Monday, June 22, 2015

Crazy High

I came across this recipe for a cake-pan cake which became popular during the Depression because it needed no eggs and no milk, both of which were rationed at that time, and now would be called a vegan cake. My mother, and all my old aunts, great aunts, and cousins, called it a Crazy Cake. Crazy because there was no dairy or eggs included.

Mom's cake had a thick fudgy icing and was dark as a chocolate cake could be. She made it all the time in a big old-fashioned 9 x 13 metal pan with curved handles that stuck out both ends. Mom couldn't cook for beans, but she could bake like the devil -- mostly because she preferred dessert to everything else. Her baked beans were a toss-up between watery/soupy and the bacon half done on top or burnt to a crisp. Her scalloped corn dish was the same, half done or very well done (at least the crunchy buttered cracker topping was crisp). You can't go far wrong with creamed corn since it's cooked ahead of time anyway. I will have to say that she did do potato and macaroni salads well with lots of chopped sweet pickles and a hefty dose of celery seed in addition to the celery already in the bowl, but there wasn't much cooking to do since my sisters and I cooked the macaroni and potatoes for her. It was our job, a job that I ended up doing most of the time.

This cake, however, was right every time.

When I saw the recipe on King Arthur Flour yesterday I knew at once it was Mom's (and the whole May family's) Crazy Cake. I didn't have the recipe for the fudgy icing, but I have other chocolate icings I know how to make.

Late last night, I decided I was going to make the recipe, opting for mixing the ingredients in a bowl instead of in the pan which the recipe calls for. I sprayed the pan with my favorite preparation, poured in the mixed ingredients, and 35 minutes later had a much lighter colored chocolate cake. It smelled delicious. I used natural cocoa instead of the Dutch Process cocoa called for, but it was still delicious even without the icing. Moist, tender, and reminded me of my childhood. The good parts, which usually involved food.

Next time I will use my dark black cocoa, or Dutch process, since I have them both and I may try the boiled cider vinegar since plain white vinegar is what I used last night. I don't know if it will make a difference, but I will find out. I don't think I'll add frosting and just eat the rest of the cake naked. It is still dense, fudgy, and good. I may even make another tonight -- or even this evening. Anything is possible.

Sometimes I need a trip down memory lane on my stomach, evincing the good times full of laughter and family and food like at our family reunions -- the ones we went to every year and spent with my mother's vast clan. I got to see my cousins the last Sunday before school started and there was always watermelon and crisp fried chicken and desserts that filled a table. There were also dishes of things I'd never tasted before and running around with the cousins as a child and meandering as a teenager since we were too mature to run around slipping frogs and bugs down each others' backs and whooping like Indians on the warpath, even if we went to Logan Elm where Chief Logan gave his famous speech and stopped a war between the local tribes and the settlers.

The tree was filled with concrete, a shell of history around a core of stable concrete to keep the illusion of Logan's Elm alive, but it was familiar and the gathering place of the family tribes. It's still a favorite memory.

One of the old aunts dressed in her Depression Era finery (old women shoes, thick stockings, and flower print dresses that hung nearly to their ankles) smelling of lavender water and talcum powder gave the recipe to Mom who was in transports of joy when she tasted the fudgy cake and thick frosting. Chocolate was always her favorite drug, and chocolate cake with thick fudge icing was beyond heavenly. Whatever the occasion, whether a homecoming at church or a pot luck dinner with family, Mom always made her Crazy Cake and we feasted on chocolate until even the crumbs and streaks of icing were gone from the pan, all of us in a transports of joy akin to love from chocolate-fueled pacifying brain chemicals. Nothing ever seemed so horrible that the Crazy Cake would not cure -- at least until the chocolate high wore off and it was time to refuel -- as long as there was cake and icing left to scrape from the pan.

The rest of my chocolate high is in the kitchen and I think it's time to refuel.

That is all. Disperse.

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