Friday, February 26, 2010
MY COLORVISION CAKE
Although we never had birthday parties as such, with eight children in the family, that was always enough for a celebration. We never received birthday presents, but my mother would always fix our favorite meal and special birthday cake. My favorite birthday cake was coconut cake with 7-minute icing with shredded coconut spread on the icing. My job was to put the coconut on the sides of the cake. When I was ten, Mother saw a recipe for a "Colorvision Cake" and she and I thought it looked heavenly in the magazine picture. Color television was rather new at the time, so obviously it was a play on words of that. She made the Colorvision Cake for my birthday that year. The cake was indeed a vision to behold. It had three layers of pink and white marbled cake topped with 7-minute icing which she had tinted pink. 7-minute icing was very difficult to make successfully in the summer with no air-conditioning! I had to get up really early that morning because the 7-minute icing had to be made when it was the coolest. My Colorvision Cake was the biggest, most beautiful cake I had ever seen. [Over the years of my telling the story, the cake has grown considerably, I think!] All day long I would pass by the cake, looking longingly at my Colorvision Cake!
Two of my brothers were married, so that meant twelve pieces of cake to be cut from my Colorvision Cake! (seven brothers, parents and two sisters-in-law) Twelve pieces? How big were the slices going to be? How much was going to left for me?
We had to wait for everyone to be there and Mother had fixed fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, tomatoes and cucumbers sliced together and cantaloupe (which we called musk melon then!). [Hey, I still like that meal!]
We were waiting for Brother Bode and his wife Kay to arrive and I knew that the baby wasn't going to be eating any of the cake, so I knew the twelve slices would leave some left over for the Birthday Girl! Kay had been babysitting for a friend of hers. When Bode drove up in the "Old Gray Ghost", out of the backseat crawled the three kids she was babysitting. Oh, no! Maybe I could go in and hide the cake. No, that wouldn't work because Mother wanted to show off the masterpiece! We finished the meal and Bode had brought ice cream to go with the cake. I was counting--fifteen slices of cake--there was still a slight chance of leftover cake for me.
I kept glaring at them--my brothers will be the first to tell you that I was not a nice little kid--because deep down, I knew there would be no leftover cake when I saw Mother cut the cake as Kay scooped the ice cream. Oh, thank you, Bode, butter pecan, my favorite! One scoop of ice cream and a tiny slice of Colorvision Cake for me! How fair was that? I remember licking the 7-minute icing from the cake plate. No cake left--damn those interloping kids--they'd even taken drumsticks from the plate of fried chicken.
My mother never made the cake again, but every year I would whine about that cake and every year Mother would bake a coconut cake with 7-minute icing for my birthday. Mother would always say she'd lost the recipe.
One year after Mother died, I set out on a quest for the recipe for Colorvision Cake; I remembered that Mother had used red Jell-O gelatin in it; I wrote to the Jell-O company and told them about it! Voila! The Colorvision Cake recipe was sent to me. My brother Les and I made the cake, which turned out to look beautiful, but our attempt at making 7-minute icing was disastrous. I was in air-conditioning, I had chilled the bowl and beaters as my mother's recipe instructed, but the 7-minute icing wasn't fit to adorn my Colorvision Cake! What to do? I turned to my "network" -- I told my sister-in-law Jean about the 7-minute icing crisis--she sprang into action and called her cousin Peggy, who immediately whipped up a bunch of 7-minute icing and brought it over; the icing was perfect and although I was afraid to tint it pink, I joyously slathered it over the cake. We had ten people come for dinner that evening and I'm here to tell you that that Colorvision Cake impressed everyone! It was huge and sumptuous-looking and I was serving the cake on the good china. As I looked around the dining room table, I could see the looks of appreciation from people as they received their cake and then I noticed they were only taking a bite or two.
When I put the first bite in my mouth, it was a shock to the palate and to those salivary glands which were so eagerly awaiting the Colorvision Cake! We had followed the recipe to the letter, but the Jell-O taste in the cake was not good. I said, "This is really awful!" and looked over at the remaining cake on the silver cake stand, knowing that I had plenty of leftover Colorvision Cake all to myself! "Be careful what you wish for" ran through my head.
My brother Duke said, "That's probably why Mom never made it again!"