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Posted (edited)

 I listened to Ed Levine's Serious Eats podcast interview today with Maira Kalman and Barbara Scott-Goodman discussing their new book Cake. https://soundcloud.com/user-306003081/special-sauce-artist-and  My initial reaction was that though they are interesting people "Cake? - really?". But knowing how I can be dismissive without giving things a chance, I listened and reflected, and realized I had a deep history with cakes though my cultural sweets experience is Austro-Hungarian pastries. I'll share my memories and would love to hear yours.

 

My first significant cake baking experience was at around age 10 when I was driven to make the  Enchanted Castle cake from the Betty Crocker Boys & Girls Cookbook for my sister's birthday.  Scroll past the bunny salad  https://popgoesthepage.princeton.edu/tag/betty-crockers-new-boys-and-girls-cookbook/  I used a box mix and improvised on the decorating but it was essentially as shown. Suprisingly I was not pained when the first cut was made; just delighted that she and others were delighted.

 

The next wow cake was when my mom made a tunnel cake with dark cherry mousse for a dinner party. It seemed magical. This was in th 60's before they were a "thing".  (see attached image of recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine found in mom's recipe binder)  

 

I'd started baking in general and became the designated cake baker for the sweet my dad took to work for lunch. This was the era of bundt cakes and pudding cakes. I unearthed some of the recipe cards and came upon:  the poppy seed cake from the olo can, carrot cake from Blue Ribbon Recipes, apple cake with orange juice, pistachio pudding cake, sauerkraut chocolte cake & mashed potato chocolate cake, Maid Heatter's Royal Viennese Walnut Torte- list goes on

 

One Christmas Austrian friends sent us a Sacher Torte complete in its adorable wooden box from the Hotel Sacher. Anticipation was high; disppointment was deep. Dry/boring! - though I did like the apricot jam under the chocolate glaze.

 

In the 80's a Vietnamese friend introduced me to the less sweet style of Asian cakes with light fruitiness and a whipped cream & crushed fruit filling.. Around that time I also became enamored of a roulade cake flavored with pandan from the big Chinese market (99 Ranch). 

 

There  was a big "cake lull" until I recently baked an olive oil cake with tangerine zest when the pantry was bare. In fact I think I'll make it again tomorrow :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by heidih hit send too soon (log)
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Reminded me of this video about Valerie Gordon, food anthropologist and baker.   Her bakery specializes in bringing cakes back from the past. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

So I did make an orange olive oil cake a few hours ago. My baking challenged stepmom was so confused - "What you just make a cake with what is here?".  So simple and fragrant and good. Magic. Better if I'd had tangerine zest but one makes do. Some A bitters added a bit and I should have tried some warm spice, but simple was nice.


Edited by heidih (log)
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I think of Pineapple Upside-Down cake as a cake from the past.  From my past at any rate.  I think it was the only cake my Mother made. 

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Bundt cake is a memory from my childhood. I remember one my Mom made with an orange glaze that I liked, and of course the ones with the tunnel of pudding in the center. She didn’t bake much as a lifelong “weight watcher” so cakes were for company.

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My grandmother (Nana) made what she called a hot milk cake.  So simple but so good.  I never did find a recipe until

I stumbled on something called a lazy daisy cake....Bingo, there is was  Still simple and still good but it wouldn't be

much at all without the memories that go along with it. 

My mother, on the other hand. was hard pressed to even bake a cake from a box mix!  Were it not for VandeKamp's bakery, I might have never have  had a birthday cake as a child.

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The birthday cakes of my siblings and all my cousins in the 1950s to early 1960s was always a Duncan Hines white layer cake mix with homemade peanut butter frosting.  No idea how that evolved considering neither my mother nor aunt were cooks who went outside the norms of the day.  Was it the norm for other families of that era???   

 

BTW, when my mother made the Duncan Hines white cake mix at other times during the year, she always used the whole egg.  Only separated the egg whites for birthday cakes.  

 

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Posted (edited)

Oh goodness, my repressed cake memories are pushing forth!  Two birthday cakes of note:

 

- My son's first birthday - I made a chocolate sheet cake with fluffy white icing for the adults and a smaller cake just for the birthday boy with lots of colorful sprinkles and other decorations. We set it in front of him and just let him have at it. Hilarious,  messy, joyful moment.

