Wake County: Coffee Porter Pound Cake

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As I began my search to learn a little more about the food culture of the county I live in and now call home, I quickly realized that Wake County functions as a “melting pot”. While researching Forsyth and Lenoir counties, I zeroed in on a specific recipe that was near and dear to locals I spoke with. This wouldn’t be the case for Wake County, as it’s the capital and a collaboration of natives, re-locators and college students. I wasn’t sure how I was going to define a food or recipe to cover this expansive county.

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My adventure started by reading an article in Our State magazine detailing North Carolina State University’s Howling Cow Ice Cream. Reading about the creation of this delightful treat lured me over to Talley Market on N.C. State’s campus to taste it myself. Gary Cartwright who is in charge of the Dairy Enterprise System at N.C.State was quoted in the article stating, “It makes people smile.” True indeed! So true I felt compelled to write a post about it. This ice cream has become so popular that it attracts North Carolinians to trek across the state and indulge in this heavenly dessert at the annual State Fair. After learning this I knew I wanted to incorporate this fresh, local ice cream into the recipe for Wake County.

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While I continued my search in discovering the food culture of Wake County, I visited a couple of downtown venues, one being The Mecca Restaurant. This establishment was founded in 1930, relocated to it’s current location in 1935, and has been family owned while serving fresh veggies from the City Market ever since. While sampling a plate of fried chicken, Eastern NC BBQ, fresh veggies and blueberry cobbler, I spoke with John, a fourth generation Dombalis, regarding the family business and how he witnessed Wake County’s food culture evolve through the years.

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The weeks flew by as I visited Raleigh’s Visitor Information Center, Cameron Village Regional Library, Meredith College Library and savored a wonderful lunch with a Meredith College Alum at Side Street Restaurant in Raleigh’s Historic Oakwood neighborhood. I then had the wonderful opportunity to meet Elena in Raleigh to learn a little more about the Southern classic dessert, Pound Cake. Elena’s grandmother’s brother, Ted, and his wife Ann opened their kitchen to us and helped us prepare an 100 year old pound cake recipe from Nanny, (aka Flossie), Ted’s mother. Ann and Ted told stories from moving around this great state of North Carolina and residing in Wake County. They shared pictures of their family tree and how they have family ties to North Carolina State University and Meredith College. Most importantly we learned how the pound cake was made “just right” and how it became a treasured family recipe.

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After weeks of contemplating about a recipe choice for Wake County, I finally made up my mind. The pound cake was going to serve as a representation of Wake County’s “Melting Pot”. This meant I needed (and wanted) to obtain as many local ingredients as I could, while adding a little twist to Nanny’s recipe. Presently, Wake County has exploded with craft breweries while local coffee roasters are making their stance as well. Incorporating Wake County’s past food culture along with it’s present food culture was an important aspect I wanted to instill for this recipe. Using local ingredients is ever so important to me, personally and professionally. So, as you can imagine, going around and collecting eggs from Wake County residents’ backyard chicken coops (with permission!) was certainly not out of the question. Making phone calls to find Wake County butter, flour, spices, beer and coffee was quite successful, as I put together a “farm-to-table” version of this classic Southern recipe. Not only were the cake ingredients from Wake County, but to my delight, I came across a beautiful cake stand at the North Hills Farmers Market in Raleigh which was crafted by a Wake County potter.

As I wrapped up research for my “home” county, I couldn’t help but smile as I indulged in a scoop of Howling Cow’s Vanilla Ice Cream and a slice of Wake County Coffee Porter Pound Cake. My hope is that this recipe makes natives proud and eager to incorporate new ideas from the current and ever-changing food culture into classic family favorites.

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Wake County Coffee Porter Pound Cake

Cake recipe inspired by Flossie (Caudell) Ballenger, Elena’s great grandmother

Glaze recipe inspired by Aubrey Cook from Martha Stewart’s “Best Bakers in America” series

Ingredients:

Cake:

3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature, plus 1-2 tablespoons for greasing pan (Jackson Dairy, Dunn, NC bought from State Farmers Market)

2.5 cups granulated sugar

6 eggs (Neighborhood chicken coops, Raleigh, NC)

3.5 cups sifted cake flour, divided (Powder Mill Grain and Baking Co. Whole Grain Cake Flour, Cary, NC)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon mace (Penzeys Spices Raleigh, NC)

3/4 cup Porter beer with carbonation removed (Raleigh Brewing Hidden Pipe Porter, Raleigh, NC)

1/4 cup coffee (Oak City Coffee Roasters Kubum, Raleigh, NC)

1 teaspoon vanilla (Penzeys Spices, Raleigh, NC)

Glaze:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (Jackson Dairy)

1/2 cup coffee (Kabum from Oak City)

2 cups confectioners sugar

Ice Cream: Howling Cow Vanilla Ice Cream (North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC)

Directions:

Measure ingredients before mixing. (can be prepped ahead of time)

Move oven rack to center of oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10 inch bundt pan thoroughly. Cream butter in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until very light and fluffy, scraping bowl often with spatula. Add sugar and continue creaming. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine baking powder, salt and mace in bowl with 3 cups of sifted flour, stirring to combine. Combine beer, coffee and vanilla in bowl and mix together. Alternate beer mixture and flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Add the 1/2 cup sifted flour last of all and mix until blended. Pour batter into pan, pound gently on counter top to release air bubbles. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done. Let the cake rest in the pan on wire rack for 20-30 minutes. Carefully flip cake over and let cool for at least 1 hour.

