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While the old adage "don't judge a book by its cover" has its merits, many of my purchases have been made because I couldn't resist the lure of a finely made bright orange box or the lustrous binding of a hardcover novel. I blame the 80s and their thinly veiled She-Ra Princess of Power and Strawberry Shortcake cartoons that weren't at all about feminine empowerment but instead about honing women's innate shopaholism.
Bright lights and shiny trinkets are nothing compared to the enticement of the written word, however. I used to read aloud to myself, carefully savoring each word, rolling it around in my mouth like a smooth orb of hard candy. Reading about food was an even more palpable and delicious treat; I could taste an exotic, ripe pulpy fruit or a briny, fresh-cracked oyster that could make me feel the splash of a freezing cold wave on my face.
Calico crumb cake...I like the hard staccato of the "c" at the back of your throat; like the crack of a walnut shell when its bitten down by a nutcracker doll. The phrase also conjures up the comfort of a warm kitchen glowing in candlelight—probably a scene from a book I read long ago.
This cake is adapted from a recipe that appeared in the Better Homes & Gardens Pies and Cakes (1972 edition). A single note preceded the recipe: "Flavor will remind you of a hot fudge sundae." I needed no further persuading.
Calico crumb cake is marbled vanilla-and-chocolate and sprinkled with a walnut-sugar mixture. Quick-as-lightning to make, I can see it flying off a bake sale table—or kitchen counter, as it did in my case. I couldn't resist; the flavor recalled those supermarket snack cakes that are lunchbox fillers. And served warm, it does make a nice bed for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
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