Suzanne of Wilmington, N.C., wanted to taste her favorite cake again, one her grandmother made. She described it as “a yellow cake in a square pan. On top was a delicious burnt sugar, hard icing that cracked when you cut the cake.”
Happily, some astute readers knew exactly what she was describing.
“We call the cake Lazy Day Cake,” wrote Claudia Curley of Watertown, N.Y. “Everyone likes this. It can be used as a coffee cake too.” Sabina De La Porte of Massena, N.Y., says her mother called it Emergency Cake, and her recipe is “right out of the 1930s. Renee F. of Miami Beach says her mother made it as well and called it by the same name. “The ‘emergency’ was if someone was unexpectedly coming to visit. You could whip this cake up in no time and the topping is quick, too.”
The topping is the tricky part of baking this cake. You pour a boiling hot caramel over the hot cake, then run it under a broiler. “I remember my mom saying, ‘You have to watch this like a hawk,’ De La Porte recalled. My electric broiler nearly burnt the topping after just two minutes; you might want to try a lower temperature if you have gas or can regulate the broiler heat, or move it further from the heat source.”
Thomson, of Tar Heel, N.C., misplaced a “very old recipe for a biscuit you made with cream cheese.” She recalled that you could make up a batch, then store it in rolls in the refrigerator to slice and bake as needed — a precursor to today’s refrigerated cans found in every supermarket. I love the idea of hot homemade biscuits, so was particularly happy when readers responded to this request. The first thing I did was to take a roll, slice it, sprinkle the rounds with crystallized sugar, and then serve up the warm biscuits with fresh peaches and cream for an indulgent weekend breakfast!
Kate Ritter of Miami Shores sent the recipe here, from her grandmother’s collection. Jenna Watkins sent a similar recipe and says she found it in The Southern Junior League Cookbook (Ballantine, 1981).
G. L. says she triples the recipe, and keeps extra rolls in the freezer, wrapped in waxed paper and then in zippered freezer bags. “If you set the frozen roll on the counter for about 20 minutes, you can just slice and bake. I like to have plenty on hand to serve with a soup dinner, or for breakfast with sausage gravy, or whatever. This biscuit is so rich you don’t even have to butter it.”
You can tell how old this recipe is — Thomson dated it to the 1930s — because it calls for a 3-ounce package of cream cheese, which is rarely found anymore. Happily, you can simply slice a 3-ounce chunk from the 8-ounce package. I made small biscuits with the dough and added those measurements to the directions, but you can make bigger biscuits by making thicker rolls. Just watch the baking time to be sure the larger biscuits bake through. You can also make crisp, cracker-like biscuits by slicing very thin and decreasing the baking temperature to 350 degrees and the timing to 7 to 9 minutes, G.L. advises.
Most of us could see a photo of the late Colonel Sanders and immediately link him to Kentucky Fried Chicken. But his autobiography/cookbook tells us so much more about Sanders, a fascinating personification of the American Dream. Sanders, who quit school in seventh grade to help his widowed mother by working as a farm hand for $2 a month, went on to a variety of jobs before perfecting his secret fried chicken recipe in 1939. Today, KFC is the largest chicken chain in the world, with 17,000 recipes. And the chain just put Sanders’1967 autobiography, including 30 recipes, online for free at http://www.facebook.com/KFC .
The autobiography is a down-home account of how Sanders managed to rise from being flat broke during the Depression to building his empire from a little town in hard-scratch Kentucky. There are lots of anecdotes about what he’d do to put food on the table — at one time even delivering babies — but it is when he talks about food that the story sings. He writes “I believe that fried chicken is North America’s Hospitality Dish. I spell all those words with capital letters. I don’t care whether it’s a king, a preacher or a potentate who comes to see you, if you give him good fried chicken with mashed potatoes, chicken cracklin’ gravy and hot biscuits and vegetables, you’re giving him the best the American table can offer.”
Alas, there is no fried chicken recipe. But you will find fried tomatoes, pork chops with apples, cornbread stuffing, fried parsnips and cauliflower and much more country cooking — like this peach cobbler.