Food Memories can be very powerful. For over 70 years, we’ve created special moments with this Southern Jam Cake.
Food Memories are so nostalgic. They can take us back to a place in time in an instant. I’m very grateful that my childhood was full of people preparing and serving fabulous food. My mother kept food traditions alive in our home, and she continues today. One of my favorites is our old-fashioned southern jam cake.
Seventy Years with this Cake
My family has been making this cake for over 70 years. My Nannie made it every Christmas when my mother was a child. Mom talked about how she enjoyed a piece with a glass homemade grape juice every Christmas and how it was so special.
She carried on that tradition and has made it every year for Anne and me. It’s one of the biggest highlights of Christmas. We only have this special dessert for Christmas, so it’s something we definitely look forward to.
I’ll never forget the first Christmas my husband and I spent together. I went on and on about the jam cake and how excited I was for him to try it. At this point, we had long stopped “sharing” a jam cake as a family. No, no, Mom makes us all our own. So for Christmas, she makes THREE of them. I had just cut each of us a big piece. I watched him take his fork and scrape the frosting off the top of his piece. I just stared at him in disbelief. I never took my eyes off of him. Finally, he looked at me and said,
“What are YOU DOING?”
“I’m saving the frosting till the end.”
“OK, good. Because I thought if you are going to throw that frosting away, this will be the last piece of jam cake you ever have.” ?
Food Memories are Unique
He’s a fan of the cake, but it doesn’t have the same meaning to him, and how could it? He didn’t grow up waiting for it. He didn’t grow up enjoying it with his family every Christmas. He doesn’t have the memories tied to this cake like I do. Food memories are what makes something taste different. Memories wrapped up in a bite of food just hit differently. It can make mediocre food taste like a luxury. Because that simple macaroni and cheese or chicken and dumplings may have been served to you on an old kitchen table by the sweet grandmother you adored. That fried bologna sandwich and Coca-Cola may have been enjoyed with your brother and sisters every summer at your Aunt’s house. It’s the memories that make it magical.
After almost ten years together, Philip and I both look forward to the cake, and guess what….he has memories attached to it now. It’s become a tradition for us to curl up on the couch and enjoy a piece during the holidays. That simple little act brings me so much joy. A cake that my dear Nannie made every year is still going strong in our family. She would be so proud!
Now let’s talk about the cake! If you like spice cake, you’re going to love jam cake. Does it taste like blackberry jam? No, not really. Actually, what the jam does is make it so moist. I’ve heard people say that in the old days, their grandmother would make a jam cake the day after Thanksgiving, and they would enjoy it for Christmas. So yes, the longer this cake sits, the better. Also, the frosting…oh the frosting, it’s just incredible! It’s a hard caramel that was made to be on a jam cake. ?
This holiday season, I hope you get to take a bite of something that instantly takes you back in time. If you don’t, start now. It’s never too late to create a memory with food. A special dessert, homemade biscuits, a cheesy casserole….it’s not so much the actual food as it is the dance around it. Happy Holidays!
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