John Fountain’s German chocolate cake, baked recently using his Aunt Mary’s recipe. | John W. Fountain
I have to admit that even with Aunt Mary’s blessing, I am still a little reluctant to share my aunt’s cake recipe by which she made our Christmases sweeter, memories sealed forever. OK, so after nearly 100 emails, letters and notes, from Hawaii to Florida, about Aunt Mary’s German chocolate cake, I am writing to respond in one fell swoop.
First, Aunt Mary has revealed in full detail to me the secret and the ingredients to her homemade triple-decker German chocolate cake, which, with her sweet blessing, I shall unveil.
OK, OK, give me a minute… We’ll get to that.
But I thought you might like to know that Aunt Mary, my mother’s eldest of five sisters, and a licensed practical nurse, who was at one time the babysitter for all 15 grandchildren, was about 30 when she made her first GCC.
It was sometime around 1970 or ‘71, she told me, after she moved from the family compound on the city’s West Side to the Garfield Park area, where she lived for the next 47 years.
How she learned was simple: “I just decided I wanted to make one. Nobody ever made one that I know of. My mother never made one… I got up and got myself together,” Aunt Mary told me.
John Fountain sets out the ingredients as he prepares to make his Aunt Mary’s German chocolate cake.
I asked if her German chocolate cake baking got better over the years, perhaps evolved.
“My first one was very good. It just takes time,” Aunt Mary said matter of factly without a hint of boastfulness. “You can’t whip it up like you do other cakes… It’s something to put that cake together. But once you do it, it’s a snap.”
I have to admit that even with Aunt Mary’s blessing, I am still a little reluctant to share my aunt’s cake recipe by which she made our Christmases sweeter with memories sealed forever with the scents of bakery heaven.
Perhaps I am selfish, protective of a family heirloom that might mean nothing in the hands of others but that means everything to us, to me.
I am fully aware that there is no shortage of recipes on the Internet or stored in family cookbooks and memories — special recipes for German chocolate and other cakes. But there are none that I have tasted in my life better than Aunt Mary’s.
Hers, in my humble estimation, is the standard bearer.
Whether it was the delight and love with which she baked, attentive to flour sifting, to teaspoons of this and teaspoons of that, and the precision, passion and intent to bake those cakes for her family the way Michelangelo painted and that made her German chocolate cake touch our pallets and our souls, I cannot say.
Or perhaps it was that Aunt Mary was sanctified, among a lineage of powerful praying church women in my family who loved the Lord and helped build the church with their blood, sweat and tears on umpteen Saturdays spent in the church’s kitchen — from sunup to sundown.
Saturday after Saturday frying chicken and fish, and making macaroni, greens, spaghetti and peach cobbler and pound cake for church dinner sales that went toward the building fund.
I can still see Aunt Mary, Grandmother, Mama, Aunt Scope and the other women, smiling, the scents of heaven spilling from the kitchen of my grandparents’ church.
And I can still see Aunt Mary’s German chocolate cake, glistening on the dining room table. Still feel the sense of anticipation and delight. Still taste the love in every bite of every slice.
And it is clear to me that this was her most special ingredient: L. O. V. E.
OK, so here it is, from Aunt Mary’s mouth to my ears to your families. May it be as much a blessing to you on Christmases to come.
Merry Christmas, Aunt Mary & John.
For Aunt Mary’s German Chocolate Cake recipe, visit www.Johnwfountain.com
Write John Fountain at Author@johnwfountain.com
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