Making cakes with Mama

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Contributed by Columnist Fannie Moore

I have been baking pound cakes for the past week; four in fact, and only one of them remained at our house. Well, part of one, as I shared some of it with our children.

The others went to neighbors or family members as offerings of appreciation and it is my desire that they were taken and enjoyed in the same spirit.

The recipe I used was one of only three of Mama’s cake recipes that I have. Actually, they are the only three for which I can remember her using a recipe. This one she called Baptist Pound Cake. It is a simple cake that doesn’t require any ingredients other than what can be found in any kitchen. It is very sweet, rich and buttery and might be even better when topped with sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

Another one of her special cakes is the Fresh Apple Cake, a three layer cake with apples baked in the batter. It is stacked and frosted with a rich pecan and coconut-filled cooked icing. This one is Hubby’s favorite cake and he gets it every year for his birthday. We also may have it for other special days. It is rich and moist and keeps well. (I’ve been told that, as it doesn’t last long at our house to actually know.)

The third, and oldest recipe, which she handed down is the Dark Fruit Cake. A fruity, nut-filled cake that stays moist and can be found at our house every Christmas. Our children never learned to like this one so I always had some to share with friends and relatives who loved it but didn’t want to make the whole cake. It makes one large and one smaller cake, or it can be divided into several small loaves and baked. I have three friends who would get together and make the cake recipe, dividing it three ways so each family could have some of the special treat.

I’m sure I have related before the origin of the Dark Fruit Cake but for those who may not be aware, the recipe was printed on the flap of a cardboard Crustene shortening box, back in the day when that was the way one purchased shortening. (Early ‘40s) Some years she and Grannie (her mother) would get together and bake fruit cakes. It was usually an all-day affair. Over the years, there have been a few substitutions in nuts and fruits included, but the basic recipe remains the same.       

Most of Mama’s cakes were creations of her own. She could go into the kitchen and stir up a basic cake and then vary it in lots of creative ways. She was very inventive in her fillings or icings as well as in other ways, such as the flavorings or by adding hickory nuts or black walnuts to the batter or icing.

One of her favorite flavorings was lemon, which I detested, and am still not fond of it. One other thing she liked to add was crushed pineapple as filling and topping. I could eat this one easier than the lemon, because you could easily rake the pineapple off. But the lemon was through and through. She also stacked her cake layers with pear butter, similar to apple butter but made from the available fruit from the orchard.

Of course, one of my favorite of anything was

chocolate, so when she made chocolate cake I felt as if she made it just for me.

There was a recipe on the back of the Hershey’s chocolate box for a cake that

required buttermilk. This was the first cake I learned to make and made it

through the years when we first married. I suppose I thought the recipe would

always be there so I never saved it, and then, one day it was gone. And it never

appeared again. I could not make a cake without a recipe, so that delicious cake

was forever lost to me.

Probably the most interesting cake Mama made was one she called a Checkerboard Cake. She used her usual yellow batter which she divided into three bowls. She added chocolate to one and red food coloring to one, leaving the third one yellow. She now had three batters. She carefully poured them in circles, beginning in the center and working her way out, alternating the colors. With each layer, she began the center with a different color so none of the stripes were the same. When done, she filled and stacked the layers, frosting the top. When the cake was cut, each slice had the appearance of a checkerboard, with different colored squares.

Apparently, I lack my Mama’s  inventiveness, therefore I am happy to pull out the three recipes that I know she actually used.

They have become three of my all time favorite recipes.


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