When Bob Ward, of Pilot Mountain, created a new dish for a Mother’s Day potluck a few weeks ago, he needed a name for his creation.
Not for Bob the modern practice that makes the name of a dish equivalent to a list of ingredients. Bob’s naming strategy was more classic. Start with a nationality, ethnicity or group-identifier for the first word, followed by an ingredient for the second word and the last word is the food category. Descriptive gives way to evocative.
So Bob’s delectable mix of chicken breast, potato, egg, chow chow, mayonnaise, oyster crackers and his secret blend of herbs and spices was christened “Amish cracker salad.” His inspiration for the dish was the old-fashioned cold-plate salads found on lunch counter menus in days of old. Those cold-plate salads made it unnecessary to choose between chicken salad, potato salad and egg salad. There was a nice scoop of each on the plate.
So Bob went the lunch counter one better and mixed them all up, subbed chow chow for the usual pickle relish and then threw in some oyster crackers as a final flourish. Bob likes the oyster crackers at Mt. Airy Meat Center.
Bob is not entirely clear on what makes his salad “Amish” but in that respect, he is in good company. There’s a long history of naming dishes for someone or somewhere that has absolutely no connection to the dish.
“Italian cream cake” is a good example. Italian cream cake is a scrumptious made-from-scratch that has been a staple here in the South for more than half a century. But it has never had the slightest connection to Italy. The cookery of Italy is not big on cakes. And certainly not American-style layer cakes. But there is cream cheese in the frosting so it follows Bob Ward’s naming rule perfectly. Exotic place or people (Italian) followed by ingredient (cream) followed by category (cake).
German chocolate cake is another one that isn’t quite what it seems. It was named for Samuel German who developed a type of dark baking chocolate for the American Baker’s Chocolate Company in 1852. The brand name of the product, Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, was named for him. The Dallas Morning News published a recipe for “German’s Chocolate Cake” in 1957, over a hundred years later. Sales of the chocolate used in the cake shot up so much that General Foods, who owned the Baker’s brand at the time, submitted the recipe to newspapers all over the company. The possessive form was dropped and “German chocolate cake” has faked a German heritage ever since.
And Italian salad dressing is no more Italian that French salad dressing is French. Italian dressing originally came from Missouri but it does have oregano and garlic in it so it’s easy to see why someone thought it was Italian-ish but what connection that orange glop known as French dressing has to France is a mystery.
“French dressing” started out as an American term for vinaigrette, but somewhere along the way, stuff started to be added, including some not very French things like sugar and tomato sauce or ketchup.
So Bob Ward’s “Amish cracker salad” follows in a long line of foods that pretend to be something they’re not in order to entice people to try something new. But in Bob’s case, it didn’t work very well. He couldn’t convince anyone at the potluck to try his new invention. He later discovered the leftovers were particularly tasty when eaten wrapped in a pita or on a croissant. “Carbs wrapped in carbs,” smiled Bob. That’s important when you’re a diabetic, he said.
Italian Cream Cake
1/2 cup margarine or 1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
5 egg yolks, beaten
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 small can coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup margarine or 1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
Cream 1/2 cup margarine or butter, sugar and oil in mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, beat well. Sift in flour and soda; mix well. Add buttermilk and 1 tsp vanilla; mix well. Fold in egg whites, coconut and 1 cup pecans. Pour into 3 greased and floured 8” round cake pans. Bake at 350°F. for 15 to 20 minutes or until cakes test done. Remove to wire rack to cool.
Combine 1/4 cup butter or margarine, cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar in a bowl; beat well. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla and 1 cup pecans. Spread between layers and over top and sides of cake.
Super Deluxe German Chocolate Cake
This cake, which reputedly originated with Bobby Flay, is unlike any German chocolate cake you’ve had before. It costs a fortune to assemble the ingredients and may necessitate shopping in some specialty stores. And then it takes the better part of a day to make, but it’s something to see when it’s done.
For the Cake:
12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups strong brewed black coffee, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the Frosting:
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup goat’s milk
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, cold
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. coconut rum (optional)
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
1 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
For the Ganache:
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted, for garnish
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted, for garnish
Coconut Whipped Cream, for serving
Make the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch-round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Melt the 12 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the brown and granulated sugars and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Add the coffee, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract and continue whisking until smooth and just combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the wire rack and let cool at least 1 hour before frosting.
Make the frosting: Combine the whole milk, coconut milk and goat’s milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Keep warm while you prepare the caramel. Combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring until a deep amber color, 8 to 10 minutes. Slowly and carefully whisk in the warm milk mixture and continue whisking until smooth. Add the corn syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is reduced by half and the consistency of a caramel sauce, about 55 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla extract, salt and rum (if using). Transfer the sauce to a medium bowl and stir in the pecans and shredded coconut. Let the frosting cool to room temperature, stirring it occasionally, before frosting the cake. To assemble the cake, slice each cake in half horizontally. Place 1 cake layer on a cake round and spread one-third of the frosting evenly over the top. Repeat to make 3 layers, then top with the remaining cake layer, top-side up.
Make the ganache: Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl, add the hot cream and the corn syrup and let sit for 30 seconds. Gently whisk until smooth. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Set the cake on a wire rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the chocolate ganache over the cake, letting the excess drip down the sides. Sprinkle the top with toasted coconut and pecans. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before slicing.
Slice the cake and top with a dollop of Coconut Whipped Cream.
Coconut Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, very cold
1/4 cup cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez
2 tbsp. confectioners’ or granulated sugar
1 tsp. coconut rum
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine all of the ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk until soft peaks form.
Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.