Sep 22, 2010

Emergency Cake

There's this lady I know--a little 70+ year old spitfire Cajun lady who no one dares cross.  She'll stare you down for some smart-ass comment that you've I've made until your insides do the Jello Jiggle.  Two seconds later, she'll say, "here, baby, have a piece of cake."  My quivering insides don't really want a piece of cake.  But it's an offer I don't dare refuse.  Instead I say, "yes ma'am" and eat it up. 

Speaking of cake, my feisty septuagenarian friend keeps an emergency cake in her freezer.  Now, I've heard of emergency keeping the makings of a meal in your freezer or pantry.  But an emergency dessert? 

You never know when a dessert crisis may surface.

One evening a bunch of us went to a local performance.  Before the band started, our ringleader invited the gang to a semi-impromptu cook-out at his house afterwards (semi because he'd already invited those he'd recently seen, but was extending the invitation to the others).  Emergency Cake Lady let her guard down for a moment and panicked...a visibly stricken face down to hand wringing.  This last minute invite left her with "nothing to bring!"  She surely didn't want to show up empty-handed knowing that it's Southern custom: if you're invited to someone's house, you best bring something besides yourself.

Emergency Cake Lady turned to her husband and said, "baby, go run home and take a cake out the freezer!"  I loved it!  Loved that she was so prepared for anything.  Loved that she was so worried about showing up with nothing.  Loved that she made her husband do the work. 

Her husband returned, leaned in towards her, and whispered "it's taken care of."  I think they're part of a Dessert Mafia or something.  After a little ribbing from some of the men
...what took so long, did you decorate it too, Martha?...
he confessed that since he raced home to defrost the Emergency Cake, he figured he may as well have himself a cold beer too. 

Yay!  Everybody wins.

A while back M @ Betty Crapper suggested I post about Cajun &/or Creole desserts.  That got me thinking.  Well, obviously.  Or I wouldn't have mentioned it, right?

Do we (Cajuns & Creoles) have our own dessert?  There's Greek baklava.  Italians have cannoli.  There's Mexican flan and sopapillas.  The French have creme brulee and tarte tatin.  When it comes to a classic Cajun or Creole dessert...I've got very little!

If only I had an Emergency Cake in the freezer.

Bananas Foster might come to mind.  But it's not Cajun and I don't think it accurately represents Creole either.  Having been created in the 1950s, it seems too much of a baby to go up against long-running traditions like tarte tatin or baklava.

Maybe Creole calas (rice fritters) or the beignet-like Cajun croquignoles qualify as representatives?  But we normally have these for breakfast.  King cake is something I thought of, although it's seasonal.  Pralines would qualify, though they are also big in TX and other parts of the south.  There's Cajun gâteau de sirop (syrup cake...which I'll make one day).  Bread pudding would be a big one (and I'll make it to post too).  But it can be found all over; not just in Cajun & Creole homes and restaurants.

Some people say Cajuns don't eat dessert.  To me that's a half truth.  At one time Cajuns didn't eat dessert.
Probably because they didn't have certain ingredients, such as flour.  And what they did have went to making a filling meal, not dessert.  Even into the early twentieth century, desserts weren't commonly found in Cajun homes.  "Extant documentation suggests that there were few desserts, and those that existed, like gâteau de sirop (syrup cake), were quite simple, featuring seasonal fruit or homemade cane syrup" (Bienvenu, Brasseaux, and Brasseaux 23).

But you only have to read about Emergency Cake Lady to know that this isn't the case now.  In fact, most Cajuns I know love dessert and wouldn't dream of sending their guests home without it.  I've been to many potlucks where the number of the desserts equal the side dishes.  And a couple of times out-numbered them!

Thanks to those Emergency Cakes.

Source: Bienvenu, Marcelle,  Carl A. Brasseaux, and Ryan A. Brasseaux.  Stir the Pot: The History of Cajun Cuisine.  New York: Hippocrene Books, 2005.


Fig Cake may not be a good example of an emergency cake.  I'm not sure it would recover well from being frozen.  But it is an example of a traditional Cajun that is simple and uses fruit many Cajuns and Creoles get right out of their backyards.  The figs I used came from The Husband's maw maw's backyard.  They were turned into preserves by my mother in law...not me because you know I'm too chicken to do that.

Mise en place for Granny's Fig Cake: milk, vinegar, eggs, sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, fig preserves, applesauce

I love reading old recipes.  But they aren't always well written.
This recipe never mentions mixing milk and vinegar.  But does say to "add the milk and vinegar mixture."
I assumed this was supposed to act like buttermilk, so I mixed the two and let it sit.

While that gets all buttermilky, beat the eggs and sugar together. 
And mix the dry ingredients separately.

Next alternate adding the dry ingredients and faux buttermilk to the egg mixture.  Beat for 2 minutes once everything is added.

Add fig preserves and oil (or applesauce).  Beat for 4 minutes, making sure to break up any whole figs.

