My granddaughter's baking lesson brought back so many memories

"The small girl put vanilla extract behind each of my ears, after having put it behind her own."

Some time ago, my granddaughter Amelie, decided to teach me how to make her ‘magic cake’.

“Sounds good to me.”

“Well, it is a secret recipe, with magic in it, so don’t tell anyone, grandma.” After making the required oath and pinkie finger sign it was good.

“Now I can tell you everything, you use magic scales and numbers!”  Pricking up my ears, the young child (six-and-a half) proceeded to gather the ingredients. “I like chocolate best.” So chocolate it was.

Cups and spoons, the bowls were laid out, and the old scales, a wedding present many years ago, came out. Amelie explained that long ago before she was born people had magic measuring things called ounces and pounds. These made the best cakes, better than all that bought rubbish. The voice was the small child’s but the words were her father’s, and a smile spread across my face.

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“Now, grandma what you do is this: cut 8 ounces of butter; you never use margarine it doesn’t carry the flavour well, and it tastes awful!” The packet holding the butter was unwrapped and the butter was cut into small cubes. Then you weigh out 8 ounces of sugar and put it in the big bowl with the butter. You put in two huge spoons of cocoa (powder) but I put in three because I like chocolate,” she confided. Nodding in agreement, she then added the cocoa to the bowl containing the butter and sugar.

“Next you add just a little bit of vanilla, it smells lovely, see, you have to put some behind our ears!” The fragrance was wonderful.

“Grandma, you aren’t paying attention! Look and learn,” came a stern rebuke. Smiling and desperately trying not to giggle I looked up at her. The small girl put vanilla extract behind each of my ears, after having put it behind her own.

“You mix these things together, the butter carries the flavours of the chocolate and vanilla together better, most people put the flavours in with the flour but daddy and I don’t. It is part of the magic.” I mused back to the days when I taught my boys this recipe, even further back when Nana taught me.

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Next came the running commentary as she cracked two eggs into a small bowl. She then cleaned up the mess, wiped down the bench, measured the flour and put milk, half a cup, measured by eye into the cup. Now out came the electric mixer on to the bench…followed by the cake tin, which she greased and dusted with a little flour, she then put the butter wrapper in the bottom of the tin. I was surprised at her expertise, she and her father had obviously done this many times.

“Now this is the hard part, I will let you use the mixer, you hold it while I plug it in and turn it on.” As the mixer whirred into life I was given the honour of combining the ingredients. “Slowly,” the child added, “don’t over mix”, as she introduced the eggs, then the sifted flour and milk alternatively.

“All done, you can turn the beaters off, pull out the plug, and wash them carefully, that’s what daddy does!” Following her instructions I then carried them out. She had preheated the oven then filled the tin.

“Big people are only allowed to use ovens,” she directed, me handing me a, not inexpertly, filled cake tin. I set the timer, together she washed and I dried the dishes, but not before she licked the spoon and the bowl with glee.

“You cannot have any grandma because you’ll get too fat.”

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“Thank you for your consideration dear.” Some work on tact required, I mentally noted, but she isn’t even seven.

After the dishes were completed, the bench top returned to its former pristine state, the little girl asked for more butter, icing sugar, vanilla extract for the icing as the cooling tray was placed on the bench with a newly washed bowl.

“You do this often? Where did daddy learn the magic cake and why is it magic?” I had half expected to hear a rebuke. She came closer, whispering in my ear like a conspirator, “Fairies; an old fairy taught him but don’t tell anyone.”

“So that’s why it’s a magic cake?”

“No, you change bits of it and it turns into an orange cake, or muffins, and you can make it into a Vesuvius cake (this is what the boys called chocolate self-saucing pudding). Or a pudding in a pot (steamed pudding)! It’s the only cake we make!”

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“You will have to put the stick in, Grandma (testing the cake, a skewer) and take it out of the oven when it’s cooked.”

Such responsibility. Standing ready to perform my set tasks, I watched Amelie set her card table with a small tablecloth. Going outside she collected flowers placing them in a whisky glass from the sideboard and then on the table. She set the table; two of my mother-in-laws cups (golf trophies), which Amelie was fond of, with the matching plates, two table napkins, used at lunchtime, and cake forks. 

The cake had cooled on the rack as the table was set. Still in her red apron she climbed back on the steps and prepared to ice the cake. First she put a plate on top of the cake I turned the cake over. The flat bottom makes for easier icing and if the cake rises unevenly it doesn’t show. Better presentation. Christopher, my son, isn’t a bad cook and had repeated the instructions verbatim to his daughter.

It was lovely to watch the child lick her hands clean. After washing up, cleaning, with great pride Amelie carried her cake to the little table, and we had a ‘cup of tea’ (hers was milk with chocolate). We played ladies at a tea party for the rest of the afternoon. I remembered this situation happening a long time ago with my beloved Nana. A double joy for a cookery lesson.

Do you have any recipes that have been passed on from generation to generation?