Stella Owen Simmons’ Cane Creek Applesauce Cake
1 ½ sticks butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
3 cups hot applesauce
½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Soak raisins in boiling water to cover (Optional: add ¼ cup brandy to the water while soaking). Cream butter and sugar; add eggs. Stir together flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, stirring until well blended (it will be stiff). Slowly add hot applesauce and blend well. Drain raisins; fold raisins and nuts into batter. Bake for 45 to 60 min in a greased, floured tube or bundt pan, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on rack for five min; remove from pan and cool completely.
I am Dr. Gail Simmons, a member of the Biology Department at Manhattanville and Provost for the past three years. My grandmother and grandfather, Stella Owen Simmons and Glenn Simmons, both were born and raised on farms in southern Indiana, near the town of French Lick (which, by the way, is where Barnum and Bailey’s circus used to overwinter). This recipe came from Stella's family -- as the youngest of 13 children, she spent a great deal of time doing chores, babysitting and cooking while her older siblings were working the farm and starting their own families.
My grandmother baked it for my father and uncle often when they were growing up, and it became my father’s favorite cake during World War II, when he served under Army Gen. Joe Stilwell in the China-Burma-India Theatre of Operations. Stella used to bake this cake and then douse it with brandy while it was still warm, let it cool, wrap it in waxed paper and foil, and mail it to my father in Burma. Despite the month-long trans-oceanic voyage, it always arrived moist and delicious. My father had to hide it from his army buddies if he wanted any for himself. I learned to make this recipe from my grandmother when I was a girl, and it remains one of my favorites. It was also a surefire way to make my dad smile even on his grumpiest days.