While flipping through the collection the other day I realized that I haven’t tested any of Lucie’s recipes in a while. That’s just not acceptable.
So today I bring you Mother’s Tip Top Cake.
“Mother” in this case (I believe) is Lucie’s mother Gertrude Hamilton, or Grandma Gertie.
No, I am not kidding.
Gertrude was an Irish immigrant that bore 11 children, half off whom she hauled all the way to California in 1910 by train so that her son could breathe easier. Lucie was 6 years old at the time, and her train ticket was half the fare. The family returned to Michigan four years later to help care for Gertie's ailing father-in-law.
We are a sturdy lot. But we are lovely too.
Tip Top Cake is just that. It is quick and uncomplicated and lovely and delicious, somewhat like angel food but more succulent. It’s perfect for heaping on fresh fruit or sauce or soaking with a little bit of rum. The day I made it I mashed up some canned peaches with juice and mixed with a diced up fresh peach from the farmer’s market. Today I served it for breakfast with a quick blueberry sauce. Enjoy.
Mother’s Tip Top Cake
Ingredients: 1 ½ cup sugar ½ cup butter, softened 1 cup sweet milk (modern translation: regular milk) 1 ½ cup flour 2 tsp baking powder 3 egg whites 1 tsp vanilla
Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, cream sugar and butter together. In a small bowl sift the flour and baking powder together. Add the milk and flour mixture alternately, and stir until well mixed. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and fold them and the vanilla in until mixed together.
Pour into a Bundt pan or 3 9” round pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan.
Blueberry Sauce: Toss a handful or two of fresh or frozen blueberries in a saucepan and sprinkle enough sugar to coat. Add just a little water (1/2 cup) to keep the blueberries from scalding. Heat to boiling for 5 minutes until everything is saucy. Remove from heat and cool. Congratulations. You just made jam.
“Mother could make a Banana Cream Pie from one banana. I don't know how she did it, but I can remember.”
My aunts Edna and Helen each tell this tale, recalling the thin slices that Lucie stretched into a shared memory over 60 years ago. Even though food was often scarce, Lucie could still create something delicious from that one banana, the rest of the ingredients ubiquitous to a farm wife with a cow and chickens in the back yard.
The legend has inscribed itself onto my own memory, even though Lucie left twenty years before I was born.
And none of her pie recipes are written down.
“Well no, because that’s something she just knew” is my aunts’ answer to this. In Lucie’s kitchen, pie was more than a recitation of ingredients; it was a gathering of experience: how to handle a crust just right, how much thickener to add, how to cook it through without burning the edges.
You don’t need to write down what you make by heart.
For a while I was disappointed that Lucie left no written record of one of her hallmarks. But then I realized the most important ingredients had been handed to me:
So in honor of Lucie I made a Banana Cream Pie this morning, with pieces of recipes from different authors, and with just one banana. My pie skills aren’t legendary, but I can pass down what I know.
1 ½ cups flour ½ tsp. salt ¼ pound cold butter 3 to 5 Tbsp ice water, as needed
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then cut in the butter, using your fingers or two knives, until it resembles coarse meal. [I use the pastry paddle on my mixer]. Lightly stir in the water a tablespoon at a time until you can bring the dough together in a ball. If crumbs remain on the bottom, add a few drops of water so that you can pull them together as well. Shape the dough into a disk and roll it out into a circle ⅛ inch thick. If the dough is so warm that it's sticky, refrigerate it for 15 minutes, then roll it out.
Becky's notes: Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough and crimp edges. Prick the bottom several times with a fork. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Cool at room temperature.
4 large egg yolks ⅔ cup sugar ¼ cup cornstarch ½ tsp. salt 3 cups milk 2 Tbsp. butter, softened 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp vanilla 1 cup sweetened whipped cream
Beat egg yolks with fork in small bowl. Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute.
Immediately stir at least half of the hot mixture gradually into egg yolks; stir back into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Press plastic wrap onto filling in saucepan. Refrigerate until room temperature.
Slice 2 bananas [or one, in a pinch] into pie shell. Pour filling over bananas. Press plastic wrap onto filling. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until set.
Remove plastic wrap. Top pie with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with banana slices if desired. Immediately refrigerate any remaining pie after serving.
See more about my pie life here. Coming soon: Sue's first pumpkin pie.