Monday, November 21, 2016


I found this recipe for "Emergency Cake" among loose recipes my mother kept in a drawer. First, a little background info:

Nina and Charlie Portfors
In 1939, my Grandmother Nina Portfors’ mother, Alice Mary Stinson Sanders, passed away and was buried in the Stinson/Sanders’ plot at the Burnt Ridge Cemetery near Troy, Idaho. From that time, if not before, my Portfors grandparents made the annual Memorial Day trek from Orofino to Troy carrying a load of flowers cut from their yard (and possibly from my mother’s as well).

Their first stop was at the home of Aunt Hattie and Uncle Dick Stinson. Uncle Dick was Alice’s brother and thus Grandma Portfors’ uncle. He died in 1944, and Aunt Hattie was a widow for the rest of her life. Anyway, Aunt Hattie would be ready with pails of flowers from her own yard, and Grandpa Portfors would load them in the trunk of his big Lincoln and drive everyone to the cemetery where Mother and Aunt Hattie would divide the flowers into bouquets, being careful to remember every family grave.

How do I know? Because after my grandmother passed in 1955, my mother replaced her in Grandpa’s Lincoln for this trip. And naturally, she took me along, dressed in my Sunday finest, of course, because that’s what you did in those days. (Casual attire was only for work, and even then, a woman might still wear a dress.)

In the early years, Aunt Hattie fixed dinner for us at her house, and apparently Grandma Portfors was impressed with her “Emergency Cake” because she jotted down the recipe on a little piece of notebook paper.

Put all in bowl and beat with an eggbeater:
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs unbeaten
1 cup white sugar

Mix dry ingredients and sift:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 large spoons cocoa (I used ¼ cup.)

Add dry ingredients to first mixture.
Then add 1 teaspoon vinegar.
Makes three layers.

Grandma notes: “This was a very good cake. Aunt Hattie iced it by ‘wetting’ one cup confectioner’s sugar and three spoons cocoa with sweet cream.” As a final comment, Grandma writes: “I think her spoon was a dessert spoon.”

Last night after supper, I decided to bake this cake. The recipe says to bake it in three layers. They must have been mighty thin layers. Instead, I baked it in a 9-inch square pan at 350 for 25 minutes. Mine was a little dry, I thought, probably owing to the lack of shortening, so it’s important not to overbake. Because it was late, we ate it without icing but I will frost it today with my favorite browned butter frosting. KW


Mike said...

I thought it was good even without the icing.

Hallie said...

Is a dessert spoon big or small?

Kathy said...

I'm sure you have some dessert spoons with your tableware, Hallie. It's larger than the teaspoons but smaller than the serving spoons. Back in the day, homemakers often didn't use standard measures. I used a tablespoon.

I think a cake is kinda dry if it isn't frosted, but Mike would just as soon have it unfrosted. Sometimes I frost just part of the cake.