Claxton, Georgia, is famous for its fruitcakes, and I had the pleasure of knowing the nuttiest one of all of them. Her name was Sadie. She lived across the street and over one from my grandmother (we called it caddy-cornered), and she was a 4-foot-11, 86-year-old firecracker of a woman.
Sadie reminded me a bit of Rose Nyland (made famous by Betty White in the Golden Girls series). She loved to tell stories of growing up "over in Claxton" (she lived in Jacksonville, Florida when I knew her), and her stories rambled and wove much like she drove on a late night after a few too many juleps.
Any time any of my grandmother, Elner's, "kids" (be they her children, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren, or urchins she picked up off the street) came over, Sadie had to drop by and visit. She LOVED my grandmother and she loved our extended family. She loved to talk, and we were happy to listen. When Sadie came by, she talked about the latest church gossip (she did NOT like that new woman preacher), the latest beauty parlor gossip (can you believe what Faye said about Beverly's daughter?), and what everyone who lived on the street was up to. She enjoyed asking my dad about his trips to "Codorado" and my mom if she had seen the latest of "Orpah's" shows. She was so cute (and stubborn) that we didn't bother to correct her.
Sadie had a little dog named Clem. Clem was her baby, mainly because he was the main connection she had to her deceased husband. Clem had been Ed's dog, and she honestly believed that a little piece of Ed resided in Clem somewhere. So, she cooked him a steak dinner every Saturday night.
Sadie did love taking care of people. Even after her mind started to go and her eyesight was blurred by "cadillacs," she still loved to bake cakes for people. Which brings me to my recipe...
We were there visiting my grandparents one summer, and Sadie came waltzing in with one of her chocolate pound cakes. Now that was an amazing cake! But, this time, something was a little off. My grandmother, while a wonderful woman, was not known for giving people the benefit of the doubt, or for cushioning feelings.
"Sadie, WHAT is wrong with this cake?"
"What do you mean? It's not good??"
"Oh, well, when I went to measure the cinnamon, the phone rang and I dropped the container. A little more than was called for went in. I figured it would be okay though."
"Sadie, this doesn't taste like cinnamon."
"Oh...well...maybe it was cayenne. Sorry 'bout that. I'll go home and make you another one." And with that, she was gone.
Firecracker Chocolate Cake
1/2 pound butter
1/2 pound shortening
3 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 eggs or 6 (sorry...this is Sadie's recipe!)
1 cup milk
3 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon, or cayenne -- your choice (feel free to add more if startled by the telephone)
1 tablespoon vanilla
Cream butter, shortening, and sugar. Add cocoa and eggs (one at a time, beating after each addition).
Mix flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon or cayenne.
Alternate adding flour and milk mixture, beating well after each addition. Start and end with flour (I typically do 3 rounds of flour separated by 2 rounds of milk). Beat in vanilla.
Bake 1 hour 20 minutes at 325 degrees in a greased and floured bundt pan.
(c) 2010 Lisa Kuebler