Pam Anderson is a cookbook author of the first order. She has written many books and has written for all the best food magazines but perhaps her biggest contribution is the blog (and USAToday) food pieces that she co-authors with her two daughters, Maggy and Sharon. They are collectively known as Three Many Cooks. With her daughters she has become a leader in the food blogging community and ultimately bridged both the generation gap and the gap between the traditional food professionals and the growing group of talented food bloggers.
When I was young, vacation meant road trip. No one (at least no one I knew) ever flew anywhere. You drove. There was no destination. Every day was an adventure. We’d start planning these trips months ahead--unfolding maps, checking out points of interest, making an itinerary.
One memorable year we spent ten days touring Florida. I had just studied its history in third grade, and my parents decided why not spend time exploring our own state. My textbook had been pretty dry, but the writers were smart. They inserted a vacationing brother and sister at the beginning of each chapter just long enough to tease us story-loving children to the meaty text. It worked. Every time I started a chapter I was Sally on vacation with her brother John. (A lovely fantasy for an only child.)
Our last stop that year was St. Augustine in the Northeast corner of the state. I could hardly wait. That past year I had read all about Ponce De Leon and his search for the fountain of youth. There was even a picture of the famed fountain in my textbook. Like Sally and John, I wanted a sip of that water.
I remember entering the cave-like chamber where the fountain had been enshrined. After the guide recited the history and folklore, I finally got what I had come for--a drink of that water. At that age, I probably knew better, but I half-expected to feel something. I didn’t, of course, and it was all a bit of a letdown. But I remember thinking maybe the water would keep me young. Hah!
Fast-forward forty-five years. We’re at our vacation rental in Ponte Vedra, FL. Spur of the moment we decide to hop in the car and head south to St. Augustine for a little afternoon exploration. It’s a lovely coastal town, more kin to Savannah and Charleston than the beachy towns to the south. We toured the invincible Spanish fort, cooled off in a couple of old churches, and meandered around the narrow, quaint streets. Not that I wanted to revisit it, but I was quietly on the lookout for the fountain of my youth.
We’re also in search of a cupcake shop called Luli’s. With conflicting reports about its location, we finally determine it had recently moved to a converted house on our way out of town. As we head out we see the landmarks—the big stone cross, the pizza joint—but not the shop.
After several blocks, we know we’ve missed it. We turn right to head back for a second look. In front of us is sign for The Fountain of Youth. We can’t resist. We head down the residential street, pull through the arched parking lot. There it is in all its cheez-ball glory. Now when I could use a little magic water, I’ve got no interest.
We turn back. On our second pass we find Luli’s hidden in a quaint house. It’s too hot for tea or coffee, and I’m thirsty so I order a bottle of water and a Key Lime Cupcake Now that’s magic!
Makes 1 dozen
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) softened butter, divided
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest, divided, and 1 tablespoon lime juice
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour *
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/ 2 cup confectioner’s sugar
* Or whisk 11/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt into 1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour.
Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake papers. Beat 12 tablespoons of the butter, sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest until light and fluffy. Starting and ending with an egg, alternate beating in eggs and flour until each is thoroughly incorporated. Beat in lime juice and vanilla until just incorporated. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 17 minutes. Remove from oven, let cupcakes stand a couple of minutes; turn onto a wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile, beat remaining 4 tablespoons butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons zest, and the cream cheese until smooth; beat in condensed milk and sugar. Frost and serve.
Pam Anderson considers herself “every cook.” A New York Times bestselling author, she has been cooking nearly everyday for over 30 years. With seven published books, she brings satisfying recipes and sage advice to both novice and veteran cooks. Whether you’re on a quest for the perfect brownie, wanting to get dinner on the table effortlessly, hoping to entertain more simply, attempting to shed pounds permanently, or looking to eat delicious meatless, Pam can help. AARP’s official food expert, she is a food columnist for USA Weekend and Runner’s World magazines.