With my mixer on “full speed ahead” mode, I’ve spent a lot of time during the last month whipping up just about every kind of cake you can imagine. So much sifted flour has been flying around our kitchen I felt like I needed to call for a visibility report before I even attempted to measure the sugar.
Dozens of eggs were cracked, multiple sticks of butter were softened and so many extracts added that I could hardly keep track. I feel like I’ve been running a bakery like my wife, Debra, has always wanted me to do. However, all this baking was for multiple friends’ birthdays — including Debra, who had some cupcakes and two cakes to help her celebrate her birthday week!
While I’m talking about Debra’s birthday cakes, I can honestly say I have never seen two entire cakes completely inhaled in such a brief period of time. As my grandmother used to say, “The only thing left was the smell!” I will add to Granny’s comment, “and the two Tupperware cake carriers and plates that just barely eked by without being harmed.”
Only a stray piece of coconut and a fragment of a cherry made it home to our kitchen sink. As I was washing both containers and plates, I realized just how important baking is to our family. We would whip up a cake before you could say, “Get the plates and forks!”
I always felt at home in both my mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens. They were magical places where sweet dreams ended with sweet memories.
To recall their kitchens, I don’t have to rely on just my memories. I actually have some of the things my mother and grandmother used to perform their culinary magic. If only the metal cake pans I use could talk, what stories they could tell. I still use the actual pans my mother used.
As I was greasing and flouring them the other day, I wondered how many cake layers have risen proudly over the years in these pans. There is no way to know, but I added 20 more in the last two weeks.
Everywhere I turn in my kitchen leads me down memory lane. The measuring cups I use once belonged to my mother. They were purchased at a Tupperware home party in the early 1970s and proudly sport a trendy color for that decade — orange.
Mother’s wire cake racks still allow the layers to cool as if they were purchased yesterday. Well, except for one that I just noticed has a prong that is separated from the others, leaving the rack slightly lopsided. But I certainly can’t throw it away. That would be like tossing a piece of my history into the trash.
Recently, I came upon something I had not seen in many years that immediately stirred up a whole bowl full of memories. In our basement, high atop a shelving unit, I saw something silver. Upon closer observation, I realized it was Granny’s metal cake cover complete with a wooden knob on top.
I brought it down for a closer look. Age has dulled its luster and stripped away some of the color from the wooden knob. There is a ding here and a scratch there, but in my eyes, all I could see was it still shining in its prime. For many years, it had the honor of covering a “from scratch” cake. Placing it back on the shelf, I remembered some of the delicious cakes that sat beneath it on Granny’s countertop.
On this day set aside to honor mothers, we all remember our own mothers in different ways. There are so many ways I remember Mother that I couldn’t possibly list them here. But, if I were going to start a list, being in the kitchen with her would be at the very top.
Yes, I still have her cake pans, measuring cups and spoons, wire cake cooking racks, bowls and even the wooden-handled spatula she used to frost them. What I don’t have is her. Oh, to be in the kitchen with my mother one more time!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!
Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him at instagram.com/markcreates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.