City's 200th birthday cake leaves you asking for more

September 10, 1997|By Rob Kasper

BALTIMORE, THE CITY that is celebrating its 200th year, now has its official Bicentennial Birthday Cake. It is called Addictive Chocolate Cake and it comes from the kitchen of Grace Holmes, a 75-year-old mother of five, who bakes several times a week in her eastern Baltimore County home.

Her cake, which mixes cocoa and yogurt, won a taste-off last Friday at the Inner Harbor. It bested nine other cakes that had made it to the finals of the contest. In addition to glory, Holmes picked up $500 in prize money. Moreover, as part of the city's Bicentennial celebration, slices of Holmes' prize-winning cake will be distributed throughout town on Sept. 19, a day that will go down in Baltimore's history as "cake day."

Jeannette Boyd of Baltimore finished second and won $350 for her Italian Cream Cake; Nell Genco of Baltimore came in third and won $250 for her Apple Dapple Cake; and Hilda Peacock of Pikesville won fourth place and $100 with her Pound Cake.

Holmes bakes her own bread, as well as cakes and cookies. She uses a wheelchair to move around her kitchen. "My legs don't want to hold me up," she told me in a telephone interview from her home in Cedar Beach, a community she described as "so quiet all you hear is the crickets."

Holmes sent her cake to the contest in the hands of her husband, Ed, a former truck driver, and their daughter Robin. Holmes said her husband isn't much of a cook. "He can boil water, that's about it." But, she said, he is a talented taster. He helped her select the cake for the contest.

"He said it was his favorite, that it tasted like Tastykake," she said, referring to the commercially baked snack dear to generations of Baltimore eaters.

When Robin telephoned her mother after the cake contest had concluded, she couldn't resist teasing Holmes. "She told me, 'Ma, I dropped your cake and the sea gulls at the harbor ate it,' " Holmes recalled. "Then she told me, 'Ma, I can't believe you actually won.' I told her I was still good for something, even if it was just baking."

The joking reference to harbor creatures eating a cake reminded me of the fate that befell another Bicentennial birthday cake. Back in 1976, Walter S. Orlinsky, then-City Council president and committee chairman for the city's celebration of the U.S. Bicenten-

nial, cooked up an idea for a giant birthday cake in the shape of the United States.

This cake honoring America's 200th birthday floated on a barge in the Inner Harbor. The icing on the cake fell victim to big rains. Parts fell into the harbor. Rats ate some. The 65-foot-long concoction was supposed to be the world's largest cake, a title it may or may not have held before some of it slid into the Patapsco.

When I told Holmes the story of the star-crossed Bicentennial birthday cake, she laughed. Her cake, she said, was much smaller than the one that ended up in the harbor more than 20 years ago. But she drew a comparison between her Addictive Chocolate Cake and the downtown harbor.

"Once you have tasted this cake, you have to come back for more," she said. "Just like you do after you visit the Inner Harbor."

Grace Holmes' addictive chocolate cake

1 cup water

2 sticks margarine

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup plain yogurt

2 eggs (unbeaten)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a small pot, heat the water, margarine and cocoa. Stir until melted.

In a large mixing bowl, put the flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking soda. Mix well with electric mixer.

Pour heated liquid over the dry ingredients and mix well with electric mixer.

Add the yogurt, two eggs and vanilla. Mix well with electric mixer. (Batter will be thin.)

Pour into two greased, 8-inch-square cake pans, or for a sheet cake, into one greased, rectangular pan, 10-by-15 inches. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean.

When cool, serve as is or frost.

Icing

6 tablespoons margarine

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

In medium mixing bowl and using electric mixer, cream margarine and cocoa. Add sugar, yogurt, vanilla and pecans. Mix with electric mixer until smooth.

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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