Mom baked this special cake once a year for Daddy's birthday when I was little. It's a beautifully balanced spice cake. I looked forward to this cake each year but I was faced with a slice riddled with nuts. I never ate nuts, especially not in dessert and was expert at picking them out. I even spit the offenders out of peanut m&ms. I would pick out a pile of nuts, but couldn't escape them all. It was stressful. Now I love nuts of all kinds and as I mixed up the batter, and folded in the strawberry jam, I was transported to my childhood with the spicy smells of cinamon, cloves, and black walnuts. These give the cake it's distinctive taste and texture from their very particular flavor. The fragrance of the spices with the gentle bite of black walnuts and sugary sweet vanilla buttercream is a perfect combination.
My dad grew up eating this cake each Thanksgiving and Christmas. Grandmommy would bake two cakes at once and keep one in the freezer for guests all through the holidays. Daddy says he can remember certain people dropping by every year just to be offered a slice of jam cake. Mom got the recipe for Dad's favorite cake from her mother in law and baked it each November for his birthday until a few years ago when she switched to carrot cake. Grandmommy hasn't baked it in several years either. This is why my dad was willling to drive out of his way just for a slice this weekend. I hope it was worth it. I sent him home with several slices for later and some fresh eggs to sweeten the deal.
When I called to ask Grandmommy about where the recipe came from she said her friend used to bake it and she thought it was about the best thing ever. She is now almost 87 years old and still loves to cook; she especially enjoys baking. She has always kept baked treats in her freezer in assorted tins with cookies, candy and slices of cake wrapped up inside. If attitude is the secret to longevity, she's got the right formula. Grandmommy continues to walk for exercise and eat lots of healthy vegetables, and always says that she is thankful. She is thankful that God is good, and says everyone is so good to her, and she's thankful that everyday she can get up and walk around and go. You can see a picture of her in her kitchen here. She's the one in the apron.
Recipe from Grandmommy, who got it from her young married friend Kathrine Thacker.
Yeild 2 thick 9 inch layers, or you can make 4 thinner layers.1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
4 large eggs
1 heaping cup strawberry jam
2 cups chopped black walnuts
Butter and flour the cake pans and line with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350.
Sift the first 7 (dry) ingredients together three times. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together, then add the buttermilk and eggs and mix well. Add the sifted dry ingredients slowly, with the mixer on low speed. Finish mixing by hand and fold in the strawberry jam and black walnuts.
Spread the batter in the prepared cake pans and bake for 30 minutes.
Let cool completely, or even freeze before frosting.
2 sticks softened butter
1 pound confectioners sugar
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Mix well on high speed until fluffy. Add a splash of milk if it's too thick.
Serve jam cake with coffee on a fall or winter afternoon.