Oh sweet memories of my favorite birthday cake! :)

So the other night, I woke up thinking about this “House” cake my mom made for my birthday when I was little. I’m sure that the “House” cake was brought to the forefront of my memory because my daughter, Sandy, was planning on making a “Car” cake for my grandson’s birthday last weekend.

Now, I’m sure so many of you had groovy birthday cakes that were the bomb when you were little, right? I mean, whether they were ordered and then picked up from the grocery store bakery, made from a mix, or (as mine always were thanks to my mom) made from scratch and utterly DEE-Double-icious, I’m sure everyone has birthday cake stories. But my favorite birthday cake story is the one about my “House” cake.

I have to begin by confessing something…I am a cake-aholic! I LOVE cake! It’s my favorite dessert and always my first choice for a treat. Seriously…I LOVE cake! And I don’t care how pretty or not-pretty a cake is, I’ll love it! AND what’s with these sheet cakes at wedding receptions? They serve each person like a 1 inch by 1 inch square piece of cake! Ha! That’s hardly enough for a good sniff, right?

Needless to say, with my kids all grown up and gone from everyday life at home, I don’t bake cakes anymore. Know why? Because I will eat them! And I mean I will eat the whole thing! Not giant piece by giant piece, but by just cutting off a sliver here and there every time I walk through the kitchen. Yep, my cake-baking days have dwindled to just special occasions—when I know it will be mostly eaten before everyone leaves the party, or that I can at least send part of it home with someone.

087But the fact of the matter still remains that I have been a cake-aholic since birth. Look at my excitement here on my 1st birthday.

And then again on my 2nd birthday. Obviously I couldn’t even wait for a piece to be cut for me! Had to have it NOW!088






Now back to my mom, who was an incredible cake-baker…especially where taste was concerned! Oh her cakes didn’t always come out of the oven perfectly perfect-looking like a mix cake usually does…but MMmmmmm! Did they ever taste divine! (I think I’ll share a couple of her cake recipes here at the end for you—they are THAT good!)

Anyway, every year Mom made my birthday special! She always stayed up way too late laboring over my cakes (which makes me feel so so soooooooo badly, in truth—but maybe that’s why I was/and am always so appreciative of my mother’s cakes). AND she didn’t have fancy mold pans, or instructions on how to decorate cakes…she was a farm-girl, and she’d grown up during the last years of the great depression. So my mom was frugal and incredibly inventive. (Those of you who have parents now in their late 70s, 80s and beyond, know what I mean.) Yet whether it was a fancy kitty-cat cake for my 5th birthday…084

or a plain, but delicious, two layer cake for my 7th birthday…



Mom always made me some sort of wonderful birthday cake! I loved every one of the cakes Mom made for me over the years…but it’s the “House” cake that really stands out in my mind as a wonderful memory.

Sadly, I don’t have a photo of my “House” cake. I guess for some reason Mom didn’t feel it was worth taking a photo of or something…though I can’t imagine why. 😉

Anyway, that year for my birthday (I think it was my 6th birthday) the guests were all over to help me celebrate. There we were, in our little family room in our house in Grace, Idaho (you know…right there on Lago Rd.). Everyone was sitting around anticipating the diving into of one of Mom’s delicious cakes.

Well, when Mom walked in carrying this AWESOME 3D “House” cake, I was elated! Wow! It was incredible! It had four walls and a pitched roof…WOW! It was truly beautiful! It also seemed to defy every principle of physics. Like I said, Mom didn’t have a house cake mold or anything…she just flew by the seat of her pants with stuff.

I remember her setting the cake down on a TV tray and getting to serve it. I was salivating like a hungry lion who had just taken down a big, fat gazelle! Oooo! It was scrumptious looking! Just slathered with colored frosting and standing probably a good 12 inches high. Everyone in the room felt their eyes bug out with hungry yearning! Every mouth was watering, every hand was outstretched, waiting to receive a piece of Moms magnificent “House” cake. And me…well, not only was I drooling impatience, I was so proud! What a cake! Everyone was impressed, and Mom had made it just for me!

And then Mom lifted the cake knife and said, “Okay, be careful. I had to use toothpicks and masking tape to hold this together.”

Yep, it’s true. As we all sat in the family room on various pieces of furniture–as we carefully cut into our individual pieces of cake with our forks or spoons, no one cared that here and there you had to peel off a piece of masking tape. We simply just peeled it off, licked Mom’s delicious, home-made frosting off the top and watched the piece of tape curl up on the side of our plates as we discarded them.

