In this modern-day-take-it-out-of-the-freezer-and shove-it-in-the-microwave world, we often lose sight of what real food tastes like. Not too surprising, when you look at the ingredient lists on most prepared foods. I figure if you can’t even pronounce half the ingredients, you shouldn’t rely on it as a major food source. Many so-called foods have more chemicals than food ingredients. Just think about beef stew or chili simmering slowly through the day, ready to warm the cockles of your heart – not to mention your cold hands – come dinner time. Or home-made breakfast burritos or Cornish pasties, stored in the freezer for those mornings when you can barely find the kitchen, let alone think up a menu.
A fair number of my ancestors were English (the rest were Scots, Irish, French and German, with a little dab of Cherokee in there somewhere) and I suspect this recipe originated as a classic English cake. It probably had dried fruit and raisins in it at that point, and you can still add them if you want to. There’s a version of it called Kentucky Jam Cake that was frosted with caramel icing. It was also — according to my mother — a “clearing-out-the-cupboard-recipe” to use up a little bit of jam and some sour milk. Any jam will do, although this cake is traditionally made with blackberry jam in my family. You can also mix several bits of jam together; raspberry plus blackberry was a hit, and so was peach/plum. It’s a moist cake and can be served without frosting, but it’s really decadent with cream cheese frosting. Baked in three layer pans, it makes a fancy birthday cake. It keeps well and can be frozen. Grandmother Frazier was my mother’s grandmother, so this recipe is at least Civil War vintage.
Grandmother Frazier’s Jam Cake
¾ cup butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup jam or jelly
1½ cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
2/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk (if you only have sweet milk, add about 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the milk)
1 cup chopped nuts
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, one at a time, then stir in jam. Sift dry ingredients; add alternately with milk, beating until smooth. Finish with an addition of flour. Fold in nuts. Bake in 10 inch greased tube pan, 3 9-inch layer pans or 9 X 13 pan at 350 degrees for 1 hour. If baking in layer pans, check for doneness at 30 minutes by inserting a toothpick into center of cake. The toothpick should have small crumbs adhering to the wood. Let cool 10 minutes, then turn out on wire racks; leave cakes in tube or 9 X 13 pan to cool.