Behold! The secrets of the $250 Red Cake unveiled
There’s been a tradition in the Adams family household for as long as I can remember where on birthdays or special occasions my mother would make us the $250 Red Cake. We only had it once or twice a year depending on whose birthday my mother decided should get it that year. And if it was your birthday then you were in luck because not only did that mean you got the first piece of cake but you were also guaranteed a piece for later. Now this was important because if the extra piece wasn’t carefully put aside and guarded by my mother, then my father was sure to eat it.
‘“Now Guy,’” she’d say, ‘“you leave that piece of cake alone. Do you hear me?’”
‘“OK,’” he’d say sneaking a peek under the aluminum foil.
Many mornings, if some of the cake had been spared from the night before, I’d rush to the cake plate first thing.
‘“Where’s the cake?’”
‘“I’m sorry, daddy must have eaten it this morning before he went to work.’”
Now if it was his birthday we had to be understanding. But sometimes there was a sliver left and I’d finish it off then lick the plate clean and the aluminum foil or plastic wrap that covered it. Then, of course, I endured the wrath of my sister who also wanted the last piece. Risking trouble over the red cake was always worth it, though.
Now before you go saying, ‘“Oh, this is red velvet cake,’” let me assure you it is not. Yes, it is a form of red velvet but is more moist and rich that any red velvet cake I’ve ever had. It has just a hint of chocolate flavoring and the icing is not cream cheese. Rather it’s a fluffy-white sugary topping that tastes like vanilla-sugar clouds that disappear on your tongue.
This recipe came from my grandmother Adams, who passed away from cancer a few years ago. My father grew up with this cake in his family and my mother learned to perfect it so he could still enjoy it. My wife is now learning the art of the $250 Red Cake for me.
Now why would I go and publish the family recipe? Spreading the secret is part of the tradition. And besides, I know that unless you’ve been baking for years, like my grandmother, your not going to get it right. One misplaced or substituted ingredient or even mixing the ingredients in the wrong order will cost the flavor of the entire cake.
We tell the recipe because, as the story goes, years ago a friend of my grandmother went to an upscale restaurant (I don’t know which one) and for dessert had the best piece of cake she’d ever had. At the end of the meal she asked the waiter if she could possibly get the recipe to which he replied, ‘“Sure.’” But when this friend of my grandmother and her husband paid the bill they were charged an extra $250 for the recipe. The waiter hadn’t told them they’d have to pay for it and she tried to give it back to the restaurant. But they wouldn’t take it and insisted she pay since she’d already seen the recipe.
So when she left the restaurant she vowed to spread the recipe to as many people as she could, seeking revenge on her injustice. My grandmother was one of those to receive a copy of the recipe and learned to perfect it and has passed it on to others.
Thus, it is now known as $250 Red Cake. And now, though my greedy heart says ‘“hide it forever,’” I pass it on to those of you with the patience and skill to try it for yourself. And if you learn the art of the $250 Red Cake, be generous enough to give the recipe to someone else. And stop by the office and let me taste a piece and see if you got it right.
To comment on this story, Lee Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.