By Lisa Williams, Sweet & Spicy
Around this time of year, I buckle down to the considerable task of cleaning the refrigerator. Removing and examining the contents, wiping down the shelves — it takes a few hours. There’s always the surprise of finding two identical jars of half-eaten pickles. It happens.
Among the remnant condiments will be several jars of jams and jellies, because who eats a jar of jam straight through before going to a new one? As I consider the spring and summer bounty ahead and mentally plan my canning projects, I am motivated to empty those jars and start fresh with a clean, uncluttered refrigerator.
That’s when I begin using up the last bits. Jams and preserves may be mixed into leftover salsa to eat with tortilla chips or to finish a meat dish. Raspberry, apricot or peach jam is really good over a slightly baked goat cheese or Brie. Jam mixed into Dijon mustard makes a tangy sweet spread for sandwiches.
And if can find at least one full cup of leftover jam, I will bake a cake.
Old cookbooks abound with recipes for jam cakes. Most call for varying amounts of warm spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Some are baked in Bundt or tube pans with no further adornment, while others are frosted affairs of two or three layers.
The recipe I’m sharing is based on one attributed to Mrs. Banks Haley Jr. in “Georgia Heritage: Treasured Recipes.” This cookbook was published in 1979 by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. I picked it up at a used bookstore somewhere.
I’ve made this cake several times over the years, and have adjusted along the way. It can be made with all butter, or part butter and canola oil, depending on what you have on hand. Mrs. Haley’s recipe originally used shortening. I’ve reduced the sugar a little bit. Mrs. Haley’s assorted warm spices are delicious in this cake, but optional. Omitting spices will yield a vanilla cake with soft fruit flavor. I’ve made it with seedless blackberry jam and with strawberry jam; both are very good.
To celebrate spring and use up some strawberry jam, I baked the cake in two layers, using all butter. I stacked the layers with a cooked sour cream filling found in the pages of the “Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book” published in 1943. The sour cream custard, definitely worth making, is essentially a pudding made with sour cream instead of regular milk.
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To keep things light, I swooped lots of whipped cream on top, but you could go with a full caramel frosting or whatever suits your fancy.
Old-Fashioned Jam Cake
2 sticks butter (may use 1/2 butter and half canola oil if desired)
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon, optional
1 teaspoon nutmeg, optional
1 teaspoon cloves, optional
1 teaspoon allspice, optional
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strawberry or seedless blackberry jam
To make layers: Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans and line bottom with parchment. If baking as a single cake, butter and flour one Bundt or tube pan.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place rack in lower third of oven.
In a medium sized bowl, beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter (and oil) and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract. Sift flour, salt and baking soda together. Add alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in jam and mix slowly until well incorporated. Then carefully fold in the egg whites. Mixture will be thick. Divide evenly between two cake pans or place entire amount in the Bundt pan.
For round layers: Bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, using a tester to ensure middle is done.
For Bundt or tube pan: Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Then increase temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 45 minutes or until cake tests done.
Remove from oven and set on wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Remove from pan.
If you plan to frost the cake, cool the cake completely first.
Adapted from “Georgia Heritage: Treasured Recipes”
Sour Cream Filling
4 egg yolks or 2 whole eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a glass or metal bowl, beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. Add sugar gradually, then sour cream. Place over boiling water and cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Mixture will thicken like pudding. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Scrape into a bowl and cover top with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cool. Makes enough to fill a two-layer cake.
Source: “Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book”