Grandmother’s Cake Stand — More Than an Antique

By M.H. Crain
 Recently while browsing in my attic, I came across a box I had not opened in years. Packed in crumbling yellow newspaper I found some of my Grandmother’s things she had given me a quarter of a century before.
As I unwrapped the pieces I found them beautiful. Beautiful not so much for the design or quality—Beautiful not because most of them were now over 100 years and thus qualified as antiques—But beautiful because of the memories they evoked.
Downstairs I washed the accumulation of dust and grime from one of my favorite pieces—her footed cake stand. Touching the tiny rim around the edge I let my mind wander back to some of the happy times and wonderful treats I had experienced with my Grandmother.
I could almost see the TEA CAKES she used to pile high on this very cake stand, little dainty ones when we had company but big “hand—full” cookies she always made for me when it was just “US.”
Digging in some of my old boxes I found the recipe. Not for her the no-fat: no-salt recipes. Such a thing was not yet imagined. But aren’t there times when we NEED a special treat —a reminder of the gracious—good eating of former days. Here is the recipe, just as she gave it to me:
Cream together by hand:
1 cup BUTTER
1 cup white sugar
Beat in very well: 2 fresh eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
Stir in:
1 and 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup broken pecans
Drop from a small spoon on ungreased baking sheet and bake in a moderate (375°) oven until lightly browned. Do not let it get very brown. About 7 or 8 minutes.
For “hand-full” cookies, place tablespoon of batter on ungreased cookie sheet and bake about 10 to 12 minutes.
She would sometime make faces of raisins on the cookies or place a pecan half or a cherry on top. How happy this would make me! Of course, now I use my mixer to make these cookies, my flour comes from a 5 Ib. sack of pre-sifted flour—hers from a 25 pound sack (the sack later used to make me a pinafore or apron). Use plain oatmeal or whatever kind is handy, but always use BUTTER. The difference in taste and texture is worth the extra cholesterol!    Now I can stack these cookies on her cookie stand for my grandchildren, and tell stories of my wonderful GRANDMOTHER.
Another thing Grandmother served from this cake stand was HER strawberry shortcake. Not for her the spongey shells that detracted from the berries and cream, but delicious flakey piecrust, cut in large circles and layered with sliced berries that had been “soaked” in sugar for several hours in the ICE-BOX. Then whole berries completely covered the top, and softly whipped HEAVY cream drizzled over the tops of the berries, and allowed to run in small streams down the sides. It was a thing of beauty to behold, but even more of a delight to eat.
She was very proud of her pie crust, and I had many lessons on a stool by her side at the small enamel table in the center of the kitchen. A little flour sprinkled directly on the table top, the rolling pin with the left handle removed (so she could put her weight on the pin itself with the left hand) guiding and rolling it with the handle on the right, and roll, roll until it was so thin you could “read a newspaper through it.” She told me many times, “roll from the center to each hour on a clock in turn, this will make it come out smooth.” She laid a large salad plate on top and cut around it with a “butcher knife.” This delicate circle was transferred to a baking sheet by folding it in quarters, picked up and placed on the baking sheet. then BAKED FAST, while she rolled out another. At least 6 Layers were required to make what she considered a Shortcake.
This is her pastry recipe, just as I learned it. It is a large recipe and I make it up, roll out what I need and refrigerate the rest to use at a later time.
3 cups unsifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Cut in with 2 table knives 1 cup Lard (I use a vegetable shortening and it is OK but not quite as flakey as hers) Add 6 tablespoons of this mixture to l/2 cup milk and stir well. Pour this over the remaining flour mixture and stir quickly with a fork. If it did not quite hold together we would add a little more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time. When it began to really hold together in a ball it was turned out onto the enamel table which had been sprinkled lightly with flour.
With the heel of her right hand she pushed the dough down onto the table a little at a time to complete the mixing. This dough was divided into six pieces and then rolled as directed above, cut and baked. The small pieces that were cut from around the plate were placed on a separate baking sheet and later baked for US to snack on with a cup of tea.
These circles were baked in the HOT oven of her wood stove which had no temperature gauge. I use 425 degrees and it works almost as well. 7 to 8 minutes is usually enough to have the edges start to turn brown. Do not overcook!
There were many other things my Grandmother served on her CAKE STAND: Her “mock” beaten biscuits—Airy Divinity—peanut butter fudge— and if you had been ill and could only eat custard she would make that special person her caramel custard and serve it from that very cake stand. That always made you feel better.
I hope I can pass this “Antique” and its meaning on to my Grandchildren. This world is so swift that we are losing much of the charm and “specialness” that was a part of life many years ago.

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