Sunday, December 4, 2016

Grandma’s chocolate cake gets a new layer

During the summer Jim made two batches of plum jam—one is rather runny but the taste combines the perfect tartness with a sweetness that makes my taste buds dance. The jam is also appealing because it’s a beautiful, deep plum color.
Besides eating it on toast, what can we do with our plum jam? I decided to combine it with chocolate cake. The easiest chocolate cake recipe I have was my childhood favorite—Grandma’s Salad Dressing cake. Now before you turn your nose up, let me clarify. I’m not talking about ranch or Italian dressing. I’m referring to the white stuff in the jar that’s similar to mayonnaise. When I tell people that they immediately say, “Are you talking about Miracle Whip?” I have to immediately tell them that Grandma’s strict instructions were to never use Miracle Whip.

Sometimes food myths are passed down through the generations. For example, in my family we had nearly certain knowledge that the Salad Dressing Cake needed to be a sheet cake, not a layer cake. It was reputed to be too moist to turn out of a layer cake round. However, when I tried it in my silicon baking rounds, it came out without a problem. That made me wonder if the salad dressing versus Miracle Whip question was also a myth. However, I compared the ingredients and did see slight differences, the largest being that vinegar is listed before sugar in the salad dressing and high fructose corn syrup is listed before vinegar in the Miracle Whip. Would it make a different in the cake? I trusted Grandma and went forth with her instructions.

After the rounds cooled, I put plum jam between the layers of chocolate cake. To visually indicate the plum taste to come I also made a small amount of plum cream cheese frosting and added red food gel to deepen its color. I used it as an accent color on the cake. My cake didn’t look like it came from the bakery but it tasted like it did. It also raised money for my church at our annual cake auction.
Try this easiest ever cake recipe and see what you think.

Grandma’s Salad Dressing Cake

1 ½ cup sugar
3 TBSP cocoa
2 tsp soda
1 cup salad dressing
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup cold water
2 cups sifted flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Sift together first three ingredients.

3. Add salad dressing and mix well with a spoon. Add vanilla.

4. Alternately add water and flour as you continue to mix by hand.

5. Divide batter in two well-greased cake rounds or one sheet pan.

6. Bake 35 – 40 minutes until cake tester comes out clean.

7. Cool for 10 minutes then turn onto wire racks.

8. When cooled, place the bottom layer on a cake plate. Spoon a generous layer of plum jam on top then place the top layer.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces softened cream cheese
2 TBS softened butter
1 TBS sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
8 + ounces confectioner’s sugar

1. Combine first three ingredients then mix in the vanilla. Add a little sugar at a time and continue beating until you get the consistency you want.

2. To make plum icing, start with a little more cream cheese because the jam will make the frosting loose. Add a tablespoon or so of plum jam and continue adding sugar until you get the consistency you want.

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