Spider Cake (New England Skillet Corncake)

American Classics

Lost classic desserts from our wide and varied past.

[Photograph: Alexandra Penfold]

New Englanders have a reputation for being thrifty and austere. Those early settlers were a tough lot. Nearly half of the settlers who arrived on the Mayflower died that first year from exposure and starvation. The ones who survived did so in part because they learned to grow crops native to the New World, like corn.

Yankee cuisine grew up around making do with what you had and while at times it is deceptively simple, it can also be intensely satisfying. Such is the case with Spider Cake, which thankfully does not include any actual spiders. This arachnid-free cake is an easy, cornbread-like skillet cake that used to be prepared in an old fashioned short handled pan known as a "spider." Old cookbooks have this cake appearing as early as the 1800s.

The outside of this cake gets golden brown and slightly crisp in the oven while the inside stays tender. One of the unique attributes of the Spider Cake as opposed to your garden-variety cornbread is the thin stripe of creamy custard that forms in the center of the cake as it cooks. Serve it with butter and a touch of maple syrup or a dollop of your favorite jam for a easy and homey breakfast.

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Spider Cake (New England Skillet Corncake) »

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About the author: Alexandra Penfold is mild-mannered children's book editor by day, food ninja by night. Never one to skip dessert she's the Brownie half of Blondie & Brownie and a Midtown Lunch contributor. You can follow her on Twitter at @blondiebrownie.

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