I traveled to Ava's hometown in North Carolina for a centennial celebration!
I've made many Ava Gardner recipes on Hollywood Kitchen and for good reason! Her recipes have always been delicious. I love her and I'll use ANY excuse to talk about her fascinating life, career and food with my friend (and Ava Museum Board Member) Lora Stocker.
Ava Gardner was born on December 24, 1922 so I traveled from Hollywood to her hometown in North Carolina to celebrate the 100th anniversary of her birth! (Scroll down on this post to see pictures of her hometown!)
This recipe is for Mama Gardner's Coconut Cake and is from the Ava Gardner Museum. Since it is generally not possible to cook inside a museum, we made the cake the night before at Lora's house. It proved to be a bit more tricky than we had anticipated, but it still turned out well. This makes a large 4 layer cake.
2 sticks butter
3 1/3 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream butter and sugar thoroughly. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat after each egg. Add flour alternating with milk and vanilla. Bake in 4 well-greased and floured 9-inch pans at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Test with straw.
4 egg whites
3 tablespoons white Karo syrup
2 coconuts, grated
1 ½ cups milk from coconut
3 cups sugar
Cook sugar and Karo syrup with milk from coconut, until this spins a thread. Pour slowly over stiffly beaten egg whites and beat until almost cool. Stir coconut into frosting. Frost sides and top of cake after it cools.
Lora Stocker is a professional designer, illustrator, and artist and does graphic design work for the Turner Classic Movies social media team. She is a North Carolina native and is on the board of the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, North Carolina.
Ava Thompson is the Co-Trustee of the Ava Gardner Living Trust and the great-niece and namesake of Ava Gardner. She is a retired educator with a BS Degree in Speech Communication and an MS Degree in Educational Administration. Over the span of her career she served as a high school English teacher, a middle school and high school principal, and a district level administrator. Ava is also recently retired from semi-professional drag racing and enjoys cycling and spending time with her four grandchildren.
The Final Product
Making a multi layer cake was a new challenge, but the recipe turned out well. The cake was far larger than we anticipated and I had also never heard of spinning sugar into a thread before. That was a new one for me! The icing / filling was a bit thin, so Lora added powdered sugar and put it in the refrigerator to thicken. She also suggests adding tapioca starch to it.
We paired the coconut cake with the new "Goddess Blend" Ava Gardner inspired coffee from the company Breakfast at Dominiques. It was a perfect combination!
Lora and I tried to re-create the moment when Ava and Frank Sinatra cut their wedding cake!
Collage artwork by Cherie Savoie Tintary
Now here are some scenes from Ava Gardner's hometown.
We started off at her birthplace. Ava Lavinia Gardner was born on December 22, 1922 in this house in Grabtown, North Carolina. She lived there the first three years of her life. On the right is a photo of Ava visiting the house in 1949. Click HERE to read Ava describing it in her own words.
Then we went to the historic Howell Theatre, which was built in 1935. It has beautiful Art Deco ceilings and a framed photo of Ava presides over the lobby. The Howell Theatre screened Ava's 1949 film "The Great Sinner". She was unable to attend, but sent along a letter, which is framed and hanging on the wall.
Then we visited Ava's final resting place at Sunset Memorial Park cemetery, which was established in 1937. Ava LOVED corgis, so her family put a corgi flag at her grave. Something about this really touched me. It made this supernaturally beautiful, talented goddess seem down to earth and very real.
Our final destination of the day was the Ava Gardner Museum where we filmed this episode. Thank you so much to Lora Stocker, Museum Executive Director Lynell Seabold and Ava's great niece Ava Thompson for everything they are doing to keep her legacy alive.
There are plenty of Ava Gardner movies you can watch over the holidays. Many of them are on DVD, streaming and look for them on Turner Classic Movies where Ava is the "Star of the Month" for December 2022.
To learn more about Ava's life, career and more, visit the Ava Gardner Museum website. Their gift shop has some great items too!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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