1.25.2011

Icing on the Cake

Sometimes I just crave a good piece of cake. I think cake is my favorite dessert.  I love cupcakes, too because they are like mini cakes in my book. I am a cake girl instead of a pie girl.  I like pies, too, but I prefer cake.  I have such fond memories of my Grandma Powell’s cakes when I was a little girl in the late 70’s. I would stay with her a week at a time because we did not live in the same town, and we would make her delicious pound cake, upside down pineapple cake, carrot cake, devil’s food cake with vanilla icing, and plain vanilla cake with chocolate icing.

My favorite part  of the baking was licking the mixing bowls, but isn’t that the favorite part for every child? It may even be better than eating the cake itself.  My grandmother, Pauline Powell, died in 1983, and my family certainly has missed those wonderful, southern sweet creations that she made with such ease.

Recently, my mom found some of grandma’s recipes in her own handwriting, and since a coffee maker is the only thing that gets turned on in my mom’s kitchen, she gave them to me. I think she is secretly hoping that I will serve one of grandma’s cakes when she comes over to play with the kids.  In all honesty, I want to keep these recipes for posterity, but the recipes intimidate me!  It says to use Crisco and Swansdown cake flour, and then there are explanations about “sad streaks”, and details on when it is okay and not okay to open the oven while the cake is baking.  It might as well be in a foreign language! It all seems so complicated for a person who didn’t even make my own chocolate buttercream icing until this month because I wanted to give my children some of my same baking memories.

In the past, Duncan Hines made my icing.  When ordering cakes for events, it was not uncommon for me to look at a bakery worker puzzled when he would ask me what type of icing I wanted on my cake order. The baker would say, “Fondant, Cream Cheese, or Buttercream?” I would think, “Ah, icing that is good and similar to what country, southern ladies make for their cakes?” My cake icing needs to delicious, but not so sweet that you can’t eat it. You know? The kind just like my grandma made.

It’s no surprise that when I find a cake that I like, I become obsessed with it, and it becomes my “Go To” cake for any event I host.  I’m proud to say I have found a cake that I think would get Grandma Powell’s seal of approval not only for taste, but also for looks.  I learned about this cake at a birthday gathering for my sister-in-law. At the end of dinner, her friend debuts this gorgeous cake.  It was so beautiful, and when I took that first bite, it took me back to days in the kitchen with my grandma.

My son's birthday cake from Whole Foods Bakery

I couldn’t stop talking about the cake or its icing. It was a chocolate layer cake with white icing, and together the two merged into a gastronomic delight. I’m sure that my sister-in-law’s friends thought I was quirky. I started putting my college journalism education to use, and asked my sister-in-law’s friend on the “Who? What? When? Where? And How? specifics of this gourmet delicacy that not only rivaled a southern woman’s homemade cake, but looked as if it had been designed and decorated by a top gourmet pastry chef. I just knew this cake had to break the piggy bank.

I about jumped out of my seat at the restaurant when she told me it came from our local Whole Foods Bakery. It was a double whammy when she told me the price was $24.99 for a cake that would serve about fifteen people. Let me tell you, I have paid a lot more for cakes in the past even at another grocery store, and none of them even came close to topping the taste of this budget-friendly delight.  That equals less than $1.75 a slice.  Whole Foods specializes in an all-natural, no artificial ingredients type cakes so you won’t find Grandma’s Crisco in it, and truthfully, it’s hard to find a cake of this caliber under $25 so kudos to them.


I have now served a Whole Food's cake at my daughter’s baptism, my son’s birthday, and the bakery even did a different design for my daughter’s first birthday.  I also told my best friend about the cake and she used it at her daughter’s baptism, and even as a guest at that event, I still couldn’t stop talking about the icing. She finally said, “We know you love the cake, Leigh !”  And at my son’s birthday party, the guests raved about this cake just like I did when I first tasted it.

So my thoughts are if Pauline Powell was here today, I can guarantee that she would be a fan of my local Whole Food’s Cosmic Design Chocolate cake, and to quote her favorite game show host, Bob Barker, who came into her home everyday at 11:00 am on WRAL TV, “The Price is Right!”

Until next time…..I’m off to have a cup of tea with a slice of cake!

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