June 6, 2010

Lemon Jell-O Cake, or Why I Love My Sister

I like cake.

You're shocked, I'm sure. Because I've only blogged about cakes and cupcakes like 83,000 times. (And yes, I'm exaggerating. But not by much.)

My aunt makes a cake she calls Better Than Sex Cake. And there was a time when I might have agreed with her. You should make this cake. It may not be better than sex, but it is better than a great many other truly wonderful things. Including chocolate. I kid you not.

Good as this cake is, however - and it is extremely good - it is not the best cake ever.

The best cake ever is the stuff of memories. It's the cake my mom made for my birthday every single year growing up. It's baked in a Bundt pan, coated in a simple powdered sugar glaze, moist, with a blaze of lemony flavor that just zings through your mouth. We call it the Lemon Jell-O Cake.

I have not had that cake in nearly 30 years.

My mom's been ill for a very, very long time. When all that first happened, her brother kindly stored her things in his basement. There was a flood, though, and much was destroyed. Baby clothes she'd made by hand for me and my sister. Her original artwork. Mirrored pillows and other items from her travels to India.

And books. Many books. Including her cookbooks, and the recipe for the best cake ever along with them.

I spent years searching the interwebz for that Lemon Jello-O Cake. I never found it. I found cakes that stole the name, easy cakes, light and lemony. But not one was right.

And then, my sister's birthday came. I was pondering how best to help her celebrate and decided to get her thoughts on her cake. I gave her a couple of options. First up, the tiramisu cupcakes I wound up making (awesome!). The other was Martha Stewart's lemon curd cupcakes, for the lemony memories.

Which is when she told me about her wonderful gift. She'd rescued my mom's old, water-logged Fannie Farmer Cookbook from the flood. And inside it, hand-written and just a little smeared, was my mom's Lemon Jell-O Cake recipe. (Which is apparently Paulette's recipe, only we don't know who Paulette is.)

My sister read it to me over the phone, because she is just that awesome.

I made it last weekend. It is every single bit as good as I remembered. And given how much flavor hindsight and nostalgia add, that's saying something. Still not better than sex, but definitely getting closer.

Enjoy. And remember to send a great big thank you to my sister.

Paulette's Lemon Jell-O Cake
1 package Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix
1 3 oz package lemon Jell-O
4 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup apricot nectar (my store didn't have it, so I used pear nectar instead - still yummy!)
2 tbs lemon extract

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a buttered and floured Bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes minimum, usually longer.  (45 minutes did it for me, but my oven is dead-on accurate.)

Glaze
 2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh-squeezed, please!)

Mix and let stand. Pour over cake when it comes out of the oven. (I poured it along the inner and outer edges of the pan ... oh stars, but what that does to this cake ... you'll just have to find out for yourself.) Leave in the pan until it cools. Eat it.

Giving credit where credit is due: my mom once told me that this recipe came off a box of Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix. I've been all over their site, though, and couldn't find the recipe. I did find a similar recipe here.

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