My mom has one of those old-school red plastic recipe boxes in the cabinet — the same red box she's been keeping recipes since I can remember. It's filled with index cards, dog-eared and wrinkled, aged and dotted, her neat cursif blotted and fading. I hardly know how she refers to them, peering down through glasses that invariably rest at the tip of her nose.
These are 'legacy recipes,' things passed down from my grandmother, Helen Bovino, who has certainly taught us both more about cooking, canning, and farming than we can remember. I'm not familiar with all the recipes in that red box, but here's one that's very dear to me: Supreme Devil's Food Cake. It's the cake I look for every year for Christmas and on birthdays. Two layers of moist, not-too-sweet cake covered with airy frosting and coconut. I can eat the whole thing, and usually try.
For the cake:
- 2 cups sifted cake flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1¼ baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
- ½ cup of soft vegetable shorening
- Two 1-ounce packages of unsweetened chocolate
- 1¼ cup of milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 eggs
For the white marshmallow frosting:
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 2/3 tablespoon water
- 1/3 cup of light corn syrup
- 2 egg whites (1/3 cup)
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 bag shredded coconut.
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl sift together the cake flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add and stir to blend well: shortening, chocolate, 3/4 cup of milk, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for two minutes.
Add 1/2 cup of milk and four eggs. Stir to blend. Then beat at medium speed for one minute more. Pour into 2 greased, waxed paper lined 9-inch layer cake pans. Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool while you make the frosting.
For the frosting:
Boil sugar, water and corn syrup slowly without stirring until the syrup spins a 6-8 inch thread. Keep saucepan covered for the first three minutes to prevent crystals forming on the sides. While syrup is cooking, beat two egg whites until they're stiff enough to hold a point.
Pour hot syrup very slowly in a thin stream into stiffly beaten egg whites, beating constantly. Add vanilla. Beat until the frosting holds its shape. Spread between the layers, top and sides. Sprinkle with coconut as desired. We do it liberally.