Glaze:

Melt butter in sauce pan over medium low heat. Once melted, add the coffee and turn heat to medium, stirring occasionally with wire whisk. Once liquid boils, gradually add confectioners sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stirring occasionally, let liquid return to a boil. Once boiling, continue to stir for a few minutes, until the glaze reduces and thickens. When glaze reaches preferred consistency, quickly pour the glaze over the cooled cake. (the glaze will harden upon cooling, work quickly!) Serve with Howling Cow’s Vanilla Ice cream from N.C. State. Enjoy with family and friends!

Optional: Pair with Oak City’s Kubum coffee or Raleigh Brewing’s Hidden Pipe Porter.

Reference: http://www.ourstate.com/howling-cow/

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Project Progress: Month 2

July is typically the month I start thinking about the start of the fall semester, planning a few end of summer road-trips/vacations and head to a few outdoor concerts. This year, I feel the days are not long enough and my weekends are shortened as I am visiting libraries, restaurants, attending food festivals and talking with locals about the county’s cuisine. Yes, my practicum does involve eating, and no, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The experience has really been eye opening, learning about this great state and county I live in. Here are a few things I’ve been up to since mid-June.

  • Attended the Lenior County Farmers Market
  • Attended the NC Blueberry Festival in Burgaw, NC
  • Bought the domain for my website
  • Posted Farmers Market Series #1
  • Attended Midtown Farmers Market and the NC State Farmers Market in Wake County
  • Enjoyed BBQ at Skylight Inn (Pitt County), Kings BBQ and Ken’s BBQ (Lenior County)
  • Enjoyed dinner at Chef and the Farmer (Lenior County)
  • Posted on my blogging weekend workshop
  • Posted ‘My Mission’
  • Added a NC Food Festivals page to my blog
  • Researched the Moravian culture and Chicken Pie recipes
  • Subscribed to Our State Magazine
  • Researched Wake County – dined at Poole’s Diner and Mecca
  • Enjoyed NC State’s Howling Cow Ice Cream for the 1st time
  • Wrote emails and spoke with various people/organizations in specified counties

While there’s still so much more to accomplish in the next month….it has been a gastronomical few weeks! Check back soon as posts and pictures of my experiences will be making their way to the blog!

 

Got to be NC Festival

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This month marks the start of my project, ‘Discovering North Carolina.’ Last weekend I had the opportunity to experience a ‘state-fair’ like festival held in Wake County, the Got to be NC Festival. This three day event had everything from carnival rides and antique tractor pulls to John Deere Ice Cream Makers, a Food, Wine & Beer Expo and a North Carolina local bluegrass band competition.

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My focus of attending this festival was not only to enjoy the sunshine and listen to some traditional live bluegrass music, but I was hoping to speak with anyone who might be from Wake, Forsyth or Buncombe County who was selling a local food/product in which I could learn a little more about their particular unique food culture and heritage. (see ‘Discovering North Carolina’ page for project details.) While I was strolling in the Food, Wine & Beer Expo I came across a booth from Old Salem Museums & Gardens, featuring the renowned Moravian Cookies from Forsyth County, NC.

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The two men who were tending the booth were both very knowledgeable and were able to tell me a brief but detailed summary of the history of the Moravian settlers. Topics we discussed included not only the history of the ever so famous Moravian cookies, but the mathematical origin of the Moravian Christmas star, traditional dishes such as the veggie-less chicken pie, and a potato and yeast bread known as Moravian sugar cake. Next to a couple cookbooks that were for sale was a gem of a book entitled ‘Preserving the Past – Salem Moravians’ Receipts & Rituals’. This book of “receipts contains a variety of topics ranging from 18th and 19th century etiquette notes to medicinal remedies to brief recipe descriptions for veggies, breads, meats, sweets and more. According to the author, this book is the first ever published recipe collection from the 250-year-old Moravian Archives in Old Salem. I immediately purchased a copy for myself as I felt this was a great find and productive start in researching Forsyth County.

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Overall my experience at the ‘Got to be NC Festival’ was enjoyable and a success. Even though I didn’t partake of any fried Oreos or corn dogs, I did indulge in a chocolate chip cookie from a Triangle (and Wake County) favorite, La Farm Bakery. This festival had something for everyone and exhibited the past and present culture of North Carolina in food, music and agriculture. Stay tuned and check back often as I continue with my series of ‘Discovering North Carolina’!

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Read more about my ‘Discovering North Carolina’ project here.
Food for thought: What is your favorite food or restaurant in Wake County, NC? I’d love to hear!