Cake Walk (Silky Chocolate Cake)

Silky Chocolate Cake

Have you ever played musical chairs?  With cake?

For as long as I can remember, the school I attended as a young’n hosted an event known as The Carnival in mid-March.  While its intent was to raise funds for various projects, its effect was that of an indoor Mardis Gras.  (A welcome break from the snowbanks outside.)

It also happened to coincide with my birthday, which meant that there was a good chance of celebrating with two cakes instead of one.

Classes were dismissed at noon on Friday to decorate the gym with streamers and balloons and glittery posters.  Shop students worked feverishly to pound last-minute nails into makeshift booths.  Faculty members supervised the tumult with lighthearted smiles and the occasional admonition to “stop horsing around!”

Prizes were then unpacked from large cardboard boxes stacked on the stage, yielding plastic trinkets and wholesale teddy bears that somehow transformed themselves into desirable objects simply by merit of being displayed on a shelf.

In short, the hometown basketball court became a thing of beauty.

The next night (Saturday night), the doors leading into the gym were propped open at 7:00 o’clock sharp and folks would file into the bleachers that angled upward from the gym floor — a vantage point to shed winter coats, visit friends and neighbors, and keep an eye on their children scurrying around below.

I still remember the thrill of clutching a fistful of tickets…

Priced at a nickel apiece, families could afford an evening’s worth of entertainment for their progeny, along with a mutual understanding:

“When the tickets run out, it’s time to go home.”

With my personal stash of five-cent-increment happiness in hand, I’d wander wide-eyed past each booth, sizing up the odds of winning and calculating the staying power of my ticket-trove.

The games were as varied as their names.  Ring Toss.  Dip the Duck.  Free Throw Booth.  (It was situated on a basketball court, after all…)

But, my premeditated destination was The Cake Walk.

Tucked in a corner of the gym behind a fence-like barricade, a dozen metal folding chairs encircled long tables on loan from the school cafeteria.  Atop those tables were cakes.  Not just any cakes, mind you… The Carnival was an annual opportunity for the ladies of the community to show off their baking skills — and show off they did!

Sometime between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening, a parade of baked goods made their way into the gymnasium, balanced on matronly laps during the car ride to town, or tucked on the floorboard farthest from the car heater so as not to melt the frosting.

Each carefully constructed creation was delivered to The Cake Walk with its glory intact — towering three-layer beauties, billowy angel food encased in Seven Minute Frosting, light-as-air German chocolate under a thick layer of coconut and walnuts, two-layer cakes artfully appliqued with butter cream…

Basically, the Pillsbury Bake-Off in a booth. ;)

After producing the required tickets to enter The Cake Walk, folks lined up in front of the chairs and the music would begin in typical musical chairs fashion.  But, unlike the traditional game where one chair is removed after each round, The Cake Walk chairs remained in place — randomly numbered to avoid mass hysteria, potential injuries — and toppled cakes.

Round and round we’d shuffle to the Beatles crooning, “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” or Petula Clark belting out “Downtown.”

(On a record player, ahem.)

When the music stopped, it was our cue to scramble for a seat — and scramble we did.  Then we anxiously awaited for the corresponding “lucky number” to be drawn from a bowl.  Amidst groans and cheers, the winner would stand, select the cake of their choice (which was another reason to get there first), and emerge victorious.

It’s been years since I’ve been back to the The Carnival, primarily because I moved 750 miles away and I can’t do “winter,” but also because the homemade cakes of yore were deemed dangerous by the legislature and eventually replaced by packaged angel food cakes.

Sometimes a memory is better than being there.

I must admit, I don’t covet cake with the same intensity I once did, but if I spy one that elicits that “carnival” craving, I know I’m going to be the lucky winner — without leaving it up to chance.

Many thanks to Maureen from The Orgasmic Chef for this year’s birthday cake.  (Click here for the recipe for Silky Chocolate Cake.)

.  .  .

I can almost hear the music now… “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah…”

Enjoying cake walks,

~ Kimby

.

41 thoughts on “Cake Walk (Silky Chocolate Cake)

    • Sue Ann, there probably would have been less tumult (and more patience) if first grade teachers had supervised, ha! Your students were blessed to have you as their teacher.

    • Mike, your comment made me LOL, too! I understand the health concerns behind that decision, but ’twas a sad day when homemade goodies were no longer allowed for class parties, birthdays, etc. — and especially the Cake Walk!

      • For some reason this post has been playing on my mind. As a kid in Ireland we would describe something that was very easy to accomplish as a “cake walk”. Being that nobody would have known your cake walk I wonder if the origin is the same?

        • Mike, the things I learn from Googling… I’ve often made the same reference without knowing the true meaning behind the term — or I thought I did! (Here’s the Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cakewalk .) Turns out, “cake walk” had its roots in slavery. (!)

          While those who know me understand my post wasn’t meant as derogatory, it easily could’ve been misconstrued (with my deepest, profound apologies…) Maybe I should have entitled it after The Man Of Few Words’ favorite phrase for something easy instead: “That’s a piece of cake!” Thanks for bringing it up again…

  1. I love you story! I can just picture the whole thing! We didn’t have cake walk at my school…just peanut butter whistling contest… (don’t ask…but I always won) Have a beautiful week my gorgeous Kim!

