I have come to think of the summer of 2012 as the summer of reminiscing.
I have spent an exceptionally large amount of time talking with folks about the foods of our past.
Did you ever notice how much time we devote to thinking about foods we can no longer get? Were they really that good? Or are we savoring our memories more than we actually savored those foods?
Barb Talevich, who owns Akron’s West Side Bakery, once told me that her customers often peer into her cases and say, “Oh, those look just like my grandmother’s.”
Her standard reply: “They aren’t as good as your grandma’s.”
How could they be?
Our mothers’ and grandmothers’ cakes and cookies were flavored with love. No one else’s will ever be as good, regardless of how they actually taste.
A friend of mine talks often of how much she misses her mother’s homemade yeast dinner rolls. When she makes them following her mother’s recipe, she swears they just aren’t the same. They aren’t as good. Maybe. But I suspect she really just misses her mother more than she misses the mark with the rolls.
My recent trip down memory lane came in the form of an email from Sharley Greer of Clinton.
Sharley is an avid cook and baker, who likes to garden and can. She was looking for a recipe for devil dogs.
“When I was growing up [in the 1950s], my mother was working for the City Bakery and would bring home a treat called a devil dog. These chocolate cake-like treats were in the shape of a hot dog bun with white icing in between, much like what many people call gobs, only in a different shape. Would you be able to get the City Bakery recipe for me? As I remember them, they were much better tasting than the gob recipes that are out there now,” Sharley wrote.
I’ve heard of City Bakery’s devil dog, but it was gone long before I arrived in Akron.
The good news is that I have a recipe for devil dogs; the bad news is that it isn’t the recipe for the original City Bakery’s. If anyone out there has that one, please send it and I’ll get it into print.
When I started researching devil dogs, I couldn’t help but think that they sounded exactly like whoopie pies (devil’s food cake with creamy white icing in the middle). In fact, I always thought that gobs and whoopie pies were the same confection, just going by different names.
Of course, whoopie pies and gobs are round and plenty of bakeries still sell them. But devil dogs were elongated. An interesting side note: Drake’s Devil Dogs are actually made in New Jersey and sold commercially by Hostess. They are, as you might imagine, an oblong chocolate cake sandwich with creamy white filling on the inside. They aren’t sold outside the northeastern U.S.
Maybe it was their hot dog shape that made City Bakery’s devil dogs so special. But Sharley, I wonder whether that taste you remember and crave has more to do with remembering your mom bringing them home as a special treat than the actual devil dog itself.
Here is that devil dog recipe, as promised. You’ll have to make them round, like a gob or a whoopie pie. I hope they taste as good as you remember.
⅔ cup solid vegetable shortening
1¼ cups sugar
2½ cups sifted flour
½ cup cocoa
1¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Whisk together the sifted flour, cocoa, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Stir vanilla into the milk. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk in three additions each, beating after each addition.
Drop batter by tablespoons onto greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool, then sandwich with filling.
2 cups powdered sugar
¾ cup solid vegetable shortening
2 egg whites (see note)
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until filling stands in soft peaks. Spread some filling on the flat side of a chocolate cake. Top with the flat side of another chocolate cake. Continue with remaining cakes and filling.
Note: This filling is made with raw eggs, which could contain salmonella bacteria. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems should consider using the whites of pasteurized eggs.
Makes about 1 dozen, depending on size.
— Jane Snow Cooks: Spirited Recipes & Stories, Jane Snow