Sample Cake

I noticed some of my mother-in-law’s idiosyncrasies even before I married the youngest of her four sons. Her rigid Friday schedule included cleaning house and baking the cake for Sunday dinner. That’s not to say there was not dessert the rest of the week. There was always dessert, but the cake for Sunday dinner, eaten right after church services, had to be special.

Remember that I said this cake was for Sunday dinner. That meant not a slice was cut before Sunday noon. My introduction to this ritual came on a Friday night when the date with my future husband included going to their house to watch some TV show we liked that has slipped my memory – wasn’t Lawrence Welk because that was on Saturday. Her cake sat in the middle of the dining room table in all its chocolate glory. It would not be cut even for a prospective daughter-in-law. I found this intriguing since any cake at my home of origin would have been cut, and maybe gone, shortly after the sun went down on the day that it was baked.  

However, all was not lost. She came in not too long after we settled in to see the show bearing portions of her “sample cake.” She had a tiny pan and had lifted enough batter before baking the cake to make a sample. Other differences from my home of origin were immediately apparent. The cake, light and moist, was topped with a cooked chocolate frosting – far beyond the mix of confectioner’s sugar, butter, and cocoa in the icing of my experience. She redeemed herself even before I got a piece of the real cake – after it was cut on Sunday, of course.

About fifteen years into our marriage, that son began to bake cakes on occasion. In retirement, he has turned cake baking into a true avocation, collecting and trying out recipes to the delight of his family, friends, and the church potluck crowd. This week he’s baked a carrot cake, a hummingbird cake, and an Italian cream cake for Christmas gifts for our surrounding neighbors. Thankfully, he has not “forgotten his raising.” He, too, has a tiny pan and lifted enough to make a sample for me to test.

The cake, light and moist, was topped with cream cheese icing. I’m glad that apple did not fall far from its tree.