 

- Another son birthday - maybe around age 5.  For the neighborhood kid party I made a yellow cake with white frosting and lots of colorful bits. The attendees were all girls slightly older than him because our neighborhood was "Y sparse".  It was a backyard affair. I left to get something from kitchen and.....came back to "cake chaos". The oldest ones (a trio of twins and older sibling) went bonkers. They had long blond hair. Getting the canned greasy frosting out of their hair before they went home to their single parent dad was challenging. Fun day though ;)

 

Duncan Hines and canned frosting can be delightful with a side of ice cream  ;)


Edited by heidih (log)
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Speaking of repressed cake memories...many years ago for fun I made one of those refrigerator cakes using two packages of Christie chocolate wafers and whipped cream...oh, such a lot of work...NOT!...and my oldest son loved it so much that he asked for it every year for his birthday cake.  "Whatever you would like, my dear" said the doting Mother.  

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Posted (edited)

@Darienne  Yes much like Kim Severson's writing bout the special cake of her childhood. After honing her palate and writing about food for impressive publications like the New York Times:  "My mother used to make a chocolate cake for my birthday that had pieces of broken Hershey bars suspended in whipped cream for frosting. I love that cake, and I have tried to recreate it with fancy-pants chocolate. It's never as good."


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My memories start with a Humpty Dumpty on a wall cake that I made in Home Ec class for my little sister's birthday.  My mother says I was never all that interested in "real food" - only what was for dessert.  In our house we didn't have cake for dessert much; but I remember my mother making what was called Wowie Cake and Texas Sheet Cake (both chocolate cakes, both wonderful).  The Texas Sheet Cake was my favorite.  It does not surprise anyone in my family that I am a pastry chef and own my own bakery now....

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Before my mom died when I was only 8 with sis 6 and bro 4, she made us Cut-Up-Cakes from the Angel Flake coconut pamphlets for every birthday. We all Loved these things! :x They are very fond memories of both my mother and cake. She even allowed me to "help" some as I got older. I absolutely loved helping her in the kitchen.

 

My most vivid memory was when little brother grabbed a fistful of my Lion Cake, ruining it. Today, it's funny, but traumatic and caused much crying on my birthday a half a hundred years ago. 

 

I also have a vague memory of her making a baked Alaska, which was all the rage way back when, and very good. I'm not sure why that one has fallen out of favor now. Perhaps because no one wants to do anything a la minute anymore.

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39 minutes ago, Thanks for the Crepes said:

I also have a vague memory of her making a baked Alaska, which was all the rage way back when, and very good. I'm not sure why that one has fallen out of favor now. Perhaps because no one wants to do anything a la minute anymore.

 

My mother made baked Alaska!

 

She died when I was 10.

 

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Just love the cut-up cakes.  What a wonderful Mother you had and such good memories. 

 

Alas, my memories are not of that type.  My Mother refused to cut my sandwiches into boats...and after 58 years of marriage, my dear Ed still cuts my grilled cheese sandwiches into boats always.  😊

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I saw this thread, and it made me giggle.   

My Mom did a fair amount of baking for special occasions.  We had the Angel-food coconut bunny cakes on Easter. She'd make whatever cake we wanted for our birthdays.  When he was younger Daddy liked the cake from a boxed mix called Butter Brickle - which I can not find, or German Chocolate.  My brother liked the super moist yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I briefly got hooked on that cherry-chip cake with the pink frosting.  At my 12th birthday party, one of my friends spilled a bottle of Hawaiian punch on the table as my Mom was cutting the cake. The punch saturated cake the making most of it a mushy mess. Couldn't quite get back into liking that cake again. 

 

But, every year, no matter how old we were, we'd always go to Bill Knapp's restaurant on Greenfield Road in Dearborn, for two reasons. One, however old you were turning on your birthday- that percent was deducted from your meal; Two, the free chocolate birthday cake!   OMG....if there was ever a chocolate cake and frosting I'd love to replicate, its that!    Bill Knapp's, back in the day, was known for making everything from scratch- including these cakes.  At some point before they closed down, the company sold the recipe/production rights of that cake to Awrey's Bakery.  So, you can still buy them at Kroger's. =)   We took my Grammie there when she turned 90....got 90% off her meal, and her free chocolate cake too! xD

 

Another cake, not homemade, but memorably fantastic- was Sander's Bumpy Cake.  I think those can still be purchased at Krogers.  It's a classic Sander's chocolate cake, with chocolate icing, only there are two massive "bumps" under the icing- filled with a delicious cream. Think: Speed bumps on a cake. 

