Miss Sophie: Enjoy cake (and frosting) at Christmas and all year long

Whether you’re ready or not, Christmas is here! It’s time to quit worrying about it and just enjoy it. Presents not bought? Then we’ll probably see each other Saturday at the mall with all the other last-minute shoppers. I used to not understand people who waited to buy their presents and now I’m one of them. That’s just the way things are these days.

While you’re rushing around, I want to remind you that on the night of our Savior’s birth, everyone was too busy to notice it. The purveyors were so focused on the revenue they were bringing in with all the people in town for the census that the woman who was obviously about to give birth to a child went unnoticed, even turned away by the innkeeper.

Christ was in their midst and they missed it because they were too occupied with worldly things. Please don’t make the same mistake. We are celebrating the birth of Jesus and it would be a shame for us to go to the party and not even speak to the guest of honor.

Speaking of presents, I wanted to give one to you, my readers. I combed through pages of cookbooks, Pinterest and magazines for ideas. An easy Christmas meal? Maybe some wonderful kitchen gadgets to gift to the person who loves to cook? What could I write about that would be a gift you could use — not just this week, but in the years to come?

We were getting ready for a Christmas party Saturday night and dessert was assorted cake slices and the light bulb went off. Cake recipes! Not just Christmas cakes, but recipes you could bake throughout the year.

I have some tried and proven recipes for cakes we have used at the restaurant for many years. Recipes that I know work, not only because I can make them, but also because they’ve been used by many bakers over the years and they get the same results. Some will scoff and say I shouldn’t reveal my “secret recipes,” but as I’ve said in the past, recipes should be shared — not hoarded. These recipes aren’t originals; they came to me because someone else wanted to share them.

One of our trade “secrets” — we always make four layers. The reason for this is simple: I love icing! Instead of having a thick layer of icing on the outside, it’s evenly dispersed between each layer, which means you get icing in every bite.

I truly wish for you, my friends, a merry Christmas and pray that your 2018 is full of family, love, laughter and great food.

Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie’s Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.

Joan’s Red Velvet Cake

Joan is one of my oldest and dearest friends. She and I worked together for many years and she always made the best red velvet cake. When I started Miss Sophie’s, I tried a few recipes that just didn’t work, so I called Joan and asked for hers. We’ve been using it for 11 years and our customers love it.

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1 (1 ounce) bottle red food coloring

Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 4 round cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream oil, sugar and eggs.

2. Sift dry ingredients together. Alternately add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the egg mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Stir in the bottle of red food coloring.

3. Divide batter evenly between the four pans (about 1 ½ cups batter per pan). Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

4. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Frost between the layers and on top and sides of cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Sprinkle top of cake with nuts, if using.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

1 stick butter

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 pound (4 cups) confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Directions:

Cream butter and cream cheese well. Add sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Add nuts, if using.

Hummingbird Cake

I don’t remember my first Hummingbird Cake. I do remember that a customer asked if I made one and I said yes! Then I went and found a recipe. This is the recipe published in Southern Living in 1978. No one really knows why it’s called a Hummingbird Cake, but I can assure you that your family will ask for it often once they taste it!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs, beaten

1 ½ cups vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (8-ounce) can c

rushed pineapple, undrained

2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, divided

2 cups chopped bananas

(about 2 bananas)

Cream Cheese Frosting

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl; add eggs and vegetable oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not beat. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup chopped nuts and bananas.

2. Spoon batter into 4 well greased and floured 8- to 9-inch cake pans (about 1 ½ cups per pan). Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

3. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Frost between the layers and on top and sides of cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Sprinkle top of cake with 1 cup chopped nuts.

Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Frosting

This recipe came to me from my dear friend Sharon Brown. She was telling me about this amazing apple cake she had at a holiday celebration and I asked if her friend would share the recipe. The friend was flattered to be asked. It is a perfect fall and winter cake when the apples are the best!

Ingredients:

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons sugar

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ cups vegetable oil

3 large eggs

3 cups chopped Granny Smith (or your favorite) apples

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped pecan

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously grease a 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan. Combine 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and coat the inside of the pan with the mixture by shaking the pan all around until the sides and bottom are coated.

2. Beat oil and remaining 2 cups sugar with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spatula or spoon, stir in the apples and vanilla.

3. Sift together the remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to apple mixture and mix well with a spatula. Add pecans and stir. The batter will be very thick. Pour into bundt pan.

4. Bake for 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack with a sheet pan under it. Pour Caramel Frosting over cake and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Caramel Frosting

When you add the baking powder to the frosting, it froths up and will run all over your stove if your pot is not large enough!

Ingredients:

1 stick butter, melted

5-ounce can evaporated milk

1 pound (2 ⅓ cups tightly packed) light brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Stir melted butter, sugar and milk together in a large saucepan. Heat slowly until mixture comes to a boil. Add baking powder and vanilla. Cool slightly and pour over cake.

Bourbon Pecan Cake

I found this recipe in a “The Williamsburg Cookbook” I inherited from Steve’s mom. This is an adult cake with a strong bourbon flavor. I’ve modified it a bit, but the flavor is still fantastic! The original recipe has this note: “This cake improves with age. Wrap it in a napkin that has been soaked in bourbon and store in a covered container for several days.” I think this cake has enough bourbon flavor without soaking it, but if you’ve got a few days and want to increase the flavor, go for it!

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons nutmeg

½ cup bourbon

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted and divided

2 cups pecans, finely chopped

1 cup craisins, finely chopped

½ cup butter

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

3 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon baking powder

Dash of salt

Confectioners’ sugar, optional

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray and flour well a 10-inch tube or bundt pan. Mix ½ cup flour with the nuts and craisins, coating thoroughly.

2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Beat in remaining flour, baking powder and salt. Add nutmeg and bourbon, beating until batter is well mixed. Add the floured nuts and craisins and mix well so they are distributed in the batter.

4. Beat egg white until very stiff. Fold into batter. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Press down firmly to squeeze out air pockets and allow to stand 10 minutes.

5. Bake for 1 ¼ hours or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Dust top with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

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