Kentucky cocktail, cake optional

wpid-kentucky-mule_01.jpg.jpegwpid-buttermilk-cake-slice_02.jpg.jpegLast post’s Buttermilk Cake was a sweet tribute to my late Great-aunt Helen. And as we do with all of these sweet tributes, it’s time to find an adult beverage pairing.

Because I’ve been enjoying classic Moscow Mules (a.k.a. Vodka Bucks) lately, I considered suggesting that this vodka-lime cocktail accompany the cake. But somehow the flavors of the cake and cocktail didn’t seem to mesh.

My thoughts next turned to bourbon, as they often do, and I remembered a Mule variation I also enjoy: The Kentucky Mule.wpid-kentucky-mule.jpg.jpegSadly, none of my cocktail cookbooks carried this recipe, so I googled and found this beauty. Three ingredients were mixed and I soon had a Kentucky Mule in hand.

Some recipes I’d found also contained mint, hinting at another bourbon favorite–the Mint Julep. But I stuck with the simplicity of bourbon, ginger beer, lime juice and was richly rewarded. More tart than sweet, it could have used an extra pour of ginger beer, but overall it was refreshing and lovely.

Opportunity to pair it with the cake was missed as the cake didn’t last long enough to meet the Mule. The Kentucky Mule doesn’t need a cake partner, though, and I’ll happily toast food for fun readers with a glass. Thanks for being here!wpid-bourbon-mule.jpg.jpeg

baking buttermilk cake or adventures in frosting

wpid-buttermilk-cake-slice_01.jpg.jpegAs I continue to flip through the yellowed three-by-five cards in Great-aunt Helen’s recipe boxes, I’m amazed at the breadth of her recipes. Savory and sweet, complex and simple, old-school and avant-garde–they all happily co-exist.

Admittedly, more are simple than complex, sweets outnumber savory, and old-school beats out avant-garde. Today’s recipe qualifies on all counts.wpid-cake-recipe.jpg.jpegWho Edith is, I’ve no idea, but we have her to thank for this classic cake recipe. While the ingredients are clearly defined, the directions leave much to the imagination. Though basic cake mixing technique works (sift together dry ingredients, cream fat and sugar, beat in eggs and flavor extract, add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk), there’s no mention of pan size. The icing recipe, on the back, was even harder to follow.wpid-icing-recipe.jpg.jpegThe second line had me stumped: “almond and lemon.” didn’t sound right. Adding a spot of vanilla extract, I followed the recipe as best as I could figure. In the end, the cake was amazing–a homey, light and delicate, sweet but not too cake. But the journey to the final cake had a few bumps.

A silky smooth batter had me hopeful.wpid-cake-batter_01.jpg.jpegBut the 45-minute bake time was too long. When I checked at 35, the cake was already starting to overbrown. (A 9×13-inch pan might have needed the full 45.)wpid-cakes.jpgThe browned crust actually worked here–adding another layer of texture, almost a crunch. But an extra 10 minutes would have made for charred cake.

Now the frosting: Simultaneously beating and cooking the sugar, water, and egg whites over “rapidly boiling water” called for a double-boiler; I improvised with a saucepan and metal bowl.wpid-beating-frosting_01.jpg.jpegExpecting it to cook up like the traditional 7-minute frosting, I enjoyed seeing the hot sugar mixture thicken.




Once whipped, it was time to add the softened butter. Chemistry said that adding fat to whipped egg whites would deflate the volume. Thinking maybe the sugar would help protect the air bubbles, I gently beat in the butter. And…wpid-frosting.jpgMy beautifully whipped frosting was gone and in its place an almost runny meringuey mess. Soldiering on, I filled and frosted the cake layers.wpid-buttermilk-cake-frosted.jpg.jpegWhile more rustic than pretty, the “icing” dried and in the end crowned a perfectly acceptable and amazingly delightful and delicious cake.

Lessons learned while working through this recipe brought Great-aunt Helen to mind. She was a smart lady, also very patient. She wouldn’t have minded taking the extra step to set up a makeshift double-boiler. She would have waited the six or seven minutes needed to get the fully whipped icing. As the frosting “melted” after adding the butter, she would have calmly kept stirring, knowing that it would set nicely once spread over and dried on the cake.wpid-buttermilk-cake-slice_02.jpg.jpegHelen might have served this cake at one of the birthday parties she hosted for various family members. She might have made it and packed it for a picnic at one of Minneapolis’s lakes. Or it might have been presliced and brought to the tailgate meals she enjoyed with friends before University of Minnesota sporting events.

Whatever the story behind the cake, it’s an honor to have the recipe in my collection and now the cake on my counter (for as long as it lasts, ha). Come back next post to see what we’ll be drinking with Great-aunt Helen’s Buttermilk Cake.wpid-buttermilk-cake-slice.jpg.jpeg

going grey(hound)

wpid-salty-dog_01.jpg.jpegWelcome to another session of Cocktail U, where we ponder adult-beverage basics and find sippers to match recipes from Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box. Today we ask ourselves, “what to drink with DIY BBQ chicken?”wpid-20150407_175147.jpgWhat indeed? A Greyhound–my husband’s go-to cocktail–seemed a good match. Basically a Screwdriver with grapefruit juice replacing the orange, Greyhounds are tart enough to be interesting while sweet and boozy enough to make you want to empty your glass.