 

The homemade cake- and I can eat a whole one shamelessly, is a Wacky cake.  It needs no frosting.  One of my college friends taught me how to make it, and said it was an old Quaker recipe passed down for generations in her family.  There are no eggs.  The dry ingredients included flour, cocoa, baking soda and sugar.  Once that was mixed together, it was poured into a square pan, and you'd make three "pools" in the dry ingredients. One for oil, one for water, and one for white vinegar. You'd mix it all together with a fork, and it would bubble like crazy because of the vinegar and soda. Then into the oven.  The combination created a sticky, crater-like top to the cake, and it was incredibly moist and delicious. 

 

The only other store-bought cake I really get a hankering for once in awhile is the Pepperidge Farms Coconut cake. Mom used to buy these when we'd have company - on short notice. I remembered them as a kid, and LOVED them.   Honestly, now I am only after the coconut and chilled icing. Couldn't give a damn about the cake part. But that icing with the coconut.... freaking amazing!  Has to be partially frozen though.  

 

(These are some of the many reasons my doc put me back on the Whole 30 diet again. )   

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Wonderful heartwarming post, ChocoMom.  

 

Next time we are in the States, I'll look for the Sander's Bumpy Cake and an Awrey's Chocolate cake.  We haven't shopped at too many Kroger's but the Moab City Market (a Kroger's) has wonderful in store made pastries...even including decent croissants.  Amazing.

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@ChocoMom  Nice post!  I too have often made Wacky cake.  Although instead of mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl, I just mix them up in the pan in which it is baked, my trusty ancient 8 x 8 pyrex dish.  Thanks for the reminder.😀

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22 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

@ChocoMom  Nice post!  I too have often made Wacky cake.  Although instead of mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl, I just mix them up in the pan in which it is baked, my trusty ancient 8 x 8 pyrex dish.  Thanks for the reminder.😀

I know nothing of this cake.  Do you have a favourite recipe for it, Elsie?  And would you share it please?

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43 minutes ago, Darienne said:

I know nothing of this cake.  Do you have a favourite recipe for it, Elsie?  And would you share it please?

 

I sent you a PM.

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5 hours ago, ChocoMom said:

The homemade cake- and I can eat a whole one shamelessly, is a Wacky cake.  It needs no frosting.  One of my college friends taught me how to make it, and said it was an old Quaker recipe passed down for generations in her family.  There are no eggs.  The dry ingredients included flour, cocoa, baking soda and sugar.  Once that was mixed together, it was poured into a square pan, and you'd make three "pools" in the dry ingredients. One for oil, one for water, and one for white vinegar. You'd mix it all together with a fork, and it would bubble like crazy because of the vinegar and soda. Then into the oven.  The combination created a sticky, crater-like top to the cake, and it was incredibly moist and delicious. 

 

@ChocoMom!  This is the Wowie cake!!!   My mom didn't do the 3 pools thing, she just mixed it up and poured it in a and we cut and ate it from the pan.  I use this exact recipe now for our vegan chocolate cake; and if you sub out the cocoa with an equal measure of hazelnut flour (or almond flour) you can make a non-chocolate version and it's really good!  We do the almond flour and add spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg) for a vegan spice cake. Yum!

 

My mom's receipe came from the Boston Globe's Confidential Chat page, which was what social media was in the days of handwritten letters (pre-dating even typewriters!).  She cut out the recipes and then taped the ones that we liked into a  steno pad.  Before I left my parents' home I painstakingly copied EACH recipe so I could keep my own copies.  I keep the steno pads in my bedside table, along with a few precious books I would not want to replace - A Woman of Independent Means, My Enemy the Queen, and a few Maeve Binchy books - so if the smoke alarms ever go off, I grab these and out the door we (kid, cat, husby) all go.....

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The recipe I use for Wacky cake is actually called Crazy cake and I have also seen it referred to as Lazy Daisy cake.  My recipe also calls for spices - cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

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My mother, oddly enough, was a marvelous baker of cakes; I say oddly enough, because she was a serious Type 1 diabetic and was VERY good about sticking to her diet. And while she was a perfectly adequate cook all the way around, where she really shined was in baking cakes, cookies, pastries and making candy. She had a cottage industry baking petit fours for bridal and baby showers; her "plain butter cake" recipe, iced with either a butter/confectioners sugar frosting or a seven-minute frosting.

