aunt Trix made a good sweet potato pie, though maybe not as good as this one! Sweet Potato Pie is an iconic Southern pie- one that even our most famous pastry chefs are still making- I hope it will become one of your favorites, too!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photgraphs were obviously taken by me.

Homewreckers…

BDB6AC65-F5E4-437E-BA57-084BCB00E203An amusing dessert for Fall and even Halloween sounded fun, maybe something chocolate would be a good idea- I had seen a lot of wonderful and photogenic desserts, so mine had to be different. I thought of a confection I had made for a Holiday Bake Sale I hosted several years ago. Okay. Here’s the problem- I couldn’t find the recipe! I turned this house upside down looking for it! Homewrecking, if you will. When I made the first version of my confection, I’d decided to make an extreme version of Blondies. I planned to called them Blonde Bombshells- reminiscent of the beautiful blondes of the silver screen.

  • Jane Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman,
  • the Gabor Sisters, Jean Harlowe, Grace Kelly even Brigette Bardot-

Rich, talented, beautiful – a feast for the eyes… but wait a minute! Why not celebrate Brunettes! There was-

  • Ava Gardner, Natalie Wood,
  • Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor and more…

Why, they too were rich, beautiful, talented even warm and spicy. So, I made something like a Brownie but added warm spices like black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. Let me tell you- they were so decadent- a one inch square was… well, all anyone needed!  Still. I couldn’t find the recipe. All I knew, from the scribbled notes- there was a notation- ‘Base is like Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies’… the lost recipe for the brownie had a notation in one of my grandmother’s cookbooks or scraps of newspaper clipped recipes- I believed it was in a cookbook compiled by her double first cousins. No luck- but I did find a recipe purported to be similar to Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies in one of my community cookbooks by a lady named Maybelle, whom shall remain anonymous. 8E79A7D4-52D3-4930-B50F-1C12803E5F31

Could I just take a minute and say- There were certain things we were taught not to talk about di-rectly. Or in mixed company- even in polite society. Things like mental lapses were spoken of as being eccentric or colorful – Money- the haves and the have nots- whether you had money or you didn’t – had absolutely nothing to do with whether you acted right, had social graces and good manners – You could be poor as Job’s turkey and still be genteel. Marital problems? Ladies might read about it in True Confessions or a tabloid at the Beauty Parlor whispering among themselves in hushed tones then nervous giggling ensued. A ‘Homewrecker’ was rarely spoken of – those with refined sensibilities just didn’t talk about these unpleasant things.

The first time I ever actually recall hearing the word ‘Homewrecker‘ – my grandmother practically hissed the word- in her own home, mind you! To be honest, until I was out on my own I had the feeling that a homewrecker was someone who owned a small time wrecking company and ran one of those wrecking ball machines in dubious neighborhoods- someone who tore down houses…perhaps under the cover of darkness. Though, I vaguely recall believing homewreckers mostly lived out in Hollywood- since my dreamy eyed mother mentioned admiring Katherine Hepburn… my grandmother quickly followed that by hissing…‘Homewrecker’. It sounded unusual and perfectly scandalous.

I know now that Miss Hepburn apparently had a long running love affair with a married man named Spencer Tracy. Neither movie star looked like the type to run heavy equipment on a regular basis. Though Mr. Tracy was described as ‘powerful’ and ‘dynamite’– he was never…nevah! described as a homewrecker– and apparently he never … shh- D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D .  Thank you very much, Tammy Wynette.  Still. Miss Hepburn must have made some wonderful brownies; maybe Spencer Tracy was partial to chocolate. And y’all, for the record?

I long for that vintage civilized conversation– in polite company. Too much information and vulgar language in society has become one of my pet peeves; genteel, polite, kind and respectful conversation would be like a breath of fresh clean air. Don’t you think?   At any rate- down through time the recipe for Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies was touted as a dense rich chocolate confection filled with walnuts or pecans and for sure those brownies were socially acceptable. Just for fun- I adapted Maybelle’s recipe a bit, I added strong coffee, doubled the recipe and used Baking Chocolate instead of Cocoa, Butter instead of Oleo and of course no walnuts- I used Southern Pecans. So, stay tuned- you’ll see why I dubbed my new brownies- Homewreckers, just for fun and pure devilment!

