My grandparents lived in several Southern states in the 1950s and '60s, and, avid cook that she was, my grandmother collected cookbooks wherever she went. Lucky girl that I am, many of these books are now in my possession. I go gaga over those retro recipes and tips on how to be a good hostess and hubby-pleasing wife.
Ambrosia is a recipe that pops up in most of my Southern cookbooks as well as in my grandmother's chicken-scratched notebooks. A Southern staple since the late 19th century, the term ambrosia means—according to Greek mythology—"food of the gods." Its avatar is a bit more pedestrian: though variations exist, at its most basic the dessert is made up of fresh fruits (often sliced oranges) sprinkled with sugar, topped with grated coconut, and sometimes, splashed with a little booze.
The recipe my mom was fond of making is probably an inheritance from my grandma. It was a mix of canned peaches, canned pineapple, toasted almonds, whipped cream, broken up pieces of Galletas María (lightly sweet Latin American cookies), and marshmallows. A personal take on the originals, but I think the gods would agree that whipped cream is a fine addition.
My ambrosia layer cake is a special occasion treat: four layers of golden cake filled with a fluffy icing packed with tropical fruits and mini-marshmallows. It's inspired by my grandmother, who taught me to love the kitchen.