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Remembering the joys of mom's chocolate cake

Columnist Loren Else says he recalls it all, from licking the frosting bowl and beaters to finding that silver tucked into the chocolate.

Boomer Grandpa — Loren Else column sig
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Mom was a great dessert maker. In our refrigerator there could be pies, cakes, brownies or fudge. You name it, she could crank it out. I blame my ongoing voracious sweet tooth on mom.

Like most moms she made my four siblings and me cakes for our birthdays. There were no Peanut Butter Blizzard ice cream cakes back in the day. I’m grateful for that.

As kids, we were able to pick our cake flavor and frosting. We would witness the creation of our cake during the day.

Once baked, Mom would shoo us out of the kitchen, slide several washed coins into the cake, and quickly frost it – generally followed by somebody licking the beaters that were covered with frosting.

Of course, the lapping of beaters from the cake mix is a no-no because of possible salmonella, so don’t try this at home. Fortunately, I survived beater, bowl, and spatula lickings throughout my childhood.

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I just celebrated; wait, that’s not the right word – I just experienced another birthday. At this point in my life, no gifts are allowed – except for chocolate or coffee.

Well, I guess I’d take golf balls and beer as well. Like quite a few boomers, my wife and I are trying to move things out the door, not in the door.

Back to mom – when she got ready to cut the cake, I would look over her shoulder, and if I spotted silver, I would grab for that piece. You could make your move too quickly and get the nickel. The quarter was the ultimate prize – the most significant denomination.

You would think money and cake would be a ‘win-win,’ but if I got that nickel and a sibling got a quarter, well, that took a bit of joy off the birthday happiness. I’m deducing mom ensured the birthday kid always got some silver.

I was never sure where that quirky custom of coins in birthday cakes came from, so I looked it up – well, I Googled it. Apparently, it was or maybe still is a Canadian tradition.

This makes cents, I mean sense (pun intended), as my grandma was born and raised Canadian.

My mom was born in Canada, so I am supposing when my mom was growing up, my grandma put coins in her cake. Mom continued the tradition for her five kids.

I checked in with all four of my siblings. My younger brother mentioned I was mom’s favorite. I did not argue. You would think he would let that go at some point.

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My big brother Ron reminded me he didn’t always get a fair shake. He was a Christmas baby, born Christmas Eve in 1946 at a hospital in Ottawa, Kansas.

While we were talking on the phone, Ron located his Standard Certificate of Live Birth. He told me question number 8 asked if Ron was legitimate. It was answered in the affirmative.

The live birth certificate is an unofficial document. According to internet facts, it “simply verifies you are medically alive, and a new human has now entered the world.” The official birth certificate is the real deal you will need for all kinds of stuff for the rest of your life.

I wonder what that Christmas Eve was like for my mom and the rest of the family. My father had returned from the war in 1945, so I’m guessing it was a Christmas they always remembered.

Ron reflected that he was lucky if he got to open one birthday present before the whole family would open Christmas Eve gifts. He always got his cake, so I don’t know what the big deal is.

Birthdays keep barreling by. Every year seems a bit more pensive, where I reflect on the life I’ve lived and riding off into the sunset.

I could have used a big piece of chocolate cake with a quarter peeking out, with my mom saying, “Here you go, dear.” I missed her this year.

Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at news@postbulletin.com .

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