I was never a big baker. I dabbled in cakes in the early 1980s but never did very many.
After that, with three children and a full-time job, most of my cakes came from the local Winn-Dixie. I used to tell my children that I baked their birthday cake, but I purchased a plastic container from the store to put it in. It was a family joke for years.
I decided not to try cake baking again until the children were in high school. I decided I wanted to make pound cakes, so I bought a stand mixer and learned to make them. I found a recipe for a Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake on the back of a Swan Cake Flour box and that became my signature cake.
I've never been a cutting edge baker. I've always preferred the old fashioned cakes. Most of my cakes came from the collection of church and community cookbooks that I had purchased. I even mastered the 14-layer chocolate and caramel cakes, but there was one cake, well really icing, that I couldn't master: A coconut cake with seven-minute icing. Maybe it was because I didn't like the icing or maybe it was because I can't stand still with a mixer in my hand over a hot pot for seven uninterrupted minutes. It was frustrating. Every Southern baker has to have a coconut cake in her repertoire.
One day I ran across a recipe for a Coconut Sour Cream Cake in "Sweet Southern Cookin'" put out in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Miss Georgia pageant. It had coconut in it and was super easy so I decided to give it a try. I made it and eagerly cut into it. It was awful! It had no taste. It was so bad that I was going to throw it in the trash, but my son, Jeremiah, told me to keep it, he would eat it. When you're a teenager, you'll pretty much eat anything that ends with the word "cake."
The next afternoon Jeremiah called me at work and said "Mom you're not going to believe how good this cake tastes today. It's delicious!"
He was right. I couldn't believe the difference that 24 hours made. I now had a coconut cake recipe. I've shared the cake with many coconut cake connoisseurs and they all agree it's delicious.
Just for the record there is one cake that I have finally thrown up the white flag to: Chocolate pound cake. Every recipe I have tried is dry. It's probably OK for most, but I don't like dry cake. If someone calls to order one, I and my staff will tell them that we can't make that cake. I guess we all have to have one to keep us humble.
Pinterest is reviving old cake recipes. They're all the rage on food blogs, which makes me happy. We can't forget the old recipes - they are, after all, the foundation of all of our foods. So, I'll do my part by sharing with you a few really simple oldies.
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie's Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.
COCONUT SOUR CREAM CAKE
Adapted from "Sweet Southern Cookin'"- Deborah Mosely Brewer, Miss Georgia 1978, contributor
1 basic white cake mix*
2 cups of sugar
1 (16-ounce) sour cream
1 (12-ounce) package coconut
1 Â½ cups Cool Whip
Mix cake according to directions. Divide between three 8" pans. Cook as directed on box. Cool completely. Combine sugar, sour cream, and coconut, blending well. Chill. Reserve 2 cups of sour cream mixture for frosting. Spread remainder between layers of cake. Combine reserve mixture with Cool Whip. Blend until smooth. Spread on top and sides of cake. Seal in airtight container and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours before serving. The longer it sits, the better it gets!
*We use our basic white cake recipe at the restaurant, but a name brand cake mix from a box works just as well if you follow the directions on the box.
PIG PICKING CAKE
From "Southern Cooking" by Lorine Oliff Hendricks
(I learned to bake the 14-layer cakes from Mrs. Hendricks' recipe in this book. It's a family cookbook but they do have some for sale on Amazon. It's a gold mine of old fashioned cooking.)
1 package Golden (yellow) Cake Mix
Â½ cup salad oil (canola or vegetable oil)
1 small can mandarin oranges with juice
2 small packages vanilla instant pudding
1 (15-ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
9 ounces whipped topping
Cake: Mix all cake ingredients with mixer until oranges are in flakes. Divide between three 8" round pans and cook according to directions on box. Cool completely and frost with the frosting.
Frosting: Whip together vanilla instant pudding with crushed pineapple and its juice. Stir in whipped topping. Stack the three layers with frosting between, on top and on sides. Keep refrigerated.
(Like the coconut cake, this one gets better after it sits a spell.)
FRUIT COCKTAIL CAKE
(I have a vivid memory of my Mimi serving me this delicious cake as a child. She was such a great, simple cook and she loved to feed her family.)
1Â½ cups all-purpose flour
Â¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 small can (15 to 16 ounces) fruit cocktail and juice (not lite)
Â¾ cup dark brown sugar
Â½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 X 13 pan. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir in white sugar and combine. Add egg and fruit cocktail with juice to dry mixture and stir until mixture is moistened. Spread in prepared pan. Sprinkle brown sugar and nuts over top. Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. Serve straight from the pan.