I’ve been making it, decorating it, giving it away and eating it. So much so that I almost forgot to write about it.
Seriously, I have this great calendar that tells me what “DAY” it is each day. Apparently, July 20th was Cake Day. As I have mentioned, a lot, I love cake. So why wouldn’t I bake and write about it? The 10thAnniversary of the Hadassah group I belong to and my daughter’s best friend’s birthday also happened to be around that date, so I baked the fabulous chocolate cake written about in April 2017 and I made a wonderful Carrot Cake.
Let me tell you, Carrot Cake comes with a lot of opinions. Do you used nuts? What kind of nuts? Do you do a cream cheese frosting, and do you put butter in yours? In my house you would NEVER put fruit in something baked. In other homes you might add pineapple chunks to your carrot cake. All this to say that even though I happen to love my recipe, make it your own.
Mine is “original” after years of adapting all the family recipes and magazine recipes I’ve tried. I used to buy the pre-shredded carrots, and they work fine. Now I like to make a really fine shred in my own processor. I like the taste of fresh carrot, but I don’t want a big piece to wander into my bite of cake. I do put a stick of butter in my frosting. I think it adds a richness. If you want to add nuts, I’d go with pecans. Walnuts are also a good addition, but almonds might be nice too.
See what I’m doing here? My recipe is a great base. If you make it as is, you will love it. But make it your own and start a new tradition. Most of all ENJOY!!!!
While visiting friends in Phoenix, we had brunch at Chico Malo. For now, it is just the local Mexican/South American restaurant around the corner but keep an eye on this one. The Group that owns it is about to explode on the scene. Chico Malo literally means “bad boy” in Spanish. The menu is only good things but with a bad boy edge. The food was AMAZING!! Each item on the menu sounded better than the next. I loved that they aren’t trying to re-invent who they are with a whole new menu, for brunch. There are things like burritos and Chimichangas and in some cases, they turn those up.
Everything we ordered was great, but I can’t get my mind off the Nana Marcella’s Drunken French Toast. I’m going to do my best to duplicate. The presentation was so beautiful and the melding of flavors so incredible. The long pieces of baguette and caramelized bananas were stacked as if building a campfire. I learned from the menu that the bread had been soaked in a tres leches bath that not only enhanced the flavor but softened the tough crust to make it easy to cut with a fork. The 5-spice butter was the perfect balance of flavors to cut the fat in the butter while giving a blend of spices that danced all around my tongue, finally landing at the back with just a hint of heat. I had my idea of what the spices were but a quick visit with the General Manager confirmed allspice, cloves, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon.
These two hints gave me the start I needed to play mad scientist in the kitchen. I mixed eggs into the tres leches bath and I let the bread soak overnight. I did the same thing with the butter. I played around with amounts of each spice until I felt they all shined but the heat from the cinnamon was what you remembered. And so, I began. A couple of things I would be sure of before I started. When cutting your baguette, make sure your pieces will fit comfortably in the pan. You want them long but not so long that they fall apart when they are in the pan. Have everything you need to “build” the dish ready to go before you start cooking. This dish is better served hot, so don’t waste time getting everything together at the end. I noticed when I looked at the picture of the recipe again that there is a pool of tres leches under the toast then syrup. I ordered the Aged Rum Syrup and piloncillo from Amazon. You can probably get the piloncillo at a Latin market and make your own rum syrup by adding rum to maple syrup and reducing until the right thickness.
This dish was such a decadent start to the day. It was rich and the Mimosa I had helped to ease the richness. This is a great breakfast to share or even multiply for a breakfast buffet.
Using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (depending on hoe fine you want the rub) grind the cacao nibs and fennel seeds, together. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt cinnamon and cayenne powder. Combine thoroughly. The mortar and pestle will give you a coarser rub and a more pungent flavor. A coffee grinder or food processor will give you a finer rub and a more subtle flavor.
Massage the tenderloin with 1 T. of oil and then rub with the cacao mixture until well coated.
In a large skillet, over a medium-high flame, heat the remaining oil. Brown the tenderloin on all sides, turning often.
Transfer to a roasting pan and cook until a meat thermometer reads 145, about 15 minutes. Pork can cook very quickly so check at 10 -12 minutes. Adjust time for beef.
Once at proper temperature, take out, tent with foil and rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.
For most of my life I heard about “Granny”. My Great-Grandmother. By all accounts she was an amazing cook, great seamstress and she was feisty! My Great-Grandfather was 27 years older than her and had come from a family of privilege in Georgia. My Great-Grandfather was “one of the most sought-after bachelors”. By all accounts he was a bit of player and drove a flashy “rubber-tired buggy” with a “trotting horse”. Today that might be compared to a little red corvette. Granny was a schoolmistress that came from a hard working, “good” family. In the 12 years they were married, prior to his death, they had 4 children and she was pregnant with the 5th when he passed. While the story is told of their love at first sight, I’m guessing there was a certain amount of satisfaction in catching the un-catchable.
In 1900 $18,690 would have been the equivalent of approximately $430,000 today. In 1900 that would have meant that you were wealthy. This is how much the savings passbook shows my great grand parents had in the their bank account when Granny started using it to write recipes. That is a lot of money for the time. While they lived a somewhat grand life with servants and a large plantation home, they also were very conscious of using what they could from their own land. They had crops such as watermelon and their own patch for growing fruits and vegetables. They also raised several different types of chickens and had milk, butter and cheese from their own cows.
A grandchild’s imagination can run wild and mine is no different. At first, I imagined my “feisty” Granny getting mad at Ab, my great grandfather’s nickname. Perhaps he had asked her to run ANOTHER errand to the bank on a day when she had sick children and chores to do on the Plantation. I can see her running into a friend and asking for her Watermelon Rind Preserves recipe. When she realized she has no paper, maybe she thought, “I’ll show him the value of his money!” and scratched out the recipe right there on the 4th page of the passbook. I say this because the recipe is quickly given. There is no list of ingredients and amounts, then instructions. It’s all on continuous sentence.
I sometimes fantasize that maybe she really didn’t have any paper and thought it would be “just one recipe”. However, it became her go to for writing recipes when she ran into friends. Eventually, the recipes did evolve and have a list of and amounts ingredients and instructions.
Today we don’t have passbooks and most of our recipes are shared via email, the Internet or pinterest. Having those recipes written in my grandmother’s handwriting is invaluable. As the years passed, after my Grandfather’s death, times got hard for my great-grandmother and her family. She was able to turn to her Brother in law for help and keep her family together, during the depression, World War II and a great cyclone. I still imagine that she would have been teaching us that the value of a rich family history has more value than today’s $430,000.
My favorite recipe was the Jam Cake. This is a traditional southern cake that came out of Tennessee or Kentucky, depending on what website you are looking at. I have searched high and low for a jam cake recipe that was made with wine instead of buttermilk. I’m not sure why Granny made the substitution, but it sure is good!
I’m giving it to you as written and then my version. How lucky was my Granny to be able to bake with such a limited recipe. I hope you enjoy it too.
Beat eggs and sugar together until light colored and ribbony.
Sift flour and baking powder together.
Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add to eggs and sugar.
Slowly add flour & baking powder mix to butter/eggs mixture.
Once flour is completely added, add spices and lastly wine. Blend until just combined.
Pour into 8 or 9 inch cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350°F for 30 - 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
For frosting I make a cream cheese frosting and use a good store bought caramel sauce to make a caramel frosting. Divide the layers. I put an extra layer of jam in between cake layers with the frosting and then frost the whole cake.
You can find my cream cheese frosting recipe in my May 8, 2015 post of Red Velvet cake.