My husband happened upon this cocktail classic when we needed to move through a crate of grapefruit purchased from a school fundraiser. While a half-grapefuit, drizzled with honey and sometimes broiled, is good for breakfast, there is also something fun about squeezing these monster citrus fruits for their tasty juice. Even better is mixing the freshly squeezed grapefruit juice with spirits. (Tequila and vodka are especially good pairings.) wpid-greyhound.jpgHence, the Greyhound. According to Amanda Hallay’s Vintage Cocktails,, mixing this beverage is as simple aswpid-20150421_185840.jpgWith the tartness of grapefruit, it’s possible you’d want to stir in agave syrup or honey. I liked it as-is, though, and further dressed it up by rimming the glass with salt. Technically, then, we’re looking at a Salty Dog, but no matter what you call it, it’s a refreshing cocktail and partners well with barbecued chicken.wpid-salty-dog.jpg.jpeg

winner winner chicken dinner

No surprises here today–title and opening photo have given it all away. The latest run through Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box turned up a recipe written in a familiar hand. I was tickled to find a recipe attributed to my mom, … Continue reading

sherry stirred, not shaken

wpid-20150324_161524.jpgAfter an unintended break, food for fun is ready to climb back on the Cocktail U train in search of the perfect cocktail for last post’s Cheese Soufflé. This seemed a tricky pairing. While wine and cheese go together like, well, wine and cheese, I can’t think of many mixed drinks I’d want to sip alongside a mixture of cheese, eggs, and bread. So I asked this question: What would Great-aunt Helen do?

And the answer is that she would drink sherry. Though I was too young to join her in a glass of this fortified wine, I remember seeing her sip sherry from a small, pretty stemmed glass. It means the world to me that I now have one of her original glasses and can sip sherry from it, just as she did back in the day.

Sherry by itself, though, does not a cocktail make. To my trusty collection of cocktail books I turned, where I found what sounded to be a lovely sherry-based drink in The Savoy Cocktail Book.wpid-20150324_160152.jpg

Ordered from Amazon after reading about it on another Word Press blog, Savoy is old-school. Originally published in 1930, this book celebrates the famed London Savoy Hotel bar. Without so much as an index, it was challenging to search, but because the drinks are alphabetized, I turned to S for sherry and found this little gem:wpid-20150324_160219.jpgI mixed a Sherry Cocktail to the best of my ability (Who’s to say exactly how much sherry is “1 Glass”?) and enjoyed the results.wpid-20150324_161447.jpgPretty as can be, strained into Great-aunt Helen’s classy vintage sherry glass, this amber-colored drink was bracing. Only slightly sweet, it was meant for sipping, and would make a nice foil for a rich and creamy cheesy soufflé.wpid-20150324_161549.jpgThough it’s becoming vogue again, sherry is often thought of as a drink best suited for old ladies. There may be some truth to this as Helen was one of those older ladies–at least when I knew her. But I’ve always enjoyed sherry as well (and I’m not OLD), especially the sweeter “cream” style. That it mixes well into a cocktail is a lovely bonus.wpid-20150324_161538.jpgA Sherry Cocktail toast, then, in memory of Great-aunt Helen. And a toast to you as well: Thank you for stopping over. Next week we’ll find another recipe in Helen’s collection that needs making.

Say cheese (soufflé)!


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Another week, another riffle through Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box. (New to this series? The preceding link brings you up to speed.) Having thus far only made sweets and snacks from Helen’s decades-old recipe collection, I wanted to make a main … Continue reading

milk with a punch


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Last week we enjoyed oatmeal muffins à la Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box and the promise was made to next find an appropriate beverage to accompany.Now to borrow an advertising slogan: Got Milk?Muffins and milk make good partners, but because we’re … Continue reading

oatmeal muffins, via vintage recipe


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Ready for the third installment in Helen’s Recipe Box? While I still haven’t decided on an official project name, you can read more about what I’m doing here. The quick version is that I’ve finally started going through the two … Continue reading

guacamole, ’70s style


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Two weeks ago, food for fun kicked off its Cooking with Great-aunt Helen series. (Please suggest another title–this one isn’t doing it for me.) My mom’s Aunt Helen was a fierce and independent spirit, passing away at 92. She never … Continue reading

discovering date bread


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Last week’s cocktail post mentioned a resolution to school myself in basic mixology and part of that goal will be sharing progress here. But in keeping with the title of this blog, food must also star. In that vein, my … Continue reading

cocktails 101 – the g & t

secret ingredient

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After an extended holiday, food for fun is finally ready to kick off 2015. And what better way to ring in the new year than with a cocktail? What with my enrollment in an online bartending course (Groupon made an … Continue reading

the holiday frita


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This week was another for posting at Blog of Funny Names and once again I learned plenty. If you like margaritas, especially of the frozen variety, you’ll want to know who to thank. Click here for the story, then please … Continue reading