Baking wasn’t my mom’s thing. The qualities that made her a wonderful improvisational cook led to her downfall as a baker. She didn’t pay much heed to measurements or timing, and was prone to throwing new ingredients in at the last minute. Unfortunately, baking is none too forgiving. It’s a science that hinges upon the chemistry of exact amounts, temperatures and melding of flavors. As a nurse, Mom knew her biology cold, but the chemistry of baking confounded her.

Yet, in her quest to provide me with a well-rounded recipe box, Mom included several desserts. Most of them came from close friends and family, whose wisdom I will impart in future blogs. Within that collection of borrowed desserts, she snuck in this gem — Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake.

Aside from providing me with a go-to cake, Mom jotted down these intriguing words: “This is one of the first cakes I ever baked got the recipe from my roommate’s mother, my nursing school roommate!” It may not sound like much, but to me Mom had pressed the ‘play’ button to show an old, undiscovered movie. Jeanne relished in recounting details of her life; I knew her so well –ranging from her shocking irreverence to the Lucille Ball hilarity. Yet, I hadn’t ever never really met this young (young!) nursing student, enthusiastic to set up her own home. Mom’s hurried note brought our connection full circle.

I don’t ever remember Mom serving this cake. As you can imagine, desserts weren’t big in our house. Yet, oddly enough, I have a vivid recollection of eating a similar cake at my aunt’s house as an afterschool snack. My aunt (think Martha Stewart armed with a cigarette and outrageous sense of humor) served it warm, and I can still taste those melty chocolate chips. Kids love this cake. So, when my children asked to participate in Cooking with Jeanne, Sour Cream Cake seemed the most obvious choice.

At first, I was an organizational diva. As my six-year old read the ingredients, I methodically took each item out and laid it on the counter. The kids greased the pan, and measured out the flour and sugar –while I taught them about fractions (sort of). A Mensa moment, if I ever saw one. That is until I plugged in the Kitchen-Aid, and it mysteriously began spitting out sour cream and flour all over the kitchen walls. No wonder my husband calls it the Magic Harry Potter Mixer!

With our Lucy moment behind us, we followed the rest of the steps with relative ease. In the end, our family baking project turned out much like all of the others: The kids argued over taking turns, ate a ton of raw batter and chocolate chips, and lost interest long the final product was removed from the oven. What’s more, we did not make a perfect specimen. Certain regions of our cake suffer from an overpopulation of chocolate chips, while others look considerably sparse. But you know what? We had an hour’s worth of laughter and fun, and I am eating the cake as I type. So, perhaps, Mom was right. Perfect, chemically-balanced baking is overrated.

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Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake

¼ lb of butter
1 cup sugar (plus 1 tsp of sugar, set aside)
½ pint of sour cream
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pre-sifted flour she means unsifted
1 cup Nestle chocolate chips not sure where the brand loyalty came from here; use what you want
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cream sugar with butter, sour cream, and vanilla. Mix in beaten eggs. Add flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix until smooth. Place half batter into greased 9X9 or 8X8 square pan. Sprinkle most of chocolate chips over batter, then cover with remaining batter. Spread remaining chocolate chips on top. Sprinkle remaining sugar and cinnamon on top. Bake for 45 minutes at 350

NOTE: I did not have a 9X9 or 8X8 inch pan, as the recipe recommended. Instead, I used an 8X12 –a mistake because the cake came out more like dessert bars. Next time, I would err on the side of a smaller pan but thicker cake. Also, once again, Mom never mentioned how long or at what temperature to bake. So I tried it at 350 for 30 minutes. (I would do 45 minutes to an hour with a smaller pan).

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