Emily Hanson’s 32nd birthday cake was decorated with a hummingbird. (Emily Hanson/Peninsula Daily News)

Emily Hanson’s 32nd birthday cake was decorated with a hummingbird. (Emily Hanson/Peninsula Daily News)

THE COOKING HOBBYIST: Always be sure you have a complete recipe

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.

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” chocolate cake

2 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

Heat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed 2 minutes.

Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour into pans

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.


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.

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