Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sugar Cake

mixed lilacs



Valley Valentine Japonica

apple blossoms

Spring is such a beautiful time of year, and I just had to share some of the flowers in bloom at our house. Right now, I picked some lilacs and the scent is perfuming our entire house. Growing up, there were lilacs around our house, and later the house my husband and I bought had a large number of old lilac bushes of various colors throughout the entire property. I must say, they are one of my favorite flowers. We have since removed some of them to open up some areas and clean up the yard some (still very much a work in progress). Our small home orchard was also beautiful this spring in full bloom. I hope this translates into a good fruit crop.

I know that in some parts of the U.S. it is rhubarb season, but ours is not quite ready. We were finally able to harvest a nice supply last spring/early summer. In our area, there is actually a rhubarb festival that features this tart plant in many different ways. I had posted a recipe for rhubarb dessert sauce previously and thought I would share this old fashioned cake recipe that goes so well with the rhubarb sauce.


This is a  cake that was made for our family by a good friend when my last baby was born. She made some wonderful soups that we could heat up and eat when we needed quick meals, and she also made this cake for dessert to go with some rhubarb sauce she had made. Her mother-in-law used to make this recipe for many years, and my friend remembers her making it to take with them when they went camping. They often ate it for breakfast with applesauce, but it is also a simple cake that goes well with ice cream and just about any other type of dessert sauces or toppings.

I had to look around for a while to find the right kind of sugar to use on the top so that it would not dissolve into the cake during the baking process. You should use some type of specialty sugar that is larger granules and may be called gourmet sugar or coating sugar. I noticed this sugar has wax added, which I believe helps keep it more solid. When I made these cakes, my daughter saw I had bought some pink coating sugar and so she wanted "her" cake to have the colored sugar. The other cake was coated with the gourmet sugar that was white and larger granules. It seemed to sink into the top of the cake batter slightly more than the coating sugar, which surprised me, but it made a lovely glittery, crunchy top layer on top of the cake. If you cannot find this type of sugar, you can still use the regular granulated sugar- it will just dissolve somewhat into the top of the cake as it bakes.

 I really enjoy this cake because of the moist, tender crumb with the crunchy top. The original recipe called for it to be baked in 3 pie plates, but I decided to use two 9 inch cake pans. I just had to adjust the baking time approximately 10-15 minutes longer. My friend has also made the cakes in a couple smaller oblong cake pans with good results.


  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup shortening (I used olive oil)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla (I used about 1 1/2 or 2 tsp)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • Cream shortening or oil with sugar. 
  • Beat eggs and add to sugar and oil.
  • Add sour milk and vanilla.
  • Sift dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients in batches while mixing.
  • Divide into 3 greased pie pans (I used two greased 9 inch round cake pans). 
  • Sprinkle top with additional granulated sugar.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes for pie plates or about 30-35 minutes if using cake pans (check frequently and test with toothpick in the center when it appears golden brown on top).
  • Cool on rack for about 20 minutes and then may serve with toppings of choice if desired.
One cake could be wrapped in plastic and frozen to be eaten later.


  1. No recipe for the rhubarb sauce? Boo. BUT this sounds very nice and versatile! Thanks for sharing!

  2. my bad...I see the hot link :-)

  3. i love the look of the cake with the sauce drizzled on top of it!
    I can imagine how nice the added crunch of the sugar on top would be

  4. I love the vibrant colors of the topping - it looks soooo mouthwatering!

  5. Maybe because I'm not much of a baker, but I never thought of freezing the cake! What a great idea!!! You get to enjoy this cake for a longer time... hehee. I love the sauce on top of the cake. I can see myself pouring a lot. =D And look all these beautiful flowers!!! Love spring~~~!

  6. Beautiful! I love paring simple cakes with sauces. Our rhubarb isn't quite ready yet either, and I am growing very impatient!

  7. Nothing beats a delicious compote on cake :D
    This looks wonderful!

    Choc Chip Uru

  8. This looks awesome! I have never had a sugar cake... with the sugar crust before. I NEED to try it! And the rhubarb sauce looks so yummy!
    Your flowers are absolutely beautiful!

  9. I forgot to mention about such beautiful flowers. You have a nice garden.
    The sugar cake looks delicious with fruit puree.


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