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On Cooking Southern: It's That Happy-in-Your-Cups Time of Year

Editor’s note: This article first ran on HottyToddy.com in December 2014.
Southernism of the Week:
Been in the ignorant oil (OR looks like he was sent for and couldn’t go):  That person’s been hitting the alcoholic beverages to the point where down is up. Keep the car keys hidden.
Ho ho ho! Happy holidays, everybody. 
This week, the Old Bride is on a roll. Let’s hope I don’t end up looking like I was sent for but couldn’t go. I’ve been experimenting with booze-based holiday recipes. Rarely have I had so much fun taste-testing the results of my efforts.
Don’t worry about consumption having potential adverse effects on the under-21 crowd in your household. As we old fogies are fond of pointing out, our parents let us gobble the booze-food when we were growing up and most of us turned out OK … maybe a little shorter and less intelligent than intended, but, oh, well … we can still read when necessary.
amarettoballs-DSCN9483Here’s my Amaretto(almond-flavored) variation of Aunt Rosie’s infamous Bourbon Balls recipe featured in the December 2014 issue of Delta Magazine. Feel free to experiment a bit and use Kahlua (coffee flavored) or Chambord (raspberry flavored) instead of bourbon or Amaretto.

3 c. crushed vanilla wafers (be generous)

1 to 1-1/2 c. chopped, toasted pecans

1 c. confectioner’s sugar

2 to 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder

2 to 3 Tbsp. light corn syrup

1/2 c. Amaretto liqueur

Confectioner’s sugar

Fine-crush the vanilla wafers with a rolling pin or food processor before measuring.
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the bourbon and corn syrup together until completely blended. Scrape syrup mixture into the larger bowl and stir well to form sticky dough. 
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar to coat. If the dough is too dry to stick, add more corn syrup and amaretto as needed.
Place balls on a parchment-lined baking or jelly roll tray and cover tightly. Refrigerate at least two days to allow flavors to blend. The amaretto balls keep better if refrigerated, but may be transferred into airtight metal containers lined with waxed paper. They will last up to two weeks at room temperature or up to three months if frozen.
Recipe yields about 3-4 dozen 1-inch-diameter cookies.
whiskeycake-DSCN9474This is a seriously delicious cake. Wrap it well, and it will last for weeks in a tightly covered tin. I tried the recipe first with my homemade fig preserves but found that 11.5-ounce jars of Braswell fig preserves work better—because of the very fine, jelly-like texture and delicate flavor. Rum may be substituted for the whiskey of choice. Because this is a plain-looking cake, I recommend embellishing the top with frosting or lemon curd just before serving.

1-1/2 c. white granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 c. oil 

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. buttermilk

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. table salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. allspice

1 c. fig preserves (or one 11.5-oz jar of Braswell’s) 

1 c. fine-chopped roasted pecans or walnuts

1/2 c. whiskey (I used Dunphy’s Irish Whiskey)

10 oz. jar of lemon curd

Cake-decorating candies, optional

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Prepare a 10-inch tube pan by greasing and lightly dusting with flour. Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl and set aside.
Cream the sugar, eggs and oil in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk in three parts. Mix until creamy smooth. Beat in the preserves, nuts and whiskey until well blended. The batter will be thin.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake on middle rack for about an hour or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. Remove to a rack to cool for about 20-30 minutes, Jiggle to loosen cake from pan sides and bottom and flip out onto cake plate. Allow to cool. Cake may be wrapped and frozen or stored in a covered tin. When ready to serve, frost the top with the lemon curd and decorate with cake-decorating candies. 
Lane cake-DSCN2478The Lane Cake first appeared in the South in the 1830s. It was popularized in the late 19th century by Mrs. Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Ala., at a county fair in Columbus, Ga. Lane Cake is a rich, sponge-type white cake built in four layers with brandy- or whiskey-laced raisin, pecan, coconut and custard filling. Mrs. Lane baked her four layers of cake in pie tins lined with brown paper. The classic Lane Cake top and sides are slathered with fruit custard filling. Some folks nowadays cover the top with seven-minute white icing, much like a traditional Lady Baltimore Cake. The cake should be refrigerated, covered, at least a day before cutting for the flavors to blend.

1 c. salted butter, softened

2 c. white granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3-1/4 c. all purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

1 c. whole milk

8 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottoms of four 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, then lightly grease and flour the parchment linings. 
Cream 1 c. butter with 2 c. sugar and vanilla until creamy. Combine flour, salt and baking powder. Add to butter mixture in three parts, mixing in alternately with milk added in two parts, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff; gently fold into batter.
Spread batter evenly into the four prepared cake pans. Tap pans lightly on counter to burp out air bubbles. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cook pans on rack, then turn out and continue cooling. Peel off parchment paper.
OPTION 1: Fruit Filling and Topping:

1/2 c. butter

1-1/4 c. white granulated sugar

8 egg yolks

*1/2 c. water (scant)

1 tsp. brandy or whiskey

1 c. chopped pecans

1 c. raisins

1/2 c. candied cherries, chopped

1/2 c. flaked coconut

* You may prefer to omit the water if aiming for a clean-looking frosting; the filling is very wet and runny, which enables the flavor to penetrate through the cake. 
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in egg yolks until well mixed. Stir in water and brandy or whiskey. Place in double boiler over boiling water. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened. 
Add pecans, raisins, cherries and coconut. Stir filling until all ingredients are well-mixed. Remove from heat and cool before spreading evenly between cake layers, reserving some for the top. 
Colonnade Icing For Option 1

4-1/2 c. white granulated sugar

1 c. water

6 Tbsp. corn syrup

6 stiff-beaten egg whites

1/3 c. confectioner’s sugar

Mix first three ingredients in saucepan to soft ball stage (238˚F). Use candy thermometer and also test by dropping a drop into a glass of cold water. Add sugar and syrup to the stiff-beaten egg whites. Mix in powdered sugar. Do not add vanilla. YIELD: Enough icing to use as filling between layers of a three-layer cake plus sides and top of cake.
Frost outside of stacked cake with Seven Minute or Colonnade icing. Frost entire iced top with remaining fruit filling. 
OPTION 2: Fruit Frosting:
If skipping the white icing, try this version of the fruit filling and frosting.

1-1/2 c. raisins

12 egg yolks

1-3/4 c. white granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 c. salted butter

1/2 c. brandy or whiskey

1-1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans

1-1/2 c. shredded fresh coconut

1-1/2 c. quartered candied cherries

Cover raisins with hot water. Let stand a few minutes, then drain and dry (to plump). Combine egg yolks in top of double boiler and beat slightly. Add sugar, salt and butter and blend.  
Put double boiler over simmering water and cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, butter melts, and mixture begins to thicken, Do NOT overcook or let egg yolks curdle (they will appear scrambled). It’s like making any custard: Mixture should become almost translucent and shiny smooth. 
Remove from heat and add brandy or whiskey. Beat 1 minute with hand-mixer. Add nuts, cherries and coconut. You may need to expand into a larger bowl. Cool.  
To frost cake: spread first between layers on top of the filling, then on top and last on sides. Frosting may start to slide off sides. Lift with spatula and keep spreading back. Cover loosely with foil or plastic wrap, tucking under plate. Store, covered, in fridge for several days before serving.  
Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ),Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA)  and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ web site and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@LaurieTriplette).

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