 

Cakes that were a standby at our house included fresh coconut cake -- we'd get coconuts from the grocery, and then either grate them on the box grater (I learned early on to watch knuckles, as blood really shines in fresh, grated coconut!) or drag out the sausage grinder. Icing for that would be a seven-minute frosting, topped with handsful of fresh coconut. Daddy was fond of a banana cake -- her basic cake recipe, with pureed bananas in the batter, frosted with a thin confectioner's sugar/butter/milk glaze and each layer topped with sliced bananas that had been carefully dipped in lemon juice.

 

She would occasionally make an angel food cake, usually during strawberry season to use instead of a shortcake. And she often made a spice cake in the winter that was dense and dark and filled with great warm spices and nuts and candied fruit (though it wasn't like a fruitcake). She also made a fruitcake at Christmas, and I wish I had that recipe.

 

She tended more toward pies, as do I. Chess pies, fruit cobblers, apple pies with a crumb topping, the occasional pecan pie, the notable persimmon pie we got for a few short weeks in the fall when persimmons were ripe. And she made doughnuts, the recipe for which I have but have never attempted, as the directions, in their entirety, say: "Fry in three pounds of Crisco. Glaze with two boxes of powdered sugar." It was a  yeasted dough with potatoes in it, and I remember her making it up (in a dishpan! the recipe made about six dozen doughnuts) on Friday nights, always Friday nights, and waking up to the heavenly smell of them frying on Saturday morning. My all-time favorite Saturday morning breakfast.

 

The best cake I ever ate in my life, though, was at a barbecue restaurant in the extreme southeastern Arkansas town of McGehee. It was an Italian Cream Cake, and it was absolutely the most delicious, moist specimen of same I ever ate in my life. It just about made my eyes roll back in my head. I have never attempted to recreate it, because I just know I could never come close. I just buy several slabs of it to go when I happen to be through there; it freezes well.

 

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On Kayb, I am overwhelmed reading your post.  My Mother hated cooking and it was Ed who taught me how to cook.  I got married knowing only how to make salad dressing.  I cannot imagine having a warm, loving, cooking, baking Mother.  Ed's Mother was one.  (Not all Mothers are nice, but you knew that.)

 

And I hated cooking also until 10 years ago.  I thank my lucky stars for eGullet and the warm and generous folks on it, like you, who have added so much to our lives.  

 

And I have already made a crazy cake and am planning the next one with some changes, of course.  Thanks again, ElsieD. 

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Thinking back, we had home-baked cakes for dessert very often.  Usually sheet cakes.  Layer cakes were for birthdays, except my dad's, who got an apple pie.  That Pepperidge Farm coconut cake that @ChocoMom mentioned was a rare treat.  Served when guests were either unexpected or had multiplied beyond the initial estimate.  

 

Mostly, my mom was known for her fruit tortes.  I've mentioned these before - a cake baked in an obsttorte pan like this, filled with custard or pudding and topped with fruit and whipped cream.   They're quick and easy to put together but make a nice presentation and were delivered far and wide to pot-lucks, church suppers, family celebrations and any friend or neighbor in need of ....well, neighborliness!  

 

Here she is, in her 90's, putting the finishing touches on a 4th of July torte to be delivered to the neighbors across the street who were hosting visiting family for the holiday.

IMG_0064.thumb.jpg.8c88a7c67e770aea106fa258ee878764.jpg

 

And the finished product:

1111101533_IMG_0063(1).thumb.jpg.8bdc461492aed78151bd26fc2860fcbe.jpg

 

You can tell that this one was going to a close neighbor as they got the red tray.  Pot-lucks got a regular plate  and anything going farther afield was placed on a disposable platter fashioned from pizza boxes cut to size and covered with aluminum foil.

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2 hours ago, Darienne said:

On Kayb, I am overwhelmed reading your post.  My Mother hated cooking and it was Ed who taught me how to cook.  I got married knowing only how to make salad dressing.  I cannot imagine having a warm, loving, cooking, baking Mother.  Ed's Mother was one.  (Not all Mothers are nice, but you knew that.)

 

And I hated cooking also until 10 years ago.  I thank my lucky stars for eGullet and the warm and generous folks on it, like you, who have added so much to our lives.  

 

And I have already made a crazy cake and am planning the next one with some changes, of course.  Thanks again, ElsieD. 

 

Thanks, Darienne. She was a magnificent woman. I have a million stories about her. Gone much too soon (at age 59).

 

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