    • Peanut butter whistling?! Isabelle, you always come up with things that make me smile! Somehow I can picture you as the “champeen” — pretty as ever, with a triumphant peanut butter smeared grin. :) You have a great week, too! xo

    • Maureen, I’m so glad I made Mary’s cake, too! :) I didn’t see your recipe until two days after my birthday (still hadn’t made myself a cake yet… celebrated with a German Chocolate Pie “on the day.”) As soon as I read your post, I knew it was “the one.” Thanks for that! Tickled you enjoyed the story, too!

      • Kim! I’m so glad you made my cake!! It looks beautiful – so pretty with your powdered sugar design. I tried to do that a couple of times and I did not lift up the doily properly and it looked a mess so now I always just do the sugar all over. You are encouraging me to try again!

        I remember cake walks too – I grew up in St. Louis, MO.

        Happy Birthday again!! – Mary

        • Mary Frances, I hope you try the “doily effect” again. It was kind of a hurry up & lift it up and away deal that worked (this time, ha!), but the star of the show was your delectable cake… oh my! I shared a slice with an elderly friend, who immediately declared me “The Queen of Pastries.” :) I figured I’d share that honor with you, since you came up with the recipe! Thanks again.

  2. Oh, Kim, I hung on to every word you wrote b/c like you, we had something similar growing up in them thar hollers…it was in October, in the school gym, and it was a menagerie of excitement, tickets, booths and wonderful food, including cakes…while we didn’t have a cake walk, I can just imagine something like this would have been a hit! Thanks for a snippet of time to dig up some great memories!! Now, I could use a piece of that cake now!! xox love ya girl! Ally

    • Ally, whoever thunk up such events deserves a hug. Look at the memories they evoked for you! (And me!) Yup, it was truly a step out of the mundane — something our adventuresome lil’ hearts needed back then — and still do!

  3. I love playing musical chairs when I was young, & your post reminds me of my childhood. So glad u’re back in action; I’ve missed u! I’m feeling real lazy after my Penang trip, but I’d fun reviewing couple of hotels there + food tasting. The hotels pampered my family a lot. Hahaha! There wasn’t much to do in Penang, we were just lazing around in the hotels for 4 days. Can u believe that??

    • Shirley, lazing around is a good thing to do now & then, especially with the schedule you keep! It’s neat to learn that musical chairs is universal — I was delighted to hear the memories from your childhood, too! I’ve missed being here, too — more posts forthcoming… :)

  4. Omgosh, Kimby, you so brought back memories for me! We so had the carnival and cake walk too! I loved it so much, I think it was my favorite. We also had a pop ring toss and you tried to toss a ring on a pop bottle (the pops were donated just like the cakes). The other things we had were face painting and “fishing” where you threw your line over a cardboard wall and someone on the other end would attach a prize for you to draw back. One year we had a cotton candy maker-I loved that. I can’t remember anything else but year, the cake walk was great! Here’s a pic of us with a cake we won (probably my littlest sister won it) back in 1989. You can’t see it well, but the cake says “Sunnyside Safari” which is what that particular carnival was called and you can see we’re wearing leighs. Fun times!

    Happy birthday to you, and what a beautiful cake to celebrate with! I love the powdered sugar flower on top-did you make it with the doily beneath the cake?

    • Veronica, I grinned the whole time I was reading your comment! Almost forgot about the Fish Pond — we had one, too (they used clothes pins to attach a “prize” hidden in lil’ brown lunch bags before throwing it back over the wall!) There was also a Country Store, where you’d spin the wheel and try to win a sack of groceries (donated by local merchants.) What a fun trip down memory lane… :)

    • Neglected to answer your question, Veronica.. I set an old cotton doily on top of the cake and “dusted it” with powdered sugar through a fine sieve. Was thinking thrift shops or flea markets may have other doilies with interesting patterns (for a nominal cost) to use for “cake decorating” — go for it, if ya beat me to it! :)

    • Uru, ya made me laugh… Cake Run… yup, that’s how I felt about this one, too! Thankfully, you don’t have to run very far — got the recipe from Maureen over on your side of the planet. :)

  5. I was never good at the cake walk… always in the wrong chair. I can’t win raffles and I always pick the wrong line at the store, but I can bake a cake for myself and I think that one is a contender for my birthday cake this year.

    I’m craving chocolate now and all I have in the house is my husband’s stash of malted milk balls. Maybe I need to make a grocery run!

    • Shary, I was actually considering making one called “Chocolate Malt Cake” (made with malted milk balls) before I happened upon this one. Let me know if ya want the recipe! To date, I’ve won a cooler and a smoke alarm, lol. (Plus a few cakes…) Loved your “wrong line at the store” thought… ain’t it true?

  6. It’d be dangerous for me to take a cake walk and oh, how I’d love a slice of this beauty right now. It’s a beautiful cake and perfectly suited for a birthday.
    p.s. I have finally tried adding a bit of vin d’orange to the dressing this weekend and you may have made the discovery of the year. It’s incredibly good!

    • Thanks, Gourmantine! Glad to hear you enjoyed my “invention,” too! I’m metering out my “vd’o” stash (only made half a batch) and a salad with v’do vinaigrette sounds marvelous about now, after all the cake I ate. ;)

  7. Holy cow, does that look chocolatey. I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of a cake walk but it sounds like it was lots of fun. I would have fought someone for dessert in that game.

    • Dawn, there was plenty of covert elbowing and edging-out going on, trust me! As for this cake, it was chocolatey but “densely light,” if that makes sense. Your opening comment cracked me up entirely — that’s my most oft used exclamation (to which TMOFW will attest) — a carry-over from the “up North” days. I hereby dub you an honorary Minnesotan. :)

Your thoughts are valued. What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s