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50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #24 Paula Deen - Pumpkin Cake w/ Buttery Cream Cheese Frosting

the "Gourmet" prompt...
24. Paula Deen- The smiley Deen of the South, like the scent of her deep-fried mac and cheese, gets everywhere.

Up until the last week, I didn't know all that much about Paula Deen.  Southern charm...piercing blue eyes...sparkly diamonds...love of butter and all-things-fried...heavy drawl...those were the few things I knew about Paula.  Sure, I watch her show now and again if it happens to be on when I'm flipping channels and I don't run across a better option.  I even own a few of her cookbooks...all of which I've picked up at library sales.  It's a rare cookbook I can resist for a dollar.  But really, that's not much.  So when I set out to dig a little deeper, I was pretty amazed at the things I didn't know about this woman (okay, it didn't require that much digging...she's pretty public with her dirty laundry...and she's written a memoir, Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin').

She married young, at just 18 years old.  She was pregnant at 19.  She lost both of her parents when she was 23.  She then spiraled into depression and became agoraphobic.    Agoraphobic for twenty years.  20 years!  Can you imagine this outgoing lady being an agoraphobe?  I think that was most shocking to me.  However, this did lead (perhaps) to the Paula we know today.  Too afraid to venture into the grocery store, she would make her way in and grab as many things as she could that were close to the doors and head back home.  She taught herself to make food out of what she then had.  After her divorce from Jimmy Deen, she was forced to "venture back into the world armed with $200 and a brown paper bag in the glove compartment to breathe into in case of panic attacks".    Doing what she knew, she made up sandwiches and completed a lunch with a side and maybe a dessert and she'd pack them up into brown bags.  She'd send her boys (Jamie & Bobby...you know 'em) out to sell them to the businessmen in Savannah.  Her business was known as The Bag Lady.  In 1996, she opened a business on the waterfront called The Lady and Sons.  This led to an appearance on Oprah, which led to cookbooks, television shows, and eventually another restaurant.**  Though many are opposed to her semi-homemade cooking practices, she has become a household name thanks to all of these things.   Deserving of "the list"?  I'm on the fence.  What do you think?
Pumpkin Cake w/ Buttery Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Christmas with Paula Deen (Frosted Pumpkin Bars)
yield: ~24 svgs.

cake:
4 large eggs
1⅓  c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
15 oz. pumpkin puree
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cardamom
⅛ tsp. ground allspice

Preheat oven to 350° F.

I mixed this all by hand, using a whisk...but feel free to use an electric mixer.  Beat together eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until light and fluffy.  Sift together the dry ingredients and then gradually stir them into the pumpkin mixture until thoroughly combined and smooth.

Pour into an ungreased 9" x 13" baking pan.  (If you want to be able to lift the whole cake out of the pan easily, line it with parchment paper first, leaving a few inches on each side for lifting.) Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Lift out using the overhang of the parchment paper now, if you used it.
frosting:
3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz. butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. confectioners' sugar, sifted

Combine cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl and beat until smooth.  Again, this is easier in a mixer, but I did it by hand.  Yes, I burnt out yet another motor (my hand mixer) and didn't want to dirty the stand mixer.  Add vanilla and then slowly beat in the confectioners' sugar until very smooth.  Spread on the cooled pumpkin cake.  I sprinkled a couple handfuls of dry-roasted Macadamia nuts over the cake before serving.  They seemed to be the perfect finishing touch, adding a hint of a different texture and flavor.

Cut and serve or wrap well and freeze.
In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 women...one per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.

Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?
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