4488E530-663B-4FAD-961F-81D1B72F97D5Camellia’s Homewreckers

  • You will need 4 oz. of Baking Chocolate – broken into squares
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (plus enough to butter the baking sheet)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  •  1/2 cup of sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of strong brewed coffee or 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 2 cups of pecans toasted with a pinch of salt and then rough chopped.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. On another baking pan- spread 2 cups of pecans and a pinch of salt. Toast pecans in the oven while it is preheating, they will be perfectly roasted, remove and chop coarsely. Set aside. Prepare a 10×15 baking sheet linws with parchment paper which has been buttered well. Set aside.

EB4EAB18-B784-4924-B892-D416393096A3*This is a one pot recipe! In a large saucepan, melt 4 oz. of Baking Chocolate (use the best you can find) with the 2 sticks of butter on medium low heat until just melted (be careful and do not scorch or you’ll have to throw the whole thing out and start over!). Remove from heat, then add 2 cups of sugar- stir until sugar is completely absorbed. Add 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract  and 1 Tbs. of cool and strong coffee.

Break eggs into a measuring cup and stir until combined. Combine well with chocolate mixture. Then quickly stir in 1/2 cup of sifted all purpose flour until just combined. (Can you believe it? just one half cup flour in the whole thing!) Add in coarsely chopped pecans. Pour mixture evenly onto baking sheet.

8d48cfa5-4857-469d-96cb-1bdde2870e1e.jpegBake for 25 minutes or maybe less at 350 degrees. Test with a toothpick, if it comes out clean- they are done and no one will be mad if they are slightly underdone! These Homewreckers are soft fudgy Brownie Bars, if they are hard and dry? Again I say, throw them out and start all over! *note: These brownie bars will cut best if they are chilled in the pan- uncut. To be honest, I love to cut brownies in small pieces, dip the fudgy bottom in granulated sugar for an effect similar to the Electric Maid Bakery or several other fine baking establishments in the Birmingham area which have long shuttered their doors- they made a habit of offering their brownies dipped in white sugar and… I suspect to keep them from sticking together and making a mess.

Here’s the two secrets for very good brownies which are rarely shared- the perfect brownies or brownie bars have very little flour and are best undercooked! Please note again: Camellia’s  Homewreckers have just one half cup of flour in this whole pan! (you can make thicker brownies by baking in a 9×13 pan and increase the baking time just slightly)

Now, in an effort to make an amusing Halloween treat- I cut the chilled Homewreckers into 3×3 inch squares, using two of them, I filled the center with vanilla ice cream and topped it with hot fudge sauce- and a spritz of whipped cream on top- the ‘eyes’ aren’t the confectioner’s type but could be! *I double checked Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies – they don’t contain the strong coffee or espresso powder- her recipe calls for an 8×8 inch pan- mine for an 10×15 inch baking pan, they are surely thinner but do make sure not to overcook.  Imagine my surprise when I found an NPR segment citing a New York Times article with the recipe for Miss Hepburn’s Brownies- and the subtitle of the NPR segment was ‘A Recipe for Homewrecking?’(link to NYT article, posted on NPR is a segment called the Salt- an article written by Maquita Peters at www.npr.org)

Cooking and baking should be fun- and when you make your own rendition of any recipe- half the fun is naming the recipe! Be sure to share your rendition! By the way, if I ever do round up that recipe for Brunettes? You’ll be the first to know! As for this recipe? The only homewrecking these confections will create is maybe some scuffling over the last bite! Have fun making a batch of Homewreckers of your own- or Ghostbusters, whatever you call them- they’re good!  if you want to try your hand at coming up with a recipe for some Platinum Blondies or even some Fiery Redheads – I don’t know, maybe rich red velvet cookie bars vamped up with nuts and warm spices, just be sure to share the recipes!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. I must say- Katherine Hepburn was one of my all time favorite actresses! And she was neither a blonde or a brunette but a beautiful redhead!

