However, now that Grandmommie has made it this far, I think she's actually very proud of being what her doctor calls healthy as a horse. She still regularly takes out her adversaries at the bridge table and her memory is way better than mine. In all seriousness, Grandmommie enjoys life, which sounds like a silly thing to say, but there are many people, young and old, who don't know how to make it through the tough times, enjoy the little things and truly believe that, to quote Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind, Grandmommie's favorite movie, Tomorrow is another day.
Now that I'm married, I'm only able to make it down to my grandmother's party every other Christmas. While I love my in-laws dearly, it's always bittersweet for me since I know I'm missing out on Grandmommie's huge dining room table filled with platters of homemade brown sugar slathered hams, parker house rolls, potato salad, deviled eggs, baked beans, petit fours and, my all-time favorite, jelly cake!
I know I wrote about Jelly Omelettes a few weeks ago, but jelly cake is a totally different animal. An Old Town Alexandria, Virginia (my hometown) specialty, jelly cake was created by the owners of Schumann's bakery over a hundred years ago. Basically, it's a very thin and delicate yellow cake cut into three layers with each layer slathered in jelly and the very top dusted in powdered sugar. It may sound somewhat unexciting, but to bite into a piece of jelly cake is something else entirely. Years ago, jelly cake established an international reputation when Queen Elizabeth had one brought to her by private jet!
Jelly cake is a Christmas tradition in Old Town and so while I planned baby girl's party/ holiday open house this year I knew I had to figure out a way to recreate it. While the original recipe is under lock and key in some safety deposit box somewhere, I did a little research and found a tiny article in the Washington Post that said the cake is actually a pound cake which surprised me since I always associate pound cake with hockey pucks. The jam is red currant. I had none of that on hand so I decided to use two precious jars of my homemade raspberry jam. For the cake, I turned to Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours and her Perfection Pound Cake recipe.
As you can see in the picture below, this cake is only about 2 inches high and is cut into three layers. I had to say several prayers and have my husband's moral and physical support while cutting and then assembling this cake. Don't fret, it's only about ten minutes of terror and then you have an amazing cake to gobble up. It's so wintery and perfect with a glass of milk or a cup of tea. Enjoy!
(For the cake, I adapted Dorie Greenspan's Perfection Pound Cake recipe. I found her cake to be light with a full butter flavor. I also invested in an 11 inch cake pan which gives the jelly cake its wide flat shape. However, if you don't want to invest, then just use what you have. Your cake won't be quite as delicate, but it will still be tasty. More reminiscent of a Devonshire cake, which I think must've been the Schumann's original inspiration for this dessert.)
What You'll Need:
For the Cake -
2 cups Flour (all purpose or white whole wheat)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter at room temperature (soft, but not oily and separating)
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 generous teaspoon vanilla extract
For Assembly -
12 ounces of Raspberry or Red Currant Jam the best you can find
Preheat the oven to 325 and generously butter your cake pan. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder; set aside. Set your mixer to high and beat the butter and sugar for 5 minutes until it's white and fluffy. Don't cut corners, the extra beating time makes a difference. Scrape the sides of the bowl and turn down the mixer to medium. Add each of the four eggs one at a time and beat for 2 minutes in between each egg. Keep scraping down the bowl as you go. Then add the vanilla. Finally, turn down the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients. Mix just a little bit and then turn off the mixer and finish incorporating the flour by hand. Pour the batter in the cake pan and pop into the oven. Bake until golden brown and a knife comes out clean. About 30-40 minutes. Turn it out of the pan and let it cool on a rack top side up.
To assemble the cake, gather your nerves and the longest, narrowest knife you have. Do your best to cut the cake into three equal layers. I did this by inserting the knife in the middle with one hand and bracing the top of the cake with the other and I kept moving very carefully around the cake.
Once the cake is cut, remove the top two layers and generously spread the bottom layer with jam. To get the middle layer on, I had to cut it into quarters and lay them on one at a time matching it up like a puzzle. Once you've done that, slather it with jam. Finally, every so gently slide the top layer onto the bottom layers - this is the easiest part - and dust generously with powdered sugar.
To serve, you can cut this cake in typical cake triangles or you can do like Grandmommie and cut it into tiny bite sized diamonds. Either way it's delicious. The best part about this cake is somehow time makes it better and better. We're on our fourth day and it's still amazing!
Approximate Dinner Cost:
Cost per Meal: Oh gosh, if you're a good boy or girl, there are like 12-15 servings in here! Perfect for a party of 20 or so.