Crossing the Creek
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Home
Not far from Gainesville and north of Ocala, in a small town called Cross Creek, lived the famed Florida author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Her rural home where she lived and wrote her most famous book, The Yearling is now part of the Florida State Park system and open to the public.
Volunteer guides create an inviting tour and insight into the author’s life. The property begins with a lovely walkway through a small orchard and at one time, her house was surrounded by citrus groves of oranges, tangerines and grapefruit. The main house is an original Florida home detailed with authentic furniture, appliances, kitchen utensils and even rattlesnake skins adorning the wall. Original copies of her books line the bookshelves.
A screened porch serves as the entrance to her home that doubled as a sleeping porch. It's easy to imagine the author crafting her novels on an old typewriter (which sits on a vintage table) while she detailed her rural Florida life so vividly shared in her stories. Another cracker-style home is part of the tour used by her “help” complete with period furniture and collectibles. The tour also includes her barn and garden and her old car sits outside.
For cooks, you’ll love the authentic kitchen. The stove, the icebox, the sink and spice cans are all real. She was a renowned cook and wrote the Cross Creek Cookery, a fascinating cookbook providing a glimpse of authentic Florida food.
Nearby is the acclaimed Cross Creek restaurant, well worth a stop and one of Florida’s true originals.
Read further for Rawling's Orange Cake recipe.
18700 South County Road 325
Cross Creek, Fl 32640
The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Growing up in Florida, one of the required reading books was The Yearling written in 1938. The Pulitzer-prize winning story is about Jody Baxter, a 12 year-old boy growing up in Central Florida in the early 20th century, with his pet fawn, Flag. Both experience the trials and tribulations of back woods living in rural Florida. They are inseparable, and as they grow into adolescence, they face life lessons. Both the touching story and Rawling's writing style are worth the Authentic Florida read.
The book was also adapted into a movie in 1946, starring Gregory Peck as Jody's dad, and Jane Wyman, as Jody's mother. A good movie for old times sake.
From the Cross Creek Cookery, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
I later made several of her recipes – many, as you would expect, use Florida oranges. If you try her recipes, it's hard to follow if you are not an experienced cook. I have added my notes to her directions to help clarify - my interpretation - of her instructions, written in 1942. I also use only fresh squeezed Florida orange juice.
Orange Cake (With Orange Filling and Orange Frosting)
- ¼ c. butter
- 1 c. sugar
- 2 eggs
- ¼ c. milk
- ¼ c. orange juice
- 1 2/3 c. sifted flour
- 2 ½ t. baking powder
Cream butter, add sugar gradually, eggs well beaten, milk and orange juice. Add flour mixed and sifted with baking powder. Bake in two or three layers.
Place the following orange filling between the layers. Cover with orange frosting.
Robin's notes: Mix the wet ingredients. Use unsalted, room temperature butter. Mix the dry ingredients separately and then blend. She didn't mention at what temperature and for how long to bake, so I chose 350 degrees for 15 minutes in two round baking pans. If you make a 3 layer cake, it will be 10 minutes or less. Let cakes cool completely before adding the Orange Filling and Frosting which follows.
- ½ c. sugar
- 2 ½ Tbsp. Flour
- Grated rind 1 orange
- ¼ c. orange juice
- ½ Tbsp. Lemon juice
- 1 egg slightly beaten
- 1 tsp. Butter
Mix ingredients in order given. Cook in double boiler until thick. Cool before spreading.
Robin's notes: If you don't have a double boiler, just simmer water in a 2 qt. heavy plan and place the ingredients in a glass bowl. The bowl should not touch the water. Stir mixture until it thickens.
I would refrigerate for awhile before adding to the cake.
- Grated rind 1 orange
- 1 tsp. Brandy
- ½ tsp. Lemon juice
- 2 Tbp. Orange juice;
- Yolk of 1 egg
- 1 ½ c. confectioners sugar
Add grated rind to brandy and fruit juices. Add slowly to yolk of egg, slightly beaten. Beat in confectioners sugar, about 1 – 1 ½ c., until thick enough to spread.
Robin's notes: I marinated the brandy and fruit juices for five minutes, added the yolk, beat in the sugar and refrigerated the mixture before finishing the cake. If the mixture is too runny, just add more sugar.
This article also appeared in SRQ Magazine.