I have a lot of cookbooks. And when I say a lot, I mean it–this collection of mine is growing steadily and one of my most recent acquisitions is one of my favorites. Cake Ladies* by Jodi Rhoden (owner of Short Street Cakes in Asheville, NC) is a unique collection of interviews and recipes from cake ladies all over the South. Not only is it full of delicious cakes, it’s a page-turning collection of women’s oral history and the connections between women, community and the food that brings us together. I love it.
That said, this is not a book review, but a cautionary tale about baking a cake with a toddler. A charming, smart, precocious toddler who will alternately stir your dry ingredients for you, and within seconds, wander out of the kitchen with your whisk. Needless to say, I was a bit distracted.
We started out looking through the book together, which entailed lots of talk about cake. Violet said hello to Jodi (Hi, Jodi!) and proceeded to “read” the introduction to me, which start something like this: Mum-mum is making a cake and first we put it in the bowl and then we eat the cake! And cakes are yummy… and so on. We decided on the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from Lois Mims in Pine Apple, Alabama (Excellent name for a town, no?) because the photos were so pretty, and I had the ingredients handy.
Lois bakes her cake in a 9″ cast iron skillet, which is brilliant. Tragically, I haven’t had a 9″ cast iron skillet in nearly a decade and figured I’d just grab a 9″ cake pan. Poor choice. More on that in a minute. We prepped our pan and got to mixing ingredients and snacking.
Pineapple and cherries make this cake pretty, but the shining star on the ingredients list is butter. Butter and brown sugar, to be fair, but the butter quickly became my problem. Back to the 9″ cake pan: if you didn’t know, a 9″ cake pan does not–I repeat NOT–hold the same volume that a 9″ cast iron skillet does. Deep down I knew this, but denial took over and I decided that this would work. Sadly, it did not. I realized what a mess I’d made as the smoke from the butter overflowing into the bottom of my oven started to billow into the kitchen.
Fortunately, the weather was beautiful. A few open windows, a half cup of batter removed from the pan and some crossed fingers helped to get us through the next 45 minutes. The smell of burning butter is something that pains me, so there were a number of times where I was tempting to yank the cake, turn the oven off and start all over. That would have meant scrubbing out a burnt-butter oven with no cake to nosh on though, so I endured. My perseverance was rewarded.
A little trim resulted in a lovely cake (and lots of crunchy bits from the overflow to snack on!)
* Go now and order a signed copy of your own. You’ll love it, too!