Let Them Eat: Ambrosia Layer Cake


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.