I waxed nostalgic yesterday. The kids and I had nothing scheduled in the morning; I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I decided to get out the box of my maternal grandmother’s recipes in search of one for pineapple dump cake. I don’t know why. I have some theories, but they’d fill another post altogether. Maybe it’s just because I had some crushed pineapple in the pantry. Whatever the reason, on the first totally free day the kids and I have had this summer, I blew most of it rifling through the mound of newspaper clippings and handwritten slips of paper looking for one fairly usable recipe out of the many pineapple dump cake recipes my grandmother saved. I haven’t looked through her recipe collection since I inherited it 12 years ago, but what sticks in my memory is the plethora of pineapple dump cake recipes she had. Why did she have so many? Moreover, since she seemed to like that dish enough to collect multiple recipes for it, why don’t I remember her ever making it? I have vivid memories of her making me butter and sugar sandwiches on white bread with the crusts cut off for a snack, but no dump cake. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever had even one bite of pineapple dump cake in my life. But yesterday, that all changed. I baked a cake that reminded me of my grandmother even though I have no actual memory of her making it or me eating it. Funny how memory works?
So I embarked on my trip down memory lane with dreams of channeling all the warm fuzzies of my grandmother from Fort Worth into my Austin kitchen.
This is the “dump” part of the dump cake; you dump all the ingredients into one bowl: flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, eggs, vanilla, crushed pineapple.
My daughter stirred the batter. So far, so good. The batter was yummy.
Here’s the cake cooling.
The finished cake. As with so many of my baking projects, I started this late in the day and so lost the natural light for good photographs.
And now the taste test. I am so ready to take a bite of this and be instantly transported back to the late 70s to my grandmother’s den in Fort Worth with the orange shag carpet and the Price is Right with Bob Barker and her white poodle and swimming in her awesome in-ground pool with a slide and, and…
Yuck. Yes, I said yuck. I don’t like it. It’s too chewy, too sweet, too gooey, and all not in good ways. I can’t believe it, I was so ready to dissolve into one big blob of sentimentality with one bite of this cake. I’m disappointed, but not surprised. The texture and taste are reminiscent of many desserts that ladies in my grandmother’s circle seemed to favor. I wonder if my grandmother liked this dish? Maybe she didn’t either and that’s why I don’t remember her making it. Maybe she had the recipe because it was one she felt obliged to have, like I imagine tomato aspic was. I’m actually kind of glad the recipe flopped for me; it broke the over-romanticized memories I had conjured up for myself yesterday, and brought my grandmother back down to the human that she was. A wonderful human, yes, but just a human all the same.
Love you and miss you, Mimi, pineapple dump cake and all. I think I’ll go make myself a butter and sugar sandwich.