Things I Can'T Seem To Get Right, Edition 1-2-3-4 (Cake) - Cooking Mysteries Blog at - 181252

Cooking Mysteries

Blog Archives

Tag Filter

Blog Extras

Things I can't seem to get right, Edition 1-2-3-4 (Cake) 
Jun. 17, 2010 5:06 pm 
Updated: Jun. 18, 2010 7:54 pm

I got so many useful comments from the community on my cookie dilemma entry that I figure it's time to throw out another mystery for your consideration….

(Bonus lesson: do NOT refresh your blog entry while previewing it, or it is gone Gone GONE forever! Sigh.)

My wonderful Mom (God bless her) has never been as good a cook as my dear, departed Dad was. When I was a kid, it seemed like she only took to the kitchen for birthdays and other special occasions, where she would whip up her one real specialty: 1-2-3-4 cake. It's a basic yellow pound cake, apparently dating to the Depression era, but I remember it being absolutely scrumptious when I was a kid. There are plenty of pictures of kiddie me and my adorable little sister blowing out birthday candles on top of one of Mom’s 1-2-3-4 cakes. 

The base and the source of the recipe’s name are simple: 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, 4 eggs. And some other stuff.

This year, with Mom's 82nd birthday coming up, I thought I'd whip up a good ol' 1-2-3-4 cake to surprise her. Her memory of the "other stuff" is a little shaky, so naturally I did an AllRecipes search. After figuring out that you have to write out "one," "two," etc. or the search engine gets confused, I found 4 (er, I mean four) versions. To be sure I’d get it right for Mom’s birthday cake, I thought I'd pick one and give it a dry run.... 

And that’s what it was -- dry. The four recipes are all very similar, so I suspect the results will be the same if/when I try out the other versions. Dry, very bland and not at all magical like I remember it.

It can’t just be because the secret ingredient in Mom’s birthday cakes all those years ago was LOVE – trust me, I put that in, too. But what else? Is butter (basic supermarket sticks, then and now) somehow churned differently? Are 21st century hens laying inferior eggs? Is sugar now not the sugar of 40 years ago?

Or is it just that – like roller skating on concrete sidewalks, my big solo in the sixth grade choir recital, the albums of the Partridge Family, and that groovy pink sundress I wore every single day one summer – some things will just never seem as good when you’re a grown-up as they did when you were a kid? 

I look forward to the wisdom of my fellow aspiring kitchen wizards. What are the magical recipes or moments of your childhood that you just can't seem to replicate as an adult? And what the heck am I doing wrong with my 1-2-3-4 cake?

(Oh, and if your own Mom is still around, no matter how great or terrible her cooking skills, please give her a hug for me.)






Jun. 17, 2010 6:43 pm
What's the link to the recipe? Yes, butter is different in baking. Unsalted butter is usually preferred. Salted has more water and less fat which is what you need in cooking. The one recipe I am still seeking is the secret to my grandmother's rolls.. light as a feather and she never used a recipe. She just used to say she went by "the feel of the dough". I've come very close with a new roll recipe I'm working on.. maybe one day.
Jun. 18, 2010 7:01 am
I know how you feel. Paul Dean has a 1,2,3,4 cake recipe. I've never tried it but I hope it helps. If you try it and it works let me know :) Ingredients 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature 2 cups sugar 4 eggs 3 cups sifted self-rising flour 1 cup milk 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract Directions Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and spread cake layers with your favorite frosting to make a 3-layer cake.
Jun. 18, 2010 5:35 pm
Thanks -- Camper, that sounds familiar. I think the part about alternating the milk and flour might help. Do you think I should re-sift the flour instead of relying on "pre-sifted?" Belles, I'm going to look for that roll recipe!
Jun. 18, 2010 7:54 pm
That is a good question. I would re-sift the flour even if it was pre-sifted but that is me. Good luck on your quest for the perfect 1-2-3-4 cake :D
Click to Change your Profile Picture
Linda Y

Home Town
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Living In
Parkville, Maryland, USA

Member Since
Nov. 2008

Cooking Level

Cooking Interests
Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Slow Cooking, Mexican, Italian

Gardening, Biking, Walking, Reading Books, Music

Subscribe Today!

In Season

A Day To Remember
A Day To Remember

Memorial Day is a time to get together with friends and family for food, fun, and memories.

Potato Salad
Potato Salad

Nothing beats a big bowl of cool, creamy potato salad at your cookout.

Subscribe Today! Only $7.99
Subscribe Today! Only $7.99

Delicious recipes, party ideas, and cooking tips! Get a year of Allrecipes magazine for $7.99!

About Me
I'm a writer and publishing exec for a couple of niche magazines in Baltimore, MD. Four years ago I married the greatest guy in the world, and we have two four-legged babies -- Arwen the Wonder Pup (a Silky Terrier) and Casey, the Best Kitty Ever (a black tux cat).
My favorite things to cook
Lasagna; strawberry shortcake; a million different chicken recipes; marinades for all the meats my husband loves to grill; creative salads; holiday meals for our family. I really love summer meals when I can pick fresh vegetables right from our garden and turn them into dinner!
My favorite family cooking traditions
Christmas cookies, my Mom's 1-2-3-4 cake, my Dad's peach cake, and my sister and I taking turns hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for the family.
Argentina  |  Australia & New Zealand  |  Brazil  |  Canada  |  China  |  France  |  Germany  |  India  |  Italy  |  Japan  |  Korea  |  Mexico

Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Quebec  |  Russia  |  SE Asia  |  United Kingdom & Ireland  |  United States