Best birthday cake ever!

March 7, 2009

I recently had the pleasure of escorting John Berendt around town to see if he might find St. Francisville interesting enough to include in his next book.  John is the best-selling author of  Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, the book that made Savannah’s eccentric folks famous.  It’s often said we have more nuts than a fruitcake and we even have our own Lady Chablis, but here he’s known as Matthew and “Gingersnap”, which is the name on the license plate on his convertible and he certainly isn’t “nuts“.  John came with photographer Bevil Knapp, who just finished a book on St. Francisville and Carter Hooper, who was celebrating his 49th birthday.  We had a wonderful time, filled with tours of plantations, a cocktail party on the veranda of Catalpa Plantation, a great lunch at the Magnolia Cafe’ and a fabulous birthday dinner at The OxBow Restaurant, where Matthew is maitre d’.  We had such a good time, they said they are coming back next month!

Duane Ulkins baked a birthday cake (strawberry) for Carter that had everyone raving, so I asked him for his recipe and have tried making it twice since.  Mine tasted every bit as good as his, but didn’t look nearly as pretty.  I bought a flat of strawberries off the side of the road and couldn’t resist putting too many strawberries into the icing than the recipe called for the first time, and the second time, I got the icing right, but iced the cake before it completely cooled.  But still, I shared both cakes with friends and family and I have to tell you, they LOVED it!

Duane’s Strawberry Cake

Batter:  1 package yellow cake mix (I used Duncan Hines), 1 package strawberry jello mix, 4 eggs, 1/2 each vegetable oil & water, 14 oz. frozen strawberries (drained) or 2 cups fresh sliced strawberries, 2 T. flour.  Combine all ingredients except strawberries, until batter is thoroughly mixed, then add strawberries & pour into 3 greased & floured cake pans & bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Icing: 1/2 cup sliced strawberries, 1 stick softened butter, 1 stick softened cream cheese, 1 box powdered sugar.  Combine butter & cream cheese & beat at high speed.  Then, slowly add the powdered sugar.  Once it is all mixed, fold in the strawberries.  Ice cake once it is completely cooled.  You may want to make the icing first and refrigerate while you are making the cake.  Here’s my third attempt!


I brought a Crawfish Cheesecake to the cocktail party at Catalpa and thought I’d share that recipe as well.  It was created by combining a couple of Emeril recipes.  If you don’t have access to crawfish, you can substitute shrimp, crabmeat, mushrooms, or whatever your imagination comes up with!

Crawfish Cheesecake

4   8 oz pkgs. Cream cheese

4 eggs

3/4 C. Parmesan

1 C. bread crumbs

3/4 C. grated smoked Gouda

1/2 C. each minced red and green bell pepper

1 C. minced onion

1 Pkg. crawfish

Stick of butter

3/4 C. heavy cream

Emeril’s or similar seasoning mix to taste

Melt butter, mix with 1/2 C. Parmesan and bread crumbs to press

into pan for crust. Bake 10 minutes and cool.

Saute’ peppers and onions in olive oil.

In mixer or processor beat cream cheese and eggs. Add cream, Gouda and rest of Parmesan. Turn off the heat and add vegetables, seasonings and crawfish.

Pour mixture into crust and bake @ 350 til sets (approx. an hour).

Cool and serve @ room temp.  Makes a good spread on crackers.

Bon Appetit!


  1. I had some of this cake & it IS the best cake ever!

  2. Ellen’s strawberry cake is the best! It’s in the same category as my late grandmother’s. But the best part is the company!! Thanks again.

    • Thanks Bevil!!! That’s quite a compliment!

  3. Many of guys blog about this issue but you wrote down some true words!

  4. […] did I bring in the way of food? Well, I made a shrimp cheesecake using the recipe I shared in my March 7, 2009 blog post “Best Birthday Cake Ever” and attempted to re-create a Chicken Salad that Gaye Landry made for a party thown for me last […]

  5. […] dear friend Duane Ulkins has done it again! A of couple years ago, I posted his recipe for strawberry cake which had everyone raving at a birthday dinner. Well, last week we entertained a young producer […]

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