If you grew up in Palo Alto in the 1950s, Susan Meyer figures your birthday cake probably came from Mrs. Miner’s Bakery.
“They made this special cake, I think for birthdays, which I have never seen any other place,” says Meyer, who lives in Fremont now. “It’s absolutely delicious, a gorgeous sight with little cake pieces in whipped cream and powdered sugar all over and a cherry on top! It’s quite light tasting too. A very special birthday cake.”
It’s usually at this place in the column when we pause to mourn the passing of neighborhood bakeries, then ask you, dear readers, if one of you somehow has managed to acquire a copy of the recipe for the cake Meyer remembers so fondly.
And that’s where this story veers delightfully off course. You see, Meyer wrote not just to reminisce about a “treasured cake from my childhood.” She has the recipe and figured you might like it as well.
She’s right. Her Pineapple Chantilly Cake is indeed one I haven’t seen anywhere else, and I didn’t run across the recipe in some casual puttering online.
It reminds me a bit of my husband’s favorite birthday cake, which involves mixing cubes of angel food cake in whipped cream with strawberries, a cake I’ve apparently never quite managed to re-create as he remembers.
For this cake, you’re going to make enough batter for two round layers and a rectangular cake. You slather the round layers in a whipped cream topping laden with crushed pineapple. Then you take small squares of the rectangular cake and insert them in the whipped cream topping all over the frosted cake. Sift powdered sugar over the cake and top it with a cherry, and you’ve got a sweet one-of-a-kind birthday treat.
Alice Brydon thinks Meyer lemons were the culprit in Lynn Bell’s struggle with a recent lemon chess pie recipe. “They are not as acidic as Eureka lemons. I think it needs more acid to set properly,” Brydon says. “I think she (could) use the Meyers, if she increased the acidity by adding some white vinegar, perhaps a tablespoon. I had a similar problem with a lemon meringue pie that I made using Meyers. It failed to set. I never got around to trying it again with the addition of more acid, such as vinegar.”
Rita Brand of Santa Clara thinks the pie might just need to bake a bit longer. “I also had a bad first experience with the pie,” Brand says. “It needs to bake about 15 minutes longer. I bake until the center doesn’t jiggle when the pie is moved around. Refrigerate several hours before serving. If using a store-bought crust, make sure it is defrosted and room temperature. This is a fantastic pie. I love it. I use a very tart lemon; Meyers aren’t tart enough for me.”
Reading about the lemon chess pie prompted Jane Parks-McKay of Santa Cruz to ask for help with traditional chess pie recipes.
“In my late Mom’s recipe, it says not to worry if it appears like a pudding. In cooling, it will eventually set,” Parks-McKay says. “It does, but it seems sunken and not the prettiest after I let it cool. Does anyone have any recommendations on preventing sinking in the middle and also how to make the top prettier to serve on a pretty table?” If your recipe makes an attractive chess pie, please share. Chocolate chess pie recipes are welcome as well.