Tuesday, 28 April 2015


I cheated. I went to Morrison's and bought Betty Crocker's Red Velvet Chocolate Cake AND her Cream Cheese ((style) frosting, and took it to the 'Bring and Buy Sale' in aid of refugees in Syria.

To my embarrassment, four people asked me for the recipe ... What would you do? Well, I owned up. But I could have told a story ...

I am British. Brought up in a post-war society that REALLY knew what austerity meant. There was some considerable appreciation for the Americans, without whom, let's face it, the European Union would be a racist dystopia under the Nazi Jackboot.

There was a little resentment too. A GI had given my Aunty Mary a good time before going off to war, and let's hope that she gave him a good time too, but there was a feeling in the family that my aunt, who was a widow, should either have kept away from the dance halls, or offered her spare affection to 'our boys'. Whatever. The point being that my wonderful father, who was kind and gracious towards everyone he met, was very cynical about the USA. I thought this so remarkable, I decided to go to college, and 'do' American Studies, to test out his prejudices.

Great decision.

In the 1970's working class students surviving on a government grant, did not get to the USA, but I did have the next best thing. I went to a little bit of the USA in Yorkshire, Menwith Hill US Army Base, where I was met with such hospitality and support with my 5th/6th grade class in the Elementary School there, that I became an Americophile ( have I invented a word here?) and remain so to this day.

So what's this got to do with Cake?


I was mentored by a remarkable teacher, Ann Bamberger, who went out of her way to give me the best experience, academically and socially, that it was possible to have. One day she offered me the most amazing dessert I had ever tasted. "Waldorf Astoria Red Cake". I drooled over it and asked for the recipe.

Ann gave it to me, then told me this story:

Some years before, her aunt had taken tea at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. She enjoyed the chef's speciality cake so much, she too, asked for the recipe, which the chef sent up with a bill for $200. Which Ann's aunt duly paid. Now owning the recipe, Ann's aunt passed it on, at every opportunity, for a small consideration, which she donated to charity.

I long ago lost the copy Ann gave me, but, I did find it again online. Accompanied by the story I have just told you, tagged as a 'legend'. 'Legend'? I think not.

PS: My father lived to welcome Dick and Darlean Hanner and their family as guests in his home. The Hanners from Bellevue, Washington, were the American half of my husband's teacher exchange in 1977. He may have held some reservations on US foreign policy, but what prejudice remained as to the people was entirely dispelled.

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