A Prize-Winning Chat with Paula

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By Elizabeth Taliaferro

The Cooking with Paula Deen magazine team just got back from Savannah. Despite the heat and the no-see-ems (these teeny little bugs can cause a whole lot of itching), we captured some amazing seasonal images at Paula’s home for upcoming issues.

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A highlight of the trip was delivering a dream come true to one of our readers and one of Paula’s biggest fans. Jo Marquis, of Oxford, Mississippi, won the Cooking with Paula Deen Family Dinner Makeover Sweepstakes. With the win came the opportunity to spend some time with Paula at her Savannah home. I’m telling you, Paula is so fun to be around. She’s never met a stranger, so it’s no wonder that she and Jo hit it off right from the start. Of course, it really helped that they both share a passion for all things chicken related: decorative plates, salt and pepper shakers, vases, and vintage taxidermy.

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Near the end of the visit, Jo shared a few of her tried and true recipes with Paula in hopes of getting a few tips for updated twists. Paula came through with some great suggestions, and the new and improved recipes will be revealed in our September-October issue.

While the two were culling through the recipe box, they came upon a recipe for Coconut Layer Cake, and a 15-minute conversation ensued about memorable layer cakes. Jo says no one in her family has been able to recreate the legendary coconut cake in spite of multiple attempts. We all decided Jo’s grandmother must have had a baking secret that’s just not transcribed on the handwritten recipe. Paula reflected on her Lady Baltimore Cake, which she still makes at Christmas. She’s changed the recipe (that should surprise no one) and uses a fluffy 7-minute frosting instead of the buttercream her Grandmother Paul used. She’s pretty sure she’s forgiven.

Here’s a cake recipe that we still get hundreds of reader requests for. We ran it again in the Cooking with Paula Deen 5th Anniversary Keepsake Issue that’s in stores right now.

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Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake
Makes 1 (9-inch) cake

Ingredients:
1 (18.25-ounce) box white cake mix
1 (3-ounce) box strawberry-flavored gelatin
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and puréed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Garnish: sliced fresh strawberries

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350˚. Lightly grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans.

2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add puréed strawberries, eggs, oil, and ¼ cup water; beat at medium speed with a mixer until smooth. Pour into prepared pans.

3. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Spread Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries, if desired. Store cake, covered, in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed, puréed, and divided
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
7 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with a mixer until creamy.

2. Beat in 1/4 cup strawberry purée; reserve remaining purée for another use. Beat in extract. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.


If you had a chance to sit and chat with Paula, what would you like to talk about?

Heather Martin Jeffcoat recalls an early love of being in the kitchen. It developed from the days of being beside her Grandmother Louise as she cooked for everyone who visited her small-town Alabama home as well as time spent baking with her mother, a Michigan native transplanted to the South after marriage. To this day her mother combines the best of Northern and Southern fare. Heather now spends every spare moment in the kitchen. It’s a way for her to relax and enjoy time with her husband, son, and daughter, who often participate in cooking meals at their home. A love of writing steered Heather into journalism school and then into publishing. After several years working in print and online media, she began freelancing for Cooking With Paula Deen magazine, and she was recently tapped to join the staff full time as the managing editor. She has come to realize that her childhood memories cooking in her grandmother’s and mother’s kitchens, full of love and hospitality, have given her the best education she could have asked for.
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Read More From Heather Martin Jeffcoat.

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Reader Comments:

54321

Paula I am writing to you to let you know how our family is supporting you right now when the press and other people are judging you for telling the truth .I believe if all of the true American people were under oath and the question was put to them if they had ever said anything racial they would have to say YES. We are truly sorry that people are making a mountain out of a mole hill about your comments. I wonder how many other Food Network cooks have said racial comments and did not mean to say it the way it came out. Please know we will not be watching Food Network tell they put you back on. A True American that has said racial comments. there are good people in every race but I didn't like the Neeleys when they said you did something to them. Now the question for them is .Why were there NO white people on there show????We love you and your family .Just give your problems to god and he will take care of you and yours. Brenda Sheets

By Brenda Sheets on June 28, 2013

54321

hi Paula, I just finished reading your healthy new life in woman's day Feb.2013. i too like brussel sprouts. Just by luck, i was cooking my sprouts in a little olive. I cut them in half lengthwise and was sauteing them. I wanted to add some flavoring. while looking for something, a took a sip of my orange drink made from the little tubes you buy to add to water.(no calories, lots of flavor), so i poured some into the pan. I turned the heat down and let it simmer.(adding more orange water as needed so it would not dry out. Wow, was i surprised.They were delicous. They had such a great taste. I hope you get a chance to try them. Also,the house had a citrus smell instead of cabbage odor. Bonus !!! Have a great new Year !!!! edwina herndon

By edwina herndon on January 10, 2013

54321

i was reading prevention and your sweepstakes was in it your cookware etc could yo u send me info the sweepstakes please its not over until june 1-2012

By dorothy white on April 13, 2012

54321

Love you Paula, you are the Best! Would love to meet you, and or talk to you since I look just like you ha! You might be insulted by that, but I'm not! Look forward to meeting you!!!

