Cockeyed Cake

4 Jun

Today is a miserable, rainy day. I’m drinking tea – TEA! – in June just to stay warm. It’s been raining for three days straight. I spent the entire weekend indoors. I was bored, so I made a cake. But I didn’t have any eggs or butter in the house, and I didn’t want to go out in the rain to get some. So I needed a recipe that called for ingredients that I already had in my pantry. I found just the recipe.

The Cockeyed Cake recipe is from the “I Hate To Cook Book” by Peg Bracken. When it was first published in 1960, Bracken’s book was revolutionary. With a pinch of irreverence and a dash of irony, it validated what many women felt but didn’t want to admit: that they did not like to cook. Bracken’s recipes are quick and uncomplicated. They often use commercially prepared items, like canned soup. My copy of the “I Hate To Cook Book” was given to me by my aunt, who did not like to cook either. To be honest, she wasn’t and still isn’t a very good cook. Her copy of Bracken’s book is filled with her notations in pencil, like “Good,” “Very Good” – no doubt to guide her in deciding what to make when she was having people over for dinner. The only good thing my aunt makes is a chicken curry recipe that also came from the “I Hate To Cook Book” (Sunday Chicken, if you’re interested). My aunt gave it a “Very Good,” and if it turned out right when she made it than you know Bracken’s recipes are easy. Bracken tells us the Cockeyed Cake recipe is old. I think the omission of eggs, milk, and butter – ingredients you would usually find in a cake – possibly dates it to the Second World War, when these items were scarce. In any event, it was a perfect cake to make on a rainy day as I had all of the ingredients in the house.

    Cockeyed Cake

    1.5 cups sifted flour
    3 Tbsp cocoa
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 tsp salt
    5 Tbsp cooking oil
    1 Tbsp vinegar
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 cup cold water

    Put your sifted flour back in the sifter, add to it the cocoa, soda, sugar, and salt, and sift this right into a greased square cake pan, about 9 x 9 x 2 inches. Now you make three grooves, or holes, in this dry mixture. Into one, pour the oil; into the next, the vinegar; into the next, the vanilla. Now pour the cold water over it all. You’ll feel like you’re making mud pies now, but beat it with a spoon until it’s nearly smooth and you can’t see the flour. Bake it at 350 degrees for half an hour.

You could make frosting for it, but that would definitely have involved butter, and possibly milk. So I ate it without frosting. It was pretty good, but there’s something lacking about a chocolate cake that doesn’t use real chocolate, or eggs, or milk, or butter. It tasted better the second day, so maybe it needs time to “set.”

I might make it again, but I would definitely make frosting to go with it. The next recipe I’m planning to make from the “I Hate To Cook Book” is “Pedro’s Special,” a Mexican-style beef casserole that calls for corn chips. I do love Fritos.

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