*I believe True Confessions was a magazine but maybe it was a tabloid- please forgive my lapse. I haven’t seen a copy in years

 

Summer Blueberry Scones…

EC69DB75-C9C3-4C5B-B483-0D756B6C3163I made a batch of Summer Blueberry Scones, tender buttery- with a hint of orange and dripping with a sweet glaze.  Easy to make, these scones might make my ‘Summertime and the Living is Easy’ recipe list. We’ve had a bumper crop of blueberries- which frankly surprises me. We’re not really a blueberry growing or even a blueberry eating bunch here.  There’s a beautiful and bountiful blueberry farm just a few miles down the road here- I hope they’ve had a bumper crop too…

A3624DB1-5061-4E0E-AB93-6BFF069DAEF3When I think of iconic Southern fruits- it’s strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupes, apricots, plums, peaches, watermelons and further south- bananas, fresh coconuts and citrus fruits seem to fill the memories of my life.

  • Strawberry Shortcakes, Blackberry  and Peach Cobblers,
  • Cantaloupes in big orange slices perfect for every meal,
  • Watermelons in my uncle’s Ice House,
  • Banana Puddings and Apricot Casseroles were also beloved –
  • Then at Christmas, Cranberries made an appearance and the utterly delicious but simple Ambrosia my grandmother made was full of Oranges and Fresh Coconut.
  • Dried Apricots, Apples and Peaches tended to show up on the breakfast table or in the form of Fried Pies…

I only recall one little girl who loved blueberry syrup on her pancakes and it wasn’t me! When ladies began making those cream cheese ice box pies- they did open up cans of strawberry or blueberry pie filling to spoon over the top. All of that changed when blueberries became something of a sensation for all of the health benefits folks read about. Back then, we were given several blueberry bushes- that frankly never did much good. And my husband came up with a concoction which we still love- that he dubbed Blueberry Surprise which consists of fresh blueberries topped with sour cream and a generous helping of brown sugar- hey! don’t knock it! I’m not sure why it works but it’s also great with mixed berries- like strawberries and blueberries for a quick, cool, easy dessert. And you can’t beat a bowl of mixed berries after a heavy meal.

This year… from two sort of spindly blueberry bushes- we’ve gotten several quarts of blueberries, most are in the freezer. To my surprise, another half pint were picked over the weekend and were used to garnish a coconut cream pie and tossed in a citrus salad, the rest were put up in a small freezer bag.65C51387-D229-4F7B-9BFC-9A93AEEEA22A

I know it’s gonna sound like heresy to some- but I’m not a big fan of blueberry muffins; blueberry pie wouldn’t be my first pick, I do like them on cereal but give me strawberries or bananas any day of the week.  So, what to do with all of the bounty? Ah… I recalled Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama. For decades, we’ve been privileged to stay at this historic southern hotel- which serves a complimentary Afternoon Tea with cookies as big as a lap baby’s face and small scones with a selection of teas- from open mahogany tea chests, along with coffee for those who prefer it to tea. Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel is an easy affair that seems to bring out genteel qualities in even the children who partake. With these memories dancing around in my head, I thought I’d make a batch of Summer Blueberry Scones… it might have been a mistake because I barely got them photographed before I realized I hadn’t exactly been genteel in my consumption of the scones! In fact, I had to put most of them safely out of reach. If you’ve got a cup of fresh blueberries and bit of time… maybe you’ll try – 962C44B8-A3AA-4754-9CA1-ACCB65885348Camellia’s Summer Blueberry Scones

These are easy- so you will need a biscuit baking mix- I prefer Pioneer Baking Mix®; I’ve been to their mill in San Antonio Texas and my family used it regularly- however, any biscuit baking mix will do I’m sure-