By Linda Zelius on October 04, 2011

54321

Paula, I would love to meet you; I love everything about you, and you remind me of my Mother! My son favors Jamie so much, and I have one grandson "Haiden" who is my heart. Everywhere I go people say: You look just like Paula Deen, but you are much prettier than I am. I have just retired after 42 years, and I am missing my job so much; but if I could meet you that would really cheer me up! Love you, Linda Zelius

By Linda Zelius on October 01, 2011

54321

I'm sooooo excited to find out that you are having a book signing in Shreveport La. My mother and I have been wanting to meet you for so long, We love your show and we would LOVE to spend the day with you.... but we will just have to settle with meeting you! Thats ok we Love you and we think you are AWESOME! Keep up the GOOD cookin....... we stay hungry in Louisiana.

By Sandy Newell on August 17, 2011

54321

JUST WANT TO SAY I LUV LUV LUV PAULA !!!!! OMG !! I WATCH HER SHOW EVERY SINGLE DAY AND RERUNS TOO ON THE FOOD NETWORK !!!!! SHE MAKES ME LAUGH AND SHE IS SO DOWN TO EARTH AND BEAUTIFUL AND ITS (HOPEFULLY !!) A POSSIBILITY I WILL BE SEEING HER IN PERSON IN NYC IN OCTOBER. OMG !!!!!! A DREAM COME TRUE !! I LUV EVERYTHING ABOUT HER !!!! A COURAGEOUS, REAL BEAUTIFUL FUNNY WOMAN. SOMETHING ELSE !!! I JUST ACTUALLY STARTED WATCHING HER SHOW IN APRIL AND HAVE NOT MISSED A SINGLE EPISODE SINCE !! WAS COMPLETELY HOOKED THE FIRST TIME I WATCHED !! I WANNA ADOPT HER !! smile SHE IS PRESCIOUS. I LUV HER LAUGH AND WHEN SHE SEZ "Y'ALL"

By debbie on August 05, 2011

54321

Hi Paula, I am a fan of yours from England, and I have to say you are a fabulous woman. Bubbly, energetic, and best of all, very generous. If I had the chance to meet with you, I'd sit in the kitchen with you, and hopefully we'll sit and chat about food over coffee and cake. There's nothing left for me to say except for these words. "From my kitchen to yours. Good cooking and much love. Bye y'all"

By Jack Harding on August 02, 2011

54321

I love you Paula.......I am a huge fan of all you food and yor family. Today I made Aunt Peggy's Cheesecake, and let me tell you, I could hear you i my ear saying, "YALL SHE GOT IT"! IM SO COUNTRY JUST LIKE U. I'M A GA NATIVE AND LIVED IN GUYTON FOR MOST OF MY LIFE.....I PLAN T MAKE THIS CAKE NEXT WEEKEND FOR DESSERT. STRAWBERRY CAKE IS ONE OF MY FAVS. I TOO MAKE A MEAN NO BAKE CHEESE CAKE......GOOD COOKING AND MUCH LOVE!

By latiesha groover on July 31, 2011

54321

Paula I just love to watch you on tv. I find you an extrodinary southern lady. I am lost to the world of cooking. I am a picky eater with texter issues so making a meal becomes difficult. Although thanks to you i can now make melt in your mouth fried chicken that my whole family enjoys. I don't tend to branch out because of my issues but tend to stick with the southern favorites in my family fried is heaven. I cannot wait to make this strawberry cake though it looks amazing and i am sure it will taste just as amazing.

