When an adolescent child is free of abuse and addiction they can be wonderful to behold. Aside from their typical hormonally driven emotional dips and spurts , they are full of newness. John at 13, discovered Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. He found Wordsworth and Kerouac. He developed calluses on his fingertips from playing guitar. And he decided he wanted to learn to cook. He became rather masterful at it, actually. He made crepes regularly, and perfected saute’ing mushrooms and caramelizing onions. He pulled out my cookbook and tried his hand at whatever his taste buds led him to. We did not suffer through his experiments, because he understood the value of a recipe.
One evening Dave and I went out on a date and John was left in charge of the kids. As we were leaving, John and his buddy Jason were mixing a chocolate cake. You’ll not find cake mixes in our pantry, nor commercially prepared dinners in our freezer. You will find, however, good quality cocoa and flour, natural sugar and vanilla. John was using my best chocolate cake recipe, the one that calls for real butter and 4 eggs and buttermilk and 24% cocoa from France, which I had purchased in a fifty pound bag. I figured cocoa is the perfect food storage item. I divided the bag and sealed it 5 pounds at a time in metal cans at the church cannery. Everyone else has wheat in their food storage, but in a crisis they will want chocolate! I presume the average American will be more than willing to trade a good portion of flour and sugar for a few cups of cocoa. Purchasing 50 lbs. of good European cocoa was an investment, I decided, and I have never regretted the purchase. I am currently on my second 50 pound bag.
John lifted the beaters from the mixing bowl. I dipped my finger in the creamy batter and licked it, telling myself that this was going to be the perfect ending to our date.
Later that evening Dave and I hurried home to top things off with a piece of that made from scratch chocolate cake. When we walked in we could smell the trailings of chocolate, but there was no cake to be found. The boys were in the back yard playing ball. They hadn’t seriously eaten that whole cake, had they?
I walked out onto the deck and yelled:
“Hey, where’s the chocolate cake you guys?”
John was back by the stream and couldn’t hear me. Jason drew the ball out of his mitt, tossed it out to John, and called back,
“It burnt. We were playing ball and forgot about it, so it burnt.”
“Oh.” I said, really disappointed. That poor delicious batter… robbed of its rightful measure of fulfillment.
“So what did you do with it?” I yelled back out to him.
“We threw it away.”
I turned back to the door, opened the screen, and entered the kitchen to tell Dave we were out of luck. That’s when I saw Dave leaning over the open garbage container strategically situated next to the fridge. An empty cereal box had been smashed down on top of the garbage, and on top of that box, upside down, was the rejected cake. Dave looked up at me, his back bent over the garbage, his mouth full of chocolate cake…
“Doethn’t tathte burnt to me,” he mumbled, the cake muffling his words.
I, being the supportive wife, scurried over to the garbage and joined him.
Since then we have lovingly called this yummy cake Garbage Cake. People who don’t know the story think it has some weird combination of ingredients tossed together like garbage. Not so. It is a well crafted recipe that likes to be followed with relative exactness.
And now, lucky you, you can make it yourself!
CONNORS’ GARBAGE CAKE
1 c. cocoa (bitter, not the drinking kind!)
1 c. buttermilk or sour milk (milk plus 2T vinegar)
2 ¾ c. flour
2 t. soda
½ t. salt
½ t. bkg. Pdr.
1 c. butter2 ½ c. sugar
1 ½ vanilla
Combine cocoa and hot water, add buttermilk. Set aside.Beat butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla about 5 minutes.
Add dry mixture, alternating with cocoa-milk mixture.
Bake 350 degrees for 35 minutes in rectangular pan, or 25-30 minutes in round pans.
Frost with Buttercream Frosting if you want.
BUTTERCREAM FROSTING3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream or milk
DirectionsIn a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency