That Takes the Cake
Miriam N. Kotzin
Doorknobs Winner


During the war and post-war sugar rationing, my mother struggled to satisfy Dad’s sweet tooth. On his 40th birthday, she flourishes Fanny Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook, his mother’s engagement gift, to announce that she’s making a “real birthday cake. Not one drop of corn syrup!”

She’d kept her scheme secret. She could’ve told me—I wouldn’t have ruined her surprise.

Dad chuckles, asking if Mom used a gun to hold up the Piggly Wiggly, or if she was only turning into a grifter.

Mom blushes and tells us how she was in the baking aisle checking her shopping list when she realized she’d forgotten the ration book, and she started to bawl. She told a solicitous woman she had everything for Dad’s birthday cake at home—except sufficient sugar. That woman got busy until just about everybody gave Mom sugar, tablespoon by tablespoon.

Mom has just enough sugar and time to bake Dad’s cake before dinner. Busy with flour, measuring cups, and bowls, she asks me to take the butter, milk, and eggs out of the fridge.

Wishing she’d told me her plan, apprehensive, I put the butter and milk on the table.

“Eggs,” she prompts. “I need eggs for the cake.”

I reach into the fridge and pull out all our eggs, now on a large plate covered by a sheet of waxed paper, my father’s favorite savory snack: deviled eggs.

After one grim moment, Mom laughs. She checks Farmer’s index—Voilà! a recipe for eggless chocolate cake.


First published: August 2018
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