I got a phone call last Friday…a week ago today. It was a call that I had been expecting, but not one that I wanted to answer. My sister was on the other end telling me that we had just lost our Papaw…
As I tried to choke back my tears, sweet Jack asked, “Mama, what’s sad on the phone? Who’s hurt?” How do you talk to a toddler about death??? I did the best that I knew how to do… we spent a lot of the morning looking through Jack’s photo books at pictures of Papaw. The photos reminded me how lucky Jack was to have 5 of his great grandparents at his 1st birthday party! How lucky he was to have known Papaw…I just wish it could have been for a little longer. I wish he could have known the Papaw that I knew…the one who would spend hours in his garden, the one who would hold my hand as we walked together to gather pecans from his yard, the one who took Jessica and I out for Pizza Hut lunches, the one who always seemed so happy to talk to me on the phone.
Last Friday was hard. I felt sad and lonely and was reminded of just how far away we live from our families. We love it out here on the West Coast, but life events such as these sure darken the joy we feel. I’m so thankful that Jack and I got to see Papaw and Mamaw in April…that we got to share those last memories when they were both well and healthy.
Last Friday, the kitchen brought me comfort, as it tends to do. My Papaw was an excellent cake baker. His pound cakes were amazingly delicious and for years we celebrated holidays and birthdays with one flavor or another. My favorite was his chocolate pound cake with chocolate frosting. He even made it for the desert table at our wedding!
So, last week, I felt close to Papaw as I baked a Southern Caramel Cake for my boys’ birthday party. I’m pretty certain that he passed down his love of sweets and baking to me. Although, he was way more modest with his desserts that I am with my cooking…he would always preface the first bite with all the things that could have gone wrong and why it may not taste right…and he would never have found his recipes blog worthy, although I know for certain that they were!
Southern Caramel Cake
a cake to celebrate a birthday and Papaw
For the cake-
1/2 cup buttermilk , room temperature
4 large eggs , room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
For the frosting-
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
For the cake-
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt cake pan. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in large measuring cup. With electric mixer on low speed, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, until only pea-sized pieces remain. Pour in half of buttermilk mixture and beat over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Slowly add remaining buttermilk mixture to bowl and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
2. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack. Cool completely, at least 1 hour.
For the frosting-
1. Heat 8 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and salt in large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around perimeter of pan, about 8 minutes. Whisk in cream and cook until ring of bubbles reappears, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, then whisk in vanilla.
2. Transfer hot frosting mixture to bowl and, with electric mixer on low speed, gradually mix in confectioners’ sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat until frosting is pale brown and just warm, about 5 minutes. Add remaining butter, 1 piece at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Spread frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Will last on the countertop for several days.