In spite of all of the coughs and sneezes and sniffles, we enjoyed our Christmas. Just at a slower speed. I think I liked the "lesser" version we observed. I'm taking notes for next Christmas. I had already planned to do less, but this was even less than I thought I'd do. And it was fine without making every single special Christmas recipe we love. It was fine without as many gifts (which meant less wrapping for me.) It was fine with just a few of the decorations pulled out. It was enough to be together. There was singing and dancing, with "shows" put on by the two tiny ballerinas who sometimes insisted we all get up and dance with them.
And mixed in with Christmas and New Year's observances, there was a birthday. Bless all of you people who have a birthday around Christmas. Mommy's birthday is a week after Christmas. I had many a "mommy fail" years ago when just as the Christmas rush subsided I'd remember that I had not planned a birthday party yet! Or bought a birthday gift. School friends were still out of town on Christmas break. Store shelves were nearly bare as I shopped last minute for a gift. Mommy's birthday often felt like a "P.S." after the big holiday season.
This year we celebrated a little early, before they headed home. And I did make sure there was cake. Some things are not negotiable. For the little girls, that's the most important part of a birthday celebration. A cake with candles. They expected to have a cake for their mommy. Beyond that, it was all okay. Well, almost. Little Sister wasn't sure about the "square cake." "Cakes are round, Mimi, not square." she explained. Well, I overruled her and baked this one in a 9x13 foil pan with a lid, so that her mommy could take the leftover cake home with them.
I am not a cake baker, but this recipe has never failed me. It came from cousin Jackie who was a wonderful cook. I've topped it with Caramel Frosting. And it's good with strawberries and whipped cream. But this time I used a chocolate frosting. This frosting recipe came from Martha McDaniel, a local home economics teacher back in the day. I was not a student where she taught, but Daddy-O had a home living class with her. I know buying a can of frosting is easy, but truly this isn't much effort and it's so much better! Trust Martha.
I think that maybe this cake and frosting was even better on the second day. (We kept a little of the cake here.) I'm keeping this recipe in mind when I need to take a cake somewhere.
QUICK AND EASY CAKE
2 cups self-rising flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat until well mixed. This can be baked in layers or a 9x13-inch pan. (Greased and floured, of course. Or, use baking spray.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and the top springs back when lightly touched.
MARTHA McDANIEL'S CHOCOLATE FROSTING
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
2 squares chocolate
1 (16-oz) box 4X confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
chopped nuts, if desired
Melt butter and chocolate squares. Add egg and beat well. This will get thick and look like "clabber." Add box of sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir in chopped nuts if using them.
If mixture is a little dry, add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of warm water. This frosting is thick and spreads nicely. It works best when spread on a warm cake.
If you are using a bag of powdered sugar, 3-3/4 cups equals a 16-oz box. And the chocolate squares really are "square." My chocolate was in little sections and two sections made a square. I only had unsweetened chocolate in the pantry, so I added a big pinch of sugar when I was melting it. The last time I made it, I used semi-sweet chocolate. Good to know either will work.
The cake was delicious, but now it's time to give up the daily treats that are hard to avoid during the holidays. Salads and apples and grapes are calling my name!