Monday, November 8

Thanksgiving: Sugar Cream Pie and Jewish Mom's Cake

Thanksgiving means counting one’s blessings, family and food. Food in the form of traditional family favorites and new recipes found while searching for something different than the traditional family favorites. These, in fact, often become more family favorites.

Jewish Mom's Apple Cake with Butter Rum Sauce
Cookbooks, numerous calls to friends and surfing the web brought two choices, a suggestion by a friend and a staple of Indiana.

Jewish Mom’s apple cake is an old-world style cake with layers of stiff batter and sliced apples. After finding several variations, I chose the one which required a Bundt cake pan. With a trip to the orchard, I was set with McIntosh apples, I also stopped and bought some cinnamon and a bottle of rum.

Rum? Yes, rum.

After eyeballing all the recipes, one thing stood out in common. None suggested a glaze, icing or frosting. No drizzling, sprinkling or spreading of a topping was even suggested. Although I respect the traditions of baked goods of the Jewish culture, we in the Midwest, as a rule, like our food covered. Sorry, but it’s true. We want our potatoes, meatloaf and desserts topped with something – anything.

With that in mind, I remembered a bread pudding a couple of years back I had enjoyed, most notably, because of its butter rum sauce. After peeling, slicing and layering the apples and batter, I baked the cake for an hour and ten minutes. The butter rum sauce, infused with cinnamon, complements the cake nicely.

The other dessert choice is sugar cream pie. Although I have, naturally, heard of the item (I am from Indiana) I had never tasted or baked one. I found more than a recipe; I found its history, or lack of history would be more appropriate.

The pie’s origins are hazy at best. Showing up in cookbooks as early as 1816 (the year of our statehood) clears the Amish as instigators. Quakers and Shakers are also noted as possible creators.

However, one thing stands firm. To be considered a true sugar cream pie, whether it is stirred by spoon on the stove top or by finger in an unbaked or baked shell, it must not contain eggs. Basic staple ingredients make up this dessert. Fresh eggs were rare in the old days and so this pie is made with sugar, butter and cream.

We will see in a couple of weeks if these new recipes will become family favorites. I bet that one will and the other, well...we'll see. Perhaps next year I will find a recipe for Italian wedding cake or rum-soaked fruit cake since I now have a bottle of rum which needs to be used.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer and theater critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC and follow her on Twitter @ejmusgrave1 and Facebook.

Photo credit: Izzy Evans

Gotta Go is published in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice,  Indiana Weekender, West Side Community News, New Palestine Reporter, West Indianapolis Community News, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.

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