I’ve been so blessed in the past year to befriend one of my favorite authors, Dorothy Love. Her book, Beyond All Measure, captured my imagination on the first page. Now, when we’re not sharing updates about the latest Downton Abbey episode, I’m hoping over to her website and drooling over her red velvet cake recipe.
With descriptions that will have you smelling the flowers and feeling the hard-packed dirt on the ground, her Hickory Ridge series take place in a nineteenth century town in the Smoky Mountains.
I started reading her latest release last night and it was difficult to put it down and go to sleep. Dorothy will be giving away a signed copy of Beauty For Ashes to one lucky person who leaves a comment on the blog today! So get your questions and comments ready and let Dorothy know how excited we are that she stopped by.
Today, the heroine from Beauty For Ashes, Carrie Daly is sharing her family recipe for strawberry cake:
I am asked to share with you the receipt for the strawberry cake I baked for my brother Henry’s wedding to Mary Stanhope back in the spring of 1876. It requires patience and the correct sequence of steps but I do hope you’ll agree that this receipt, handed down from my Granny Bell is worth the effort.
I first baked this cake at the age of ten or eleven. After our parents died, Henry and I lived with Granny in her mountain cabin at the back of Muddy Hollow. There wasn’t much for a young girl to do in so remote a place; trips to town were rare, and we went to church only when a visiting preacher found his way to the hollow. Granny taught Henry and me how to plant the garden by the signs of the moon, how to skin out a rabbit, clean a fish, make a mustard plaster for our many coughs and pains. And she taught me to bake. Biscuits and breads mostly, but this cake was the one we made for special occasions. Like the time Henry brought home his first pay from working at Wyatt Caldwell’s lumber mill in Hickory Ridge, and the summer afternoon when Frank Daly and I told Granny we intended to get married. Which we did. Our happiness lasted until the battle of Shiloh. After that, it was a long while before I felt like baking this cake again.
My brother took his own sweet time to tie the knot, and then when he did it was to a woman I found it quite difficult to like, but that is another story. I loved Henry and Henry wanted this cake. And so. Up early on his wedding day to pick the dew-kissed berries from my strawberry patch and then to the kitchen to make my granny’s receipt. Here it is, told to you in Granny’s words, just as she told it to me:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 4 eggs at room temperature
- 2 and ¾ cups sifted cake flour (regular flour will make the cake too dense)
- 2 and ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 cup fresh whole milk room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup strawberry puree: Mash the fresh strawberries into a puree and add sugar, a little bit at a time, until the puree is sweet. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the sugar dissolve.
- Make the puree and set it aside. Save a few of the prettiest strawberries to decorate the top of the cake.
- Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans and get a good hot fire to going in the cook stove ( 350 degrees).
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the sifted cake flour and the baking powder. Then add to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk until everything is well blended. Finally add your vanilla and then the fresh strawberry puree.
- Pour the batter into the pans and bake 25-30 minutes, until a clean broom straw stuck into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool them on the window sill or on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before taking the layers out of the pan to finish cooling.
When they are completely cool, then you can start on your boiled icing.
In your heavy saucepan, mix together :
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- A pinch of salt
Boil this until it reaches the thread stage or until it reaches 238-242 degrees on a candy thermometer
In a large bowl:
- Beat 2 egg whites until stiff , but still shiny. Then pour the hot syrup over the egg whites and keep on beating until the mixture is fluffy and holds its shape. Add the vanilla and beat until blended.
- If the mixture is not stiff enough, add up to three tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar, one at a time, until the icing is stiff enough to spread.
- Frost between the layers, the sides and the top. Add the reserved fresh strawberries for garnish.
A note from Dorothy: Boiled icing is very tricky. Feel free to substitute your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe. I won’t breathe a word of it to Carrie.
Before returning to her literary roots writing Southern historical fiction for an adult readership, Dorothy Love published more than a dozen novels for preteens and young adults in the general market. Her books have been honored by the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, the New York Public Library, and many more. BEAUTY FOR ASHES is the second of her Hickory Ridge novels, to be followed later this year by EVERY PERFECT GIFT. Dorothy lives with her husband and two golden retrievers in the Texas hill country where she is currently at work on a new novel set in the South Carolina low country to be published next year. She loves connecting with readers through her website: www.DorothyLoveBooks.com or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/dorothylovebooks
Beauty For Ashes – Back Cover Blurb
She’s a beautiful young widow. He’s a charming Charlestonian with a taste for adventure. Both need a place to call home.
For Carrie Daly, life seems to consist mostly of mourning and ashes. Widowed when her young husband died at the battle of Shiloh, Carrie has spent the intervening years living quietly on her family’s farm with Henry, her older brother. But then Henry marries Mary Stanhope, a difficult widow with two rowdy sons in tow. Feeling that there is no longer a place for her on the farm, Carrie moves to the genteel but shabby Verandah Ladies Hotel and takes a job at Nate Chastain’s book shop, intending to make a new life for herself.
But a chance meeting with Griff Rutledge, a newcomer to Hickory Ridge, changes everything.
It will take a leap of faith on both their parts to redeem the hurts of the past and claim God’s promise of beauty for ashes.