It was the summer of 1974, and I wanted to make my Daddy a birthday cake. I was five years old, but already knew my way around my mother’s kitchen fairly well. She had shelf after shelf of cookbooks, and learning to read recipes was one of the ways I actually learned to read words – and perform simple math problems.
I found an old cookbook in the cabinet above Mama’s built-in desk, and I can still see it today as clearly as I did almost 40 years ago. It had a red-and-white gingham cover and the title was “Our Groaning Board.” I thought that was the weirdest title I had ever heard of for any book, much less a cookbook, so I pulled it down and started reading the cake section looking for the easiest, shortest recipe I could find.
Around that same time, I am embarrassed to admit I was fond of Jell-O. I loved the jiggly, fruity dessert and jumped at the chance to incorporate Jell-O into any and all recipes and creations, for better or for worse.
This cake recipe started from a mix, which was good for a beginner, and it also called for my beloved gelatin. I decided this was sure to be a winner for Daddy’s birthday cake.
And it was. To this day, I am asked for the recipe for this cake more than any other cake I make. I’ve learned to bake some fancier ones since 1974, but most people are like I am when it comes to enjoying good food. We seem to return to the simpler, more satisfying tastes of life.
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Daddy’s Favorite Lemon Punch Cake
For the cake:
1 (18.9-oz) Pillsbury yellow cake mix
1 (4.3-oz) box lemon gelatin
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
For the glaze:
1 (1lb) box powdered sugar, sifted
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the cake, preheat oven to 350°F. Mix all cake ingredients together in a bowl of an electric mixer until well blended. Bake in a 13 x 9-inch rectangular pan for 30 minutes or until it springs back when touched in middle with fingers. Immediately prick cake several times with an ice pick (all the way to the bottom of the cake) and spoon glaze over entire cake while hot. Serves 10-12.
For the glaze, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice, stirring to remove any lumps.
Nutritional Information: Calories per Serving: 330, Fat: 15.1 g (3.1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 55 mg, Sodium: 83 mg, Carbohydrates: 48.2 g, Protein: 2.4 g