The Mystery of Baking: A Family Tradition from Mississippi

“All big things are created by a slow and steady accumulation of small, stumbling steps. Idealism can sometimes lead to inaction. we’re so afraid of doing something imperfectly that we don’t do anything at all. We need to get into action. Now is not a time for us just to talk. Your work may start out a little raggedy, but if you get started, it will get better.”

-Will Allen The Good Food Revolution

What an inspiring quote! Will Allen was discussing his start down a path towards creating an urban farm and eventually a non-profit organization, Growing Power. But I love this quote because it really can be applied to many things, and this cake I made recently was my small stumbling step towards starting something… something a bit smaller than an urban farm that can feed 10,000 people, but nevertheless – I made a red velvet cake.


Now before you scoff, let me add that red velvet is my husband’s favorite dessert in the whole world, but he will only eat his grandmother’s cake, as all other red velvet cakes have brought nothing but disappointment thus far. All this meant to try to replicate it was not a light thing & the cake may have turned out to be a waste of precious grocery budget, but his sweet grandmother was so kind to share the recipe and inspire me to just keep trying, and how else do family traditions start but that a beloved family recipe is passed from generation to generation?

Another daunting aspect was that I have never made a cake before, but the desire to learn how to bake has risen up since delving into the delicious and tantalizing world of food blogging. And, has anyone else noticed how most food blog posts tend to be about dessert? Maybe it is related to the psychology of advertising… People just like to look at a parfait more than a slab of meat, which brings more page views, so the advertisers get more exposure, and the cycle just keeps going… But I digress…

So to teach myself the basics of cake-baking and to surprise my husband after he got back from a trip out of town, I spent almost a whole 8 hours from start to finish to pull this one together & it was SO worth the effort! Ever so slightly different from grandma’s, as I did substitute one thing: butter instead of the margarine in the frosting. This cake is so moist and tender from all the oil and it held up remarkably well in the fridge for a little over a week.

A whole bottle of red food coloring gives this red velvet a fantastic color, making the the batter into a fantastic prop for a horror movie.


Now I just have to work on learning how to decorate these confections, as my novice opinion is that the hardest part is frosting a cake, especially if you prefer cream cheese frosting to fondant.


2 responses to “The Mystery of Baking: A Family Tradition from Mississippi

  1. Hooray for you! Family recipes are the best because of the memories they bring with them. I am still kicking myself that I never perfected Ben’s grandmothers caramel pie. Now her pie is lost for me to pass on to my daughters.
    You did a wonderful job on icing the cake!

    • I agree! I can only wish I’d been more interested in cooking back when I could have asked my mom’s mother about things like canning, and all those recipes she would make that aren’t written down anywhere… strange how in the information age we’ve begun to stop seeking out knowledge from our own families…

      Thanks! I even piped a little decoration on it too, but it was a special message just for M 🙂 My big goal is to make a cake for my niece’s birthday in September – gonna have to try another cake soon!

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