At home in the kitchen

Serving up Southern classics with Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman

Photo Courtesy William Morrow
Country music star Kimberly Schlapman.
Photo Courtesy William Morrow
Photo Courtesy William Morrow
Cooking with daughter Daisy Schlapman.
Photo Courtesy William Morrow
Putting the final touches on her favorite Fresh Glazed Apple Cake.
Photo Courtesy William Morrow
Sandbox Entertainment
Little Big Town
Photo
By KATIE VANBRACKLE
Posted

Makes 1 Bundt cake

CAKE

11⁄4 cups canola oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 cups peeled and diced assorted apples

1 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

GLAZE

3⁄4 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup evaporated milk

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter

1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Grease and lightly flour a Bundt pan.

2. Using an electric mixer, cream the oil and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Sift in the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix until well incorporated. The batter will be on the thick side. Add the apples and pecans to the bowl and mix well.

3. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Combine the sugar, evaporated milk and butter in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Keep warm.

5. When the cake is done, leave it in the pan. Poke holes all over the cake with a skewer or toothpick. Pour three-quarters of the glaze on top of the cake while it’s in the pan and still hot. The holes will help soak up the glaze. Let it rest for 30 minutes. Invert the cake onto a cake plate and pour the remaining glaze on top. (If needed, heat the glaze slightly over low heat to bring it to a nice consistency for pouring.)

Kimberly Schlapman is a founding member of the Grammy Award-winning country music band Little Big Town, a group known for beautiful four-part harmonies and chart-topping hits like “Pontoon” and “Day Drinkin’.”

The petite blonde with wild curls, tall stilettos and a high-pitched Southern drawl is perfectly at ease on a performance stage, but her favorite entertaining is done behind the scenes, with family and friends in the warmth of her Nashville kitchen.

Schlapman grew up in the North Georgia town of Cornelia, “sitting counterside” as her mother and grandmothers served up Southern comfort food and life lessons.

“Aside from learning to cook, I learned how important it is to share time in the kitchen with people you love, to nourish your family and to foster friendships,” she said.

“Our families’ kitchens were where I found my passion and my voice. I’ve been cooking since I could stir a pot. It’s therapeutic for me. It fills up my heart.”

As the host of “Kimberly’s Southern Kitchen,” a popular television cooking show, Kimberly regularly shares recipes with her fans, but recently, she offered a closer glimpse into her heart with the publication of her first cookbook, “Oh, Gussie! Cooking and Visiting in Kimberly’s Southern Kitchen.”

“I wanted it to be a bit of memoir, to tell stories of growing up in the North Georgia hills and share cherished recipes from my mother and grandmothers,” she explained to fans in Norcross, Georgia, who gathered in May as part of the Gwinnett Public Library’s
Meet the Author series.The book also shares tales of travels on the road with her band, and from the life she loves at home in country music’s capital.

Leaning casually on the podium, she charmed the room with her big smile and warm manner as she shared the story of how her grandparents met, mooned over her mother’s homemade biscuits and described cooking with her 7-year-old daughter, Daisy.

“We let the flour fly and clean up later!” she said with a laugh.

Family is clearly the most important thing in Kimberly’s life, even in the midst of a successful music career. Little Big Town averages about 200 days per year out on the road, much of it spent with families in tow.

“Three couples, three children, nannies, a band and crew. We’re quite the traveling circus at times,” she said.

Kimberly installed a small convection oven in her tour bus and does what she can to enjoy a taste of home out on the road, such as warm, bubbling Vidalia Onion Dip, a favorite of bandmate Phillip Sweet.

From the very beginning, Kimberly’s cooking has been a part of Little Big Town’s routine.

“When the band first came together, we would meet at my house a lot. Karen, Jimi and Phillip would come over and we would brainstorm ideas like band names or musical direction and we’d work up songs. And I would always cook. A good rehearsal cannot happen without some good sustenance,” she said, adding that her bandmates were willing guinea pigs for some of the recipes in her book, such as the Chocolate Cherry Cola Cake which Jimi Westbrook often requests on his birthday.

Other recipes include Turkey Meatballs which she once made on her cooking show with fellow country music star Martina McBride, and Grilled Brioche with Warm Honey Strawberries, a particular favorite of Sugarland’s Kristian Bush.

Most recipes, however, are from her family, such as Paula’s House Full of Folks Breakfast Casserole, which is served every Christmas morning at Kimberly’s mother’s home.

Friendly Coconut Pie is included because “there comes a time when somebody you know needs a pie. I’m not saying pie can fix anything, but what I am saying is that taking a friend a pie – stopping in and showing up – well, that can only help.”

Several recipes feature honey, which plays a role in each Little Big Town performance. According to Kimberly, before every show, “we gather together in a little huddle for a quick prayer and some rowdy words of encouragement. Afterward, we pass around a honey bear, tilting back our heads, each taking a squeeze to soothe our throats before we go out and start singing.”

Drizzling honey over roasted figs reminds Kimberly of the gigantic, shady fig trees from her childhood home, where she fought off yellow jackets each summer to get to the juicy, sweet morsels. When she moved to Nashville, her husband Stephen planted a fig tree in the yard, a surprise Kimberly calls “one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever been given.”

When pressed to choose a favorite recipe from the book, Kimberly was true to her North Georgia roots. Her grandmother’s Fresh Glazed Apple Cake is an appropriate choice for a gal from Cornelia, where a 15-foot tall, bright red apple replica stands in the middle of downtown, next to the railroad depot.

“I come from Apple Country and I’m an apple snob,” Kimberly said proudly. “Don’t give me some old, mushy apple. This cake is one of my favorite things to eat when I come home to Georgia.”

Little Big Town will head to Nashville on June 10 for the live broadcast of the annual Country Music Awards. The group has won CMA’s Vocal Group of the Year three years in a row and is nominated in the same category yet again for 2015.

But even as Kimberly’s star continues to rise, she stays firmly grounded with her deep, Georgia roots.

“A few weeks ago, I held a cookbook signing event in my hometown of Cornelia,” she recalled. “We sold over 600 books that day. It was so humbling, so emotional, and so incredibly special to see all those people – people who raised me – lined up to welcome me home.”

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