Reinventing an heirloom recipe.

I am related to an amazing array of women who can cook. And I do mean cook. I associate every one of them with a special recipe that has defined my childhood and holiday occasions since, whether it’s my mom’s cold oven pound cake, Taffy’s mashed potatoes and mac and cheese, Mimi’s okra soup or Grandmama’s cornmeal fritters. My Aunt Dell is not allowed to attend family functions unless she brings her collard greens. Well, I’m exaggerating … only sort of. That food is just a part of our loving and sharing with each other.

Most of these family recipes are well documented, or at least those who have perfected them are still around to share their tips. But one family heirloom recipe has eluded us as of late. My grandfather’s sister, Aunt Ida, was famous for her caramel cake, which she brought regularly to family events. Regularly enough at least that it made an impression on my young taste buds. Aunt Ida passed away more than 10 years ago, and we’re just now discovering that no one has her recipe. Egads!

Caramel cakes are very southern, if not very Easterly. But I had a craving to attempt one a la Aunt Ida’s for Easter Sunday dinner. I Googled recipes all week, which resulted in a concoction of cobbled together cake and icing instructions. Then I updated them to reflect the tastes of the 2010s — a dash of sea salt makes it a salted caramel icing. Keep reading ยป