Of all the people in our family, my mother was one of the least competitive. She loved to talk, but she seldom bragged or tried to one-up her friends.
It seems ironic to look back and realize that my mom was the only one of the family to win a blue ribbon at the LA County Fair.
She won it for her orange cake. The recipe came from the side panel of a Swan’s Down Cake Flour box, and the grease-stained, faded piece of cardboard was tucked into the broken-backed green American Woman’s Cookbook she always used.
I remember two things that made the cake special. The first was the cake flour. This was the only cake my mom made with cake flour. The rest of the time she used a mix. I never knew there was such a thing as cake flour until I helped Mama make this cake.
The other thing was the number of oranges the recipe took. Some of the juice and peel went into the cake, but LOTS of peel went into the frosting. I helped my mom grate the rind off of at least six oranges, using the pyramidal grater that stood up by itself. Mama kept an eye on me, making sure I got all the rind off but didn’t grate the white pulpy stuff too. It wouldn’t help the flavor of the frosting.
The winning cake stood three layers tall, a pleasant orange tint, with the fluffy speckled frosting between the layers and standing in peaks on the top.
We saw it on display in the glass case of the Home Arts building, with its blue ribbon, First Place, showing proudly. The judges had cut one slice to taste, but the cake still stood tall and beautiful for the world to see.