A mother's love of cakes

Writer reflects on the days when cake baking was ultracompetitive

Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionApril 29, 2009 

— As a young couple starting married life during the Depression, Edith Flowers Kilgo's parents struggled to make ends meet. But no matter how little they had, they always wanted to share.

More times than not, those meals were followed with one of her mother's cakes. She loved trying all cake recipes, Kilgo told us, in part because her mother knew how much her husband adored them.

Kilgo told us about a number of fascinating cakes for which her mother was famous. We were especially intrigued by two -- Orange Slice Cake and Vanilla Wafer Cake -- because of the surprise ingredients they contained. Sonya Jones, the baker and owner of Atlanta's Sweet Auburn Bread Co., put them to the test -- with excellent results.

Kilgo also revealed that she and her mother have struggled with poundcake. The 7Up Poundcake that Jones updated, however, is just about as simple and straightforward as they come.

Kilgo, a sixth-generation Floridian, grew up in College Park, Ga., and now lives in Locust Grove, Ga. A semiretired writer and editor who has authored several books, she and her husband, Randal, published a newsletter for five years called Creative Downscaling, a voluntary simplicity publication.

Kilgo's story

"My father, Henry Collis Flowers, was from Madison County, Fla., and my mother, Winnie Rouse Flowers, was from adjoining Hamilton County. They married in 1931. He was 20 and she was 15.

"My father was the reason my mother did all that baking. Every day that man worked there was a slice of cake or bread pudding in his lunch, as she made one nearly every Sunday in order to have slices for lunchboxes the coming week.

"My mother was game to try any and all cake recipes. She wanted hers to stand out. Cooking was a competitive sport in those days, particularly for church suppers!

"She made a three-layer yellow cake with a pineapple and coconut filling. The odd thing was that the cake was frosted with meringue, such as you would normally put on a pie. It was not a seven-minute icing. As the cake aged -- never for long as it was eaten up too eagerly -- the meringue icing melted into the cake, making it incredibly moist.

"Jelly stack cake used to be popular in the South, especially, I think, among poor people. It was quick and cheap: Just make six or more thin layers of yellow cake and frost them with apple or grape jelly that melts into the cake. It was served warm.

"There was Orange Slice Cake made with that orange slice candy sold in dime stores.

"She also made fruit cocktail cake and vanilla wafer cake, which was better than it sounds.

"Poundcake was the one success that eluded my mother. After she died, I finally found the perfect recipe. ...

"It was in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was called the Never-Fail Poundcake. It made me sad that it was so good and she never got to try it."

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