  • In a large mixing bowl stir together 3 cups of Biscuit Mix- (no sifting required),
  • 1/3 cup of Sugar and 3/4 stick of very cold Butter cut into small cubes.
  • Just toss or stir gently.
  • Then, very carefully toss 1 cup of frozen blueberries and 3 tablespoons of diced candied orange peel in with the mixture. *If you don’t have this ingredient- the zest of an orange or even a lemon will work just as well.
  • And, don’t worry about cutting in butter- just toss the cubes together to mix. Make a center well, add one large beaten Egg and 3/4 cup of whole milk.
  • Gently work the dough with your hands to just get the mixture moist.
  • Turn half of the mixture out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and work dough into a ball; turn out onto a silicone mat or parchment lined baking sheet. *No buttering the pan- there’s plenty of butter in the dough!
  • Gently now,  pat each dough ball into a 7 or 8 inch round at 3/4 inch thickness.
  • Score the rounds into triangles. No need to even get out a biscuit cutter!E38BE16D-A578-4B70-BB5B-33F4C130B51C
  • *Always remember to use a very light touch with biscuit or scone dough for a light tender result.  I sifted a bit of the baking mix on top of the dough rounds for easier scoring.
  • Put the unbaked scones in the refrigerator to chill.
  • Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees.
  • Put chilled scones in the hot oven for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • If desired, make a simple glaze of 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and up to 1/4 cup of milk, being careful to add half of the milk- stir, then add a bit more until it is the right consistency.
  • Glaze Summer Blueberry Scones while they are still warm. Allow to cool a bit before cutting into triangles-  if you can stand to wait!
  • Makes 16 medium size scones.  Aren’t they pretty?

EC69DB75-C9C3-4C5B-B483-0D756B6C3163Well, I’m ashamed to admit I ate more than one in the afternoon- then called on another one to be my supper! I saved the leftover glaze and put most of the rest in the freezer, to warm up for another Afternoon Tea or breakfast or for unexpected company or…I don’t know, maybe your blood sugar’s running low or you feel a Sinking Spell coming on or when you think you’re just gonna die unless you have a little something to clear your head. Summer Blueberry Scones will feed the hungry, lift sagging spirits, give a hungry child an after school treat or you might need to bring a genteel touch to life!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.  See what I mean by spindly? 5F27E495-27E6-497D-8D88-E9DD9BCB4E31

Strawberry Layer Cake…

 

3E98D33C-A046-4395-BC7F-5CFE7370B0B1

If you’re in the South- the warmest language is the Food. Spicy? ‘Yes ma’am.’ Fried? ‘I liketa died.’ Baked? ‘Well, doesn’t that take the cake?’  Oh yes! the best drawls of all come out when sugah is involved! Our Southern Sweet Tooth is legendary, right up there with fresh vegetables. In fact,  I’d venture to say- the slowest drawls can be found at Farmer’s Markets- especially where jams, jellies, syrups, pickles and home baked goods are sold! When fresh fruit starts showing up at roadside stands or farmer’s markets- Southerners have been known to work themselves to death- figuring out how to eat and preserve as much as possible! Especially peaches, blackberries and strawberries! It’s a funny thing, now you can get these fruits almost all year round but somehow they just don’t taste the same.

One of my vivid childhood memories is the excitement I felt as an old rattletrap truck sputtered into our neighborhood- windows rolled down as a farmer called out these distinct words… ‘Strah-behries- strawbehries! Getcher strah-behries!’ My job was to run toward the road waving my skinny arms so the truck would stop! Meanwhile my sister would take out running to the house calling out for our Momma. Dressed in flowered Housedresses or cotton Dusters that snapped up the front or starched Shirtwaist dresses, ladies would hurry out- Aprons Sashes flying, Change Purses in hand, Sensible Shoes stepping up  to the Strawberry Truck.  The man would lift up the plywood sides of his ol’ truck and the sweet aroma of fresh strawberries would waft out on the breeze; inside we could see-packed like jewels were sweet strawberries. I could hear paper bags being filled, or woven market baskets handed out as money changed hands. We knew something especially delicious was at hand! 225DDF44-4354-4036-A117-12CEFC44489C

Now, I have a confession to make here- my family wasn’t known for baking very many Layer Cakes- My great aunt Mary Sue made a layer cake called Lemon Cheese Cake which wasn’t anything like folks think of cheesecakes at all! No, we ate strawberries with pound cake, as a topping for shortcake or homemade ice cream. Strawberries showed up in hot bubbly cobblers or topped cool pies; we loved them just sugared and sliced in a bowl with whipped cream too- so… the first time I had a true Strawberry Layer Cake- it was a revelation!

