Today is Mammy’s birthday. If you’ve known me longer than about 5 minutes, then you know how much I adore my grandmother, and how important she is in my life. I wasn’t able to visit with her this past weekend – my month of traveling finally caught up with me (and my dirty, dirty house) – but I spent a lot of time thinking about her. About our family. And how lucky we all are to have her guidance and humor.
Mammy has taught me so much about life. She loves her daily crossword puzzle and jumble, and has read almost every book ever written. She’s a godly Christian woman who faithfully attends church and Sunday school, and is active in her small community. She recently quit the DAR because her position was becoming too much for her to handle, and if she couldn’t do her part, then it wasn’t fair to make others carry her load. Though life has thrown her some curve balls over the years, she doesn’t feel sorry for herself but looks to how she can help others. She is true to her family and is proud of where she comes from, spending the last 30 years near the land on which she was raised. Her humorous observations on life keep me on my toes, and I always hear her in the back of my mind.
Mammy is there when I have a question about cooking, and she diligently cuts and sends recipes she comes across in magazines. I have hundreds of her handwritten notes; some with newspaper clippings she thinks I might enjoy, others just telling me about her day. (Yes, I have them all.) Friends are always amused that Mammy’s hip to the times – she reads books on her kindle, and has both a desktop and a laptop computer. I regularly get emails and jokes from her, and she’s even on the Facebook. She’s even a faithful reader of this blog and has been known to scold Tina or me for not properly documenting a recipe. We are lucky she’s paying attention and keeping us in line. Mammy might not cook as often as she used to, but the lady knows her stuff.
I could obviously go on and on about this special lady, but this here is a food blog and you are here for the tasty treats aren’t you? In honor of Mammy’s birthday, I made her a cake. The original recipe calls for walnuts on top, but naturally I used pecans from her tree that I have in my freezer. Pecans are the only worthy nut anyway, and the fact that she cracked them and stored them makes them taste all the better.
Happy birthday, Mammy. I love you!
Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Filling & Pecan-Sugar Topping
via Brown Eyed Baker
For the Pecan-Sugar Topping:
2 cups chopped pecans
½ cup granulated sugar
For the Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Cream Cheese Filling:
2 (8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan; set aside.
2. Make the Walnut-Sugar Topping: Combine the chopped walnuts and the sugar in a small bowl; set aside.
3. Make the Cake Batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the water, vegetable oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, mix together until just combined and there are no traces of dry ingredients. Set aside.
4. Make the Cream Cheese Filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until soft and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and continue mixing until light and fluffy, another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the salt and beat until thoroughly combined and smooth.
4. Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Slowly pour all of the cream cheese filling over top, trying to distribute it as evenly as possible (do not try to spread it after you pour it). Pour the remaining cake batter over top of the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the walnut-sugar mixture.
5. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely before serving.
- I’d use less than half of the cake batter for the first layer. I think this makes a large difference in the texture of the layers. My second layer of batter looked pretty pitiful… see?
- I had to cook this closer to 50 minutes for it to even start to look done. Maybe I need to buy an over thermometer. Start looking at yours at 30-35 minutes and just keep cooking it if you need to.
- I dare you to not eat the cream cheese filling out of your mixing bowl.
Who wants cake?