Dump the Whole Box

Although my heart and head wanted to create something from my newfound French cookbook, lack of time recently forced me into an easier choice for dessert.  I try to bake at least one cake a week since it can last for a couple of nights for dessert.  Summertime usually meant a quick bowl of ice cream at night, but the fall requires something a little more substantial.  I liked baking cakes and had a few that were easy and reliable.  Everyone has a different favorite, so at least one family member was happy with the choice each time.  The range was endless – chocolate, vanilla, carrot, marble, etc.  Sometimes I even make a cake from the new box mixes.  In fact, I talked a modified box cake recipe away from Judy Anne last week.  Judy Anne, being the good southern girl she is, would not want everyone to know that she used a box cake. But I don’t see any shame in using some convenience foods.  We have busy lives and the new developments in food are a sign of progress.

Emmy Wade and Daisy were playing dolls in the next room and Judy Anne and I were enjoying a cup of coffee in the kitchen.  Judy Anne was talking about how much they enjoyed their backyard pool this summer.  I picked up Judy Anne’s recipe box and perused  it while she talked. I have discussed my interest in having a backyard pool often enough to be boring by now, so I half-listened while I flipped through the box. I stumbled upon a recipe just called Dump Cake.  Not an appealing name for sure, but the few ingredients listed drew my attention.  Five real ingredients and a quick whipped topping. One of the ingredients was a box of cake mix.  Wow, this was not Judy Anne at all.  I was trying to think back to when she might have served this at a card party and remembered a couple of times that a semi-nondescript, but delicious, cake made its way to the buffet table.

When Judy Anne was done with the highlights of a backyard pool, I held up the card, turned it toward her and asked her about it.  She snatched it from my hand and tried to hide it in her apron pocket.  I protested and asked to see it so I could write down the recipe.  A very reluctant Judy Anne finally handed over the card and I took an empty index card from the back of the box to copy the recipe.  Judy Anne didn’t need to be embarrassed about the recipe.  Good housewives are efficient with time and this would be a great time-saver for me.  Of course, Judy Anne made me swear that I wouldn’t tell her husband, Stubs, about the cake.  That was easy, since Stubs and I have never had a conversation about baking and I didn’t expect any future ones either.

The cake was as easy as its name.  No real measuring, so no real mess.  I made sure to place the box and cans in the bottom of the trash can and no one was the wiser.  The cake was moist and delicious and the kids and Steve all liked it.  My only real embarrassment came the next day when Chloe came over to borrow some onions for a soup she was making.  Mags and I were sitting at the kitchenette enjoying the cake with some coffee. Chloe saw the cake and asked to try it.  I had already told Mags about the recipe since I don’t keep anything secret from her.  I tried so hard to let Chloe know how not-special the cake was, but she insisted.  I cut a small slice and handed it to her.  Chloe closed her eyes and tasted it as if she was expecting something ultra delicious.  She said something in French that I didn’t recognize and I thought that I probably ruined my reputation with her as a baker.  When Chloe opened her eyes, she pronounced the cake a great success and told me that I must share the recipe.  Mags looked at me and I looked at her and burst into nervous giggles.  Chloe looked at both of us strangely and rightly so, since we  were surprised that Chloe didn’t recognize my deceptive baking choice.  After I let Chloe in on the recipe, we all had a good laugh together.  Chloe said that she was used to making alternative choices in baking since there were so few good ingredients available during the war.  I hadn’t thought about that before; rationing had affected all of us differently.  Chloe still wanted a copy of the recipe for her “American” recipe box she was making.  I swore her to silence about the recipe since Judy Anne would never want everyone on the block to know about her shortcut. Chloe promised that she would create a new name for the recipe in order to hide it better.  That might work, the name certainly needed help.

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