by Dianne Boate
Cornmeal has come a long way in the hearts of cooking people for its versatility within a wide variety of dishes. I am always adding cornmeal— that is, substituting cornmeal for flour—in waffles, pancakes and cookie recipes. It’s a little touch of refined crunch. For every 2 cups of flour called for, switch 1/3 cup with cornmeal. Then to be really daring in your pancake making, add drained whole corn kernels and fresh blueberries. Pass the maple syrup that has been heated with butter. Three good new ideas all at once!
The Sour Cream Cornmeal Poundcake recipe was a find in a regional cookbook from Hendersonville, North Carolina called Vittles. It was produced by the Curb Market, a nonprofit enterprise since 1924 to aid the farmers, crafters and bakers of the region. It provided space to sell goods without charge. The only rule: You must have grown it, made it or baked it yourself. I visited there several times, always charmed with ingenious crafts with apple things, this place being Apple Country. My heart stopped at the cake recipe. It is a little more difficult to make, but oh the rewards of taste, and the oohs and ahhs! Down deep in the basement of my Cake Castle lies another book I bought there, Old Timey Recipes. It has a recipe for Moonshine on the back pages. (And I say, good luck with that.)
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups plain flour
- 1 1/2 cups plain cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 cup sour cream
- 6 egg whites
- 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Turn on to over 325 degrees. Grease and prepare pans.
Beat egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar, beat until stiff, set aside. Sift flour, corn meal, baking soda and salt together three times. Please don’t groan, just imagine the fine cake that is going to emerge from your efforts!
Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream, then flour mixture on low speed. Fold in egg whites. This is the hard part, made easy by taking a large spoonful of the egg whites and mixing it into the batter, then carefully folding in the rest of egg white mixture.
Batter can be baked in a 10-inch tube pan; I baked this in 2 9-inch cake pans plus 1 8-inch pan and 1 6-inch pan. The larger baked for 30 minutes, smaller for 20-25 minutes. Tube pan would take an hour.
A suggested topping: 1 tablespoon melted butter, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2/3 cups powdered sugar, stirred together until smooth, put on cakes just out of the oven. Or 1/2 cup strawberry preserves (or apricot or cherry slightly heated, made glaze) on 1 9-inch cake.
A note on equipment: This recipe provides a perfect example of why you should buy one extra mixing bowl and one extra whisk beater. One mixing bowl works the butter and sugar; the other, the egg whites. No slopping around trying to make do with one. Two whisk beaters provide one for egg whites that is kept pristine and clean, free of grease for perfect egg white beating; the other gives you your tool for beating whipping cream. The extras are such a comfort.
Another idea: split cake and fill with Red Chili Jam with Cream Cheese.
For a complete Un-Cake birthday idea, here is what I did with about 6 packages of strawberry and raspberry Jell-O and many large sliced bananas. You just need to add the liquid and the bananas in layers and wait until they jell to add the next layer. I used a large punch bowl. You might measure the bowl first, seeing just how much liquid it holds, keeping in mind just how much of it you want to fill. Each Jell-O package takes 2 cups of liquid, starting with 1 cup boiling water; be sure Jell-O is completely dissolved. For the second cup of water about 8 ice cubes will speed up the process.
Dianne Boate, a former staff member of the original Dating Game television show, and later, The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, is The Hat Lady, maker of custom millinery, and The Cake Lady, a special events baker for 30 years in the Bay Area. Between cake assignments, she has had several one-woman photography shows, and participated as a botanical illustrator in group shows benefiting the Conservatory of Flowers, National AIDS Memorial Grove, Marin Cancer Institute, and University of California Alumni Association. Her website can be found at www.boatecollection.com.