Caramel cake

Happy Father’s Day to the best man I know.

He’s the one who taught me…to get the oil changed in my car every 3,000 miles, no exceptions; that if I look sloppy I’ll play sloppy (hence the tucked-in basketball and soccer jerseys); to park as far away from other cars as possible, lest they ding your doors; to do the right thing, no matter what—it’s always worth it; to measure twice and cut once; to stop trying and just do it; to give people the benefit of the doubt; that the appropriate response to “Dad, I’m hungry!” is “I’m daddy, how ya doin’, hungry?”

…to sing out loud to music in the car (and outside the car); to love the Beach Boys, the Beatles, James Taylor, the Swinging Medallions, the Kingston Trio, Les Miserables, and the Sound of Music; to listen to Munson on the radio at Georgia games, and at home, too, with the TV volume turned all the way down; to love Athens and the University of Georgia, and that true fans stand for hours in the cold rain two days after Thanksgiving even when Tech is kicking our butt; that genie pants are quite a fashion statement.

…to ask for what you want—the worst they can say is no; that exceptional parents are proud of their kids when they move far away, knowing that even though they’d rather have us closer, if it’s not what’s best for us, it’s not what they want; that I should definitely go to Salzburg; that it’s possible to love going to work every day; to always pack proper footwear—no heeled boots to walk dozens of blocks in Manhattan, and no canvas flats in a Connecticut snowstorm (thanks again for those drizzies!); that “it’s an old Indian trick”; to pursue a career that I love, even if it’s not the most lucrative; to arrange flowers.

…to show everyone respect; to call all waitresses Beatrice, and all waiters Guillermo; to say yes ma’am and no sir; to not talk back (well, I think that was the spankings that taught me not to talk back); that the squeaky wheel gets the grease; that “dagnabit,” “cheese and crackers,” and “dadgum” are all suitable in the place of curse words; that there’s nothing wrong with having a good time; that everyone has shortcomings and it’s best to own up to them; that a marriage of 36 years thrives on mutual respect and lots of love; that’s it’s OK to be the emotional, nostalgic one; and that family comes first, always.


And that a bad back was worth it!

This Southern speciality is his favorite cake.

Caramel cake
Adapted from the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, via Food & Wine. I attempted to make both the cake and icing from the SFA recipe and had mixed results with the icing; I ended up using this recipe for the icing, which is much simpler but sort of felt like cheating. It tasted great, though!

For the cake
1 cup whole milk
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
3/4 cup heavy cream

If you want to make the icing that goes along with this recipe, find it here. It didn’t work out for me, mostly because the pot I used was too small and I never let the mixture get up to the soft ball stage. If you have a better handle on that kind of thing than I do, by all means give it a try!

For the icing
2 sticks butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar


Preheat the oven to 350˚. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan (if you’ve got more than one, butter all of ’em) and line the bottom with parchment paper; butter the pan again and sprinkle a bit of flour in it, then tap out the excess.

In a small or medium-sized mixing bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the milk with the egg whites and vanilla extract. In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour with the sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of milk. Beat at low speed until blended, then beat at medium speed until smooth, 1 minute. Beat in the egg white mixture in three batches. In another bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into the batter, then fold in the rest.

Divide the batter between the pans (if you have three) and smooth the tops. Since I only had one pan, this was a much longer process. Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Unmold the cakes and peel off the parchment. Invert the cakes and let cool completely.

Get your three layers cooled and ready before starting on the icing.

For the icing, melt the butter, brown sugar, and evaporated milk in a pot on the stove. Cook two minutes over medium heat. Add vanilla and remove immediately from heat. If your pot is big enough, add the powdered sugar; if you used a smaller pot like me, dump the powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl, then poured in the hot mixture. Beat until smooth, then, working quickly, pour enough icing onto the first layer and smooth it out with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the second layer. For the third layer, pour all remaining icing on top and let it run down the sides of the cake. The recipe makes more than enough to ice a three-layer cake, so don’t skimp!

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you!

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