This Jam Cake recipe is as authentic as it gets; loaded with blackberry jam, pecans, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, and topped with caramel icing, it’s a perfect Autumn and Winter treat. And the recipe is one I have, slightly, modified from the recipe card of a friend’s granny.
When I lived in Nashville, there was a girl who made and sold Jam Cakes every Christmas. She used her grandmother’s recipe and she wasn’t sharing it.
She would take an order for Jam Cakes and offer to make them with any flavor of jam you might like, but blackberry was traditional. Since blackberry jam (with the seeds) is my favorite, that’s what she’d make for me. Of course, as she said, any jam will do. And you can use blackberry jam with the seeds removed, but my cake has them in it.
I bought her Jam Cakes every year, but I knew that I’d have to find an authentic recipe at some point. That point came a couple of years ago when my friend Linda passed and I got an envelope with some of her mother’s and grandmother’s recipe cards.
If you’ve ever tried to make a recipe from old cards, you’ll know that it can be a challenge. There is often no “method” or “instructions”. Rather, the ingredients are listed and that’s all. I think the reason for that is that these women knew how to cook and bake. They didn’t need to have the method written down; they knew it.
That was the case here; just the ingredients were listed (and they differed somewhat from card to card). So, I have written the method for you in the recipe below. I have also modified the recipe, just a titch.
The first thing I did was to cut the sugar by half. Since there are two cups of jam in this recipe, and since it’s coated with a caramel icing, it really didn’t need two whole cups of sugar. Then, instead of using all granulated sugar, I mixed granulated and brown sugar in equal portions to add the hint of molasses flavor that brown sugar imparts.
The only other changes I made were to adjust the amounts of spices and add a hint of cloves, which I know was used in the Jam Cakes I used to purchase; also to add some vanilla.
The caramel icing I have used is a recipe I got from a different friend’s mom. Charlie has long been a customer and friend from our fly shop. Several years ago, Charlie and I were talking about spice cakes with caramel icing. I was telling him that “stand up caramel icing” (so named because of how it hardens and it’s said to be able to stand up on its own) was tricky to make. He was good enough to have his sister send me their mother’s recipe for Nellie Barton’s “no fail” caramel icing. This is it (sugar reduced). And they were right. It’s easy and perfect every time.
This cake is dense, but not too heavy; it’s rich in flavor, but not overly sweet. It’s perfect for Autumn and Winter, so it’s a great holiday dessert for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I hope you’ll try it.
- 1 cup butter
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh ground is best)
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups blackberry jam (or your favorite jam flavor)
- 1 cup raisins (I used golden)
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 325° F.
- Grease and flour a tube pan (or a bundt pan) and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the butter and sugar.
- Beat on high until the butter and sugar are light and creamy.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove and stir to combine.
- In a small cup, combine the buttermilk and vanilla.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the butter and egg mixture and beat to combine.
- Add the buttermilk mixture and beat to combine.
- Add the remaining flour mixture and beat to combine.
- Add the jam and beat to combine.
- Stir in the raisins and pecans.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tube pan, place into the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- Ice with Caramel Icing (recipe follows) and serve.
- ½ cup butter
- 1½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
- ⅓ cup evaporated milk
- 1½ cups confectioners' sugar
- In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar and evaporated milk.
- Stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil (this means that bubbles are breaking the entire surface and cannot be dissipated by stirring).
- Set the timer for two minutes and continue to stir.
- After two minutes, remove from heat, pour the liquid into a glass bowl (or a mixer bowl) and add the confectioners' sugar.
- Using a whisk (or the mixer whisk), beat in the powdered sugar until smooth and no lumps of powdered sugar remain.
- Immediately begin to ice the cake by slowly pouring the icing on, while using a spatula to spread it. This icing sets up as it cools, so you have to work quickly.
- Allow the icing to set and serve.