Spice Cakes and Stews

carrotcake1.jpg My mother was not Donna Reed or Jane Wyatt.  What’s worse, in an era when father knew best, she was a single mother.  To support us, she trained race horses.  Since none of them ever won, we moved a lot. The two constants through all of this shifting and moving were my mother’s stews and spice cakes.  In both cases, she was proud of never having used a recipe.  In the case of the stews, memory tells me she could have used a cookbook.  The cakes were a different story.

Although they looked like no other cake I’ve ever seen – for some unknown reason, she baked them in metal ice cube trays rather then cake pans – their taste haunts me to this day. They were a wonderful mixture of exotic spices, sugar, and ordinary flour cooked into light golden brown loafs. I enjoyed these odd concoctions in private, but was not happy with them in public, whenever they showed up in my school lunch.  Luckily, I was never at any school long enough to really be embarrassed by them.

It was only after she died (while shoeing a horse) that I really began to appreciate her. While I would gladly never have to taste anything ever again that resembled her rather gluey stews, I often long for one more last piece of her spice cake.