Naturally the toothpicks were a bit more of a challenge. Hidden hither and thither throughout the cake (Mom had used toothpicks to hold the roof to the walls so the cake would stand up) were various lengths of toothpick pieces. Sometimes one would encounter an entire toothpick, feeling like one had found hidden treasure. But mostly it was just a piece of a toothpick you had to pick out of your mouth after you’d taken a bite of cake and felt the odd prick of a toothpick tip in the roof of your mouth.

Yep, the “House” birthday cake my mom made for me that year still stands in my memory as my favorite birthday cake ever! Of course, that’s mostly because of the memory of how wonderful the cake looked and the way everyone just ate around the masking tape and toothpicks and enjoyed Mom’s cake. But it’s also because that physics-defying “House” cake tasted just as good (or better) than any other cake Mom had made…or would ever make! Mmmm!

Here are a couple of my Mom’s yummiest cake recipes. I will admit that you’ll need to adjust for your altitude a bit. Mom perfected these recipes at somewhere around 3000 feet I think…so higher altitude add about 1/4 cup of flour. And if they fall (which mine often do for some reason) they still taste like Heaven! (I would recommend buying one of those cake molds if you’d like to make a “House” cake using these recipes, however. 😉 )

Cinnamon Spice Cake
(This was my Grandma’s recipe originally, but this is my Mom’s improved Version. 🙂 )

2 cups Sugar
2 cups Flour
1 cube Butter
4 tablespoons Cocoa
¼ cup Oil
1 cup Water
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Vanilla
½ cup Buttermilk*
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar and flour in bowl and set aside.

In saucepan combine butter, cocoa, oil and water. Bring to rapid boil. Remove from heat and add soda, vanilla, buttermilk, eggs and cinnamon. Mix well (beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer.)

Bake in greased and floured 9×13 pan at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Let the cake cool for a time, but frost with chocolate frosting while the cake is still a little warm.

*In place of buttermilk, I use 1 tablespoon vinegar and milk to equal ½ cup.

Note: This was my grandma’s (Opal Edith Switzler States’) recipe. Although I don’t remember eating this specific cake at my Grandma States’s house, I do remember Mom making it a lot—and I loved it! Still do!

Carnival Cake
(This one is to DIE for! But I have a really hard time keeping it from falling.)

Note: This was one of my favorite cakes growing up! My mom used to make it a few times a year and I always savored it. The original recipe appears below, with my mom’s original high altitude notes in parenthesis. I’m remembering that you do have to play with the flour and liquids a bit at a low altitude.

2 ¼ c. Flour
(plus 2 T.)
1 ½ c. Sugar
2 ½ t. Baking Powder
1 t. Salt
¾ c. Shortening
½ c. Milk
(plus ¼ c.)
1 t. Orange Extract
½ t. Almond Extract
3 Medium Eggs
¼ c. Milk
(plus ¼ c.)

Combine dry ingredients, shortening, 1st measuring of milk, extracts and 1 egg. Beat 2 minutes. Add remaining milk and eggs and beat for 2 more minutes. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Frost with Easy Penuche Icing.

Easy Penuche Icing
(You HAVE to use this frosting on this cake! It’s sooooooo yummy!)

½ c. Butter
1 c. Brown Sugar
1 ¾ to 2 c. Powdered Sugar

Melt butter in saucepan. Add brown sugar. Bring to boil over low heat and boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool to luke warm. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar. Beat until thick enough to spread. If too stiff, add a little hot water.

Note: This recipe, as well as the one for Carnival Cake, was my mother’s—but I really do think she got it from her mom (Opal Edith Switzler States.) I loved this cake! However, I never made Carnival Cake and Punuche Icing very often, because it is very rich and this does take a little more work than regular icing. LOVE it, though! LOVE it!

*Ooops!  Forgot to announce the winner of last week’s Blog contest for the Timothy Dalton version of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights!  It’s Goodreads commenter, Jessica!  I sent you a message on Goodreads Jessica!  Just e-mail your address to me!  Yay!

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2 Responses to Oh sweet memories of my favorite birthday cake! :)

  1. Teya says:

    OH Marcia you make me laugh and “Awe” this morning. THank you for sharing that sweet memory, pun intended. I am a cake decorator and totally appreciated that story. Of all my experiments my kids love the simple white cake recipy, so sweet. I hope I’ve given them as good a memories. I am excited I get a challenge of making a ship cake for my grandpa for his 80th birthday who is an amazing inventor, who also was in that depression time. SO I”m excited to creat this exiting masterpiece for him.

  2. Oris says:

    Marcia, you ate more than your share of those cakes! One of the many neat things about watching you grow up was how your always hovered around your mother as she baked those cakes.
    Love you,

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