Who would not want to bake Dolly a cake? I mean – she is sweet as sugar. Have you ever seen Dolly Parton’s A Smoky Mountain Christmas? Her character recovers from a lucrative showbiz career by waking up amidst seven orphans then saving them from an evil witch, becoming their mama and creating a joyous, musical Christmas to all.
Okay – that is the delightful Hollywood schmaltz version. Her music is the real deal, her early songs especially gritty. In an interview prelude to her seminal live concert in London, she explains the global appeal of country music: “Country music tells real stories of real people, very ordinary stories. And I like to think—in my case—told in an extraordinary way.”
I wanted to make Dolly an ordinary cake in an extraordinary way. So the Farmer’s Daughter Cake. Maybe all cooks cannot help naming their dishes, but few do with such homey flair as the grandmother of American Desserts, Maida Heatter, who got her culinary start in a Florida diner. The basis of this butter-less, oil-less cake is a bucolic notion: on a farm there is thick, rich fresh cream, fat enough to plump cake and a charming daughter to fold it deftly into batter for an everyday any meal slice of not too indulgent but isn’t life grand cake. Because I would not serve Dolly pretentious cake – only one that celebrates its wholesome ingredients.
In that same interview, and often, she says, “If I had been born a man, I’d have been a drag queen.” Oh Dolly! You are a role model of unabashed femme glam trash, and we thank you. So too I made your cake. Frosted carefully with butter flavored Crisco based “buttercream” spiked with almond. Carefully polished like fondant then piped in fringe down the sides. Adorned with a handcrafted pink vanilla sugar heart. Edible glitter.
Dolly also works hard and has that sister to other working women thing going on. Hired to play a fictionalized version of herself in the film 9 to 5, Dolly wrote the theme song that stayed at number one for two weeks and earned her several Grammy nominations. And gave her a platform to be an inspiration for working women everywhere alongside other feminist icons Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. It was also the karaoke song of choice for a grand drunken finale with my best girl colleagues when I left Washington, DC for New York.
So – in deep gratitude – something special, a fine touch. We long simmered quartered quince in vanilla simple syrup, until it blushed dusky rose, smelled like Jolene’s perfume. Whisked in a little fancy European butter in the end as the fruit fell apart and the liquid was almost gone. We used this pale pink, aromatic, magic stuff to fill a split single layer of cake.
Back to that interview in Long, in reference to her starring role in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, she is asked what she thinks of prostitution, and after saying she loves everyone and who is she to judge, she then asks the reporter if he is a prostitute.
Dolly, I salute you. And wish you many more years of cake and music and so much love.
Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1WPERaOQzA at 38:03 for Dolly on street harassment and being the original punk rocker: “I guess I musta looked about like you there, and my mama said, IT MUST’VE BEEN SATAN HIMSELF MAKE YOU WEAR YOUR HAIR LIKE THAT; I said, now, mama, let’s give credit where credit is due. I thought this up myself.”