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

34 comments /
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?
I am sharing this post with:
crazy sweet tuesday sweet treats thursday SweetToothFriday Miz- Helen-Badge-ALT5 foodfridayFoodie Friday Logo 2 friday food at mom trends

34 comments

  1. Although I don't ever cook her food I like Paula for her jolly disposition. ;-) These look pretty yummy.

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  2. Delicious! I love Paula Deen and this cake looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing on Crazy Sweet Tuesday!

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  3. I received her dessert cookbook last year and though all the recipes sound sinfully delicious, we rarely make them. I skip the ones that require cool whip and Hershey's chocolate sauce, but she has a few winners in my books. How about  her sugar pie. Very good and I have to say the one you chose sounds very good as well.

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  4. Certainly looks a yummy bite! only one bite won't be enough...

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  5. Hi Heather,
    Paula Deen is one of my favorites, she is just so real. The Pumpkin Cake and Frosting is a very good choice it looks delicious and I may use it for Thanksgiving.
    My very best wishes to you and your family for a blessed Thanksgiving.
    Thanks for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you again
    real soon!
    Miz Helen

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  6. Well, her story is certainly fascinating! But a game changer? Well, more than some on that list, not so much where others are concerned, but certainly a household name. And I hate thinking people with cooking shows do semi-homemade! As a publisher once put it "if I make it in my home it doesn't make it homemade!". But I love the look and sound of this pumpkin cake! Scrumptious! Looks so moist and flavorful! I may have just found my pumpkin recipe!

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  7. There are so many names that could or could not be on this list, it's so subjective. But, what I like about Paula (although I don't make any of her recipes usually since they are so sinfully rich!) is that her down-to-earth approach and Southern drawl makes the viewer feel right at home and has brought a lot of people back into the kitchen to cook some good old comfort food (albeit not always the healthiest), something that is needed these days.

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  8. Wow I did not know ANY of this about Paula!  It definitely makes me give her a bit more respect.  If I had had time to bake anything of hers, it would have been this cake!

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  9. Wow!! no sabía ésto de Paula Deen... uno puede ver a una persona y no saber lo que trae atrás, admirable que haya superado ésta fobia!!
    Me gustan sus programas , sus recetas y su risa jajaja... mucha mantequilla!!
    Se ven deliciosos!!! gracias por la receta.
    saludos

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  10. I understand what you're saying, Mary.  I just think it makes for great discussion.  We are such a varied people!  I would love to see everybody make their own list when they're by themselves...and then look at them all side by side.  Just imagine the differences...and the over lapping names! 

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  11. delicious looking cake looks fabulous

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  12. What a lovely tribute to Paula! Love your cake...looks absolutely luscious! 

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  13. What a grand looking version of her cake. As to the list and folks who made it: To my mind, it was never  presented as a list of great or adventurous chefs. It was meant to be a list of women who made a difference in the food world.  I know there has been great debate about bloggers and TV personalities making the list, but if they have brought folks into the kitchen or changed the way America cooks, they are entitled to the spots they were assigned. Hard core foodies don't see it that way and they are certainly entitled to their opinions. I think it would be more helpful, however,  if they compiled their own list rather than put this one down. There's lots of room in the swimming pool  and it can accommodate many  tastes :-). The fact that we write about these women doesn't mean we cook as they do. Most of us are tasting their food for the first time because of this exercise. On that note,  let me wish you a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  14. The Café Sucré FarineDecember 22, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    Beautiful photos, a most delicious looking cake and a wonderful synopsis of Paula Deen - thanks!

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  15. I LOVE Paula's recipes ;-)) The pumpkin cake looks so tempting!

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  16. I read about her past and was really shocked.  I have a weird fascination with cakes that use a 9x13 pan, love the look, not so polished. this is tempting, her ooey butter cakes rock!

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  17. That would be "southern cooking" to the forefront.... sigh - never see errors until after I press send...

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  18. This is holiday indulgence which Paul Deen does so well. I have never cooked her recipes - but I am seeing some worthy of the groaning holiday tables where indulgence reigns just for a little while. I think she is worthy of being a game-changer. Not from just her beginnings which she overcame - but bringing southern forefront back to the attention of all.

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  19. I knew about her agorophobia, but I didn't know about how she started selling lunches, etc as The Bag Lady...That cake looks great; I think it is a wonderful alternative to pumpkin pie :)

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  20. p.s...nope, not the sausage guy.  That's Jimmy Dean (with an A)....

    p.p.s...she mentions it in this interview, as well: http://www.fitceleb.com/2009/06/18/qa-with-paula-deen-and-husband-michael-groover =)

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  21. Vicki...I read it in a NY Times interview w/ Paula from 2007 (see **source at bottom of my post for the link.  Or pick up her memoir, there's a link in red in my post).  So interesting, huh!?

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  22. Love your photos, and your write up is so eloquent.  I actually don't think she should be on the list, even though I admire what she's accomplished.  I keep thinking about Mollie Katzen and others who i think have had much more of an impact.
    Something about little frosted cake squares just sends me into orbit...these look sooooo cute and delicious..  

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  23. Very tempting cake,delicious..

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  24. I'm not sure why it didn't post my blog info:
    www.in-HomeCulinaryClasses.blogspot.com

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  25. Wow I had no idea about Paula Deens past. What a story. Where did you read all this? It's incredible how far she's come. Is Jimmy Deen as in the sausage?

    Anyway the pumpkin dessert looks delicious and if it tastes as wonderful as your photos are then I'm sure to make it.

    Thanks for sharing this and the Paula Deen story.

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  26. Pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting is always a great treat. As for Paula being deserving of the list - I'd say probably so , due to the fact that (like Rachael Ray) she was basically self taught to stardom and she brought the popularity of real southern cooking to America's awareness. More families are in the kitchen cooking because of her. Not to mention the amount of cookbooks she's published and sold!

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  27. I haven't tasted a pumpkin treat but your cake looks so good that I think I can eat a lot of it! :P

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  28. Oh yeah, I'd definitely say she belongs on the top 50 list.  I think she definitely brought southern cooking, and even just plain home cooking, to the masses.  

    This cake is gorgeous!  And, I love that you mixed it by hand because let's face it.....the idea of getting out my stand mixer sometimes is too much. Yes, I'm definitely lazy like that.

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  29. Your photos are wonderful, Heather. The cake looks moist and the frosting perfect!

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  30. I loooooooooooove this!
    Delicious cake, and it also look wonderful
    With a cup of hot tea - it's perfect

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  31. love the shots! that cake looks tempting...!

    many thanks for sharing over at Food Friday, Heather!

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  32. Ya hice ésta receta y les encantó a mi familia!! gracias por ella!!
    Saludos

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  33. Estoy tan feliz escuchar. ¡De nada!

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