Many thanks to Nancy Allen for being our guest columnist!
Oh my, this old family recipe out of Private Collection 2 of the Junior League of Palo Alto (published in 1984), wowed the parishioners of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, when I baked it recently for our Birthday Celebration Coffee Hour. The original recipe is called Blackberry Jam Cake. Being a Cambrian now and a patron of the Linn’s up Santa Rosa Creek Road since the early ’80s, I couldn’t resist using Olallieberry preserves, a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry, by tweaking and renaming it Olallieberry Preserve Spice Cake.
The fellowship hall was abuzz with lively conversation. I was transported back to the scene in Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse,” when family and summer guests gathered around the candlelit dining table laughing and talking as the thoughtfully detailed menu was served course by course. At a crescendo moment, the room was aglow with smiles, conversation, and the clink of crystal. For a fleeting moment, perfection.
For some 30 years, I had been eyeing the recipe; but alas, I didn’t bake much in those years. Our birthday celebration occasion presented an excellent reason to bake a cake from scratch. Oh, did I mention the frosting? Honey icing! Enjoying every step of preparation from buying the seedless Olallieberry preserves downtown and finding local honey at the Cambria Farmers Market, to carefully icing the three-layer marvel, I hummed along in my kitchen wondering, “What if the cake isn’t as good as it sounds?”
My fears were allayed — food and fellowship are here to stay! Back to the kitchen is good for the heart and soul.
Olallieberry Preserve Spice Cake
1 cup butter, softened
1-3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated — preferably at room temperature — or place in hot water for several minutes
1 cup Linn’s Seedless Olallieberry Preserves
3 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans. Separate eggs. With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Add Olallieberry preserves. Sift or mix well flour with spices and baking soda. Add to butter mixture in three parts, alternating with buttermilk. Blend thoroughly with each addition but do not over-beat. Fold in nuts. Beat egg whites with salt until stiff but not dry. Gently fold into batter. Pour into cake pans.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, just until cakes begin to loosen at edges. Cool completely in pans before removing. Spread with Honey Icing, a satiny, old-fashioned icing for spice cakes.
2 cups light-colored honey
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Boil honey in a medium size saucepan without stirring for about 10 minutes (250 degrees). Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites with salt until stiff but not dry. Continuing to beat, pour honey into egg whites, in a thin stream.
Add almonds and vanilla.
Spread icing on layers, top, and sides of cooled cake. If olallieberries are in season, decorate top and around the bottom of the cake with berries. Seasonal edible flowers would provide a festive touch.
Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian. Submit recipes and ideas to her at The Cambrian, 2068 Main St., Cambria, CA 93428, or email her at email@example.com.