Region casts unique twists on sweet confections.
Delectable Red Velvet Cake makes any occasion a special one.
While it’s enjoyed all over the world, cake is heartily embraced by Southerners who, of course, have added unique and delicious twists to the historical glory of the sweet treat. Old-fashioned Southern cakes have become a part of the American canon of cake baking.
Cake boasts a long lineage stretching back to the ancient Egyptians – the first civilization to show any skill in baking, sweetening much of its bread with honey. The actual word “cake,” however, is traced back to Viking origins. The Norse word “kaka” means a baked flour confection sweetened with sugar or honey, mixed with eggs and often, but not always, with milk and fat.
The histories of cake, bread, biscuits and buns are indistinct. The beginnings of all would be bread in its simplest form. As techniques for baking and leavening developed and eating patterns changed, what were originally regarded as forms of bread came to be seen as categories of their own and named accordingly.
During the 19th century, technology made the cake baker's life much easier. The chemical raising agent bicarbonate of soda, introduced in the 1840s, followed by baking powder (a dry mixture of bicarbonate of soda with a mild acid such as cream of tartar ), replaced yeast, providing a greater leavening effect with less effort. Another helpful breakthrough was the development of ovens with more accurate temperature control.
Cake sustains a celebratory reputation. They are a must-have at birthdays, weddings, graduations and wakes. There’s no need to wait for those occasions, though, to enjoy one of these special Southern cakes.
For me, Coconut Cake is the quintessential Southern cake – a true testament to the Southern love of sugar and the tropical flavor of coconut.
3/4 cup coconut milk, whole milk, or a combination of coconut milk and whole milk
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups cake or pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups fresh grated coconut
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans; line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or waxed paper. Grease and flour paper and sides of pans; set aside. Heat coconut milk, grated coconut and vanilla until hot. Pour in blender and process until coconut is finely chopped; set aside. Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt into bowl; set aside. Use electric mixer to beat butter until light and creamy. Gradually add sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, scraping bowl and beating for about 1 minute after each addition. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping sides of bowl frequently.
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