I just woke from an afternoon snooze with (of all things) chocolate cake on my mind. I prefer the yellow (and sometimes) white cake variety with thick rich chocolaty frosting. To date, I have yet to taste a YC cake that could hold a candle to my great aunt Floras.
Her son and my mum share the same birthday. Each year (for as long as I can remember) she would bake them a cake. Half YC with chocolate frosting and half coconut cream cake. What made the coconut cake stand apart were the sweet tender pieces of coconut imbedded in the frosting. I swear, my poor mum might have only gotten a sliver of each. We (my siblings included) would devour it. Her cakes would tower three layers. Always moist, sweet and delicious. It wouldn't crumble or fall. Always kept it's shape until the last crumb.
God rest her soul. I wish she were alive so that I could stand side by side with her to bake one more cake. As a child, I spent many weekends, with her. She once let me help make the frosting. I honestly only remember licking the bowl and spoon. When I was a teenager, and just starting to really tinker with baking, she did tell me the recipe. But it's not quite the same if you don't write it down. I do remember when I tried to make it. It came out a horrible---a hard, dry crusty mess. Even the icing was disgusting. My family nibbled and picked at it to be kind, but I knew the truth. It's sucked major butt. My aunt was encouraging. She said "keep trying." I never tried to make it again until now.
Over the weekend, I spent several hours searching recipe books and online blogs for yellow (and white) cake recipes. I even made a birthday cake for my neighbor P. The recipe isn't worth sharing. It was passable but not where near the flavor, texture or consistency of my Great Aunt Flora's master piece. The cake was too soft and the frosting while tasty was off. Can't quite put my finger on the why. I think the Mexican cocoa was a bad choice. I should have use a more traditional powder. I plan to bake a lot of cakes until I can re-create ‘the magic formula.' Family and friends, if anyone has a recipe to share, send it to me. I will bake it! Doesn't matter how complex. I have nothing but time these days. Well until the last week in August (classes begin).
I am even willing to use a flour other than King Arthur (gasp!). I know! I know! However, you can tell the depth of my seriousness. I am on a quest to taste the cake of my youth.
On a side note, I am heading to the Jones Falls farmers market in search of those insanely-sick – succulent -white peaches. This weekend in the 'mzno' bakery test kitchen Peach Cobbler and Peach preserve will be made.
Anyone care to have a sample?