Monday, August 31, 2009

Listen To Your Big Sister: Kentucky Jam Cake

I take my cues from my big sister. Really, little sisters are advised to do that whenever possible -- big sisters being notoriously nasty and wicked things. In this case, however, I think the nasty wicked Kelly can be forgiven, because she said "Southern" and "Dessert" for today's post. So come along to Marion County Country Ham Days in Lebanon, Kentucky! For two days in late September, you can celebrate the local products, including, of course, ham, ham, and more ham. The County Fair Cookbook kicks off it's coverage with Mrs. Moraja's Country Ham Stuffed With Greens, which sounds delicious but doesn't suit my big sister's request. Let me know if you need to know how to stuff a country ham like Mrs. Moraja, and we could get a bonus post up. Until then, "Southern!" "Dessert!"
Kentucky Jam Cake
Jam cakes are a Kentucky tradition. Obviously, this is a grand cake for a special occasion.

Makes 1 large (4-layer) cake

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup blackberry jam
1 cup strawberry jam
1 cup peach preserves
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 cup seedless raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
6 egg whites
Caramel icing (opposite page)

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. Prepare four 8-inch cake pans: cut 4 rounds of parchment paper to fit the bottoms of the pans. Butter the pans liberally and position the parchment liners.
2. Sift together the flour, salt, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside. Push the blackberry and strawberry jams and peach preserves through a sieve into a bowl. Set aside.
3. In the large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and combine well.
4. Put the buttermilk in a 2-cup measure and stir in the baking soda.
5. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Beat until batter is smooth. Stir in the jams, raisins and nuts.
6. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff, unwavering peaks. Scoop the whites over the batter and gently fold them in with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the baking pans, dividing it evenly and smoothing the tops with a spatula.
7. Bake in the middle of the oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes on wire racks, then turn out on racks to cool completely. When completely cool, frost the cake with caramel icing.
Really, when I saw a recipe for a 4-layer cake, with three different kinds of jam, I was sure there'd be a different jam between each layer. Color me completely wrong! I was also going to wax lyrical about the absolute best blackberry jam in the world, and how you should use only that (but you can't, because my mom used to make it, and doesn't anymore), but then I grew to understand that all the jams are being combined.

Now, I like mixed fruit jams and jellies. (This is where I'd include a reference to being too tired and punchy in the Tastee Diner during college, and really raunchy things we used to say about mixed fruit jelly were I not so very, very tasteful.) I do. But I'm not taking the very best homemade anything and mixing it up willy nilly. So, use that which you have, as long as it passes muster when you eat it plain.

The caramel icing in question is a seven-minute frosting with light brown sugar, white sugar, cream of tartar, salt, and egg whites. If you're lacking a recipe and want this one, shout out and I'll post, or you could pick up a copy of The County Fair Cookbook and turn to page 101. If you do, then be sure and flip the page to read about "The Varmit Roast," and "How To Judge a Country Ham." Hint: Aroma is worth thirty points -- more than any other attribute!

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