My grandmother, or Maumau as we know her, turned 90-years-old this month. Being from South Louisiana, my earliest memories of her revolve around food. We would visit her on Sunday afternoons for supper in her small house outside of New Orleans for the most delicious homemade meals. As we walked in the door smells of red beans, baked macaroni and French bread greeted us. If anyone asked how much longer until supper she would shoo us away with her wooden spoon and tell us to go play outside. Instead of eating appetizers, we would pick kumquats off her tree in the backyard with our cousins or shell pecans. Sometimes we wouldn’t eat for another two hours, but I knew it would be worth the wait.
That all changed after Hurricane Katrina.
She lost everything in the storm, including the recipes she had written down. She was a true Louisiana cook, using very few recipes and adding her own flare to each meal. After she moved in with my aunt, her memory started to fade and her lively spirit quickly changed. My mom and aunt knew they had to preserve her precious recipes before her mind completely slipped away. One afternoon, my mom gathered all of the ingredients for one of her most prized dishes — seafood gumbo. My mom began making the gumbo while Maumau sat beside her guiding her along. Then, she wrote down the recipe as best she could.
As a tribute to my Maumau, I wanted to recreate a healthier version of her favorite desert, Heavenly Hash Cake. With Valentine’s Day and Easter coming up, this should be a fun desert to make with kids at home or send to school parties. While I couldn’t completely eliminate the sugar (there’s a reason it’s called “heavenly”), I significantly reduced it in the brownie portion. And I substituted healthier, organic fats for butter or vegetable oil. I used peppermint flavored marshmallows left over from Christmas, but the traditional recipe calls for regular.
I am certainly my grandmother’s grandchild in that I have a hard time following a recipe and I rarely make the same dish twice! See my blog post here about cooking without recipes.
Heavenly Hash Cake (Claire’s Version 2011)
“Make cake in flat pan”
Flour – about cup and a half
Sugar? Doesn’t remember
About 2 T cocoa
1 t. salt, level it off
Vegetable oil? Doesn’t remember
“Bake in flat pan”
About 30 minutes
Layer 1 bag of marshmallow on top
Boil in pan, then layer on top of marshmallows.
Sarah’s Version (2018)
1 cup coconut shortening (I use Nutiva)
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 can sweet potatoes
1 cup coconut sugar
1 1/2 cups baking flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill, gluten-free)
1 cup chopped pecans
2 Tsp vanilla extract
1 bag marshmallows
4 cups confectioners sugar
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
About 1/3 cup of water
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease an 8×12 inch pan with coconut or grapeseed oil.
- In a large bowl, cream 1 cup shortening and coconut sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition. Add vanilla and mix to incorporate.
- In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and cocoa together. Then add to the egg mixture and mix well. Stir in the pecans.
- Pour into prepared 8×12 inch pan and bake at 350F degrees for 30-35 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean). While cake is still hot, spread the marshmallows on top.
- To make topping: over low heat, combine 4 tablespoons coconut oil, confectioners sugar, and 4 tablespoons cocoa in a double broiler. Slowly add in the water until a smooth chocolate sauce forms. Spread evenly over top of cake. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before eating.