Caramel cake is not for the faint-hearted. Affectionately referred to as burnt sugar cake, it’s a specialty of the deep South and a tradition in my family. Growing up, a birthday wasn’t complete without this tender cake and its tooth-hurting, thick, sugary frosting. While its fat and sugar content is enough to make you cry “uncle,” I promise you’ll have no problem ignoring this painful truth as you cut yourself a second piece.
This recipe originated with my Great Grandmother Ida in New Bern, NC and was further adapted by my grandparents’ housekeeper Mora. Mora mastered the cake and as such, got her name attached to it. Mora’s caramel cake has been the birthday cake of choice for my father and me for years and my mother lovingly turned them out each fall. Yet it wasn’t until I attempted to make the recipe myself that I realized what a labor of love it was. While making the cake is simple, the icing requires resolve and a little luck.
I am planning to live until I am at least 125 years old. I’m not looking to set a new world record, I just have a very long to do list. Here on earth I plan to climb Mt. Ranier, eat street food in Thailand, successfully grow a garden, write a cookbook, live in Mexico, and…well…you get the point; it’s a long list.
This week I crossed off #89 on my life list: make a cheesecake. I realize that this little accomplishment pales in comparison to #176 which is to visit all 50 states by motorcycle or #211 which is to learn to speak fluent Arabic, but I’m practicing baby steps here. After all, I’ve got a good 90 plus years of living left.
My husband North first became obsessed in December of 2005. He was spending Christmas with me at my parent’s home in Tallahassee for the first time. While the visit itself held lots of good memories, it was his first bite of the world’s best rum cake that seems to stand out most vividly in his mind.
The world’s best rum cake, unassumingly wrapped in aluminum foil, has been given to my parents as a Christmas gift for years now. In a move which is not surprising , considering the history of this type of deceit in my father’s family (see my post on Granny Ivey’s Strawberry Roll for details), as children we were never told how delicious this cake was. In ignorance, we nibbled on sugar cookies while my father slowly savored the rum cake by himself.