I think the first Strawberry Layer was from a bakery called the Electric Maid on Southside and most recently a wonderful bakery called Edgar’s near Cahaba Heights….until a darling friend named Kim made several for our family and I’ve come to love them! Sooo… I have a confession to make- this is my very first attempt at making a Strawberry Layer Cake! Another confession is that, I baked it with the help of Mr. Duncan Hines.  I mean, if you’re not a layer cake baker- why do all of that sifting and measuring if it’s really the Icing you’re after? The strawberries were the first local ones I’ve had this year- smallish. I have a test- if the wild strawberries are growing in the yard, I know the ones sold in the stores are probably local! D43D2229-5198-4288-8212-1983EF140281

The first order of business when I buy fresh strawberries is to Slice and Sugar them, which is nothing more than hulling the sweet green cap and slicing some of the berries making sure to cut away the soft bruised spots- pour sugar on top and proceed to slice another layer ending with sugar. Cover and chill until ready to use. This wait time is important because the sugared strawberries put off a beautiful sweet red juice.  ( I always use it or even drink it! Add the juice to lemonade for a precious Pink Lemonade!)  The sweetened strawberry  juice is helpful when making shortcakes or trifles and this Layer Cake!  I used the sugared strawberry juice in Mr. Hine’s cake mix instead of the suggested amount of water! Extra good! Well…without further ado let me tell you how I made – 9FF407D2-A811-4070-B592-6F62E237D9E0

Camellia’s Strawberry Layer Cake

  • You will need two quarts of fresh strawberries. Reserve roughly one pint of the prettiest berries for decorating the cake- I recommend keeping the whole berries in a cool dim place. For the layer cake and frosting- instead of slicing the strawberries– I did a rough medium dice then, sugared the berries generously with granulated sugar- toss to coat and chill several hours or overnight. *The sugar should be completely melted, this does not require cooking.
  • For cake layers, butter two 8 inch cake pans- line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper (also buttered) and lightly flour. I did use real butter for flavor! Make cake batter according to mix directions- substituting sugared strawberry juice for the water! (Mine called for butter or margarine- I always use butter!) Divide evenly into the pans. Bake according to directions.
  • Allow cake layers to cool completely! Remove parchment and reserve, while making the icing. D01F99AD-A7EB-436B-97D6-B2059C6C7B72
  • Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing 
  • Sift 6 !/2 cups of powdered sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  • 1 cup of diced and sugared strawberries drained- Bring to room temperature also-*for all of you serious cooks out there- the word is macerated – I prefer ‘diced or sliced and sugared’ strawberries- sounds delicious!
  • 2 sticks of Butter softened to room temperature
  • 16 ounces of Block Cream Cheese softened to room temperature.
  • 2  teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • *Now, I might have taken a short cut on the cake layers but not here on the Icing! Use the best and freshest ingredients possible- room temperature butter and cream cheese and sifted powdered sugar is essential here!

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment- not the whisk! blend vanilla extract, cream cheese and butter until smooth and well blended. Add sifted confectioner sugar gradually until smooth. Remove mixing bowl and fold in by hand- the drained diced and sugared strawberries.  Blend until berries are incorporated. The Icing is a beautiful pink! *You may need a bit less or a bit more powdered sugar, just make sure it’s sifted so there are no lumps! This frosting is enough to frost 2 layers. Use reserved whole strawberries for decoration. Keep Iced Cake Covered and Chilled so that it slices easily.  3A83B020-FCAA-4F7A-A507-C9180624D178

Okay y’all…this cake wasn’t as good as our friend Kim’s, who is an expert- but it turned out very well if I do say so myself! Still. I have a long way to go before I master the art of layer cakes! Let’s see…I want to learn how to make my sweet mother in law- Eleanor’s Famous Coconut Cake, my Great Aunt Mary Sue’s Lemon Cheese Cake and oh yes! I’d love to learn how to make a perfect Southern Caramel Cake. Hold the phone. I’ll probably just stick to what I know…still, a girl can dream… Strawberry Layer Cake was a fun way to kick off Spring!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine

* Duncan Hines® Strawberry Cake Mix was used for this cake- it calls for butter/margarine instead of oil, I would recommend using butter. *Also, I do not recommend adding fresh strawberries to this cake mix- as the batter might not have the right consistency. *The greenery on this cake came from our garden- we do not use pesticides or chemicals. The greenery was washed, placed flat between two layers of damp paper towels for use in decoration only- all parts might be edible but not necessarily tasty! Remove from sliced cake before serving. * I also recommend using whole berries for decoration and they can be put on the plate when serving. 225DDF44-4354-4036-A117-12CEFC44489C