My Mother-in-Law’s Way, Way Cooler Than Yours
It’s not your fault, mind you. But I’ll bet your mother-in-law wasn’t ever a real live ballerina, was she? Mine was. She danced with Edward Vilella once, actually. She used to pry the heels off her loafers to make them completely flat. She can drive all night without getting tired. She never laughs at kids.
And she gives the best birthday and Christmas gifts ever. Lately, I’ve gotten sterling silver spoons and pickle forks from antique malls, and incredibly obscure and wonderful cookbooks. Each of them has recipes I absolutely can’t manage without.
From the Heart, a fundraising cookbook for Raleigh, NC’s AIDS Service agency: I now hold the secret to the Irregardless Cafe’s Lemon-Tahini Salad Dressing and that Southern classic, Better Than Sex Cake.
The Junior Guild of Rocky Mount, NC’s fundraiser cookbook–as much for the names of the contributors as for the classic Southern recipes–Partha Council Daughtridge, Dotsy Morriss Royal, Bonner Phillips Ussery–and buried within it, a recipe for Russian Tea, nectar of a 70s childhood.
The Great American Bake Sale Cookbook, with its triple-header of not-on-your-life cakes: chocolate sauerkraut, tomato soup, and red velvet mayonnaise.
And just in time for apple season, Babe’s Country Cookbook, an unlikely tie-in to the film about the pig, but with the moistest, most delicious apple cake ever made, which makes a great breakfast, a lovely elevenses, and a very nice tea.
Polly Cake (adapted from Babe’s Country Cookbook, by Dewey Gram)
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking spice (or 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon clove)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon water
4 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
Grease a 13″ x 9″ pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl. In your mixer bowl, cream the butter with the two sugars until creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and the water. On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until blended. Fold in the apples.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, and the center is gently springy to the touch.
While it cools, make the rum sauce.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dark rum
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cream. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved–about 5 minutes. Stir in the rum and let it boil for a couple of minutes to evaporate the alcohol. (This is very necessary if serving the cake to a teetotalling mother-in-law.)
Slice the cake, and pour a generous slug of the sauce over each slice. It keeps very well, and stays moist. It uses up a good bunch of apples, too, which is getting to be a consideration. There are two boxes of them in the shed room, waiting to be taken care of.