For years, her family has made a chocolate cake recipe clipped from this newspaper.
This past year being the 100th anniversary of the founding of The Christian Science Monitor, I've been thinking of the many ways the Monitor has blessed my whole family. Lately, my thoughts have been lingering on ... chocolate cake.
Sometime in the 1940s or 1950s, my grandmother cut a recipe for "Mrs. Orr's Chocolate Cake" from the Monitor. When my dad tasted this cake, he was so smitten with it that he requested this cake every year, both for Father's Day and for his birthday in September.
Dad was a creature of habit. He didn't always greet new experiments in cooking with glee. When I graduated from college and got my first apartment, I began to learn to cook, with guidance and suggestions from my mom and the help of a few good cookbooks. I also began to experiment. Often when I invited Mom and Dad over for dinner, I tried a new recipe. Dad would look at his plate suspiciously and ask, "Am I the 'guinea pig' for this meal?"
Dad especially didn't encourage experimentation where his birthday cake was concerned. It had to be Mrs. Orr's cake, made in a metal 9-by-13-inch pan, rather than in layers, and it had to have white butter cream icing, not the traditional chocolate icing that many people enjoy on chocolate cake. Once we asked if he would like chocolate icing for a change. Silly question.
So we enjoyed Mrs. Orr's cake with white icing twice a year. Nothing fancy, nothing pretentious – just like Dad. No nuts, coconut, sprinkles, or other decorations. No pretty cake plate or beautiful presentation. Just plain cake with icing in a plain metal pan. Somehow, it seemed to fit Dad, a plain, no-nonsense kind of man with Midwestern down-home friendliness.