Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Every Funeral Calls for a Good Cake

After my grandmother died more than 14 years ago, women from all over Cobb County, Georgia, it seems, did as Southern women do in such times. They cooked.

Among the many, many things delivered to her house and to her hungry, tired relatives was an orange mandarin cake, which is still referred to today as Mimi's Funeral Cake. Yes, it is that memorable.

And while I am not one to get bogged down in recipe swaps, I think this one merits a blog post. I have a fourth of a Mimi's Funeral Cake in my refrigerator this very minute—a remnant from last night's birthday dinner. My oldest turned 17, but I failed to buy 17 candles or a "1" and a "7." All I could find in the cabinet just minutes before serving were very used keepsakes "5," "5" and "7." And that's when the 10-year-old pointed out, "Well, just use those. Add them up, and they equal 17." So that's what we did.

Those three chunky rainbow-colored candles sat atop what you will find to be one of The Best Cakes Ever. My gift to you today:

MIMI'S FUNERAL CAKE (or Orange Mandarin Cake)

1 box yellow cake mix (don't get fancy; store brand works just fine; take the bag out of the box, and throw the box away, or you'll be tempted to follow the box directions, which have nothing at all to do with this recipe; when my friend Leslie tried making this the first time, she called me no fewer than four times because the box directions were throwing her off)
3/4 c. cooking oil
3 eggs
1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges (do not drain; I repeat, do not drain, tempting as it may be)

Mix all above ingredients. Bake in three cake pans at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. (An aside: I have only two round cake pans. So in my early years of baking Mimi's Funeral Cake, I would bake two layers, while the third sat in the bowl, just waiting. Big mistake. My husband ate the entire third layer in its batter form, thinking it was bowl-lick. So I've since amended these instructions and just make two really thick layers. It's really the only safe way around here.)

1 large Cool Whip
1 pkg. (large) vanilla instant pudding
1 large can (drained) crushed pineapple
Mix pudding and pineapple, then fold in Cool Whip. Chill overnight in sealed container. (Another amendment: This frosting is a stand-alone dessert. Chill overnight at your own risk. You may find an empty bowl in its place the next morning. Really, an hour or two does the trick. Just make sure the cake is cool.)

You can toss chopped nuts on top, if you like. I don't like.

Unless this cake is being served, it should remain in the refrigerator at all times. Or you will have pudding.

P.S. -- If you haven't yet visited Excellent Book Reviews, I encourage you to do so. Unlike this blog, the book review blog allows comments AND has a give-away at the end of this week. These are hard times; go win something.