Monday, January 28, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: CAKE

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann. I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
Here are January's prompts: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car.


Grandma Dykes was famous for her cakes – and for all her cooking. She was one of those brides who didn't know how to cook AT ALL when she got married, but boy did she master the skills over the course of her lifetime! It helps that she really enjoyed cooking, and nothing pleased her more than feeding us, her most beloved. By “us,” I mean my granddaddy, my father (their only child), and me and my siblings.

some of Grandma's recipes
(in her handwriting)
Each year for Christmas she would make a four layer butternut cake that she iced with butter pecan frosting and wrapped in foil and froze... before sending it in the mail from her home in Port St. Joe, Florida, to us in Louisiana or Alabama, or wherever we were living at the time. On the day the cake arrived, we'd marvel at how it was still cold! Then my mom would proceed to peel away the foil and place it on a cake plate.

Grandma Dykes also made a sour cream pound cake (always in a tube pan) that was the perfect blend of crisp on the outside and moist and dense on the inside... I've used her recipe for years and even gave it to Mrs. Nelson in my book LEAVING GEE'S BEND.

Another favorite was Coca-Cola cake – a chocolatey, moist, pecan creation which she made because my mother (her daughter-in-law) loved it. We all loved it! And now I make this cake for my mother.

Grandma Dykes' cake keeper
When Grandma Dykes died, my father's wife (not my mother) gave me the cake keeper that Grandma always used and kept stored on top of the refrigerator whenever it was empty of cake. It was round and aluminum, with the word “cake” printed on the side – exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to find at a grandmother's house! As much as I wanted to keep it, I knew it belonged to my sister Lynn, who is named for Grandma Dykes. Now, when I visit my sister in her home, I love seeing that cake keeper perched on top of her china cabinet, like it was meant to be there all along.


  1. Wonderful! I love that she mailed her multi-layered, frosted cakes and they arrived still cold. And that she didn't know how to cook before she got married. And that she loved pleasing her daughter-in-law with a favorite cake. And that your sister is named for her. <3

  2. Food holds such special moments in our lives. I do love hearing about all your Grandma's cakes, Irene. I think I have a Coca-Cola cake recipe somewhere from an aunt. Love the idea of freezing and sending that favorite butternut cake. It must have been so exciting, and love hearing about the pan, still there with your sister, waiting for another cake.


Your thoughts?