Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Secret Family Recipe

     Today is my son's 16th birthday.  He's a good kid and very easy to please.  When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, his only request was his great grandmother's red velvet cake.  Grandma has been making this cake since before I was born.  We had red velvet cake every Christmas long before it was trendy.  And a couple of her great grandchildren like it so much that they have started asking for it on their birthdays.  She is terrific and is always happy to make it for them.

     My husband, son and I moved to another state and so Grandma can't really bake cakes on demand for us.  When my son made his request, I promptly called to ask for the recipe.  I figured that although mine won't be exactly the same as hers, I can certainly try.  Besides, someone needs to learn this recipe eventually.  Grandma won't be with us forever.

     To my shock and horror, the first ingredient in the recipe is a box of Duncan Hines classic yellow cake mix.  Oh the humanity!  C'mon Grandma!  Doesn't she realize that I have a blog that focuses on cooking from scratch and doing things for ourselves?  Hasn't anyone told her how I brag about the great scratch recipes that I learned from her and her mother? The shame of it is almost more than I can bear!

     And what is my son's response?  "Hmmm... That stinks.  You're still going to make it for me, right?"  How do I argue with that?  Of course I'm still going to make it for him.  I'm even here to tell you all about it.  But next year...  watch out!  I will be working diligently to fix this travesty - this black mark on the family cookbook.   And I will bring you the results.  In the meantime, let me share the couple of terrific little secrets I gained from this birthday cake adventure.

     #1 - One of the ingredients in Grandma's red velvet cake is Nestle Quick (re-named Nesquik for modern packaging).  Thankfully, there was no need to stress over that ingredient.  Did you know that Nesquik is basically just 2 parts Sugar, 1 part Cocoa Powder, and a dash of salt?  Yup.  Pretty darned easy.  That's something I already whip up myself and keep in a canning jar, so no great stress on that front.  But this recipe did remind me to share that little trick with you.

     #2 - Thankfully, the frosting for this cake is the real thing without any embarrassing, pre-packaged ingredients.  And, it's also the best part of the whole cake.  I decided to share that with you.  It's the least I can do after making you think you might get an old secret red velvet recipe that pre-dates the latest trends.  1 Stick Butter, 1 8oz Pkg Cream Cheese, 1 lb Powdered Sugar, 1 tsp Vanilla, 1 Cup Pecan Pieces.  My son says the pecans are what make this cake his absolute favorite in the world.

     Instead of baking him a traditional birthday cake, I decided to whip up a batch of cupcakes for him.  It allows me to really overload them with extra frosting which will make him happy.  Plus, I won't need to worry about a major influx of dirty plates, knives, and forks each time he wants to cut himself "just a little sliver, please".

     Overall, the cupcakes were a huge success.  And I will eventually get over the shame of a secret family recipe that uses a mix from a box.  At least it's altered and doctored up, right?  In the meantime, it's a good reminder that this transition from our convenient, pre-packaged, over-processed world of groceries isn't an easy one.  No matter how hard I have worked to take control of my family's food, I realize that I have a long way yet to go.  I hope you will enjoy the journey with me.

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