Roughly six months ago a few of my equally word-nerdy co-workers and I
started a book club. We meet about once a month to discuss a fiction selection. For the month of September we read The Help by Katherine Stockett.
I truly believe reading for personal pleasure is vital for leading a healthy, mentally stable life. We are bombarded with so much reading and digital information on a daily basis, we’re constantly distracted, multi-tasking a long to do list while taking in more and more, and more information. When you’re not sitting with a book quietly by yourself words dilute into a simple transfer of information clouded with everything else that’s going on. Words go in one ear and are stored in some dusty corner on the left side of the brain (if not dropped out the other ear all together). For some of us squeezing in the down time to enjoy ourselves is difficult. Good reading takes time. A well-written work will encourage us to not only absorb, but to ask questions, to imagine.
I think creating the book club was like building a support group, similar to those who diet together. Books become more meaningful when you can pick them apart with your friends. What I love most about book club is hearing the perspectives of other readers; someone may have noticed a detail I skimmed over. There are six physical people to whom I can ask questions. In a lazy sense, I don’t have to figure everything out for myself: as silly as it sounds we work as a team to discover the deeper connections to words we already love dearly. We share stories, and memories related to the novels. We make each other laugh. We always share wine. My second favorite part about book club is that we turn the night into a mini potluck, with a theme related to the book selection- food for thought. I’m usually responsible for dessert.The character Minny made two distinct desserts in the novel- a southern caramel cake and her notorious chocolate cream pie. Unfortunately I’ve never had a southern-style caramel cake. I ended up just altering my traditional pound cake recipe with little molasses for a rich flavor and little brown sugar to crystallize the sweet edges. I topped it all off with a sticky, creamy layer of decadent and super simple classic caramel sauce. It turned out delectable and complimented our meal of fried chicken, spicy southern greens, mac n’ cheese, and red beans and rice perfectly. You’ve got to read the book. You’ve got to try the cake for yourself!
The Help Them Eat Caramel Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
2 sticks of unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp molasses
2 cups white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350°
2. Start by sifting the flour, baking soda, and salt together.
3. The butter should be softened to room temperature. Blend the butter, the white and brown sugars together with an electric mixer until it reaches a “fluffy” consistency.
4. Eggs should be left on the countertop for at least a half hour before use. Then, add eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture.
5. Add the vanilla and molasses to the wet ingredients.
6. Alternate adding a quarter of the heavy cream with a quarter of the flour mixture to your wet ingredients. Combine thoroughly after each addition.
7. This recipe fills a standard 3-quart bundt pan. Be sure to butter and flour the inside of the pan before filling. Bake at 350 for 60-80 minutes. In my case I used a 2-quart silicone fluted bundt pan; for which there is no need for anti-stick prep. I ended up with two small cakes (a roughly half-filled pan), which were each baked for 35 minutes exactly.
8. Test for doneness by inserting an ordinary toothpick into the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean the cake is done. Use a knife to loosen the edges, and remove the cake from the pan while still warm. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp light corn syrup
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1. In a medium saucepan whisk together the heavy cream, corn syrup and brown sugar.
2. Heat on medium to medium low. Bring the mixture to a steady boil, whisking very often. If your using a candy thermometer heat to 250°. You don’t want a rolling boil, watch for splatters, and keep your face at a safe distance. You must watch caramel closely it’s incredibly easy to burn or burn you.
3. Watch for the caramel to develop a rich amber color and to thicken. At least 10-15 minutes of solid stirring. Use your instincts, when it reaches the desired consistency remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
4. Keep stirring. I found stirring not only helped it cool faster, but cooled evenly.
5. When the caramel has reached a temperature safe enough to dip your finger in, still warm but not hot, it is ready to coat the cake. The cake must be completely cooled. Simply pour the caramel right over the top and let it naturally drip down the sides.