This yellow cake recipe was passed down and originally used to make a homemade round layered “wedding” cake with a fluffy white frosting between the layers and on the top (the sides left un-frosted) and then the top was bordered with pecan halves, fresh berries, and flowers adorned the center.
I do not know if either Great Granny or Granny Betty ever actually used this for their own wedding cake — or if it was simply passed down to them from others who did. Granny Betty only ever mentioned making and serving it as an “anniversary” celebration cake once.
Granny Betty would sometimes make it for the Fourth of July bordering the outside with red raspberries and forming circular rings inside, alternating with blueberry rings, leaving a white space between rings, and then arrange a small clump of both in the center. She also added three slightly leaning sparklers in the center if serving outside for picnics.
The use of a 13 x 9 pan and the pineapple upside down topping was later added after being inspired by a advertisement. I was told that the advertisement was actually used — along with other kitchen and recipe themed catalog and newspaper cut outs — as wallpaper decoration placed over top of old newspapers used to help cover and insulate the farm house kitchen’s walls which was “stuck on and sealed over with flour glue” — and that it had been there for several weeks before it was even noticed.
The cake was originally being made with a hand cranked mixer, but with the more widespread use and availability of the electric hand mixer in the home, the recipe’s instructions were later updated. To my knowledge, the recipe otherwise remains the same. I remember Great Granny Eary showing me the hand cranked mixer, which she called an egg beater, and warning me to keep my fingers out of the way while she demonstrated how it worked.
If making the fluffy white frosting for a layer cake — recipe included at the bottom — I use a candy thermometer to avoid errors. I have added on the directions for that. It is also important to make sure the egg whites are room temperature to be able to hold air and fluff properly.
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Upside Down Cake Topping
9 pineapple rings
9 maraschino cherries
1/4 pound (1/2 cup; 1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well mixed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together three times.
Add half the flour mixture and beat on low speed while pouring in half of the buttermilk and mix just until blended together.
Add the remaining flour, mixing on low speed while pouring in the remaining buttermilk and beating until all of the ingredients are well blended.
Scrape down the sides and across the bottom of the bowl and bring up batter from the bottom to top to make certain it’s well mixed. Set aside.
Butter 13 x 9 pan with a quarter pound of butter and set in oven to melt. Sprinkle a cup of brown sugar or 3/4 cups packed evenly over melted butter.
Line bottom with pineapple rings. Remove stems if any and place maraschino cherries in the center hole of each ring.
Drizzle with no more than about 2 Tbsp. of maraschino cherry juice from the jar in thin streaks or zig-zags.
(I wonder if more was actually used because her cake had thin red streaks visible on the inside on top but below the syrup that had soaked in when cut into but I didn’t get that with 2, 3, or even 4 Tbsp. and after three failed tries I just started skipping this step. Perhaps I just wasn’t getting the batter poured in fast enough after adding the streaks of cherry juice?)
Pour the batter into the 13 x 9 pan evenly over top the pineapples and bake at 350°F for 28-30 minutes, keeping a careful eye on the baking during the last few minutes.
Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick half way down into the center of the cake midway; do not go all the way through to the bottom. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done.
The cake needs to be turned out of the pan shortly after it’s removed from the oven or the fruit will stick. Allow the fruit to stop bubbling, then place the server (serving dish) on top of the pan. Carefully lift up the pan, holding the server firmly in place, and invert the pan. Let it stand for about 3 minutes before lifting the pan off.
Allow to cool completely.
For the wedding cake, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg were optional ingredients that could be added to the cake batter if desired. No quantities are given.
Butter and grease two 8 inch round cake pans. Bake as directed for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.
Cool to room temperature before removing from the pan.
Use knife to help release the sides of the first layer of cake from the pan, then place the cake plate against the cake pan and gently flip.
Flip other layer out onto another plate covered with a clean linen towel.
The towel keeps the cake from sticking to the plate, as well soaks up any moisture if it should sweat, and makes lifting and moving it much easier when adding cake layers.
“Better to bake cakes the day before and let cool over night. When no longer hot to touch throw another towel over top so don’t dry out and to keep flies off.”
Make frosting fresh and frost on the day.
Make the recipe twice for four layers, but do not double up. For best results make each batch separately.
Fluffy White Frosting
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
pecan halves, shelled and picked clean
Clean, ripe, large berries of same size
Fresh flowers (remove unwanted leaves, arrange, cut bottom stems, tie ribbon)
It is important to let the egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour so they will retain air and fluff better.
In medium bowl, beat egg whites just until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Get a 1-quart saucepan with a lid and make sure it is very smooth, very clean and completely dry.
Stir in sugar, corn syrup and water until well mixed. Cover and heat to rolling boil over medium heat.
Uncover and boil 4 to 8 minutes, without stirring, until small amount of mixture dropped into cup of very cold water forms a firm ball that holds its shape until pinched.
Do not over cook it. If too hard when pinched, start over.
Or, if you prefer using a candy thermometer like I do, until the frosting syrup reaches a temperature of 242°F
For an accurate temperature reading, tilt the saucepan slightly so mixture is deep enough if required for the thermometer. Tip of thermometer should be centered, not too close to the surface, and not touching the sides or bottom of the pan.
Very carefully pour hot syrup mixture very slowly in a very thin thread like stream into egg whites, while beating very rapidly and constantly. If the eggs get cooked by the hot syrup, you must throw it all out and start over from the beginning.
Add vanilla. Beat rapidly about 10 minutes or until stiff peaks form.
Frost the top of each layer on the cake as it is added. Helps to keep it from sliding or tilting over if you frost lighter on the center layers and a just a bit more on the outer rims to get that nice little fluffy bulge without having it run down the sides. Frost top layer more generously, enough to seat and hold the berries in place.
Decorate. Line outer most edge with only the best looking pecan halves then move in a bit and line with best looking, largest ripe whole berries of same size. Leave a small space between the pecan halves for the knife to go when cutting the cake.
Let stand 30 to 40 minutes or until frosting has set (a bit stiff, thickened, less wet on surface) before covering over with lid or a large tall upturned pot until time.
Arrange small bouquet of flowers and tie with ribbon to place in center when it is close to time. Remove flowers just before cutting.
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