Cake Walk

I had EVERY intention

of posting another summer-time

blog entry,

in between the last one and this…

But somehow Cowboy Day, with all the before, during, and after activity, just whupped my butt…and here it is, already the beginning of September.  And EVERY Deaner knows what that means…the annual James Dean Festival in Fairmount, IN!

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(The featured recipe and video appear at the end of this blog.  Skip to the bottom of this page for just the recipe or keep reading for lots of interesting, related background.  As a reminder, you can click on any photo to see it larger.)

 

THIS YEAR the festival runs from Thursday, Sept 22nd through Sunday the 25th, 2016.  The memorial service falls on Friday the 30th, as always.  Tens of thousands, from all over the world will be gathering to celebrate the life and legacy of James Dean.  If you’ve never been…put this one on your “bucket list!”  There’s always an incredible vintage car show, the world famous look-alike contest, carnival rides, food, live music, parades, yard sales, dance contests, and so much more going on.  I have so many great memories and friendships that came from attending the festivals and memorial services since about the late-80s.

Young James Dean with his Aunt Ortense and Uncle Marcus Winslow.

Young James Dean with his Aunt Ortense and Uncle Marcus Winslow.

So the featured recipe for this blog comes from Jim’s aunt, Ortense and her Angel Food Cake.  For those unfamiliar, Ortense (and her husband Marcus) raised Jim from the age of 9 (after his mother passed from uterine cancer).  He loved them deeply and referred to them as “Mom” and “Dad.”  This recipe is one that she made for birthdays, holidays, and lots of special occasions.  It’s actually kind of fun to make…and I swear that it’s much less complicated than it appears (although I did  hit a few snags when I made it for the video…they are easily avoidable problems).

I recently treated myself to an EBay purchase of a vintage Angel Food Cake pan (tube pan)…specifically for making this recipe.  I don’t find them here…and really wanted one of the old aluminum ones that I remember my grandma (Leta), my Aunt Katie, my Aunt Evelyn, and my Aunt Marsha using.  I found the perfect one and was overjoyed when it arrived!  You’ll see it in use, in the video below…

ORTENSE WINSLOW

In September of 1939, while undergoing a surgical procedure, James’ mother Mildred, learned that she had a terminal uterine cancer.  Her highest concern was the fate of her precious 8 year-old, only child.  She had determined that she didn’t want him to grow up in California (where the family had been living for the past 3 years), “Everything’s so artificial here.  I want Jimmy to grow up where things are real and simple.”

L to R Marcus Winslow, Charlie Nolan Dean (behind. Winton's brother, Ortense Winslow, Joan Winslow, Charlies' wife (behind,) Jimmy Dean, Emma and Charles Dean (grandparents).

L to R- Marcus Winslow, Charlie Nolan Dean (behind. Winton’s brother, Ortense Winslow, Joan Winslow, Charlies’ wife (behind,) Jimmy Dean, Emma and Charles Dean (grandparents).

The decision wasn’t difficult.  Jim’s father Winton was required to remain in Santa Monica, where he worked for the Veteran’s Administration…but her brother and sister-in-law, Marcus and Ortense Winslow back in Fairmount, IN welcomed the boy with open arms.  All the plans were made.  Mildred died a year later on July 14th, 1940.  The Winslow’s already had a daughter, Joan (pronounced Jo-Ann) who was 13 at the time.   They treated him like their own son (or better if you ask Joan…a slight sibling rivalry/jealousy was evident from the beginning).  3 years after Jim came to live with them, Ortense would give birth to Marcus Jr..

Ortense was the older sister to Winton.  In her early years she was employed as a secretary, before marrying Marcus and taking on the role of farm wife and mother.  She was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperence Union and organist at the Back Creek Friends Church (Quaker).

“Both are wise and gentle and have a gift for loving. Theirs is like a Quaker home should be. You never hear a harsh word. Best of all, they are happy as well as good–and that’s what Jimmy needed most after the shock of losing his mother.”

Emma Dean, James Dean's grandmother

Young Jim's hand and footprints in the concrete inside the barn.

Young Jim’s hand and footprints in the concrete inside the barn.

Young Jimmy Dean embraced farm life…not so much all the chores, but he loved the big open spaces; the pond for swimming in the summer and skating in the winter; all the animals; the basketball hoop that Marcus installed in the barn; the Sunday afternoons when 20-30 guys (all older than Jim) would show up to play ball… Jim soon learned to hold his own on the court.

“When Jimmy was set to do something, nobody could stop him. He was tough minded when he felt he had to be. And when he laughed, the whole world laughed, and when he cried, it rained. He was always able to get people into his moods. It was a wonderful gift.”

