Back when she was only 92 years old Miss Jeannette would sit in front of us in church every Sunday. Mostly blind, she has a watch that speaks aloud the time when she presses a button. And when she felt the sermon had gone on quite long enough, she'd crank up the volume, aim her watch at the preacher, and hit the button. Three or four times. And said preacher would pick up the pace and wrap it up.
A few years ago, in her late 90's, I brought a poinsettia to her house at Christmastime on behalf of the church. She graciously invited me in - she was still in the home she'd been in for 60 years - and invited me to set on the davenport with her. In the way of stately senior Southern women, she coats her words with honey.
Miss Jeannette: Now what part of town are your Mama and Daddy in?
Me: Actually, I'm from Pennsylvania.
Miss Jeannette, reassuringly: Why, honey, that's all right! The important thing is you're here now. I'm sure it's the second-nicest place to be from.
Me: It's beautiful in the Fall. I grew up near Valley Forge, so it's very historical.
MJ, patting my knee: Yes, dear, of course it is.
She's a trip. And she turns 100 this week. In her honor, a recipe for one of the Dixiest of desserts - a rich, nostalgic caramel cake. Use cake flour - it gives the cake that wonderful from-the-bakery texture and lightness. This recipe uses light brown sugar for the cake itself, and gets its richness and caramelliness from the dark brown sugar in the frosting. It works perfectly.
Happy birthday, Miss Jeannette!
1 tablespoon cake flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 cups cake flour (about 8 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare cake, coat 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms of pans with wax paper or cooking parchment. Lightly coat wax paper with cooking spray; dust pans with 1 tablespoon flour. Set aside.
Place 1 cup light brown sugar and 7 tablespoons butter in a large mixing bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until well blended. Add egg substitute to sugar mixture; beat well. Lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with 1 cup milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Spoon batter into prepared pans. Sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Remove wax paper; discard. Cool cakes completely on wire rack.
To prepare frosting, combine 1/2 cup dark brown sugar and remaining ingredients in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until mixture is thick, stirring constantly.
Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/3 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.