Grandma’s Cake Pan

My mother-in-law was a great cook.   She raised four hungry boys on meat and potatoes..

1958

1984

When I married her son, I knew a little about cooking.   I had taken baking and cooking projects in 4H.  When I was 12 years old,  my mom went to work second shift  so I learned to cook supper for my Dad, my brother, and me. When I went off to college and had an apartment, my roommate and I did some acceptable cooking.

But my mother-in-law, whom everyone called Grandma  (whether you had kids yet or not)  had it all together when it came to cooking.   She would whip up Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for 18-20 people with little help from her daughters-in-law.  Not that we didn’t offer to help, but she was in control and all of her boys wanted to eat her cooking, anyway.  So while she was still able, she cooked.

Her German chocolate cake was legendary.  It was soft and moist and melted in your mouth.  It raised up high in the pan and looked as good as it tasted.  Of course, being a good little newly married wife, I tried to emulate her style of cooking because that’s what my husband wanted.  Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t.  But I kept trying.

The one thing I could not even come close to was that German chocolate cake.  Mine was always too dry.  Or if it was moist, it barely came close to the top of the cake pan.   The icing was either too runny or too thick.  I just could not do it.

After many attempts and many failures, I began to think that the secret to Grandma’s cake was……. the pan.   It was a Wear-Ever aluminum pan, but not the flimsy aluminum that you see in stores today.  It was heavy.  It was made in the USA.  It had metal handles on each end that flipped up and down and were so handy to carry.  It had a sliding aluminum lid that fit into a groove and slid right over the top of the cake.  Well, it slid over the top of my cakes.  No way it would slide over Grandma’s cakes because they raised up so high the lid would have sliced off the top.  So she did what my mom did, stuck toothpicks in the cake, then covered it with Saran Wrap.  The toothpicks kept the Saran Wrap from sticking to the icing.

vintage cake pan

I really really wanted to make a cake that compared to hers.  I just had no success.  So one day, I asked her for help.

“You make the best German chocolate cake,” I started, “but I cannot seem to get mine to turn out as good as yours.  Could you show me sometime how you do it?”

Well of course she would,  because that was the type of person she was.   “Come here,”  she said. “I’ll show you right now.”  She reached into the cupboard.   I was wishing I had a paper and pencil to write down this legendary recipe. I was sure she was going to get out that special cake pan and explain how it worked.

“Here!”  she said with all seriousness.  “You can follow directions, can’t you?  Just make sure you always get Duncan Hines. I have the best luck with that brand.”

She handed me a box of cake mix.  Duncan Hines.   German Chocolate.

Then she went into the living room and turned on the TV, because it was time for Wheel of Fortune.

I followed behind with my box of DuncanHines Cake Mix.

10/21/2012

UPDATE:  I just found the same pan on ebay… it sold for $45…

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About Life in the 50's and beyond...

Welcome to Life in the 50's and 60's and beyond .... where I write about my childhood memories, music of the 60's and about life in the country. I am a mother, grandmother, farmer's wife, business owner, and retired teacher.
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22 Responses to Grandma’s Cake Pan

  1. rlogan1155 says:

    My mother-in-law made the best date squares. Even when I followed her hand written recipe I couldn’t make them as well as she did. I think her secret was her cake pan. After she died it disappeared so I guess I will never make perfect date squares.
    Ruth from At Home on the Road

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  2. riverman1953 says:

    Ruth, I read some of your posts and look forward to reading more of the archives as well as new posts. Memories are a wonderful thing aren’t they?

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  3. I love it when these kind of family “secrets” are revealed. When I turned 23, my hair started to show some gray and I bemoaned this fact to my mother. That is when I found out that all the women in my family go prematurely gray and that my mother was NOT a redhead. Someday I’ll be having the same conversation with my daughter – thank goodness I’ve kept my hair as close to its original color as possible! Enjoyed this post – thanks!

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  4. Pingback: Lady Baltimore Cake | midatlanticcooking

  5. I’m sitting here laughing…Love the story… I made my sister a red velvet cake… she never knew it was mix… and YES, it was Duncan Hines …as she praised me and my efforts…Sometimes it’s just best to keep quiet… mkg

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  6. That is flat-out adorable. But I must know: did your Duncan Hines version turn out okay?
    Karen

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  7. Judy says:

    What a hoot! I was with you all the way especially when you started the description of the pan because I have one that is similar. My mother-in-law was the best, and she was a terrific German cook who could make pie crust that melted in your mouth. This post was a great way to start my day.

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  8. free penny press says:

    haha.. Loved this story..Reminds of the time I asked my Mom for good & gooey Mac & Cheese recipe and she showed me it started out with a box of Kraft..i was crestfallen..lol

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  9. grandmalin says:

    Haha! Love this. I have a secret meatloaf recipe which involves club house meat loaf spices from an envelope….sometimes the simplest things taste the best.

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  10. Wonderful ending! I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the secret. 🙂

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  11. Fabuous, awesome and loving story Ruth!
    I had to laigh, great secrets are too hard to give up. I wonder how many people never knew…she must have really trusted you. Charming ~

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  12. Amy Elder says:

    Sometimes the solution is the simple one.

    Like

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