Every fig cake recipe in every cookbook I have called for a bundt pan.
Coincidentally, that's the pan Emergency Cake Lady uses for Emergency Cakes.
I don't have a bundt pan.  Don't want a bundt pan.
I'm not fond of bundt cake.

Something made me think about all those charts and graphs and tables in the back of my cookbooks.
I don't normally spend a lot of time in those sections.
I'd rather fantasize about
Crab & Shrimp Supreme or Tipsy Chocolate Extreme
how many cups are in a #2 can or the volume of a ring mold.

But there it was--a handy conversion
two 9" round cake pans would hold the equivalent of a bundt pan.

So I greased, floured, and poured.
Baked for 25-30 minutes, checking often after 20
since I was jackin' around with the pan size.

Here, baby, have a piece of cake
with warm fig preserves

Or with vanilla ice cream

Or why not vanilla ice cream and warm fig preserves

Linked to the following:

What's on the Menu Wednesday @ Dining With Debbie

Tip Day Thursday Carnival @ Around My Family Table
My tip is one I always overlook: don't forget about the conversion/equivalency charts in the back of your cookbooks!

Cookbook Sundays @
Brenda's Canadian Kitchen
The recipe I used comes from: Voila!  Lafayette Centennial Cookbook 1884-1984
by Jean K. Durkee

Before the recipe...
I won the Most Unique Use of Ingredients in The (August) Royal Foodie Joust
Very excited about that.

But enough about little ole me.  On to the fig cake.

Granny's Fig Cake
from Voila!  Lafayette Centennial Cookbook 1884-1984 by Jean K. Durkee

1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup milk
1 tsp vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil OR 1 cup applesauce
1 cup fig preserves
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix milk and vinegar together and allow to sit while proceeding.*  In a large bowl, beat sugar and eggs well.  Mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together.  Add dry ingredients to sugar and egg mixture, alternating with milk and vinegar mixture.  Mix for 2 minutes.  Add oil (or applesauce) and fig preserves.  Beat for 4 minutes, making sure to break up the figs.  Fold in pecans.  Pour into a bundt pan and bake at 300 for 1 hour and 20 minutes.*

*The original recipe didn't say to mix the milk and vinegar together, but mentioned adding the milk and vinegar mixture to the batter.  I decided to mix these two ingredients together first and allow them to sit a few minutes while I worked with the sugar and eggs and dry ingredients.  I assumed the milk and vinegar was supposed to act like buttermilk.

*Used two 9” round cake pans; baked them for 25-30 minutes.

*I also took it upon myself to grease and flour my pans.


  1. Anonymous9/22/2010

    Miss you Michelle! Just wanted you to know!

    Toby Dempsey - CFYF

  2. Wow - Your on a roll lately. First the two awards and now winning the most unique use of ingredients with the foodie joust! You must be livin' right!!

    Love the idea of having an emergency cake in the freezer. Makes me want to take a look around that lady's house and see what else she has stored up, you know?

    I never knew that there were fig trees down there until I read John Besh's cookbook. Must be nice to just go out and pick them. Love the fig cake (especially with ice cream).

  3. Great cake! Love the story about the cake in the freezer! I am NEVER that prepared!

  4. I'm not a huge fan of figs, but this cake sounds yummy! Thanks again for linking up at Around My Family Table.

  5. Thanks Toby! Hope you are doing well.

    Kim: I guess I'm doing something right. Trust me. This lady is like a boy know...
    "be prepared." She's something else! We have a fig tree in our backyard and got a small crop this year, but only enough to just pick off the tree and eat. The previous owners didn't take care of the tree. I will baby it though.

    Debbi: I'm not that prepared either. Since I posted this, I've had a couple of people tell me, "oh, my sister does that too" or "my grandmaw used to do that." Who knew there were so many people out there fending of dessert emergencies?!

    Wendy: I have to admit that I was never big on fig. My dad has a huge tree and would always offer and I'd turn it down. It wasn't until we moved to a house with a fig tree that I became interested. And that's just this past summer.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, everyone.

  6. I'm with Kim, I had no idea you had fig trees growing in your backyards way down there, lol. Too cool! I was excited because I had mint growing in mine this year. I'd rather have figs. I adore figs (along with dates) and this cake would be something I would love. Thank you so much for linking this recipe to Cookbook Sundays. Have a great day!

  7. Thanks, Brenda. I look forward to more Cookbook Sundays.

    Mint! That's something I need. Slowly putting in an herb garden. At one time I wanted to own an herb nursery w/ a small cafe attached--where I'd serve dishes featuring herbs. Visited a place like that near Austin, TX and loved it.

  8. I read this last week and loved the notion of Emergency Cake. Thanks for the suggestion on the cookie dough...kind of an "emergency plan" for cookies...I like it!

  9. Thanks for posting this to What's On the Menu Wednesday. It looks delicious; I can't wait to give it a try, but I will have to wait until I can share it. Hubby won't touch anything FIG:( Hope to see you back this week.

  10. I think Emergency Cake Lady is a little scary. I had no idea anyone kept cake in their freezer.

  11. What a great cake!
    I've never eaten a fig cake, although I looooooooove figs


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