Crummy Cake Communication

Country folk have odd recipes, but we always eat good.

My mom had two cakes she introduced us to when I was a kid. She called them Mayonnaise Cake and Tomato Soup Cake.

Yeah, that’s how we reacted, too. Allow me to expand: the mayonnaise is used as a substitute for eggs and oil in a chocolate cake with coffee in the batter. A thick, dense, moist explosion of coffee-chocolate flavor. Frosting would be pointless. Vanilla ice cream works. We’d stir them together, unknowingly creating a cookies and cream experience 30 years before anyone was selling it.

My father was most precise in his speech. It was from him that I learned to look for the right word, the difference, for instance, between “loping” and “trotting” or “thinking” and “pondering” and such shades of meaning which give depth and clarity to our communication.

(That’s called “setup” so you’ll wonder, as I relate this, where it comes into play.)

The tomato soup is less obvious. I don’t know why it works, but the result is the best spice cake I’ve ever eaten. Full of sweet spice, moist and dense the way I like cake. A cream cheese frosting works, though it’s fine just as it is.

It does, though, have one little flaw.

“I’ve been waiting 20 years for you to make this cake again,” my father said, mumbling around a mouthful.

“You said you didn’t like it!” was Mom’s response.

“No I didn’t.”

We were all silent, wondering where this was going, this dredging up of things from before we were born.

“You said it was crummy.”

“Sure. Look at it.” He picked up a piece, and it fell apart.

We all froze.

Mom got up and started clearing the table. “You mean crumbly.”

“Okay, crumbly.”

Heads down, shoving cake into our faces so we could rush outside to laugh.

I’m told my parents were very happy together, almost like newlyweds, after the nest was empty. I missed that short part of their life together before my father’s death.

I’m sure their conversations were scintillating.

6 thoughts on “Crummy Cake Communication

  1. mmmm-mmm! Those both sound wonderful, Joel! I like my cake much like your father did – moist and rich, dense yet soft.
    I believe both of those recipes came out of the early post-WWII era – when many of the ingredients for deserts were still being rationed, but not completely unavailable. I seem to recall seeing them in my Mom’s “Joy of Cooking” book.

  2. Thanks for the research, Karen. I’ll have to do it with a goat cheese frosting and see how that works.

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