Tonight we celebrated my stepmom’s birthday with apple pie and a Hershey’s chocolate three-layer cake. Well, it was a lot more than that, but an occasion to celebrate 70 years was how it started when her daughter, Bonnie, called and instigated the party.
Sue is the mom I always wanted, in a way. A woman who would listen to me, hear me, accept me, support me, but also tell me straight when it’s right. So when my stepsister called and asked about having a birthday party to celebrate mom’s 70th, a three-layer cake seemed in order. And I knew the book to consult for a perfect recipe would be Hershey’s. My grandmother worked at Hershey’s in Oakdale California for years until her retirement, so I have regalia from the Hershey’s years that include an afghan, tins, postcards, buttons. And I loved any chocolate at that point, so I was basically an Oakdale Hershey’s plant groupie. Those moments that I romanticize are also those of walking in my grandmother’s backdoor in Oakdale–the rattle of the bell hanging on the door, the barking dog, the sound of “my shows playing on the television,” the sight of her sitting in my grandfather’s chair, the smell of my mother’s family. They take me back to the days of my mother, when we would visit my granny for weeks during the summer, driving down and back within a day’s time, a box of No Doz in mom’s purse and two-hour rest stops for naps to make the trip without a motel stay and restaurant meals that we couldn’t afford.
I don’t know why I’ve kept hold of this book, Hershey’s Best Cakes. I got it as a gift from my grandmother, my Va Va, my granny, but I haven’t used it that much over the years as my reliance on magazines and the internet grew and my distraction by so many great treat recipes prevented me from a more narrow focus. But when it’s a special birthday, somehow it’s easier to narrow one’s focus and to zoom-in on the perfect piece of a collection that is a tried-and-true, a keeper, solid. That’s why this cake, the Hershey’s three-layer chocolate cake from the gift-from-my-granny cookbook, was the connection between two worlds–that of my mother’s, and all those memories from years ago, and that of my stepmother’s, the now. And it is good.