“I had my first kiss on your street,” said the salesman who just sold my younger son, Ted, his first new car. “We were under a big, old tree, and I can’t even remember the girl’s name.” Turns out that our salesman grew up in our neighborhood and had gone to the same grade school as my sons. Our sales guy chuckled as he punched the calculator to give us the drive-out price. I chuckled as I wondered whether it was that kiss or the commission that was bringing this man such obvious joy.
Oh! First kiss, first car! The list goes on - the first word spoken, the first step, first grade, the first day in high school, in college and in that first job. We have all experienced many firsts.
Sometimes, we need to return to some of the first foods we’ve really enjoyed. Those foods are the ones that we love and sometimes crave because we remember that first taste. Sometimes, it’s the comfort foods that we need from time to time when we’re looking for a culinary “hug.” They just make us feel better. “Have a cookie,” I can hear my mom say when I was young and she wanted to offer me a fix for whatever ailed me. “Little kids, little problems,” I can hear her say. I sometimes still follow her sage advice. Now, though, I say, “Just leave the cookie jar.” (Just kidding!) Although food shouldn’t be a panacea for life’s struggles, it’s nice to have a little something good to soothe a craving soul.
Generally, I do not use much shortening in my cooking. But sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. This recipe for Philadelphia German Butter Cake requires the addition of Crisco, butter and yeast, and produces a rich, buttery cake. If baked just long enough, it forms a cake bottom and a gooey center that has a light, crackly top.
The following recipe has been in my recipe box for many years. Sheer joy, pure bliss, decadent indulgence, all describe the first taste that I remember when I recall eating the butter cake that was also sold at the local baker shops that were once abundant in Northeast Philadelphia. Although a few stores still sell this cake, the following recipe is authentically Philadelphia Butter Cake.
PHILADELPHIA GERMAN BUTTER CAKE
1 package active dry yeast
½ cup warm milk
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup shortening (Crisco)
¼ tsp. salt
1 large egg
2¼ cups flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
2/3 cup flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 to 5 Tbsp. milk
PREPARE THE DOUGH:
-Dissolve yeast in the warm milk. Cover mixture loosely with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot until bubbly, about 5 minutes.
-Combine the sugar, shortening and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the egg and beat until well blended.
-Mix in the flour, then the dissolved yeast and the vanilla, beating about 1-2 minutes to incorporate.
-Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
MEANWHILE, MAKE THE TOPPING:
-Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour and sugar, then gradually beat flour mixture into the butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Slowly beat in just enough milk to make the topping easy to spread, but not runny. Set aside.
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-Punch down dough and divide it in half. Roll or pat it into two well-greased 8” square pans or one 9” x 13” pan. Push the edges of the dough halfway up the sides of the pan and prick dough in several places with a fork to release any air bubbles. Spread topping evenly over dough. Let stand for 20 minutes.
-Bake in preheated 375-degree oven until topping is golden and crusty but still gooey, about 25-30 minutes. Do not over-bake. Let cool in pan efore cutting.
Eat well, live long, enjoy! ull;•
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053)