Thursday, December 03, 2009

Baking Class: Jack Robinson Cake

Jack Robinson cake has been in our family for as long as I can remember. My mother made it maybe once or twice during my childhood. It's not chocolate, so it was not high on her list of dessert priorities.

I like chocolate as much as the next person, but it is not the only thing I like. Oddly enough, I'm not that crazy about most chocolate cakes, or chocolate ice cream. There's something about those vehicles that dilutes the effect of the chocolate for me. A good vanilla ice cream is dense, thick and rich to me. With chocolate ice cream, the cream and the chocolate balance out too well. It's the same thing with cake. The other ingredients balance out the chocolate, so it is not rich enough by itself and the other flavors don't have a chance to compete. There is one exception, I do have a killer chocolate cake recipe that has also been in the family for as long as I can remember. It's a secret for now and it's not my recipe, so I can't share it.

I do not know from where my mother got the recipe for Jack Robinson Cake. I do have a vague memory of it being called that because you can make it faster than you can say "Jack Robinson." I did not find much when I went looking on the internet, but one other person who posted the recipe said it was named for this reason, so I did not totally pull that out of thin air. I will say that it is not that fast a recipe to put together, and I could definitely not make it faster than anyone can say "Jack Robinson."

Another person who posted the recipe said it was given to her when she got married in the mid '50s, so the recipe is as old as I remember it being. It's posted on foodnetwork.com.uk, and I even found someone who posted in French. But none of the postings have attributes, so I didn't uncover any other hints as to its origin.

Wherever it came from, it's delicious. It's basically a white cake that's covered with a brown-sugar meringue and baked for about half an hour. The meringue forms a sweet, nutty, slightly chewy crust on top of the cake. The brown sugar gives the meringue a toasty, caramelly warmth. It's a little on the light side, which makes it the perfect ending to a rich, heavy meal. I made it for my Thanksgiving dinner, and it hit the perfect end note.

You might not be able to whip it up faster than anyone can say "Jack Robinson," but don't let that stop you from trying. While it's not fast, it is easy, and it's a crowd pleaser.
Home Cookin Chapter: Cakes and Pies

JACK ROBINSON CAKE

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 butter, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add butter, milk and vanilla. Beat on low for 2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat for one more minute. Pour into 8-1/2 x 13-1/2 x 2" pan.

TOPPING:

2 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Add brown sugar gradually and beat well. Spread mixture on top of the cake batter, then sprinkle with the chopped walnuts.

Bake at 350 deg. F for 35 minutes.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (www.mountain-software.com)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

A recipe for Jack Robinson Cake or Square was published in The Country Woman's Favourite by the Upper Gloucester Women's Institute, Gloucester Co., NB, in September 1954. It was contributed by Lois Watling. The WI recipe uses shortening rather than butter, and 2 c cake flour, with the instruction to sift the flour and then measure. The topping has 1 c blanched almonds rather than walnuts. Oven is 325-350 for 30 min. The wording of the instructions is amazingly close. Enjoy.

dejamo said...

Thank you for that information! I couldn't find much about it online and in those days most people did not think to include from whom (or where) the had gotten the recipe. I'd love to get my hands on that cookbook.

I should have mentioned (and thought I did) that my original recipe also calls for shortening, but I don't use shortening these days so I substituted the butter, which worked just fine.

I'm sure it would be just as delicious with almonds or any other nuts, but my mother's recipe definitely called for walnuts.

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