There are certain things that evoke a sense of yearning for days long since passed. Memories of standing on the stool in the kitchen, next to Mama as she measured out the ingredients, pulled out just the right pan, mixed those cups of milk and flour and spoonfuls of sweet smelling spices in a big bowl, and somehow made it all come out of the oven a little while later as something that made you feel good. You didn't know why it made you feel so good. Of course it tasted great. It might have even looked pretty, if Mama was a "fancy" kind of cook. But those weren't the reasons that it made you feel the way you did inside.
Looking back now, as a mom myself (and hopefully a grandma/a nana/a granny someday) I realize that the reason it made me feel so good was simple. It was because my mother made it for me. Even in a world where Mom's don't always get the chance to stay at home, there will always be moments that create those good feelings in our children. Whether it's watching Mom cook or sitting next to her in the big cozy chair in the family room as she reads a story, or when she tip-toes into the bedroom as soon as she gets home at the end of a hard day and quietly, lovingly kisses her child on the forehead.
Til the end of time, Mom's will continue to create the memories that later on in life will evoke those same good feelings in their grown children. The following recipe is one of the things that brings that feeling back to me. Every time I make it, I think of Mama's hands as she sifted the flour and sugar and made the little wells that held the liquid ingredients. I can smell the cocoa powder before I even open the tin. I can taste the rich, dark moist cake and the simple sugary frosting that is as bright and white as the cake is deep, dark chocolaty brown. Keep in mind that this isn't the Jiffy Cake Mix that's been around for about a hundred years. It's a scratch cake, made simply from ingredients that most everyone has in their pantry. I suppose it got it's name because it's made in one pan "in a jiffy". I'm not sure if the name was given to this cake before or after the boxed mix came out, but I do know that it's delicious and more importantly, it just makes me feel good.
Grandma Sullivan's Jiffy Chocolate Cake
|Mama's Recipe Box and Recipe|
1 &1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour, sifted (I sift it onto a large sheet of waxed paper to start)
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Tbls Cocoa Powder (I use Dutch Processed)
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/3 Cup Shortening, melted and cooled slightly or Vegetable Oil (I use Canola Oil)
1 Tbls Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Cold Water
Measure out Flour into sifter and sift onto a large sheet of waxed paper. Add Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Soda and Salt and then pour all ingredients into the sifter and sift together into an 11"x7"x2" rectangular baking pan. (If you are using a 13"x9"x2" pan, then you'll need to make 1 and 1/2 times the recipe)
Spread out the dry ingredients evenly and with your fingers or a spoon, make 3 "wells" or impressions, about 2" apart. Pour vinegar in one, vanilla in the second and oil or shortening in the third. Pour Cold Water over the whole thing and stir with a fork until well mixed. There might be a few tiny lumps, but that's fine. You don't want to over-work the batter.
Bake in a 350 degree, pre-heated oven for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. (or with a few moist crumbs) Allow it to cool in the pan for about an hour.
1 Cup Unsalted Butter (or 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup pure vegetable shortening)
4 Cups Confectioner's Sugar (I sift it, but you don't have to)
2 Tbls Milk (whole or 2% work best)
1 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
Tiny Pinch of Salt (if using salted butter, this should be omitted)
Using a large spoon, or an electric mixer (I use a hand mixer) beat Butter, Salt and Vanilla in a large bowl until it's smooth and creamy. Gradually add the Confectioner's Sugar (approx 1 cup at a time) alternating with a few drops of milk until all of the Sugar is combined. (you may not need all of the milk if it's humid) Spread frosting on cooled cake and serve. I like to refrigerate any leftover cake, but as long as you keep it covered it isn't necessary.
This isn't a fancy cake. It's not filled with anything or made with exotic ingredients. It's just a simple old fashioned sheet cake, but that's what makes it so beautiful. It's simplicity. And I don't know about you, but more often than not, simple things just make me feel good. Enjoy!