My grandmother made the same cake for my grandfather’s birthday for most of his adult life – when they married around the time they each turned 20, my grandmother learned the recipe for the yellow cake with fudge icing that he loved so much. “The hard part,” my grandmother always said. “was getting the icing onto the cake while it was hardening, because it hardens quickly and is brittle and crumbling.”
I thought this particular recipe (similar ones are found lots of places, including this one from Just a Pinch!) was so magical when I first tried cooking as a teenager: start with cocoa powder, sugar, and milk and all of a sudden, you have candy! It was pretty high-intensity, trying to make sure I got to exactly the right level of boil so that the candy turned out soft and crumbling. There are moments when you need to stir a ton, and moments when you need to avoid stirring at all, and what results can either frost a cake with sweet, sugary fudge or just be served in a little block… or four.
Fudge is certainly not a health food, but on this sweet, cool Autumn afternoon, I was more than happy to add a few extra chores to my schedule when I had a sliver of sugary chocolate motivating me. The key is to keep your hands off the next pieces! I will have to eat my salad and the rest of my dinner before I can partake in more of my grandmother’s traditional birthday treat, the one she’s been making for 67 years of marriage to my grandfather.