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Jam cake time

My older sister, Georgia McIntyre, sent me an excellent jam cake from Ruth Hunt Candies in Winchester, Kentucky, for my birthday. It was as good as my grandmother’s. (Better, actually; it included bourbon.) By coincidence, she later came across my grandmother’s recipe for the cake and the caramel icing, which I am prepared to share with you.

But first the preliminaries.

My grandmother made her own blackberry jam each summer, and I don’t have a recipe for that. Besides, you wouldn’t want to attempt it with those flavorless, overpriced blackberries that you find in the supermarket.

More to the point, her recipe, like that of women of her generation, is essentially a list of ingredients. You’re supposed to know how to combine them, how long to bake and at what temperature, and things like that. I’m providing all the information I have; perhaps the experienced cooks among you will comment with advice.

Finally, my wife thinks that the cake recipe is enough for one layer, and a proper jam cake has two.


Clara Rhodes Early’s Jam Cake with Caramel Icing

Jam Cake

½ cup butter

2 ½ cups flour

2 eggs

1 ½ cup sugar

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup jam

½ cup raisins

½ cup nuts

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. soda (in milk)



2 cups brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 tbls. butter

2 tbls. white syrup

2/3 cup cream

Soft ball


Beat until creamy


I have previously shared my grandmother’s recipe for sour cream cookies and my mother’s recipe for bourbon balls.



Posted by John McIntyre at 9:35 AM | | Comments (6)


I'm not much of a cook, but I'd bet that the "soft ball" part of this recipe means "Cook to the soft ball stage" (common instruction in candy making) rather than "form into" a soft ball.

Your suggestion gratefully accepted.

Most double-layer cakes call for 2 sticks of butter at anywhere from 3.5-4 cups of flour. In terms of a baking temperature, I would stick to a medium- low temp like 350 for 20-25 minutes.


Likely method for the cake: sift the cinnamon & flour in one bowl. In another, cream the butter & sugar until light, then beat in eggs one at a time. To this, add the flour/cinnamon alternately in thirds (1/3 of one, 1/3 of the other, until it's all in) with the buttermilk/soda combination (the latter will froth like mad when you mix it up, so use a good-sized container -- a large glass/plastic measuring cup with a pouring lip, for example). Don't overbeat or the cake will be tough. Stir in jam, nuts & raisins. You should be able to get two thin layers out of this (or bake in a loaf pan, which will take longer but end up as a sturdy brick-shaped thing that is easy to slice in half & fill). 350 degrees in greased 8" cake pans if you bake in layers, or 325 degrees in a loaf pan. It's done when it pulls away from the edge & a test toothpick or skewer comes out clean. You could also leave the jam out & use it between the two layers, with the caramel frosting on top.

For the caramel, I think you bring it all up to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pan, stirring constantly. Turn the heat to medium, don't stir too much, & cook it to 235-238 degrees, or soft ball (drop a bit in very cold water; if you can make a squashy ball out of it, you're done). Take the pan off the heat when you are doing the test.
I wouldn't let it cool completely before beating or it may crystallize (it'll still taste good, but it'll be hard to spread & rather crunchy). Cool enough to touch is fine.
The "white syrup" is probably light corn syrup.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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