Monday, April 4, 2011

Thunder Cake, Red Lines and Chicken Little

It's been storming a lot lately. The kind of storms with shaking walls, howling wind, and radar pictures with big red lines across them. These things, they make me nervous. You know that dog your neighbor has that won't stop barking at thunder? Totally me. Funny thing though, we've always had storms here. It's the south, we have tornado sirens everywhere.We had 'severe storm drills' in school, every store and building has a planned "safe place" and I've spent many an hour in some strange hallway or "inner most room" waiting for a tornado warning to expire and so far I've never died. I was even in a car once when a tornado rolled by. I watched it suck up trees and still, I was fine. Nevertheless I am chicken little.

One stormy night at work, shaking in my boots as usual, I was talking to a friend of mine about childhood and traditions (trying to distract myself) when I suddenly remembered a book I'd read in the first grade called Thunder Cake. It was about a girl who was afraid of storms and her grandmother's tradition to make a special 'thunder cake' to comfort her. "Eureka!" I said (or I would have if i'd thought of it, and it wasn't really embarrassing) here's the thing I need to calm my freaky nerves when it storms. Busy hands and comfort food!

As I started fantasizing about baking up a thunder cake and being the kind of person that has a recipe to match every occasion I realized that I don't even remember what it tasted like. I say "remember" because around the time I was reading this book my mother (domestic fairy that she was) decided it would be fun to use the recipe in the back of the book and bake up little thunder cupcakes to share with my class. So I tracked down the recipe (and the book) and I whipped up a thunder cake in it's original form. Only trouble I came across was that it called for tomato puree (?) the bare bones recipe ended with "Frost with chocolate butter frosting. Top with strawberries."(ugh, vagueness) and when the power flickered and I thought about how angry I would be if the power kicked off while my cake was baking. (RAGE BLACKOUT!Not exactly the way to keep a happy place!) So I crossed my fingers, added the tomato puree like it said, and I hopped over to Joy's page to try out a chocolate buttercream recipe I've been dying to taste since I discovered it (Pssst! It has Ovaltine! What?!?). 

So we've got,

  • Busy hands? Check!
  • Ovaltine Frosting? Double Check!
  • Delicious Cake?

So apparently the reason I didn't remember what the Thunder Cake tasted like was because it wasn't memorable. It doesn't taste like tomatoes, but it also doesn't take like anything else. It was certainly light and fluffy enough, but kind of angel food-y and flavorless. Sigh. I'd say it's because there's water in the recipe for no discernible reason (a whole cup). And I'm definitely glad I manned up and bought a hand mixer this weekend because if I had to whip egg whites by hand (again!) for this recipe I'd be super pissed that it didn't make the earth move. 

The Ovaltine buttercream  though, was everything I thought it would be. So amazingly delicious it should be a dessert by itself. And the cake with the strawberries even turned out kind a pretty (considering how terrible I am at cakes). I say, dip the strawberries in the Ovaltine buttercream and skip the cake all together. Add a little booze and a pretty boy* and you might just have yourself the perfect distraction to wait out a storm.

*=  booze and boys are not advisable for those in the first grade

Thunder Cake

1/2 cup Shortening

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cup Sugar
1tsp Vanilla
3 eggs separated
(blend yolks in. beat whites until they are stiff, then fold in)
1 cup Cold Water
1/4 cup pureed tomatoes

Sift Together
21/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup dry cocoa
11/2 tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture. Bake in two greased floured 8 1/2 inch round cake pans at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Frost with chocolate butter frosting. Top with strawberries.


  1. mmm, the best kind of comfort food. looks so pretty with all the strawberries. and delicious! :)

  2. The cake sure looks delicious!


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