Friday, November 23, 2018

A Family Tradition


This will probably seem an anachronism in this day of tasty box cakes, but it's still the chocolate cake of choice at my house. It descends (as far as I know) from my great-grandmother, Emma Liddle of Argyle, NY, where, for generations, the family owned a dairy farm.

I've heard a few stories about life on the farm, but not really enough. Why wasn't I paying better attention when I was a kid?) The barn was down the road almost a quarter mile from the house, and it could snow like hell, then as now. It could be a trek at 5 a.m. in January when it was snowing, sleeting, blowing--especially before President Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Project had reached the wilds of Washington County. Those cows always need to be milked twice a day no matter what. 

I have my Aunt Juliet to thank for passing this recipe along to me, although my Mother, Grandma Liddle and Aunt Jeanie also prepared it. It has a moist, tender crumb, and, frankly, it doesn't last long at a family gathering.

Grandmother Liddle's Chocolate Cake   

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
6 Tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 cups buttermilk*
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg

Sift together four, sugar, salt soda and cocoa. In a large bowl mix buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla and egg. Add dry ingredients and beat by hand. Pour into greased 9 inch square pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until cake tests done. You may also use a 9 X 13 sheet pan, but the batter will be thinner, so you need to watch closely to be sure it doesn't overbake.

* If you want to make this recipe but lack buttermilk, pour one tablespoon of white vinegar or one tablespoon of lemon juice into the bottom of a measuring cup, then add milk to make one cup and use that instead. You can also substitute one cup of yogurt for buttermilk.

The original frosting for this cake was a thin lemon-juice & rind confectioner's sugar glaze. 

My Aunt Judy offered a another, more sumptuous frosting recipe. 

Judy Hennessy's Fudge Frosting

1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 squares semi-sweet or bitter chocolate
1/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla 

Combine sugar, flour and salt. Add milk and place on heat. As the mixture warms, add chocolate squares and stir until boiling. Continue cooking--and don't stir--until it reaches soft ball stage ( a drop in a cup of cold water will tell the tale). Remove from heat, add butter and then vanilla, beating until it is stiff enough to spread. 

You may also take peppermint patties (judge the number from the size of your cake pan) and set them atop the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. As they melt, spread them gently over the top. 

A friend suggests we start calling this "Gratitude Day" instead of "Thanksgiving." I like the idea. 

I'm trying to begin a practice of being grateful every morning for something as I get out of bed. Often, it's gratitude simply because I CAN get out of bed. As I get older that's one thing I've learned--not to take anything for granted.

Happy Holidays to everyone, wherever they are!

~~Juliet Waldron

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