Birthday cakes always make me a little nostalgic. My mom used to be a semi-professional cake baker (she made wedding cakes out of our home). As anyone with a home-based business knows, working from home can be hazardous. Though I was no older then than Sarah is now, I distinctly recall two wedding-cake disasters. The first time our dog sneaked into the kitchen and licked the bottom tier of a wedding cake clean of frosting two hours before the cake was supposed to be at the church. The second time, my sister Chris pulled the same trick. My parents let Chris stay … but the dog was consigned to the back yard for the rest of his natural life.
Yep, Mom didn’t always have the best of luck with the wedding cakes … But her cakes made our birthdays something special. Barbie-gown cakes, carousel cakes, Dad-gone-fishing cakes, leopard-print cakes (it was the 80s). According to her, at the tender age of four I once made Dad scour the countryside one Sunday evening when I discovered that my mother had no cake for her birthday. “She makes cakes for all of us … and she doesn’t have a cake for HER birthday. IT’S NOT FAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIR!”
Dad returned an hour later with a bucket full of ice cream and chocolate sauce, with whipped cream and a candle on top. Apparently I was placated temporarily … but every year thereafter I started bugging him about Mom’s cake the day after Halloween (two weeks or so before Mom’s actual birthday).
Anyway, today I’d like to share a favorite family recipe, which my Grandmother used to use on birthday cakes. For those who don’t like sicky-sweet icing … or is suddenly faced with the prospect of having to decorate 24 cupcakes at the last minute without a cup of powdered sugar in the pantry.
Grandma’s No-Powdered Sugar Frosting
1/2 C milk
4-1/2 tsp flour
1/2 C white or brown sugar
4 Tbls margerine
4 Tbls shortening
1 tsp vanilla
Cook milk and flour together until thick; cool. Place sugar, margerine, shortening, and vanilla in small bowl. Add cooled milk; beat until thick — about 7 minutes. Recipe ices a 9×12 cake generously; double to fill a layered cake.