Today, we’re going to do a quick and easy recipe with a big old root system behind it. The cake we’re going to use is just a boxed mix because, well it’s not the cake that is important here, it’s the icing. My Grandmother’s old fashioned peanut butter icing. This is another boiled icing, identical to the one we used for the fudge glaze on our chocolate pound cake, only with peanut butter instead of cocoa. This cake will forever me endeared to be for one reason, my great aunt Red.
Red was my great grandmother’s sister. Her given name was “Stella” but I took to calling her Red when I was just a girl due to her insisting that her hair be dyed red at all times. She used to come and stay with my Grandparents often and I was pretty close to both her and my great grandmother, whom we all called simply by her name, “Lela”.
Red was a young one, having been born sixteen years after Lela in the modern year of 1918. Red and Lela were very close and I was their tag along. Whenever Red was visiting, my mother would always be sure to take me by there and allow me to spend a day or two with the them. Their birthdays were one day apart and Mama even started checking me out of school so that I could go take them gifts and be there for cake on the day they both celebrated (I still don’t think my siblings know about this!).
Lela passed away in 1991, when I was seventeen. I didn’t get to see Red nearly as much after that. She got in a “bad way” as folks say it and wasn’t able to get out much. Six years went by, I did see her some, but her health was declining and her birthday was coming up.
She had a daughter in California who wanted to visit and it was silently understood that Red might not be with us too much longer. Her daughter wanted to make a big event out of her birthday, so she rented a banquet hall at a hotel and invited a large crowd for a grand celebration.
As Red’s daughter went about making plans for the party, she asked Red what kind of cake she wanted. Red, with a defiant streak to match her hair color, stated plainly “Lucille makes my cake”. Her daughter apparently had missed the tradition which had grown over the years of my grandmother making Stella’s favorite cake for her birthday each year and Red growing ever fonder of it, looking forward to this fudgy peanut butter icing on her special day. So in the end, Red got her way.
I was going to college and living with my Grandmother at this time (Lucille, Lela’s daughter and Red’s niece). Granddaddy had just passed away so it was just Grandmama and myself living together as “roomies”.
The day of Red’s party arrived and I drove Grandmama the two hours to the hotel where the party was held. The two of us walked into this hotel lobby, to this fancy banquet hall with flowers and balloons, folks all dressed up and Red there with a corsage.
Enter my Grandmother carrying a glass 9×13 Pyrex dish with a Duncan Hines yellow cake and homemade peanut butter icing.
Red was thrilled. It was just what she wanted.
Red and Lela aren’t really gone, neither is Granddaddy for that matter. They all still hang around us and I know they’ll be sniffing this icing and wishing for a bite today.
Yeah, this post choked me up too…