I got cocky.
My other two kitchen challenges went so well. Decadent chocolate truffles. Spicy chipotle chicken. This time, I told myself, I could tackle anything — even a four-layer cake for Father’s Day.
But I was flying way too close to the sun.
Before I tell you my tale of woe, let’s back up a little. The story begins as I am scrolling through an online Martha Stewart slideshow of cake recipes, bypassing the easy chocolate cakes in favor of something more challenging.
Then I see it: Four-Layer Appalachian Stack Cake. According to Martha: “In Kentucky and its environs, this dessert once served as a wedding cake; neighbors and friends might have each brought a layer, and the hosts would add the filling.”
This is the one. Not only does the molasses cake look delicious, it also links to my roots. My dad spent his childhood on his family’s Kentucky farm, then returned as a young man to work the land — hanging tobacco to dry in the barn and tending the cattle. Like his father , he is quiet, resilient and kind.
I decide this is the perfect Father’s Day cake: delicious and sentimental.
Oddly enough, I’ve never heard of the recipe before. Don’t get me wrong — family reunions have acquainted me with the best of Kentucky food. Fried chicken, fried french fries (yes, fried french fries), homegrown vegetables, buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy and every kind of pie. Once, I even tasted pickled watermelon rind.
But Four-Layer Appalachian Stack Cake? This must be something extra special.
I text my dad the recipe: “Would you want to eat it?”
“Sounds good. Lot of work,” he replies.
A lot of work? Ha! I laugh in the face of impending culinary doom.
On Sunday morning, I get up early (okay, 9) and choose hot pink nail polish for a pedicure. Not the sort of thing I usually wear, but I’m also not the type to bake a cake on a Sunday afternoon. Cooking reminds you of your inner strength, I tell myself. I am drunk with power and possibly nail polish fumes.
At Trader Joe’s in St….