Muffy’s Delicious Legacy {buttermilk cake}

I’ve heard sillier grandmother names in my day. There is a group of names that resembles the clearing of a throat: Goggy comes to mind. There are of course the Mimis and Nanas of the world and a small segment of our familial population that employed the term Grandmama (pronounced like a British child at tea rather than a southern boy looking for a hug). My mom’s mom was referred to as “Muffy” which makes complete sense when you learn that her entire name was Mercedith Imogen Wade Wilson. That’s a mouthful for a kid and the term Muffy was much more disarming than Mercedith. It did result in mild confusion in my dorm room at times as my best friend’s dog was also called Muffy. Context clues would help us draw the appropriate conclusions.

We lived near my dad’s parents growing up and so my memories with Nana and Granddaddy are more frequent and often times more fond than my memories of my mom’s parents. As a young child, I remember staying with Muffy and Granddaddy in Linville Land Harbor in North Carolina and falling off a bunk bed reaching for a fruit roll-up after having to walk in the cold to the bath house in order to shower. More fondly, I also managed to perfect my “Molly the Wonder Dog” act there with the help of my brother/trainer.

We didn’t spend much time cooking with my mom’s parents but a few recipes became lore in our family and I made sure to spend some time with Muffy learning this particular recipe for White Buttermilk Cake. This cake made many appearances for birthdays growing up and I recall sitting on my dad’s lap in our apartment in Memphis having bites of his slice and sharing his coffee. For all of our sakes, I hope it was decaf. My brother mentioned wanting the recipe a few weeks back and as such, I thought it would be appropriate to begin a new Thanksgiving tradition and make this cake to take along with us last Thursday.

Muffy’s White Buttermilk Cake:

  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 325°. Add the baking soda to your buttermilk to activate it. Now is the time for a Mr. Wizard (if you’re a child of the 80’s) or an Alton Brown (if you’re a child of the 00’s) moment. I love this part. Science!

Separate your eggs.

Beat Crisco, sugar and egg whites together until light and fluffy.

Separately, sift, measure, then sift again your cake flour along with the baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Add the vanilla extract to the sugar and Crisco mixture and incorporate. Now you’ll add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the sugar mixture, a little at a time alternating wet and dry ingredients, beginning and ending with dry. This should take place in about 3-4 steps and you should only mix the ingredients until they’re just incorporated.

Pour this into a prepared (greased and floured) 9″x13″ aluminum or Pyrex pan. I’m sure you could make this into a layer cake but I find a sheet cake to be so much more old-school and reminiscent of being homemade. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Now, go run a half-marathon because you’re going to want those calories for the next step. Cream cheese frosting. Don’t get me wrong. The cake itself is fantastic, but cream cheese frosting may be the most delicious thing on the planet.

Let me paint you another picture. As did many of our grandparents, Muffy lived through the Great Depression. Because of this, she washed aluminum foil and absolutely refused to let any morsel of food go to waste. Including batter. I have made it a point when I bake that there is always batter left over for yours truly or any other person who happens to be involved. This is something I live by and that I think brings joy to those around me (full disclosure: it’s usually just me but I presume one day I’ll have kids that want to lick the bowl and dammit, they are going to have something to lick other than just bowl).

Which brings us to cream cheese frosting:

  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 stick) butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Cream the butter, cream cheese, lemon juice and vanilla on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes. These times are useful because they help you end up with a really light and fluffy frosting. Reduce speed to medium-low and add confectioners’ sugar and salt. Beat until smooth, about 4-6 minutes.

Once incorporated, pump the speed back up to medium-high and whip for another 4-6 minutes until amazingly light, fluffy and delicious.

Lick these. Now frost your cooled cake.

All you need now is a reason to celebrate (because I made a cake!) and a pot of decaf. Or regular if you’re having this for breakfast. Also something I’ll allow in the future.

Or if you’re like we were on Saturday night, just put the whole damn cake on the coffee table and give everyone a fork.

Print me.