Julia Sugarbaker


I can remember being in my first gay video bar. Which, for those who don’t know, means a gay bar with TVs hanging on most of the walls playing exceptionally homosexual content.  Think Judy and Barbra singing the Happy Days Are Here Again medley or remixed scenes from Mommie Dearest that somehow heightens its camp or any scene ever shot with lots and lots of feathers.  At this point in my gay career I’ve been to gay video bars all over the country and the one clip every one of them has played is of the 1986 Designing Women episode called “The Beauty Contest”.  You’d be hard-pressed to find gay men NOT reciting every word with pristine cadence of this biting and delicious monologue effortlessly spitting out of Dixie Carter’s mouth.  Carter was perhaps best known for playing Julia Sugarbaker, a spicy and jaw-dropingly eloquent liberal Georgian businesswoman with shoulder pads that could touch God if her heels were high enough.  

Designing Women fiercely touched on gay issues at a time where sitcoms wouldn’t dare.  Julia, especially, defended a young gay man inflicted with AIDS on the 1987 episode, “ Killing All the Right People,” (written by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason) where 24 year old Kendall hires Sugarbaker & Associates to decorate his own funeral.

“As far as I’m concerned, this disease has one thing going for it: It’s killing all the right people,” shouted Kendall Dobbs, an idiot with a brooch and contemporary of Julia.  Julia promptly kicked her out of the office, but not before shredding her ego before an audience.  Her way of cunningly tearing down someone with a rhythmic downpour of shade is something most drag queens can only dream about.

Julia to this day remains a character of strength.  People would underestimate her and they would always lose.  She was a sharp tongued example of believing in your own morals and not being an asshole.  Thanks, Dixie! Thanks, Linda! Thanks, Designing Women!

 Let’s get on to the cake! 

Vanilla Bean Cake with Spicy Bourbon Peach Filling

For the Bourbon-Soaked Peaches

* 3 peaches, skinned and sliced in chunks

* Bourbon

* ¾ cup sugar

* ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

* 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne

For the Peach Buttercream

* 1 peach, peeled and blended

* Heavy Whipping Cream

* 32 oz of Powdered Sugar

* 1.5 cups of butter, softened

For the Cake

* 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted, room temperature butter

* 4 1/4 cups of flour

* 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder

* 1.5 teaspoons salt

* 2.5 cups granulated sugar

*  7 large eggs at room temperature

* 3/4 cup of vegetable oil

* 1.5 cups of milk

* 1 vanilla bean

For Decoration

* Blue, black and pink fondant

* Pink pearls from the 99 cent store

* 1 pink carnation

Peel and cut up peaches the night before.  Place in a bowl and cover with bourbon so the peaches are fully submerged.  Let sit overnight.  After at least 12 hours, drain the peaches (save the bourbon for cocktails!) and blend.  Combine the peach blend with sugar, cayenne, and cinnamon on low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the temperature of the mix reaches 220F.  Set aside to cool.

To make the cake, beat the butter, oil and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Alternate between adding the dry mixture and the milk to the egg mixture.  Add vanilla.

To make this cake, you will need 3 square cake pans of varying sizes (I used a 6", 8.5", and 11").  Divide the batter between these three pans. and bake at 350F until done.  The times vary on the sizes, 20-40 minutes.

Peel and blend a fresh peach, set aside.  Whip butter for frosting until light and fluffy, and then gradually add powdered sugar.  Manually fold in the blended peach.  In a separate bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream and then manually fold in with the butter and peaches.

Once the cakes have cooled, level them and cut each in half horizontally.  Put a layer of peach buttercream and peach filling between the pairs of each cake. For all 3 layers, taper in the sides with a large serrated knife.  Your lines will come out cleaner if you chill the cakes in the refrigerator for an hour.  Once tapered, cover each layer in blue fondant and stack from biggest to smallest.  Put a strip of black fondant on the middle cake for Julia's belt and accessorize her as you see fit!  At this point you should be nearing the end of that bourbon, so who cares!