THIS IS MY 12th monthly cooking column.
It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this for about a year now.
I thought now would be a good time to share a lesson I learned even before I started writing this column: Make sure your recipe is complete.
This came up last January when I was planning what to do for my 32nd birthday.
I decided I wanted to bake my own birthday cake, but not just any cake.
I had a memory from when I was about 9 of my grandma bringing a chocolate cake to a family picnic.
It was the perfect chocolate cake.
It was moist and tasty and it didn’t even need the frosting.
I wanted to make that cake.
I called my grandma and asked for the recipe. What follows is exactly what she mailed me and exactly how she wrote it:
“Mix together: 2 cups flour – 1 teaspoon salt – 1 teaspoon baking powder – 2 teaspoons baking soda – 3/4 cup cocoa – 2 eggs – 1 cup milk – 1 teaspoon vanilla
“Batter will be thin.
“You can use 2 8-inch square or round pans for a layer cake or 1 9X13 pan.
“Bake at 325 degrees 20-30 minutes.
“Cool completely before icing.”
Trusting Grandma, I began baking the cake the morning of my birthday.
The batter wasn’t thin, so I added more milk but didn’t keep track of how much.
Then I tasted the batter and it was very bitter. That’s when it occurred to me that Grandma hadn’t included any sugar.
I hesitated but then decided to add sugar one-quarter cup at a time until the batter wasn’t bitter anymore, but again, I didn’t write down how much sugar I put in.
I baked the cake and while it tasted fine, it definitely wasn’t moist and it definitely needed frosting.
So I put some white frosting on the cake. Then I used food coloring and some baking brushes to paint a hummingbird on the cake because it’s my favorite bird.
During this past summer, I decided to try making this cake again but this time for Grandma’s birthday.
But I wanted it to be perfect so I consulted one of the Facebook baking groups I’m in.
I provided Grandma’s cake recipe and asked if anyone could help me fix it because it was clearly missing one or more ingredients.
Several suggestions were given until finally someone said: “That looks almost like the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box.”
And, indeed, it was.
So, I baked Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” chocolate cake for Grandma’s birthday.
Small problem: It was so delicious, my sister and I ate it before we could get it to Grandma’s house.
Oh, well, she didn’t know we planned to bring a cake and liked her gift just fine.
Emily Hanson is a copy editor/paginator for the Peninsula Daily News. She is also a beginning baker and clumsy cook. She can be reached at 360-452-2345 ext. 560-50 or [email protected] dailynews.com.