The Simplest Hardest Cake in the World

love, birthdayWhen we’re first in love, we’ll do just about anything for the new apple in our eye.

Even bake a cake. A cake from a 100-year-old recipe.

At least, that’s what I grumbled lo those many years ago when I began to date the man I now call my guy.

We met in September. He lived in one state, I lived in another, so we dated by commute. But by the end of November, he asked to stay for a weekend in mid-December. I said yes, and in the next breath he said, “Oh, and by the way, it’s my birthday.”

I skipped only one beat and said, “I’ll take you out for dinner.”

He skipped no beats when replying, “Um, what I’d really like is my grandmother’s birthday cake.”

WHAT?

Turns out, since my guy was a little boy, his mom made him a cake from a recipe his grandmother discovered long ago in an old magazine. My guy loved that cake, and wondered if I’d like to bake it for his birthday.

Before I could say, “NO,” I opened my mailbox to discover a sweet love letter, with a yellowed piece of thin paper inside: the recipe for ye old Ski Cake.”cake, grandmother's recipe, birthday

The day before he arrived for his weekend visit, I followed the directions to the last teaspoon, creaming the butter and sugar while “working in” the milk and sifted flour (back in the grandmother’s days, the cook had to sift her own flour). I beat the egg whites and made a meringue and folded it into the cake, per instructions. As easy as ….cake.

Granted, as soon as I took it out of the oven it flattened half its size, but still, I figured that’s how cakes looked in the olden days.

I frosted and set it before my dimpled date on his birthday, and with bated breath waited for him to take a bite.

He bit, and he chewed, and chewed and chewed, before he finally swallowed. Twice.

Averting my eyes, he said, “Delicious.”

I took a bite. The cake was as hard as a rock and tasted like stone.

Despite my failure, we married within a year, and on his next birthday, I tried again.

With the same results.

On our third anniversary, I had a new oven in a different state with a state-of-the-art mixer.

But the same results.

A week before our fourth anniversary, I called my guy’s mom and admitted my dilemma.

“I follow the old recipe exactly, each time, and each time, it’s a bust!” I moaned.

A small effervescent bubble popped between the phone lines. A few seconds after the pop I realized the noise was my mother-in-law’s chuckle.

baking, cake, birthday, ingredients“No one can make that recipe work,” the sweet woman explained. “On his birthdays, I’d race to the store and buy a Betty Crocker white cake mix. He never knew the difference.”

I didn’t find it as funny as she did, but you can be damn sure that I ran to the store and bought that cake mix, and the night before his birthday, in secret, baked the best Ski Cake my guy had ever tasted.

He said so.

And every December, he enjoys my home-baked, best simplest hardest birthday cake in the world.

birthday cake, recipe, Betty Crocker

Ski Cake