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Ethel's Tennessee Jam Cake
From Sonja

The day I met my future mother-in-law was the first time I ever tasted (or even heard of) jam cake.  It was near Christmas time, and she always made jam cake for Christmas.  Ethel usually drizzled her jam cake with caramelized brown sugar frosting, but it is also terrific layered with Southern Lane Filling.  I have tried several other jam cake recipes down through the years, but none equal my mother-in-law's for flavor or moist tenderness of crumb. 

During the Viet-Nam War, my husband was stationed at Kadena AFB on Okinawa, and his younger brother Jackie, a Marine serving in Viet-Nam, visited us on R and R.  My husband asked him what foods and drinks he most craved, and Jackie told him that he wanted a tall glass of iced tea and a Tennessee Jam Cake.  After I baked the cake, I had just taken the first layer out of the oven and had turned to remove the second pan.  I heard the first pan clatter to the floor and whirled to see my husband and Jackie racing out of the kitchen with the jam cake layer held between them.  By the time I chased them into the living room, they had torn the cake apart and were stuffing it into their mouths.  Needless to say, I didn't bother to frost the remaining two layers.

Ethel's Tennessee Jam Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter (no substitutes!)
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup jam (any kind, but preferably homemade blackberry with the seeds in and nothing used but sugar and berries to make the jam)
1 cup raisins
1 apple, grated
1 cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon baking soda or baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Sift flour, salt, and baking soda or powder together, reserving 1/4 cup of the flour to flour nuts, dates, and raisins.  Cream together the sugar and butter.  Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.  Combine buttermilk and jam.  Add alternately with combined dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.  Flour the fruit and nuts and stir them into the batter.  Stir in the grated apple.  Bake in 3 greased 9-inch cake pans in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until cake tests done.  Turn out onto racks to cool before frosting.

If a spicier cake is desired, sift 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves with the flour, salt, and baking powder.


Southern Lane Filling

My mother used this filling to frost her German Chocolate Cake.  When my mother-in-law was feeling especially swanky, she sometimes used this filling to top her Tennessee Jam Cake.  I like this filling because it is so easy to make. I have also used it on chocolate and devils food cakes.  I split the layers and spread the lane filling between the layers, then frost the entire cake with 7-minute frosting.


5 egg yolks
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup butter (no substitution)
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup raisins
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Beat yolks and sugar together.  Turn into heavy saucepan.  Add 1 cup butter, pinch of salt, and 1 cup raisins.  Bring just to the boil.  Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat until filling is thick, about 1 to 3 minutes.  Stir in the coconut, nuts, and vanilla.  Spread immediately onto cake.

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