By Jennifer Mincey on July 29, 2011

54321

Hey Paula: When I saw this recipe and read some of the comments by other readers It really took me bake to my grandma as well. When she made "Strawberry Shortcake" she would make a Ho-made Bisquit Cake from scratch. (A huge bisquit about 8 inches in diameter) After it was baked she would slice the "cake" in half across the width and butter it up in Paula Deen fashion. Then she would slather it with fresh sliced strawberries that had been soaking in sugar and a little vanilla for a few hours between the layers and on top as well and of course it wasn't finished until it had fresh cream on top. She passed away in 1986 and I haven't had it since, but the taste is always in my memory. I am 54 year old widow of two boys aged 20 and soon to be 18 and like you they are my world. Their father loved to cook and so do I and I had them in the kitchen with me when they were young. They are fabulous home spun culinary wonders. They are going to be better than me soon but that only makes me proud. They have learned to make something out of nothing but it looks gourmet. Thank you for your shows and your jest for life. Much love Debby Rivers

By Debby Rivers on July 26, 2011

54321

Paula, my family and I really like your shows on the Food Network channel. I have tried so many of your recipes and like them. You are what southern cooking is all about, great food, family, and friends. I wish I could meet you and get you to teach me some of your techniques and share some recipes.I have also tried some of your son's Jamie and Bobby's recipes which is also very good. I particularly like Jamie's Ceasar Salad. It is so wonderful.Keep up the good work and I will keep watching your shows. Thank You Paula for so many wonderful meals.

By Linda Turney on July 24, 2011

54321

Paula, I love your cooking shows, keep on doing them. I have tried so many of your recipes and really like them. I like some of your son's Jamie and Bobby's recipes also. I wish I had the opportunity to meet you, have you teach me some of your techniques in cooking and sharing recipes. Paula you are what southern cooking is all about. Good home cooking, family and friends. I love you and keep up the good work.

By Linda on July 24, 2011

54321

My family loves strawberry cake, but it's the one thing that brings tears to my eyes when I do. Strawberry cake was the last cake my mother made just a few days before she past away. I remember my dad telling my brother and me that we need to eat this cake because this was the last thing your mother made. We did, but that was the hardest cake for me to sallow because of tring to hold back the tears. My mother past away the day before Thanksgiving in 1989 and since then it has gotten easyer for me to make the strawberry cake. I can't wait to try this recipe for my family, but I'm sure I will have my mom in mind when I do. Thank You Paula for everything that you do, and I hope that one day I will get to meet you in person! Sincerely, Regina G Judd

By Regina Judd on July 24, 2011

54321

Your Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake is similar to a strawberry cake my Mom use to make me every year for my Birthday from the time I was 3 until she died of a heart attack in 1996 at the age of 49. Luckily she had given me the recipe before she died&I still make it every year for my Birthday! My Dad had died 2years before my Mom at the age of 51 of a heart attack& making this cake reminds me of all the wonderful Birthdays with them! I have no idea where she got this recipe back in the 60's but it is my favorite∈ the last couple of years I shared the recipe with my daughter(she'll be 20 in October)&now; she makes it! We both LOVE your show&your; recipes! Kristi Robinson Centralia,Missouri

By Kristi Robinson on July 24, 2011

54321

That strawberry cake looks so good. I came on here to get the Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding recipe.... Now I don't know which one to make. Michelle http://michellesdinnerbell.blogspot.com/

By Michelle Paramoure on July 23, 2011

54321

Paula, i have a husband that is a bit younger than myself and neither one of us are fans of the onion...any type of onion or mushroom. I love your recipes and try them often. My question is is there a really good solid beef stew or shepard pie or that type of recipe that you can make without onions and still have plenty of flavor?

By vickey on July 20, 2011

54321

Paula, I am up early and spotted your receipe for Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake. My sister made this for me 39 years ago. I loved it. Had just found out I was pregnant with my first child and it hit the spot. That child is 38 years old now and coming to visit today. I think I make him this cake. Thanks, Paula

By Merry Hendricks on July 20, 2011

54321

Thank you for the strawberry cake. It looks heavenly. Could you please consider publishing the strawberry pound cake. It was sold at Walmart's, here in Los Angeles. It is the best cake I ever tasted. Thank you. Ellen

By sylantro on July 20, 2011

54321

i would really like to see Paula Deen and Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) cooking together...those two could whip up some really good grub... I am from Oklahoma and miss southern cooking living here in the pacific northwest....though I do fix cornbread, homemade rolls, dumplings, etc... Ree has some delicious recipes too...Her Paula would make quite the team..

By cheryl haggard on July 20, 2011

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love the table paula would look good on my new patio. so glad you are back. I hope to get there to see you in person one day.i will start tomorrow to find the patern form the tablecloth.
Gladys Rainesl in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I just want to say this I don't even know if is the right page all I ever wanted to say to Paula Deen welcome back I have missed you. You are my favorite home down girls keep your head up and hang on and feel the love. P.S. from a woman of color.
in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I just love love love the table and flowers and am so glad that I can still access all of Paula's recipes, her family life, Bobby's lighter versions and Brandon's beautiful work. Truly thankful to see such beautiful tablescapes. You guys are my heros.
Patricia in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 9:14 am