Ortense Winslow

HERE’S A SHORT, SWEET (AND SLIGHTLY AWKWARD) INTERVIEW WITH MARCUS AND ORTENSE, EXCERPTED FROM THE 1957 ROBERT ALTMAN DOCUMENTARY, THE JAMES DEAN STORY:


The Winslow’s supported Jim in his interests and eventual career choices.  The pursuit of acting, and his moves to California, New York, and back to California…living on the brink of starvation and poverty…caused Ortense much anxiety and worry.  They sent food, money, and stayed in close contact through phone calls and letters.  They traveled to visit him in California and even attended his first Broadway opening and cast party at Sardi’s in New York.  Ortense quietly pulled people aside, asking it they thought Jimmy could make it as an actor…they reassured her that he was “extremely talented.”

Ortense and Marcus were devastated when Jim was killed in the untimely auto accident of September 30th, 1955…just as any family that loses a child would be.  The big difference here, was that the world media and half of Hollywood descended upon them and the tiny town of Fairmount, IN.  There was no private time to grieve.  Their inner strength and strong faith carried them graciously through this period.

For years afterward, they accommodated the fans who made pilgrimages to Jim’s place of birth and final rest.  Often inviting the strangers who knocked on the front door in, giving tours of his bedroom, and giving out combs or other keepsakes that had once belonged to Jim.  Marcus Jr. and his family, who reside in the same house now, carry on this accommodating behavior…allowing fans to come on the property, take photos, or stroll around.  Only asking that fans respect their privacy and not come knocking at the door.

HERE’S A SLIDESHOW OF THE WINSLOW FARM, YOUNG JIM, AND MARCUS AND ORTENSE…CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO START

A LETTER HOME

Jim and Markie.

Jim and Markie.

I ran across this letter while researching Ortense.  Even though it doesn’t totally relate to this blog topic…I thought it might be of interest to Dean fans who haven’t seen it.  Jim, while living in NYC, wrote to his younger cousin Markie (Marcus Jr.), in response to receiving these two paintings in the mail…

Painting sent to Jim from his little cousin Markie.

Painting sent to Jim from his little cousin Markie.

Painting sent to Jim from his little cousin Markie.

Painting sent to Jim from his little cousin Markie.

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This was his response ( I was going to transcribe the content here…but I think it’s very readable in his own hand).

Letter to Markie.

Letter to Markie. (Click to see larger)

Letter to Markie. (Click to see larger)

Letter to Markie.  (Click to see larger)

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THE CAKE

HERE’S MY NEW EPIC VIDEO OF THE CAKE…HOPE YOU ENJOY:


 

This recipe comes from Ortense’s personal handwritten recipe book.  Angel Food Cake is a real treat!  Back in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s it was even more so…because it was extremely labor intensive before electric mixers were commonplace in the kitchen.

Nowadays it’s a breeze…but it is a science.  I’ll share with you a walk-through of the recipe and my simplified understanding of how and why these steps are essential to a successful outcome (as well as the fails I encountered along the way, so we can both learn from MY mistakes).  Click HERE for a printable version of the recipe card…I received this recipe after Recipes for Rebels: In the kitchen with James Dean had already gone to press, so if you own the book, you will want to add this in…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was delicious!  Light, delicate, and spongy with a pleasing, not overly sweet flavor…infused with vanilla and a slight hint of almond.  The frosting tasted of toasted marshmallows.  It was a throughly luxurious experience.

Contemporary tastes, dictate that this cake would probably nowadays be served without the frosting…using mascerated fruit or berries on a plain cake (or covered in a glaze or dusting of powdered sugar).  I have to admit, plain would be my personal preference too.  But it was enjoyable to taste it, just the way Ortense would have made and served it.  Just the way Jim and the rest of the family would have enjoyed.  I served it the first night, accompanied it with a scoop of strawberry Ice cream…just for that whole “birthday party” feel.  Other current serving trends include grilling or toasting slices of the plain cake and serving with fruit or a sweet and tart lemon custard as mentioned above…DELICIOUS too!

I’m enjoying a fat slice right now as I’m writing this…on a paper towel, no plate, no fork…with a nice cup of dark creamy coffee…YUMMY!  Wish you were here!

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I hope you enjoyed the read and I really hope you’ll make this cake for someone you love!

Please, freely use the social media sharing buttons below and leave me a comment!  That really makes my day!

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6 Comments

  1. This looks gorgeous! I love your video version of the recipe – it makes it seem so easy, and the music works so well with it.

    • Thanks Helen. It really IS easy, and kinda fun…especially if you avoid the couple of pitfalls I encountered when cooking for the video!

      I enjoy choosing the soundtracks…this one with all Indiana songs. Rufus Wainwright is a huge James Dean fan, and even Louis Armstrong has ties to the state, beyond just his great performance of this song… The Jeopardy “Thinking Song” is an inside joke with a core group of JD fans…

  2. Ενα κομματι κεικ παρακαλω!!! Μπραβο Greg!!!

  3. Wonderful in Every Way. I Need a Slice of That Angel Food.

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