According to the cooks in Laura Stassi Jeffrey's family, this recipe was adapted from a "First Ladies of Alabama" cookbook from the 1960s. The flavored vanilla provides a rich taste and deep yellow color. The artificial flavoring can be found at Bloom and Harris Teeter stores; it's called Vanilla Butter and Nut Flavoring. Natural flavoring is available online at TheBakersKitchen.net.
The frosting is delicious but optional; serve the cake plain or with ice cream.
Make Ahead: The cake can be frosted and refrigerated in a tightly covered container a day or two in advance. Any leftover frosting can be covered tightly and refrigerated for up to 5 days.
- For the cake
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon vanilla butter and nut flavoring, such as McCormick brand (see headnote)
- 3 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites
- For the frosting
- 8 ounces regular or low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature (do not use nonfat)
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla and butter nut flavoring (see headnote)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use butter or nonstick cooking oil spray to grease the inside of a 10-inch tube pan.
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined.
Combine the buttermilk, baking soda and salt in a liquid measuring cup. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the buttermilk mixture alternately with flour in 2 additions, beating to incorporate after each addition. Add the vanilla butter-nut flavoring, then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition.
Use a whisk or a mixer to beat the egg whites in a separate bowl to form soft peaks; gently fold into the cake batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it evenly on top, and bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and slightly cracked on top, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack (top side up) to cool completely.
For the frosting: Combine the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla butter-nut flavoring in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on low speed to incorporate, then on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.
Use about two-thirds of the frosting to cover the cake generously (there will be some frosting left over); scatter the chopped pecans over the top of the cake, if desired.
From Laura Stassi Jeffrey.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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