Actress Dawn Wells has always been in good spirits about her association with the silly CBS series “Gilligan’s Island.”
As featured in my published cookbooks, much like her television alter ego Mary Ann Summers, “a Kansas farm girl,” Wells loved to cook and create recipes. We lost Dawn at 82 in December 2020, but her smile lives on forever in the world of TV rerun viewers.
Because today’s column helps fulfill a reader’s request for a treasured restaurant carrot cake recipe, my thoughts drift to the deserted island where Wells and his famous co-stars have been stranded. for 98 episodes spanning three seasons from 1964 to 1967, before countless reruns in syndication, that’s where I found out after I was born in 1970. Our mother, probably like so many other moms, didn’t have loved the show and found the whole plot premise wacky, which of course was all the more right that me and my older siblings found it so entertaining.
My Favorite Episode, #71 as part of the third season, titled “Pass the Vegetables, Please”, originally aired September 26, 1966.
During the few times I interviewed Dawn, we always laughed at this goofy episode plot, which detailed a wooden crate of assorted vegetable seed packets, snagged on Gilligan’s fishing line, hailed as a celebration for the stranded castaways, who had had enough of their usual tropical fruits. menu. Unfortunately, Gilligan removed the lid of the box to make a new bench and did not notice that it was stamped with the warning: “Radioactive!”
Because Mary Ann is the group’s agricultural expert, she advises using beach sand to thin out the tropical soil in the vegetable garden, and these planted seeds not only germinate overnight, but they yield a bountiful harvest, but also a strange one. , in 24 hours. .
“Everyone knows carrots are good for you, because after all, have you ever seen a rabbit wearing glasses?” Gilligan explains.
Each castaway has their own favorite vegetable.
The captain loves sweet corn, but is shocked to see the corn cobs grow in a ring shape. Movie star Ginger loves green beans, but is puzzled that these seeds result in pretzel-shaped beans. And Mary Ann’s favorite carrots yield four or five joined orange roots per carrot, prompting her to comment, “I’ve never seen anything like this on the farm… except under a cow! (At first, the professor thinks the salty ocean water is the cause of the abnormalities in the appearance of the vegetables.)
Once the castaways start eating their favorite vegetables, they also discover that they contain nutrients with superhuman properties.
Gilligan consuming spinach gives him incredible strength. Mrs. Howell gorges on sugar beets provides super-sonic energy. And Mary Ann’s eating carrots gives incredible sight, like being able to see ships crossing the ocean, despite being many, many miles from shore and not visible to anyone else. (We never learn what the result is of Mr. Howell devouring his mushrooms and artichokes.)
After the castaways hear a report on their transistor radio about the missing crate containing dangerous radioactive seeds, the professor concludes that the only way to counter the radiation is the unpleasant course of eating their homemade bars of soap “for that hydrocarbons in soap neutralize radioactivity.” (The plate filled with prop “bars of soap” actually contained stacked blocks of cheese that the actors ate while making funny faces before trick bubbles came out of their mouths.)
It was reader Tara Garrett from Munster who contacted me last month to help her find the recipe for the carrot cake served at the Strongbow Inn restaurant in Valparaiso, which closed in March 2015 after 75 years of serving guests. turkey with all the trimmings, and so much more.
“My mom has been looking for this cake recipe for years, and after having some bad luck, I told her we needed to reach out to you for help with this search,” Garrett said.
Going through my recipe archive file, I found a news clipping from January 2005 featuring chef Russ Adams and his wife Nancy Adams, owners of Strongbow, and the latter the head of the bakery, discussing this carrot cake recipe.
“We always had carrot cake available, but we never sold a lot of it, but then we changed the recipe and it flew away,” Nancy said in the story, describing how she developed the recipe, which includes a standard cream cheese. frosting topped with toasted pecans.
“Everything is made from scratch and customers know it. That’s how I know we sell a lot of cakes. Because I’m always grating carrots.
Chef Russ kindly provided me with his handwritten recipe for the delicious Strongbow Inn Three-Layer Carrot Cake, which I am happy to share with Tara, her mother, and other avid readers.
Columnist Philip Potempa has published four cookbooks and is the Marketing Director of Theater at the Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or send your questions: From the Farm, PO Box 68, San Pierre, IN 46374.
Prepare 10 servings of cake slices.
4 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
2 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of vanilla
2 ½ teaspoons of salt
3 cups flour
1 tbsp plus 3/4 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 cups chopped pecans
5 cups grated carrots
1 can (10.5 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 pounds powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups chopped pecans, toasted (for garnish)
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1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. To make the cake batter, in a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla on low speed with your favorite paddle attachment if available, until combined, about 5 minutes.
3. Add sifted dry ingredients and pulse to incorporate, scrape down side of bowl and mix for about 2 more minutes.
4. Add pecans, carrots and pineapple and mix on low speed for 3 minutes or until incorporated.
5. Pour the batter into three buttered 9- or 8-inch cake pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to bake before removing them from the pans.
6. To make the frosting, in a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together before slowly whisking in the powdered sugar, adding vanilla, then milk as needed to create consistency desired.
7. Frost and layer cakes to assemble and garnish with pecans on sides of cake and a few scattered on top.