Grandma Tillman’s Christmas Cake (Vanilla Wafer Cake)

102_6169Over the past little while, I’ve been thinking a lot about my memories of the South.  While, I only lived there a very short while, my dad is a full-fledged, good ol’ Southern Boy who was born and raised in Florida until the time he left for the army!  When I was very young, my family moved from New Mexico (where my mom was from) to Florida for a very short little while.  I have been trying to remember some of the things that stuck out in my mind the most about the South….

My Aunt Arie had this awesome home in the woods, that was to die for!  Old country charm at it’s finest.  She made the BEST chicken and rice EVER…. I could have eaten the entire bowl of that stuff whenever it was made.

My Aunt Geraldine had this home in Jacksonville, that if, looking back now, I would have had the time and money and resources, If I could do it, I would go back and redecorate that thing!  It was an absolutely beautiful home in it’s day.  Think “Meet Me in St. Louis”  beautiful home!  Unfortunately it was in such a scary neighborhood, that it was terribly frightening to stay there.  The windows had to have bars on them and each door had two or three locks on them.

My Aunt Juanita (I hope I’m spelling correctly) had this home in Tampa…. in the back yard, was this giant ORANGE tree… One year after a visit there, I came home with a giant box of freshly picked oranges, which I was able to keep all to myself!  They were amazingly delicious!  I also remember this giant iguana that ran through her back yard one day while we were there!

My Uncle Chester had as many kids as we did if not more!  We would always go swimming with them… All I can remember is how hot the concrete around the pool was on my poor tender feet and nasty old flip-flops that hurt my feet.  I would take them off because I couldn’t wear them, only to be burned on the concrete!!

Uncle Lloyd had this GIANT Rottweiler dog named Rosco that could count…. He would bark a certain amount of barks for each finger that was held up.  I thought that dog was going to eat me for breakfast–no foolin’!  “I was skeered of him as I wuz a bear!”

Uncle Ivan lived in Baton Rouge, “Looziana!”  His wife was the best cook I could think of.  She even made a plate of grits seem like a gourmet meal!  It was there that I had Crawdads for the first time.  It was also there that I acquired an insane addiction to Cajun seasoning!  I always enjoyed staying at their place.  It was always our stop over on our way to Florida!

Uncle Irvin lived in a little wooded place there in Florida.  One day while visiting there, a lightening bolt hit in the back yard…. I’ve never been that close to lightening before and I don’t ever wish to do it again!

My own memories of living in Florida include living through a hurricane.  Fortunately we were enough inland that all I remember is a rainstorm and trees being blown over, and my siblings scaring the livin’ tar out of me one day…. I was playing up in a wooded area near our home when I guess they decided to inform me that “Skunk Ape” (aka BigFoot) was chasin’ me.  I can’t remember stopping for anything all the way back to my bedroom!  I was so scared!

We visited Silver Springs  — They had glass bottom boats where you could see at least 80 feet down!  This is the place where most of the Tarzan movies were filmed.

My siblings also talked about how fun it was to go floating down the Ichetucknee Springs in Florida  — they often laughed about doing dumb things and goofing off in the water while seeing big ol’ snakes swimming around in there!  I also remember swimming in the Suwanee River.

I remember the miniature horse farms all over there — seriously, the horses weren’t much bigger than dogs!  There were also miles and miles of beautiful horse ranches with white picket fences and green fields…. Beautiful Southern Magnolia trees that, when in blossom, smelled like Lemonade to me!

Smearing peanut butter on top of pancakes, of which I still do EVERY SINGLE TIME!!!

The moss growing off the giant oak trees.

My dad reading “Uncle Remus” stories to me about Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear and the Tar baby with such the perfect Southern drawl — “I say’d HHHHOOOOWWWDDDDYYY!”

We listened to Jerry Clower ALL the time — he is one of my favorite comedians!  He passed away many years ago.

I wish you could see the memories I am seeing in my head right now!  Those were good times.

My favorite fast-food store was Popeye’s Chicken.  I sure wish one was close by to where I live, but no such luck!  Their chicken was amazing; but I remember the side dish of red beans and rice that was really tasty to me as well!

We would stop off at Louis’ Hamburgers (where my dad used to work when he was a teenager).  If I remember correctly, that little shop was located in Gainsville.  They were some really great hamburgers!

We lived in a little town called Newberry.  It was supposed to be the watermelon capital of the world! Maybe that’s why I love watermelons so much!

The fog in the mornings…. the smell in the air!  So beautiful!  I can still smell that same smell at times when we have foggy mornings in the summer!

Snakes, gaters, and the cockroaches….. Those were just a few memories I am fine forgetting about!

I wish I could remember more, but the one thing that I will NEVER, EVER forget is my Grandma Tillman’s Christmas Cake!  I don’t have her exact recipe.  I wish I could go back in time and get it from her, but it’s not possible!  So I have searched the internet over and over until I found the recipe that I think resembled her’s the most.  She was diabetic and would use honey in place of the sugar.  Since honey is such a pricey commodity at our place, I will be using sugar today instead.  It was made for every Christmas party at our house!  It was a Southern gathering staple!  I hope it will be one that you will enjoy as well!  With each bite, I intend to remember the good times!

Well, I guess I have strolled down memory lane long enough.  It’s time for a recipe!

1 C melted butter

6 eggs

1/2 C milk

2 C sugar

1 12 oz packg of crushed Vanilla Wafers — I used my food processor

1 8 oz packg of shredded Coconut Flakes

1 C pecans — The more the better!

MIx everything together and put it in a GREASED AND FLOURED pan — a vegetable spray will not be enough — it will stick.  Please use the grease and flour method–generously.  Pop it in the preheated oven of 350 degrees and let it cook for an hour!  I have used a bundt pan but I prefer to use a rectangular pan.  You might have to adjust your cooking time if cooked in a regular pan.

Serve with either cool whip, ice cream, or a caramel sauce.  I hope you enjoy it!

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