A Twist On The Traditional

Many decades ago, the Civil War changed everything; continual food shortages led to the inescapable truth of crucial ingredients becoming scarce. Faced with such times, a young lady was forced to pack away her special recipes and subsist on what was available until her brother, a major in the Confederate Army, returned home with a certain young captain in tow.

It was love at first sight, and when the captain's birthday arrived a few months later the moonstruck belle longed to bake him a cake but lacked the ingredients. Undeterred, she decided instead to scrape together what she had and present him a small batch of her tea cakes. The gift made quite an impression and, having seen the end of the war, the young captain returned home and, shortly thereafter, married the young woman. Sounds like a fairytale, right? Such is the story behind the Tennessee T-Cake, a delicacy created and produced in the heart of Nashville for over twenty years, and proof that food can hold romantic qualities.

Tennessee T-Cakes are made with a few simple ingredients such as flour, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Despite this seemingly innocuous base, they have been ranked among the top four cakes in the country and are constantly rated among the top-tasting confections in the nation. Even though there are actually only four flavors to choose from (in addition to the original, there is luscious lemon, key lime and chocolate truffle) it’s said that three people trying the same cake can experience three different tastes. Frances Barkley, founder and president of Tennessee T-Cakes, jokes that she should “advertise twelve flavors, because everyone seems to find a little something different. I’ve heard claims ranging from ginger to bourbon and there’s none of that in our cakes.”

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand for the last few years you’re sure to have noticed a growing trend towards the downsizing of food in favor of taste. Though some may claim such a move to be ‘Un-American’ there is no doubt that it’s in our best interests to enjoy food responsibly. While wedding cakes are traditionally largish, tiered affairs the new trend towards smaller portions has turned convention on its head; Barkley has noticed a significant increase in these tiered wedding cakes that have opened up a new avenue of wedding cake design. She says with a laugh, “They’re making them out of everything from fresh fruit to Krispy Kreme doughnuts.” But what about T-Cake . . . wedding cakes?

Today, the wedding cake possibilities seem endless; innovative new types of cakes provide couples with just about every look they could ever imagine. For couples comprised of two individuals with strong wills and differing opinions, choosing the wedding cake could seemingly wreck a relationship. Any couple experiencing a little friction over the whole contemporary- versus-traditional argument should consider placing a call to Frances’ shop. Known as “the ultimate southern confection,” Tennessee T-Cakes adds a twist to the time-honored centerpiece.

Over the past several years T-Cakes have realized an increase in use at weddings, serving in a multitude of roles from OTT bag items to hors d’oeuvres and post-dinner coffee treats. Recently, though, a bride opted to make the dainty confections the main focus of her reception; thus, the Tennessee T-Cake wedding cake was born. “We’ve done tiered layouts for catered events before,” says Barkley, “but the wedding cake was a first.” The cake was made from several hundred Tennessee T-Cakes skillfully arranged on tiered platters and covered with a light coat of frosting; garnished with several different varieties of flowers to add a bit more color, the results were phenomenal.

Now that the idea has been put to the test, Frances is quick to agree that Tennessee T-Cakes are a perfect confection for nuptials. “When most people say they put a little love into their product, it’s more marketing than meaningful. We do put a little love into each batch because we cook our T-Cakes in the same size ovens people use at home, one batch at a time.” Even in such places as New York City, the T-Cake has been proclaimed to be the new cupcake. With such a unique taste and texture, there is nothing quite like them available from anyone else.

Brides wishing to serve Tennessee T-Cakes are advised to place their orders several weeks in advance of the wedding in order to ensure smooth delivery; the cakes are delivered via FedEx and can reach most destinations in as little as 24 hours. The amount of T-Cakes needed for each cake obviously varies depending on the amount of tiers, but this may change in the future as Frances and her team work to create “wedding cake packages” that allow brides to pre-order everything they’ll need to assemble a variety of tiered cake sizes. “If there’s something I know about weddings, it’s that every little bit of outside help goes a long way towards a more successful, happy event.” said Barkley.

And what of the girl and her captain? Did the events that inspired this delicious treat actually occur? If Frances knows, she’s not saying much. With a twinkle in her eyes, she assures us that, “There’s a bit of truth behind every legend.”

For more information concerning Tennessee T-Cakes

go to www.tntcakes.com

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