Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sapelo Island Hard Time Cake.

Sometimes I take for granted what a luxury it is to bake.  Baking ingredients aren't a necessity like vegetables and fruit are for healthy, substantial meals.  Butter, sugar, flour, chocolate, nuts - these ingredients are an indulgence to keep in the cupboard and sometimes it takes an unfortunate instance to bring us back to reality.  It's not that anything earth-shattering happened but last night before bed I thought "Hmm, brown butter blondies with toasted coconut, dried pears and pistachios... "  So this morning I woke up, made a batch, portioned them into mini cupcake pans (because I apparently have to make everything miniature), put them in the oven and you know what happened?  The tops expanded and became crispy and dark while the insides sunk and were raw in the middle.  I couldn't bear to throw them away, so they're sitting on a piece of foil right now, waiting to be dealt with.  Blondie cake balls, anyone?

I didn't want to waste more butter, eggs, nuts and sugar today.  I figured I'd just stay frugal and bake this cake I remembered reading about when I first bought this book a couple years ago - no sugar, just 1 tablespoon of butter, and no eggs.  It's extremely easy to mix and put together and although it doesn't look as nice as I imagined my mini blondies to come out, the homey gingerbread-like taste definitely makes up for it.  I substituted 1/2 cup honey for half of the molasses and dusted the top with some powdered sugar, but it doesn't need it!  And anyway, how could you not want to make a cake that has this in the description?: "Cornelia Walker Bailey, author of God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man, remembers her mother stirring up a pan of hard time cake, creating a delicious and nourishing treat for her family out of what she had handy: molasses, flour, spices, a dab of butter, and an abundance of love." <3 :)

This cake was perfect for a rainy Wednesday with a cup of tea.  Lightly spiced, soft and comforting.

Sapelo Island Hard Time Cake
Adapted from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup molasses
1 tablespoon of butter, melted
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup warm water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and lightly grease a 9" cake pan or square pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combined the flour, cinnamon and cloves and mix with a fork.  Add the molasses and melted butter and use a large spoon to mix into a smooth batter.  Stir the baking soda into the warm water and then add it to the flour mixture, stirring until you have a smooth and thin batter.  Quickly pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20-30 minutes.  The cake should be very golden brown on top with a slight shine and a toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean when it's done.

Let the cake cool on a wire rack or kitchen towel before serving.  Store leftover cake, wrapped in plastic, up to 3 days.


  1. Hi! I found your blog through a comment on mine, and I've really enjoyed looking through your lovely collection of recipes.

  2. I absolutely LOVE the idea of this cake... and I love that it has a story! Beautiful! Do you suppose I could replace all of the molasses with honey? I don't get molasses where I live...

    Thank you so much for sharing this! :)

  3. I definitely think you could replace all the molasses with honey! It will be lighter in color but will still have a lovely flavor. Let me know how it turns out!

  4. this sounds like a down to earth, rich, sweet spice scented cake. just the kind of cake that I like to eat.

  5. I know exactly what you mean about the heartbreak involved when a recipe doesnt work out! I can totally feel the love coming from this cake. Making use of only the simplest ingredients to make a cakeful of love. I like that. :)

  6. This looks wonderful. Don't you love NM's recipes. Her cakes are especially good. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  7. I hate when that happens! I learned not to use whole fresh strawberries in cupcakes last week when they leaked out all their juice and then completely collapsed into weird mushy bundles in cave-like holes. They got eaten, but it was still sad. I did the same thing as you, I set them aside and made something much simpler to restore the balance. That cake looks really good and I love that the sweetness comes mostly from honey and molasses. I'm curious about where it got it's name.

  8. Sorry to hear about your strawberry mishap! Sapelo Island is located off the east coast of Georgia and since the cake is from a southern cakes book, I imagine it originated there as well.


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