Orange Marmalade Cake

Over 20 years ago I began reading the series of books by author Jan Karon which began with a book titled At Home in Mitford. I have read and enjoyed all books that Jan Karon has written and have most of them on my bookshelf. I am not alone as there are many Mitford fans.  Esther Bolick is a character in this book series whose baking creation becomes famous:  the OMC!.  I don’t know why I waited this long to try it myself, but last week I needed a special dessert to take to our poetry group’s dinner at a friend’s house so I decided to spend an afternoon in the kitchen creating this famous dessert. In the beginning, no recipe was mentioned, but as the series grew in popularity Jan Karon was frequently asked for the cake recipe. It wasn’t until Victoria magazine and Southern chef Scott Peacock teamed up that the recipe was born. There are a number of sources online for recipe, including Pinterest. I used my Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader by Jan Karon.  I made only minor adjustments for my version. And yes, it makes 3 layers!  When I walked in the kitchen with it, friends who were Mitford readers knew what it was immediately. And it was declared delicious by all.

Orange Marmalade Cake(as mentioned in Jan Karon’s books and baked by Esther Bolick)

I have indicated where I changed the recipe for my use.

For the cake
1 cup unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing the pans
3 1/4 cups flour, more for dusting the pans * I used all purpose flour. The original recipe           calls for cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

For the orange syrup
1 cup orange juice * the original recipe calls for freshly squeezed0
1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the filling
1 (12-ounce) jar orange marmalade

For the frosting
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream, chilled

The cake. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter three 9-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, then lighly butter and flour the paper, shaking out the excess.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Sift a second time into another bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light in color, about 4 minutes. Add the 2 2/3 cups sugar in a steady stream with the mixer running. Beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Be sure to stop at least once to scrape down the batter from the sides of the bowl. After all the eggs have been added, continue to beat on medium speed for 2 more minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the oil and beat for 1 minute. In a small bowl, combine the orange zest, vanilla, and buttermilk. Using a rubber spatula, fold in half of the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add half of the buttermilk mixture. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients, scrape down the sides, and add the remaining buttermilk.

Pour the batter among the prepared pans, smooth the surface, rap each pan on the counter to expel any air pockets or bubbles, then place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 20 minutes.

The orange syrup. In a small bowl, stir together the orange juice and 1/4 cup sugar until the sugar is dissolved. While the cakes are still in the cake pans, use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes at 1/2-inch intervals in the cake layers. Spoon the syrup over each layer, allowing the syrup to be completely absorbed before adding the remainder. Let the layers cool completely in the pans.

The filling. Heat the marmalade in a small saucepan over medium heat until just melted. Let cool for 5 minutes.

The frosting. In a chilled mixing bowl, using the wire whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream with the 4 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Add the sour cream, a little at a time, and whisk until the mixture is a spreadable consistency.

To assemble the cake. Invert one of the cake layers on a cake plate and carefully peel off the parchment. Spread one-third of the marmalade over the top, smoothing it into an even layer. Invert the second layer on top of the first, peel off the parchment, and spoon another third of the marmalade on top. Place the third cake layer on top, remove the parchment, and spoon the remaining marmalade onto the center of it, leaving a 1 1/4-inch border around the edges. Frost the sides and the top border with the frosting, leaving the marmalade on top of the cake exposed.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving, overnight if possible.


Meyer Lemon Loaf Cake


I love this lemon cake.  My husband has decided it is favorite cake.  I like it because it doesn’t call for 7-Up or lemon jello or lemon extract, just fresh Meyer lemon juice.  Since we have an abundant harvest almost every year from our one small Meyer lemon tree, I really like using the juice in zest!   I adapted the recipe for specific use of the Meyer lemons from Ina Garten’s recipe on her Barefoot Conntessa Food Channel program.

Mary Ann’s notes:

I juiced lemons and put juice in the freezer last year, as well as freezing some lemons whole, so we are still using last year’s fresh juice.  If you do this, a good way to have small amounts of juice available for cooking is to freeze the juice in ice cube trays or mini muffin baking sheets.  If you need zest, a whole frozen lemon zests even more easily than unfrozen ones.  The “naked” lemons can then be thawed and used even though they are very mushy.


Before a predicted hard freeze in December, we harvested what we thought were all of this year’s lemons.  Last week after some foliage had been cut and removed,we discovered one solitary lemon which my granddaughter Skye picked to add to our photos for this post. I will harvest on a much more as needed basis in the future.


Meyer Lemon Loaf Cake

2 sticks butter

 1/2 cups sugar (2 cups for batter, 1/2 cup for simple syrup)

4 large eggs

1/3 cup grated Meyer lemon zest 

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice, divided

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 1/2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice


Set out butter, eggs, and buttermilk to allow to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may line the bottom with parchment paper, but this is optional.

Cream room temperature  butter and 2 cups sugar with electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. When the cakes test done, remove from oven and  allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cooled cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Cheap Cream Cake

Three days after Christmas in 1963, I stepped into the long white dress I had just finished sewing, looped my arm through my father’s, and grinned as I walked down the aisle of my childhood church toward the man waiting to become my husband.  I was finishing the clinical part of my nursing degree and Joe was between jobs, so we skipped the honeymoon and drove from Texas to Oklahoma City to move into our first home.  This tiny furnished apartment was attached to another rental property.  It looked like a playhouse because of its size, and definitely needed a lot of TLC.  Joe painted, I cleaned, and as we moved our boxes of old stuff and new wedding gifts in, we were amazed how quickly the little kitchen, living room and bedroom filled up.

