Book of the Month: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
My plan is to select a book each month which I will post a recipe based on and review. For September, we have what is actually a work of non-fiction published in 1994. Look for my review later in the week!
I was lucky enough to road trip from Florida to New Jersey with my sister, traveling through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and onward. However, to get to Florida, I flew in through Dallas International and was trapped for several hours thanks to a flight delay.
I had already finished the book I’d packed for the flight. But, to my satisfaction, there was one of those ubiquitous airport book/newspaper/candy and snacks stores. Inspired by my southern adventure, I selected John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
I know, I know. This book came out ages ago. 1994, to be precise. It was a NY Times best seller and was made into a film with Clint Eastwood. It won a Pulitzer in 1995. And I never read it. Because I was in elementary school.
In making up for lost time, I found out what the rest of the world already knew. This is an engaging work of non-fiction which reads like the craziest, dark fairytale you could imagine. It scarcely seems real. But what was real what the craving for caramel cake it gave me.
In fact, Blanche Williams had moved into the house from her home in Gordon. She lived alone in the house, biding her time. She polished the silver and dusted the furniture, and every week she baked a fresh caramel cake in expectation of her son’s return.
But I must confess that I have done something bad: while the recipe to make your own cake is below, I haven’t actually used it. I was so tired that I used box cake mix.
Please forgive me and let me know how the recipes work out for you. I also topped the cake with blueberries for color and it added some nice brightness and moisture to the sweet cake.
2 c sugar
1 c buttermilk
1 c butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt ( you may want more!)
Mix sugar, buttermilk, and 1/2 c butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. As the sugar melts, swirl pan to ensure melting. Do not stir!
Cook until mixture reaches 235-245°F or the softball stage. It will eventually become a pale brown if you are patient.
Quickly add the baking soda, vanilla, and salt. Stir gently.
Carefully pour melted caramel into stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whip until frosting is pale and thickened. Add remaining butter and continue to whip until fluffy and fully incorporated. This takes a surprisingly long time.
I brought the frosting down to 100°F before I spread it. It thickened up quite quickly after that so move expeditiously.
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
1/2 c buttermilk
3 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, room temperature and cut into chunks
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 9″ cake pans. Mix dry ingredients in a stand mixer. Add butter chunks into dry mix slowly while mixer is running. Once butter is blended into pea-sized pieces, add eggs and vanilla. Slowly incorporate buttermilk and mix until batter is fluffy.
Divide batter into 2 prepared cake pans. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick places in center comes out clean. Cool slightly, then place on wire racks to cool completely. Do not frost until cakes are cool to touch.