Grandma Radcliff’s Cake & Finding Your Roots

I love Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

My answer to “Which celebrity would you want to go to dinner with?” is Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I wish there were 5,000 more episodes of PBS’s Finding Your Roots.

People ask all the time what draws to me genealogy. And, our relationship to family history as a society has changed a lot since we were kids. There’s an ease of access (not super easy – genealogy is hard work) to documents and communication with others that just didn’t exist 35 years ago.

My dad did genealogy, his parents did genealogy. I do genealogy.


I don’t know. It’s not this desire to prove anything. I’m basically super german on one side and suuuuuper deep white American settlers/invaders on the other side – tracing eventually back to England and Ireland.

There’s no family lore about “native blood” or kings and queens. Though, honestly, with the way those monarchs got around for several centuries, we’re probably all a little bit royal.

A lot of my ancestors made deplorable choices. I have slaveholders and confederate soldiers all over the place with my West Virginian heritage.

So it’s not pride or filling up my own heart with the accomplishments of the people that came before me.

I think it’s more just…knowing.

To know where I came from. Not really. I come from right here. The middle of America.

But how did I come to be?

Genetically speaking, it took two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, and so on.

For you to be born from 12 previous generations, you’ve had a total of 4,094 ancestors spanning the last 400 years.

What are the odds?

What trauma do you carry with you?

What joy?

I don’t know where Grandma Radcliff got this recipe. But I love it. And I attribute it to her. It’s a great summer cake. Which is funny to post in the dead of winter. But, when you think about all the people it took to create you and how long that took? Summer doesn’t seem too far away.

The Struggle of Strawberries

I love strawberries. But if you’re gonna buy them it has to be for IMMEDIATE AND TOTAL CONSUMPTION or you will find mold on the bottom strawberry when you go to use them.

There’s plenty of tricks and ‘hacks’ to keeping fruit fresh. But, strawberries are such delicate little assholes.

All that being said, I’m not gonna turn you into the Barefoot Contessa Brut Squad if you decide to use frozen strawberries here as long as you don’t turn me for using angel food cake mix instead of making my own. But keep in mind, frozen strawberries will inherently have more moisture and a different consistency than fresh strawberries.

Grandma Radcliff’s Cake

Serves: I dunno, 10? It’s a cake.


  • 1 angel food cake package, prepared according to package directions and cooled
  • 3 C fresh strawberries, divided (2 C & 1 C)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 1/2 C sugar (1/2 C & 1 C)
  • 1 egg white


  • Mixing bowls
  • Stirrin’ spoon
  • Various measuring cups and spoons
  • Spatula
  • Hand mixer
  1. Prepare the angel food cake according to package directions. Cool completely and slice into two equal layers.
  2. Slice 2 C of strawberries and mix with 1/2 C of sugar and lemon juice. Allow to sit for around 5 minutes at least. Or put in the fridge and let it marry until you’re ready to build the cake.
  3. For the frosting: crush up the remaining 1 C of strawberries – it doesn’t have to be perfect this is just for ease of mixing. Mix with 1 C sugar and egg white. With a hand mixer, beat the mixture until it is very stiff and every granule of sugar is dissolved (At least 10 minutes)
  4. To build the cake: Spread the strawberry mixture on the top of the bottom layer of cake. Place the top layer on top.
  5. Spread the frosting over the top, sides (including that middle area if you used a traditional angel food cake pan)
  6. Serve and enjoy.

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