My Mother’s Birthday Cake


   My mother had a cookbook that was my absolute favorite growing up…it was comprised of all of the nationalities in the United States by regions…I was fascinated reading about the foods indicative to each region and it all sounded so homely to me.


     The year I was ten years old, I wanted to make my mother her birthday cake.  The cake in question was the Lady Baltimore Cake that was in this book.  I asked my Dad if I could do it and he said he would leave the ingredients out and I could use the bakery to make the cake(it was a Sunday).  I wanted it to be a surprise and we had invited everyone to come for the party later that night after dinner..  My parents took a nap on Sundays so that was my time to make the cake. 

     My first question came when I didn’t know if baking soda and baking powder were the same thing…I came up to the kitchen to ask my sister in law, who was sitting reading.  She recently had come from Denmark and was not familiar with the two terms…said she didn’t know…so I took matters in my own hands and decided that, yes, they were the same thing.(and incidentally  I look at this recipe now and question how on earth would I need 6 teaspoons of either one?!)

     I mixed everything and the cake was in the oven upstairs with my sister in law keeping an eye on it.  I then needed to make the cooked frosting.  My father had a small gas stove down in the bakery and I had watched him many times using it.  I turned it on and then realized I didn’t have a match.  Went looking for a match and lit it…BOOM! 

     Remembering that my brother had told me if you ever get burned, the first thing you do is put cold water on it…I quickly went to the sink and put cold water on my face…as I touched my eyebrows and hair, crinkly stuff fell into the sink.  It was lucky I had recently started wearing glasses because I believe I saved my eyes because of them.

    At this point, I ran upstairs past my shocked sister in law and up to my parents’ bedroom where they were both asleep.  I stood next to my mother and poked her on the arm.  She opened one eye and looked at me…shook her head and closed it again.  I poked her again.  This time she jumped up screaming and my Dad jumped up as well…and when he heard what I had done, ran down the stairs to make sure the gas was turned off and to assess the damage(a hole in the ceiling).

   I was then taken to the Emergency room, gotten burn salve for my poor face.  I had no eyebrows and no hair in the front part of my head, so wore a scarf for a while(funny there are no pictures from that time…).  Dad had finished my cake for me and we had family and neighbors over for coffee, cake and ice cream.

   The cake looked absolutely lovely.  Mom cut the pieces and everyone seemed to be eating their cake…and all was well until my godmother tasted hers…”What did you put in here…this is the worst cake I have ever eaten.”  I ate a piece and burst into tears.  Everyone who had been eating their cake(and must have been suffering through it) started glaring at her and shushing her.

    I had put in baking soda instead of the baking powder…and it was the worst cake any of us had eaten.  Luckily we had two flavors of ice cream…plus cookies…day saved anyway…

   til next time…Eva


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