Friday, June 24, 2011

A Recipe, A Remembrance, A Regret

Now seems like a good time for a recipe. One with chocolate. One that brings back memories of my mother. I could have made this for my morning Soul Design class because it is traditionally called a coffee cake, but in my book it was called the yearly, most favored and requested, birthday cake. Most of my kids request this same cake for their birthday. Goes great with vanilla ice cream and candles!

Here's where I could type the recipe, but after 40 years of eating and baking this cake and thinking we were the only ones who were nuts over this recipe, I stumbled across a slightly improved version of it on one of my favorite foodie sites.

Before I share, I should mention that this cake comes with another layer of guilt, for me anyway. And it is not in the chocolate chips or the sour cream or the butter. Nope, it is much deeper than that. My mother had a habit of always giving credit to the source of a recipe when she wrote it in her cookbook. This recipe came from her friend, who we will call Ellie Smith. Ellie Smith had a daughter, about my age who we will call Susie Smith.

I really only have one memory of these old friends, besides the cake recipe, and it is from a day spent at The Enchanted Forest. Even though it was a small scale, cheesy amusement type of park, my brother and I loved that place. I suppose we didn't get out much.

One day, we made a trip to our beloved forest with the Ellie and Susie Smith family. The very same ones who introduced our family to Chocolate Chip Cake. For some reason, Susie had a slipper on one foot and an ace bandage to complete the ensemble. I'm sure she had some type of injury, and looking back, I hope it was just a sprain and not a skin wound.

I can almost picture her feet, one wearing a Jack Purcell(the forerunner of Chuck Taylor's) and the other in a pink, fuzzy slipper. What isn't so clear in my mind, is the incident that caused Susie to slip while getting into the paddle boat that would carry us off to see Willie the Whale or some other such enchanted character.

Without a doubt, I know that I didn't purposely cause Susie to fall into the 3 feet of murky water, causing her pretty pink slipper to lose its fluff or her expertly wrapped ace bandage to sag. I can't even remember if I was already in the boat or was I supposed to be steadying it as Susie climbed in first. Who has a 9 year old kid steady a boat anyway? I guess the Enchanted Forest was a low budget operation.

Either way, I am pretty sure I was blamed and I'm also pretty certain that what happened was just an accident. It wasn't like I had any hidden envy of Susie's fuzzy, pink slipper - especially being that it was paired with a Jack Purcell. And while I was a little irritated that her unusual footwear caused her to slow us all down on our quest to conquer The Enchanted Forest, I would not have intentionally thrown her over broad.

My lingering feelings of contrition have to do with the fact that I laughed. And my brother laughed. Which might have been okay if Susie was laughing too. But I distinctly remember her not seeing any of the humor in her drowned, pink slipper and I'm pretty sure that was the end of our outing at the Enchanted Forest. I still feel a little bad about that. I'm sure my mother made us apologize, but I know we were still trying to contain ourselves as we all piled into the Smith's circa 1970 station wagon to head home.

So if you are out there, the 50ish-something year old woman, who remembers wearing a pink slipper to the magical land of story book characters, only to have your day ruined by a tricky attempt to board a paddle boat, I am truly sorry that I laughed, further adding to your humiliation over the situation. I should have tried to put myself in your shoes. Or rather your shoe and your pink, fuzzy slipper. Maybe then I would have realized that you can't laugh with someone if they aren't laughing.

I've remembered that little lesson you taught me many time over the years, while enjoying a slice of the best ever birthday/coffee cake. Tell your Mom thanks for the recipe!

Finally... the recipe. Sure to be your favorite cake too - let me know what you think. This is the new and improved version from Smitten Kitchen.

* a few baking tips: I never separated my eggs; however, after finding this improved version on Smitten Kitchen, I felt obliged to give it a try. My unsophisticated palate could not detect a difference, so it's really your choice how to handle the eggs.

and b) Use a little less layer on the bottom layer so you'll have an easier time spreading the top layer over the chocolate, cinnamon yummy goodness in the middle. This is the voice of experience speaking.


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