Chocolate Cake Squares (Grandma Hermalin’s)

A twinge of sadness floated through me after baking this cake. Not the usual “I wish I was a better baker” sadness. There was no need for that because I had made a classic moist chocolate cake with just enough fudgy icing. Cutting the cake into small squares kept it light. What brought on the melancholy was the fact that it was super easy to make, painless really, which must sound ridiculous but here’s the reason:

I grew up thinking that a homemade cake was a powder substance poured from a box, mixed with water and oil, baked then iced with a creamy sweet goop from a tub. The many flavors and combinations to choose from made it especially fun. I loved this baking even though we only did it on special occasions, not even for a birthday because that was a cake bought from a bakery. I made the distinction between this fun homemade version and a time consuming, tedious cake made from scratch. I never even thought I could bake a scratch cake; never saw my mom or grandma do it even though they were both good cooks. Scratch cakes were complicated and unnecessary when you had mixes in a box.

So I am sad when I make this cake that is NOT complicated, only barely more time consuming and hugely superior to a box. It feels like convenience foods cheated me from the baking experience that I craved. Now I walk by the many cake mix and tub icing choices in the grocery store and I can’t even look at them, I cringe. I think maybe my baking life would have been different if I had baked a cake like this from scratch when I was a little girl. I loved my grandma immensely and she gave me many gifts but I am thinking that Grandma Hermalin taught Maida something about baking that I missed.

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