Burnt Sugar Cake & Watermelon Salad

These are not two food items you would normally
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think of as going together. The link between them is that they were my maternal grandmother, Marinda Olene Springer Watson Wimberley's, signature dishes. Years ago, Burnt Sugar Cake, aka Caramel Cake was a mainstay of the modern kitchen. It was a rich and sugary cake that made its way to many a holiday dinner table and picnic lunch. I never asked my grandmother where her original recipes came from, she passed away in 2001. I do remember eating both these though and in turn each has it's own special memory. I think as much as anything, when my grandmother, NaNa, made these two dishes and everyone loved them, she found her niche probably promoting the secretiveness of the recipes. It wasn't until a year or so ago that I came across a recipe for the Burnt Sugar Cake when my mother-in-law gave me the first cookbook she ever had. It was the 1950 edition of Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book. Seeing the recipe in that cookbook prompted me to ask my mother for NaNa's recipe. Seems no one in the family could actually come up with a written version. My mother says she thinks she has it written down some where, but after several moves, it will take some digging to find. In the mean time, here is the version from that 1950's cookbook. The icing for this cake is also good on jam or spice cake. Hopefully, you have some memory of this special cake in your childhood as well.

For the Cake:
¼ cup burnt sugar syrup (see below)
2 ½ cup cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup soft shortening
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs

For the icing:
6 tablespoons butter
Caramel mixture plus cream to equal ½ cup
3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
1/3-teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans or one 13” X 9” pan with waxed paper; grease the paper. Make the burnt sugar syrup.

To make syrup: Place 1-cup sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat, stirring constantly. Heat until melted into golden brown syrup. Remove from heat. Carefully add 1/2 cup boiling water (the syrup will boil up) stir until lumps are dissolved. Pour into measuring cup and add enough cold water to equal 1 cup; set aside.Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cream the shortening and sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs thoroughly. Stir flour mixture into creamed mixture alternately with ¼ cup caramel mixture. Pour into prepared pans. Bake until cake test done. Cool completely, and finish with Caramel Icing.
Bake 9” round pans 30 to 35 minutes or 13” X 9” pan 35-45 minutes.
To make frosting: Over low heat, mix together butter and caramel mixture plus cream to equal ½ cup. Beat in sifted confectioner’s sugar, salt and vanilla. Spread over cooled cake.

The watermelon salad seems like any fruit salad but the combination of the sweet fruit and the salty nuts create a very special taste.

1 red-meat watermelon
1 yellow-meat watermelon
1 honeydew melon
1 cantalope
1 bunch red seedless grapes
1 bunch green seedless grapes
1 16 oz. can salted cocktail peanuts
(The colors of this salad are so pretty, you will want to use a large clear glass bowl such as a trifle dish.)
Using a melon baller, scoop out the heart meat of all the melons. Place the melon balls into a large bowl. The grapes can be sliced in half or left whole. Add them to the melons. Chill. Just before serving, mix the peanuts with the melons and grapes and transfer to your serving dish.


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