Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Just Like Nana Used to Make

My Nana lived large, if you know what I mean. Her personality could envelope~sometimes smother~a room. Her bunions knew no peers. She dealt dozens of card games with her grandkids, from Poker to Canasta to Rummy to Spit.

And she loved to cook, plus take a "taste test" every so often. Well, more than just occasionally. Because of this, my Nana was a little thick around the middle.

The first recipe that I recall from Nana's vast repertoire was the "1, 2, 3, 4 Cake." She'd recite the recipe~she called them "receipts"~in a thick mid-Alabama drawl, slightly tinged with Texas Hill County.

"One cup of butter. One cup of sugar. Three cups of flour. And four eggs!"

That part sticks in my mind, and I know she whipped up a "1, 2, 3, 4 Cake" at every opportunity. But as I got older, I started to wonder: How could a cake turn out to be so yummy with only those ingredients included?

Turns out Nana was on to something. I just didn't remember the recipe right. And even Paul Deen has a version. She calls it the "Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake."

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs (Paula's "receipt" threw me off here~isn't the flour supposed to come next?)
3 cups sifted self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and spread cake layers with your favorite frosting to make a 3-layer cake.

This is the cake of my childhood. It must still be an old standby, judging from the 45 comments Paula has on her Web site:

"I like this cake because it's plain, but classy!"
"This is the first 'from scratch' cake I've made that I've liked better than the results I get from a box mix!"
"This is the best cake ever!"
"This is an easy, versatile cake that can have any number of flavorings added to it."

That's the ticket! Nana made a lot of cakes that looked the same, but they all tasted different. Some featured peaches; others fresh strawberries. She had a doozy that was infused with some kind of caramel sauce, too.

So there you have it. The "Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake," courtesy of Paula Deen. Just like Nana used to make!


mannequin said...

What a great recipe! How ingenious to use that basic recipe to customize for our daily cake. thanks Veggie Mom!
I love the picture, is it grandma's house?

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting said...

I can't wait to try it for our next birthday. The cakes we make, albeit good, are still too dry for my taste. The recipe comes from a Betty Crocker cookbook. I'm gonna be SO stoked to bake our next cake!! Hmm, maybe this weekend!? :)

Thank you! :)

Heather said...

I love Paula Deen! I love to bake too, I think I'll try this "receipt." If it comes out good I'll make it for my son's 1st birthday in May! Thanks for the recipe!

Honey Mommy said...

That sounds like an easy recipe. I will have to try it sometime.

Susie said...

I love the 1 2 3 4 cake! Classically good:-)

Ritch in Love said...

I've heard rumors of such a recipe and wondered how on earth it could be THAT EASY! Now that you've got the recipe here I'm for SURE trying it!!

Michelle said...

Ahhh canasta :) I haven't played that one in years. I remember playing that one with my gram!

And what a yum cake. I love adding to them and changing them a bit to get fun different flavors. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle said...

I have never heard of a 1234 cake, but it sounds wonderful.

Marrdy said...

Your Nana was a smart woman. I need to try this out!