Q. I enjoy your column very much. My family has enjoyed many of your recipes. I hope you can find one for me. My children like the old-fashioned tea cakes. However, their favorite is the recipe that a lady baked and called Tennessee Tea Cakes. She has retired and her children closed the business. It is the only tea cake that I have found that is baked in a small cupcake paper and is not just a cookie. It has a certain flavor that I can’t replicate. It may be brown sugar. I have tried to find a recipe like it, but have had no success.
Marla Van Dyck
The lady who made Tennessee T-Cakes was the late Frances Ann Barkley of Nashville, who died of lung cancer in 2011. Barkley started the business in her kitchen using a hundred-year-old family recipe. After Oprah Winfrey featured them as one of her favorite things in 2006, the Tennessee Tea Cake became an international sensation, churning out 90,000 cakes a week in flavors as diverse as key lime and chocolate truffle. Alas, the company closed when Barkley died, and her daughters vowed the recipe would stay a family secret. But you can get some hints watching a video of Barkley on You Tube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae9BXY5rcSk), shot in 2010 by Tennessee Crossroads TV. Barkley says the T-Cake is “not a cake or a candy or a cookie” but a “confection” and she says the ingredients are “flour, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.”
There are many recipes for Southern tea cakes, which tend to be cookies, and there are those who make them with buttermilk, and some who insist you add nutmeg, but I created the recipe here using just the simple ingredients Barkley mentioned and leaning on my favorite blondie recipe. These cakes turn out chewy and crisp on the outside with a softer inside. I made them in regular cupcake pans.
Q. Can you tell me what is put on the grilled jumbo shrimp at db Bistro Moderne?
This is a specialty on the light summer menu, and the secret is a marinade kissed with several citrus fruits, followed by a simple sauce made by reducing orange juice with the zests of the same fruits to produce a concentrated flavor. If you enjoy grilling, chef Matthieu Godard recommends trying this technique with other fruit juices, since the sweet reduction complements the char of barbecued foods. Godard also shared some tips to make sure the recipe here turns out right: Make sure you soak the wood skewers in water to keep them from burning while on the grill, and lightly treat the grates with olive oil before adding the shrimp.
Godard is grilling outside on the terrace of the Miami restaurant from 5 to 8 p.m. every Friday through September with a light menu priced from $7- $9, including Hickory Smoked Chicken Legs, Sugarcane Grilled Shrimp and Short Rib Quesadillas, plus desserts of grilled pineapple or Peach Melba. Db Moderne is the Daniel Boulud take on a French bistro with American influences, with locations in New York City, Singapore, Hong Kong, Montreal, Toronto, London and Beijing.
Q. My grandmother used to make what she called 5-Cup Salad for every family gathering. I know she used oranges and grapes and coconut, but then there was a dressing that no one knows how to make. I asked everyone at a recent family reunion and everyone remembered the salad but no one knew how to make it. I thought I would ask you so I can surprise the family next time we get together.
There are probably a million variations on this theme, along with a zillion names — I’ve heard it called 5 Cup, Heavenly Hash, Sunshine Salad and Ambrosia just to name a few. It is usually served as a salad, but is more like dessert. The 5 cups is just an easy way to remember the recipe: 3 cups of various fruits, usually oranges or mandarin oranges, grapes, pineapple and/or coconut. Then you add a cup of sour cream and a cup of miniature marshmallows. The marshmallows melt a little into the cream and add sweetness along with some juice from the fruit, and there you have a dressing! The key is to make it in advance so the flavors blend — at least 3 or 4 hours.
Variations: You can change up the fruits, or add more — maraschino cherries are often used. Some cooks find the sour cream too tart and use half sour cream and half whipped cream. For some crunch, add pecans or walnuts just before serving.
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