My relationship with cake

Cake and I go way back.

My mom made a cute elephant cake for my first birthday, using instructions from this 1959 edition book of Animal Cut-up Cakes. It was a nifty little book that showed what type of baking pans to use and how to cut the cakes into pieces and arrange them into a shape.

It looks like I really enjoyed that cake. Good idea adding the bib in that last photo, Mom and Dad. I hope that my 2-year-old sister and 3-year-old brother got pieces from the not-smooshed side of the elephant cake.

Evidently, I still ate, wore, and appreciated cake when I was 2 years old. And apparently, eating cake did nothing to enhance hair growth, as I still hadn’t had my first hair cut when this picture was taken.

As I got older, I was allowed to choose what kind of cake I wanted on my birthday. Usually I asked for angel food with vanilla frosting, served with ice cream and strawberries. Yum!

I didn’t cook very much when I was a kid. I kept my three little brothers occupied before dinner, and I didn’t often help with meal prep. But I used the kitchen between meals to experiment with dessert recipes, and so I learned to bake.

Many years later, I baked the groom’s cake for my own wedding. I decorated it like the flag of Texas in honor of my husband’s Texas roots and to go with the country-western decorations and music at our reception. A tiered wedding cake exceeded my ability and would have wreaked havoc on my peace of mind, so I ordered that from a local bakery. It was a white cake with basket-weave icing, a strawberry filling, and a cascade of fresh strawberries. I breathed a sigh of relief when it was delivered safely to the reception site. The cake was one of the only parts of my wedding day that wasn’t handled by friends or family, so it was the part I worried about most. Once the cake was in place, I knew the rest of the day would be perfect.

As my children grew, I baked cakes for each of their birthdays. The first few were designs from my own Cut-Up Cake book, and then I started creating the cakes myself, based on the theme of their parties. Some were near disasters — layers got stuck in pans or broke into pieces — but I was usually able to use extra frosting to paste them together and fill in holes. In order to make this tall teapot cake hold its shape, I used a dense pound cake recipe and it turned out kind of dry, but, hey, it looked cute.

I might have passed down my appreciation for cake to my children. Here’s one of my daughters on her first birthday (in the same highchair I used when I was a baby).

Throughout the years I also made birthday cakes for my daughters that looked like a clock, castle, elephant, teddy bear, whale, hamburger, train, flower, cat, ladybug, butterfly, crayon box, cookie, code wheel, clown, dragonberry cupcake, swimming pool, Native American headdress, sombrero, world map, Hawaiian island, jungle, quilt, fireworks, Indian corn, Atlantis, tie dye, flower power, garden, bowling, birdfeeder, and sunflower, plus many frosted cookie cakes. Whew! Below are photos of some of those birthday cakes. And there were half-birthday cakes for each daughter every year, too!

Most of the birthday cakes I baked were simple cake mixes. It was the frosting that made them taste good and the decorations that added pizzazz. My helpers in the kitchen usually got to lick the beaters.

Taste testers

Vanilla Butter Frosting

This is my go-to frosting recipe. I usually double or triple it, especially if it is to be divided into several colors. You can spread leftover frosting between graham crackers for a delicious treat that keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer.

  • 1/3 cup soft butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. milk

Cream together butter and powdered sugar. Stir in vanilla and milk and beat until spreading consistency. Add a little milk if too dry.

Oma’s Carrot Cake

This recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law and is a family favorite.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups thinly grated carrots
  • 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, don’t drain
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and set aside. Mix sugar, eggs, and oil together well and then add to dry ingredients. Add carrots, pineapple, and pecans.

Pour into three prepared 8″ layer pans. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven (325 degrees for dark pans) for 35-40 minutes or until pick comes out clean. When cool, spread cream cheese frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.

Oma’s Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 lb. powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Beat all ingredients together and spread on your favorite cooled cake.

Williamsburg Orange Cake

I discovered this cake recipe when I was still in high school. I liked to try out new recipes on my family, and this one was a hit!

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup golden raisins, cut up
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 1 T. grated orange peel

Combine flour, sugar, soda, salt, buttermilk, butter, shortening, eggs, and vanilla. Blend with an electric mixer 30 seconds on low speed; beat 3 minutes on high speed. Stir in raisins, nuts and orange peel.

Pour into 3 prepared 8″ round layer pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely. Spread Williamsburg Butter Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish cake with orange rind and sections.

Williamsburg Butter Frosting

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup soft butter
  • 3-4 T. orange juice or orange liqueur
  • 2 tsp. grated orange peel

Cream butter and powdered sugar. Add liquid and orange peel and beat until spreading consistency.

Self-filled Chocolate Cupcakes

I don’t remember where I found this recipe, but it’s easy to make and fun to eat. You find the surprise filling when you bite into the cupcake.

  • 1 box (about 18 1/2 oz) chocolate cake mix and other ingredients according to package
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • dash of salt
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips

Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Fill cupcake cups 2/3 full. Beat cream cheese with sugar. Add egg and salt to cream cheese mixture and beat well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop filling by teaspoon into each cupcake. Bake to package directions. Frost as desired.

A party without cake is really just a meeting.

Julia Child

Hmm… Maybe I should bring cake to my next meeting.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Some of these pictures (you featured as a baby?), Marcia, are sooo cute! (~_*)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s