My husband says his mother never chose what she baked by ease of recipe. If anything, he said, she picked recipes that were almost intentionally difficult.
And the woman knew how to dirty a dish.
The recipe for 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 cake isn’t all that difficult, especially if you prepare a few ingredients in advance, but it is multi-stepped and you will dirty some dishes. The dishes I used to bake this cake reads like a list of ingredients:
- 5 mixing bowls (6 if you count the one I sprinkled with flour by accident)
- 4 beater blades
- 3 spatulas
- 2 measuring cups
- 1 set of measuring spoons
- 1 whisk
- 1 sifter
- 2 wooden spoons
- and, of course, a cake pan
My friends, that’s just for the cake and does not include the frosting.
My husband called this cake a “family standard” when he was growing up and I baked it for his birthday yesterday upon his request. I think we all get a little hungry for tradition from time to time, and the recipe for 1-2-3-4 cake comes from grandma. When you look over the list of ingredients, the reasoning behind its name will be immediately apparent. The cake is rich and dense … so if anything, it’ll be better if slightly under cooked.
And the sentimental value of this cake was worth every dish.
Here’s the recipe:
One Two Three Four Cake
- one cup shortening
- two cups sugar
- three cups cake flour, sifted before measuring
- four eggs, separated
- one quarter teaspoon salt
- three teaspoons baking powder
- one cup milk
- one teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 baking pan.* Cream shortening, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. Add beaten egg yolks and blend until smooth. Sift flour and baking powder together and add to first mixture, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
*If using eight or nine inch round cake pans, bake for 35 – 40 minutes and cool on wire racks for ten minutes after baking. Remove from pans and cool completely before frosting.
Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Frosting
- one half cup butter, softened
- two thirds cup Hershey’s baking cocoa
- three cups confectionery sugar
- one third cup milk
- one teaspoon vanilla
Beat cocoa into softened butter. Alternately add confectionery sugar with milk. Add vanilla and beat to desired consistency. Add more milk or sugar if necessary.