I’m notorious for running out of time when I say yes to too many things. Imagine how surprised I was when I said yes to joining a baking club by Claire of Simply Sweet Justice. It was like having an outer body experience. My brain was saying, “Are you nuts? You work 7 days a week now, where are you going to get the time to do this well?” My heart said, “I really want to do this, it will be fun.”
Claire sent the recipe and I made it just the way she sent it. The first one I made I tried to cheat the oven and put 3 pans on one shelf and rotated and well, the cake was pretty crap. I didn’t eat it because we had friends stop by who were on their way to other friends who’d had a death in the family. I said, “Take this cake!!” and they did. So I never knew if I’d like it.
I remember when I lived in Tennessee, one of my employees at the Knoxville Glove Company (what a past I have) named Mae Parton – (yes, Dolly is her cousin), made an Italian Cream Cake for my birthday one year. It was fantastic! Out of all the people I’ve ever met, Mae cooked the most wonderful food. She was a very simple woman – happy to cut leather on a press 8 hours a day, 50 weeks a year. It would have driven me insane. She grew most of her food and would bring things in nearly every day for all her workmates. She was the only female leather cutter and the men loved her. She wasn’t much bigger than a minute and had a huge smile that put everyone at ease.
Thinking about Mae just now reminds me of the best thing she ever cooked and I’m going to make that for you very soon. I just have to find the recipe that She wrote out for me so many years ago.
Now back to the recipe club. Claire asked what we’d all like to bake for our first ever recipe and gave us a few choices. One was Italian Cream Cake and I knew that’s what I’d love to do. Others felt the same way so I was really looking forward to it.
The reason my first cake wasn’t perfect was this oven I have. It’s a brand new Miele oven that squirts water and does all sorts of good things but it comes with ONE oven rack. ONE. What were they thinking?? I must rectify this or stop making 3-layer cakes.
My second attempt was better and I baked two layers and then the third. Much better. I made the icing – again following the recipe and thought, “geez, this sounds SO sweet.” I tasted it and thought my teeth were going to rot off. Undaunted, I continued.
Iced the cake, sprinkled it with chopped pecans and shredded coconut and it looked great. I took a couple of photos and called John down for afternoon tea. That’s coffee break for Americans.
He doesn’t have a sweet tooth so I cut an ever so small piece of cake and he took one bite and said, “Seriously?”
“What’s wrong with it? Did I forget something?”
“The texture is fine, Maureen, but it’s sweeter than sugar.” (for the record I’m not sure that’s possible since I used sugar.)
Immediately I thought, “OMG I sent this to a grieving family.”
Since moving to Australia, my sweet tooth has gotten much thinner. Australians don’t eat anywhere near as much salt and sugar in our food as I did when I lived in the states. It took about 18 months for my palate to change. I still love sweet things, don’t misunderstand, but not that sweet.
So my humblest apologies to Claire.
When I mentioned to Parsley Sage from The Deep Dish that I thought the cake was really sweet, she said, “Oh, I didn’t follow that recipe exactly. It looked too sweet.” Well duh!! I thought the rules were make this recipe as is. You can see I’ve never done this sort of thing before. I’m a quick learner so just wait for next month.
- ½ cup butter, salted
- ½ cup shortening
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 5 eggs, separated
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3½ ounces coconut flakes
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
- 8 ounce cream cheese
- 1 lb powdered sugar
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Milk to thin frosting to desired consistency
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans and set aside. Combine the flour and baking soda, and sift.
- Cream the butter, shortening and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and mix well. Add the buttermilk and flour mixture to the creamed mixture, alternating between the buttermilk and flour mixture. Add vanilla, coconut and nuts. Mix to combine.
- Stiffly beat the egg whites to form soft peaks and fold into the batter.
- Pour batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes (until the cake is golden and toothpick comes out clean). Allow to cool on racks. Remove from pans and allow to cool before frosting.
- Mix the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Add milk to thin frosting to desired consistency.