What Is A Tennessee Jam Cake And What Goes Into One?

If you're looking for the perfect dessert for those colder months, then you might want to try a Tennessee Jam cake. The dessert combines the decadence of cake with the sweetness of fruit preserved from the summer. Depending on what region of the country you're in, you may have also heard it referred to as a Kentucky Jam cake. The cake appears to have a foothold in both states, popular in the Southern region of the United States. 

While technically you can sub-in almost any jam, the cake appears to be most often made using blackberries. Author Anne Byrn explained to that families would often make their own jam to use in the recipe. However, these days, you can always go with your favorite store-bought preserves. She said, "It was made using homemade blackberry jam put up with local fresh berries in the summertime. A jar of jam was saved until Christmas when it went into this cake redolent with spices." 

Those spices in question are typically favorites of the and winter seasons like nutmeg and cinnamon for instance. You would need the other basic ingredients for making a cake like flour, baking soda, and eggs. Otherwise, some cooks add other flourishes like raisins and nuts. 

History behind jam cake

Tennessee and Kentucky may be in the jam cake's name, but the recipe is actually available in other states in the South, making it a regional favorite. However, the origins of the jam cake are unsurprisingly European. Author Anne Byrn explained to NPR, "Even the American favorite known as Blackberry Jam Cake is a German cake, brought by settlers to Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and other places in the South." 

German immigrants migrated from Pennsylvania to the South, bringing with them the recipe for the cake. From there, it quickly became a regional favorite that's become a part of culinary tradition in the South.  in Tennessee first referenced the cake over 100 years ago and has charted changes to the cake's recipes during the ensuing century. For instance, one recipe called for adding coffee to the mix, which appears not to have been widely adopted by other fans. 

Many have anecdotal accounts of their parents or grandmother fixing the cake during their youth. There's also some superstition in regard to the cake as well. According to myth, you must use a homemade jam when making the cake. Otherwise, your recipe is doomed to fail.

Things to keep in mind about a jam cake

If you're planning on trying to make the jam cake yourself, then there are a few important pitfalls to avoid. For one, make sure you choose the right jam as this is the key ingredient that brings together all the other ingredients in the recipe. The standard may be blackberry, but there are plenty of other fruit flavors for you to try as well. Since nutmeg and cinnamon are spices, then you may want to opt for a flavor that compliments them. If you are going with blackberry, then you should go with the seedless variety to avoid picking their larger seeds out of your cake. 

Many may view as the same, but they are actually very different. For this recipe, you will want a jam. Since preserves have whole or sliced pieces of fruit, they may affect the overall texture and integrity of the cake. Likewise, fruit butters generally aren't as sweet as either jams or preserves and have a different consistency as well. When picking a jam, avoid any jams that have pectin as it may make the cake thicker than you would like.