A native Tar Heel, she still lives on her family's century farm a few miles southeast of Raleigh, the setting for Bootlegger's Daughter, which is numbered among the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. In 2004, she received the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for best North Carolina novel of the year. In 2008, she was honored with the North Carolina Award for Literature. (The North Carolina Award is the state's highest civilian honor.)
Margaret's latest, CHRISTMAS MOURNING (Book 16 in the Judge Deborah Knott Series), launches November 1st at Quail Ridge Books & Music.
THE TASTE OF HOME
by Margaret Maron
She did not clip recipes for boeuf bourguignon or fajitas, but she was a whiz at pastries and hot breads and she never saw a cake recipe she didn’t want to try.
Endearingly, the book’s pages are stuffed with cake recipes clipped from a dozen different magazines. Those that made it into her permanent repertoire were copied by hand onto one of the end pages or taped to a page she scorned.. No cake mixes for Mother. Her fruitcake recipe lists 23 ingredients, not counting the booze.
Her favorite, though, was a Spice Chiffon Cake. It, too, called for many ingredients, and required 7 separated eggs. The whites were beaten until really, really stiff and then the batter poured over the egg whites and gently folded in. Folded. Not stirred. Mother was very clear about that.
She copied it out for me and I may have made it once. It’s a delicious cake, light and airy, but way too much trouble for someone trying to cook with one hand and type with the other. The frosting, hoever, was to die for. And I do make it around the holidays.
In my Deborah Knott books, I heap lavish praise on her daddy’s housekeeper’s cooking. My mother is the model for Madie Holt’s way of doing things in the kitchen and my readers are always asking me to spell out her recipes.
So here’s the frosting for Mother’s favorite cake:
Melt ½ cup of butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat and blend in 2½ tblsp. Flour, ¼ tsp. salt. Slowly stir in ½ cup milk. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute and do not be alarmed if the mixture curdles. Stir in ½ cup brown sugar (firmly packed in cup.) Remove from heat. Stir in 2 cups sifted powdered sugar. Set saucepan in cold water. Beat until of consistency to spread. Stir in ½ tsp. vanilla. Spread on cold cake. Press coarsely chopped pecans into the top.
As I said, the chiffon cake was wonderful, but hey! Duncan Hines makes a spice cake mix that tastes just as good to me. When I spread Mother’s frosting on one of Mr. Hines’s cakes, I could be ten years old again, sitting at my mother’s table.