What’s For Dinner?
Mama Rene's Pea Pickin' Cake
(First star is lowest, fourth star is highest)
Southern Recipe Restoration Project
The contributor: Patti Doster of Milton and her husband Kie moved to his hometown of Atlanta in 2004, where her in-laws taught her to appreciate Southern cooking at many a family dinner.
"Christmas at my husband's grandmother's house was the event of the year! She would be cooking in the kitchen from the early hours to right up until we would say the blessing. She loved to work in the kitchen cooking up the numerous dishes we would anticipate every year. "She was a member of the 10th Street Methodist Church in Atlanta, and this is where the Pea Pickin' Cake recipe originated. She would make it for birthdays and family reunions."
Curious about its history, we did a quick Internet search and found thousands of references, affirming its widespread popularity in the South. Some attributed it to country singer Tennessee Ernie Ford and a celebrity cookbook in which it appeared many years ago. Undoubtedly his hit and catch phrase, "Bless Your Pea Pickin' Heart, " inspired the name --- and many slight variations thereafter. (One version, translated as "Pig Pickin' Cake, " also includes coconut and chopped pecans in the frosting.)
Chef and recipe tester Virginia Willis said: "Forget the scratch cake, freshly chopped oranges and pineapple, freshly whipped cream, pure vanilla extract and soaking sheets of gelatin. The neighbors loved it! It's one of those dead-on Southern favorites that would be equally at home at the dinner-on-the-grounds church social or potluck. No snobbery allowed --- and no pastry chefs needed!"
Hands on time: 45 minutes Total time: 1 hour and 30 minutes Serves: 12
For the cake:
1 (18 1/4-ounce) box Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden (yes, this is what it says on the box) cake mix
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, in light syrup
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
For the icing:
1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip, thawed
1 (3.4-ounce) box vanilla instant pudding
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, in juice
Combine the cake mix, eggs, oranges with syrup and oil in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy and the oranges have pureed until smooth into the batter, about 4 minutes.
Divide batter among the prepared pans. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the cakes comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the cakes to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the Cool Whip, pudding mix and crushed pineapple until smooth. To assemble, place one layer on a cardboard cake round. Spread with frosting. Repeat with remaining layer. Finish with remaining frosting.