 Before I loaded kitchen gear into the few drawers there, I pulled out each, cleaned, and lined it with shelf paper.  As I opened the narrow drawer on the right of the small electric cooktop, I realized this one was not empty.  “Look what I found!” 

Joe squished the paint brushes under the kitchen sink faucet as he cleaned them.  “What?”  Turning, he nodded “Somebody left a book?”

  “Not just any book.  See, it’s called Hypatia Club 1903 – 1950, with Cookbook down at the bottom.”

 “Ah, so exactly what is a Hypatia Club?”  “I don’t know, but inside it says it is in Cushing, Oklahoma.”

 I held the book up, rifling the pages. “There are 576 pages with a handwritten recipe or other stuff.  It isn’t just different recipes; each one is a different handwriting. Looks like the person who contributed a recipe wrote it out herself.”

  Joe put away paint and paintbrushes and came to sit by me where  I perched on the orange vinyl of a Danish Modern love seat that served as part of the sparsely outfitted living room.  I’ll bet they sold it for a fundraising project.”

 We turned through the pages.    Joe laughed, “Look at this one!  Burnt Leather Cake?”

“That writing is so hard to read I can barely make sense of it, but it really does say to start with burning something – a cup of brown sugar.  Do you really think that would taste good?  I have been trying to learn not to burn things when I cook!”

 “Sounds more like a western movie to me.”  Joe winked at me.

  I found other recipes amusing, too…  “I wonder about Epicurean Peas with frozen peas and shredded lettuce cooked together!.”  We saw there were pages of cleaning and household hints and advertising for local businesses as well as a wide variety of recipes. All the different handwriting gave it a personal touch.  Here we were, in Oklahoma, with lots of Oklahoma people offering their favorite recipes!  Their names were almost as much fun to read as the names of their dishes.

 The book became more than a curiosity.  It was, after all, a cookbook!  In the first week of my marriage, I began a habit which continues. I assess my pantry, pick recipes accordingly, and make menus for the week along with the list of groceries I need to buy.  Because I kept the small note papers on which I wrote these menus and grocery lists for January 1 through Valentine’s Day 1964, I do not have to trust memory to tell you the first recipe I used from the Hypatia Club Cookbook, nor that I used that recipe before I had been married for a week.  The first time, I chose the recipe because it required ingredients I knew I had, and it was simple.  The name attracted my attention since I was proving my money managing abilities.  After that first time, there were different reasons for choosing it.  None of the reasons have anything to do with the way it looks, because it is not a pretty cake.  In fact it is unlike any other cake you will bake!  Plain. My mother-in-law would have called it a “sad cake”.  But at least one person declares it is just plain good.

 “Joe, what do you want for your birthday cake?”

    “Cheap Cream Cake.”

 “I’m planning Father’s Day lunch.  Any requests?” 

   “Cheap Cream Cake, please.”

 “Here’s to you, Valentine!”  

  “Woo Hoo!  Cheap Cream Cake!”  

Once a marble cake fan, Joe now favors this simple, not-so-sweet cake.  I love that this is his favorite.  All these years later, with people looking for low-fat desserts, I smile and say, “I know a cake recipe you could try.” 

                                            CHEAP CREAM CAKE

 I am not able to reproduce the uneven, quavery handwriting here, but the abbreviations and spelling are exactly as they appear in the Hypatia Club Cookbook.   Have fun figuring out the missing directions!

                     1 c. sugar 1 tbsp butter, 1 egg,  c. sweet milk, 2 c. flour,

                             2 tsp B.Powder, 1tsp. Vanilla.  Bake in two layers.


                        Beat 1 egg, ½ c. sugar, ¼ c. flour together.

                         Stir this into 2 c hot milk.  When thick

                         flavor and spred on cake when cool.          Mrs. Frank Combes

     I have used other recipes from the book such as Raw Tomato Relish from Lois Deacon and Kosher Dill Tomatoes by Ophelia Simon.  I still love thumbing through the book and looking at the writing – some spidery, some back slanted, some tiny and neat, some with sketches, some barely legible.  With today’s technological advances, I can research and publish a book from my own corner in the kitchen if I wish.  I can certainly Google Burnt Leather and  Hypatia Club.                  

 Yes, there really is a vintage recipe named Burnt Leather Cake in which you scorch brown sugar in a heavy skillet to make syrup which flavors both cake and icing.  It is mentioned in letters and journals from The Oregon Trail in the 1880’s, and is reported to be delicious. 

Also, if you were still wondering, Joe… The Hypatia Club was founded nationally in 1886 by Mary Elizabeth Lease as a woman’s self-improvement organization, and was politically active in the early days of women’s rights. The purpose of the club was intellectual development and social stimulation.

 But the name of the book is mostly lost now.  We just call it the Cheap Cream Cake Book. 

Many thanks to all the women who wrote down their good recipes and shared them with not only the Cushing, Oklahoma community, but also whoever used and left it in my first kitchen. Your recipes, your names, and your handwriting have traveled far.