Winston-Salem N.C. was founded in 1766 by the Moravians, a pious Germanic people who funneled down the Appalachian valleys from Bethlehem, PA into the rolling Piedmont of North Carolina. The first Moravians arrived in November of 1753 and took refuge in an abandoned log cabin on 98,985 acre site sold to the brethren by Lord Granville of England. Immediately they set about building their town, which they called Bethabara, meaning “house of passage”, for they intended this site to be a temporary one. Within three years, Bethabara had become a bustling community, looked upon by the Indians as a place “where there are good people and much bread.”
Moravian sugar cake is a light, spongy, yeast-raised coffee cake with puddles of melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon on top. This recipe makes two 13x9x2 loaves.
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-1/2 cups water
6 T. butter
6 T. lard (hog lard, not shortening)
1 scant cup sugar
2 t. salt
2 pkgs. active dry yeast softened in 1/4 cup warm water
5-1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 cup butter, more or less
1/4 cup light brown sugar, not packed
1/4 cup heavy cream, more or less
Step 1. Boil the potatoes in the water in a covered saucepan about 15 minutes until very tender. Drain off cooking water and reserve. Mash potatoes until light and fluffy but add no seasoning. Measure out 1 cup and set aside; when measuring the mashed potatoes, just spoon them lightly into the measuring cup - do not pack down.
Step 2. Cream the butter, lard and sugar until very light, then beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in the mashed potatoes and, when creamy, mix in 1 cup of the reserved potato cooking water and the salt. Test the temperature of the mixture - it should be warm but not too hot. If too hot, allow to cool a bit, then mix in the softened yeast.
Step 3. Stir in the flour, about 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When all the flour has been mixed in and you have a nice soft dough, cover with a dry cloth, set in a warm spot 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
Step 4. Punch dough down in the bowl and beat a minute or so to reduce the volume. Divide dough in half and pat out in two well-buttered 13x9x2-inch loaf pans. The dough will be springy and you will have to persist, with well-buttered hands, to flatten the dough over the bottoms of the pans. Cover each with a dry cloth, set in a warm spot away from drafts, and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
Step 5. When the dough is puffy and light and has risen to within about a half inch of the tops of the pans, punch holes down in the dough with your thumb, index and third fingers bunched up. Its best to do this in an orderly pattern, making five evenly spaced rows, three holes each, across the 9-inch side of the dough. Cut the butter into little chips about the size of kidney beans and drop one into each hole. Scatter brown sugar lightly across the top of each loaf, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Finally, drizzle cream over the top of each loaf. Bake loaves in a preheated 400 degree oven about 20 to 25 minutes until richly browned. Remove to wire racks and let cool about 5 minutes. To serve, cut into large squares and put out lots of sweet butter for spreading.