These Derby Day treats might be gone faster than the two most exciting minutes in sports.
The mint julep gets a lot of attention the day of the Kentucky Derby. But, it and similar cocktails, aren’t the only things you should be enjoying this Saturday, May 4, when the race is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville. There are plenty of desserts and other bites you can serve at your Derby Day parties, beginning with C&I’s all-time reader favorite recipe, Trisha Yearwood's Key Lime Cake.
Key Lime Cake
“We had a big birthday party for my daddy when he turned 70," Trisha Yearwood says. "He was a pretty humble guy and was embarrassed that so much attention was being focused on him, but he ultimately loved visiting with all of his friends, some he hadn’t seen in a long time. Over 200 friends and family signed the guest book that night; that’s a testament to the man. I think of him when I make this cake because we served it that night. I miss my daddy, but there are always things to remind me of how much fun we had as a family.”
1 3-ounce package lime-flavored gelatin
1⅓ cups granulated sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 large eggs, slightly beaten
1½ cups vegetable oil
¾ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup Key lime juice (from about 25 small Key limes or 4 large regular limes)**
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
For the Cream Cheese Icing*
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 1-pound box confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the gelatin, sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir to mix well. Add the eggs, oil, orange juice, lemon juice, and vanilla. Divide the batter evenly among the 3 pans and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Test for doneness by lightly touching the tops of the layers or inserting a toothpick.
Cool the layers in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto racks.
While the layers are still hot, mix the lime juice and confectioners’ sugar and pour it over the layers on the racks. You can pierce the layers with a fork to allow the glaze to soak in better. Allow the layers to cool completely as you prepare the icing.
Cream the butter and cream cheese. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until the mixture is smooth and easy to spread. Spread the icing between the layers and on the top and sides of the cake.
*The cream cheese icing is optional. This cake is beautiful and tastes great with just the glaze poured over it.
**Key limes can be hard to find. Substitute regular lime juice for Key lime juice without sacrificing flavor.
From Trisha’s sister, Beth:
“This is a very moist cake. It can also be baked in a 9-by-12-by-2-inch pan to be easily served in squares.”
From Trisha’s mother, Gwen:
“This recipe comes from family friend Angela Spivey. She uses whichever variety of lime is available in the local grocery.”
(Yields 3½ cups)
1 red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 pound Irish cheddar, grated
8 ounces mayonnaise
2 tablespoons thyme, fresh and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, ground
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Roast bell pepper over an open mesquite flame or in a 450-degree oven until skin becomes charred all the way around. Place roasted pepper in bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes. Once steamed, peel pepper, remove seeds and stem, and finely chop.
Toss whole garlic cloves in canola oil and roast at 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes or until garlic browns and softens. Cool, peel, and set aside.
Combine the bell pepper, garlic, grated cheese, and remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Refrigerate and allow flavors to meld for up to 4 – 6 hours.
Pimento Cheese Dip
1¼ pounds cream cheese
3½ ounces diced pimento peppers and liquid
1 small yellow onion, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
¼ cup sweet smoked Hungarian paprika
10 ounces diced pimentos, drained
4 ounces smoked cheddar, grated
4 ounces peppered cheddar (Marco Polo preferred), grated
Blend all of the first six ingredients until whipped and well combined. In a large mixing bowl, fold the grated cheeses, and drained pimentos in with the whipped cream cheese base. These go great with soft pretzels for dipping.
June’s Heavenly Hash With Fresh Berry Compote
“No one ever left June’s table hungry!” remembers Karen Robin, longtime friend and wife of my parents’ manager, Lou Robin. “Every placemat was linen, every dish was fine china, and every glass was crystal,” she continued. “Your mother knew how to throw a dinner—or luncheon or breakfast, for that matter! A dinner was an event at your parents’ table. And the food was always special.
“June put many different dishes on the buffet table, directing and consulting with the cooks and kitchen staff as to how many dishes should be served and then adding at least another five. But no matter—at the end of the day, there wasn’t much left over.”
One of Karen’s favorite dishes was my mother’s Heavenly Hash, accompanied by her Fresh Berry Compote.
(Makes 4 – 6 servings)
½ cup halved maraschino cherries, plus more whole cherries for garnish
½ cup whipped cream, plus more for topping (Mom used Cool Whip, but you could use canned whipped cream or fresh whipped cream)
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup small marshmallows
Shortbread cookies (like Walker’s), 2 per serving
Fresh berry compote, for garnish
In a large bowl, mix together the cherries, whipped cream, pineapple, coconut, and marshmallows. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Place 2 shortbread cookies on each dessert plate. Cover them with the cherry mixture, and spoon on the Fresh Berry Compote and a bit more whipped cream. Top all with a maraschino cherry.
Ann’s Pecan Pie
(Yields 1 10-inch pie)
⅓ cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 10-inch pie crust, preferably Royers Round Top Café’s pie crust (recipe follows)
1½ cups pecan halves
The Café’s Pie Crust
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
2 cups (minus 3 tablespoons) shortening
5 cups white flour
Dissolve the salt in the water and set aside. Cut the vegetable shortening into the flour, working the mixture thoroughly until it is crumbly. Add salt water to the mixture and continue to work the dough until the water is absorbed. Add several tablespoons of flour and continue to work the dough until it pulls cleanly away from your hands. Ball the dough up into three balls. Put them in plastic baggies and freeze them till you need them.
To use the dough, set it out on the counter to thaw for 3 – 4 hours or set in your refrigerator overnight. The dough is rolled out the easiest when it is chilled.
Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt and vanilla in a bowl: mix well. Beat the eggs until very light. Add to corn syrup mixture. Pour into pie shell. Arrange the pecan halves on top. Bake at 350 degrees until the filling is set and a knife inserted comes out clean.
Cibolo Buttermilk Biscuits With Jalapeño-Strawberry Jam
(Yields about 12 biscuits depending on cutter size)
2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (Chef’s note: The faster the better, you don’t want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.
Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour, and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, making sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible, and continue cutting.
(Chef’s note: Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that’s life.)
Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 – 20 minutes.
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon habenero chile powder
1 quart strawberry preserves
Place jalapeño, orange juice, and habenero powder in blender and blend until completely puréed. Then fold jalapeño orange juice mixture into the strawberry preserve.
Subscribe to the forthcoming monthly Taste of the West e-newsletter below.
Photography: Courtesy Food Network, Nick Simonite, Heavenly Hash recipe reprinted and adapted from The Cash and Carter Family Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections From Johnny and June’s Table by John Carter Cash © 2018 Cash Cabin Enterprises, LLC. Photographs by Tambi Lane Photography. Food styling by Donna Britt. Published by Nelson Books, an imprint Thomas Nelson, Courtesy J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa