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…

  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. Drop by rounded tablespoons on ungreased sheet pans. Flatten each ball of dough with a fork dipped in water – making a cross hatch pattern.
  4. 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.

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 tend to feature Sweet Potatoes to signify good fortune in the coming year. Last week, I found some beautiful sweet potatoes from Mississippi at my local grocery store- firm, no blemishes and the color was amazing, so you know they found their way into my buggy. I knew just what I wanted to  make- a Sweet Potato Pie- one with all of the holiday flavors I associate with sweet potatoes. Somehow sweet potatoes have always been associated with good memories.

My grandmother scooped the orange pulp from their shells- filled them with mashed spicy buttered sweet potatoes and 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 baked sweet potato in one coat pocket and a sausage biscuit in the other- it kept 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 – even so of 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’– 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.

4E207F95-3D44-4FF1-81F8-D651D1E7C7B8 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.

F3AA21F5-CE47-4E00-B4DB-937BE2BFBF2EThis 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 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 the orange lends a milder and warmer flavor than lemon juice especially in the fall and winter months..

A7A52AC8-42E5-410D-86A5-DB3CDE708411Okay, I’d like for you to make Sweet Potato Pie like I do- you’ll have a superior pie I think. Or go ahead and use grandmomma’s recipe- 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 http://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…

 

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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