**Originally posted on November 17, 2013**
This is a cake I cannot take any credit for. Everyone, meet my Grandma Christensen. Otherwise known as Zoe (rhymes with boy, not zoh-ee), otherwise nicknamed Zeke and Zed with Grandpa (I’m still not sure which is which…).
On Sunday, November 17, 2013, it will mark 10 years since the passing of this incredible woman. If there is anyone, besides my mom, that I strive to be like, it’s my Grandma C. She was the most loving, compassionate, kind, happy, friendly, service oriented person I know. She also had mad skills in the kitchen.
She was more than just a Grandma to me, she was a friend. In fact, we were pen pals. I loved getting letters and I loved to write, so I wrote a letter to Grandma every week. And she sent one back to me, every week. I always knew it was from her because of her distinct handwriting and because she always folded the paper the same way: in half horizontally and then in thirds vertically.
When I was 10 years old, I flew on an airplane by myself from Kansas City to Oklahoma. I stayed with my Dad’s parents there for a couple days and then they drove me down to Texas to visit my Grandma C. I loved spending a week at her house by myself! One of the clearest memories I have of that trip was when we went dress shopping. She wanted to buy me a dress, so we went to Ross and I picked out a navy blue with white polka dots dress. I don’t remember where it is now or what it really looked like, but I loved that shopping trip with her.
Grandma was a master in the kitchen. She never really followed a recipe and mostly just threw in a dash here and a pinch there. But she made the best food in the world. There was always something delicious to eat at Grandma’s and most of the time it was something sweet. Some of her most famous treats are Homemade Caramels, hand pulled Honey Candy, and Idle Isle Chocolates. Nobody in the family could make those candies like Grandma could.
Not long before she passed away, we were visiting her and Grandpa in Utah for one last time. Even though she was sick from cancer and treatments, she still came out and helped me and my sisters and Mom make Honey Candy. I know she was exhausted and it took everything she had to make the candy, but she did it. For us. And I will never forget that day. It was the best Honey Candy I’ve ever eaten in my life.
I haven’t yet mastered any of her candy, but my sister has mastered the Idle Isles and my Aunt has mastered the Caramels. Maybe I should master the Honey Candy? One thing I can make though, that vividly pulls me back to the warm, summer visits in Utah, is Lemon Pudding Poke Cake.
Grandma was a master at taking something simple and seemingly uninteresting and transforming it into something beautiful. I always thought this Lemon Cake was full of hard labor in the kitchen when in fact, it’s simply a glorified box cake mix! It tastes like so much more than that, and that is what makes it so special.
If anyone taught me to love butter, it was my Grandma C. We put butter on everything. Every time we went to visit her in Texas, there was always a huge bag of hard rolls and a stick of butter. After giving hugs and saying hello, we would run to the kitchen for a roll with butter. It still remains a family favorite snack among my Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins. We learned there could never be too much butter.
Grandma also taught me the beauty that lies in fresh fruit with cream. Strawberries, raspberries, peaches, you name it. Fill a bowl with fresh fruit, pour some cream over top, add a pinch of sugar, and you have the best tasting breakfast, snack, or dessert you could ask for. Even my Mom grew up on fruit and cream, for breakfast. There can never be too much cream, either.
Aside from cooking, my Grandma taught me how to love and serve other people. She was always calling someone to say hello, fixing dinner to take to someone, lending a helping hand, or just being a shoulder to cry on. She led a selfless life devoted to making others feel joy and happiness. In doing so, I think she became one of the happiest, most cheerful people I’ve ever come across.
I loved my Grandma dearly, and wanted so badly for her to be at my wedding and to say that she was proud of who I’d become. Though she wasn’t there in body, I know without a doubt she was there in spirit. And I know she was, and is, incredibly proud of who I am. I just hope that I can continue to carry on her legacy of love, service, joy, and dang good cooking!
- 1 box cake mix, lemon, yellow, or white
- 1 ,4 oz. box INSTANT, lemon pudding mix
- ¾ cup water
- ½ cup oil
- 4 eggs
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- ¼-1/2 cup lemon juice
- Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, water, and oil in a large bowl or stand mixer. Beat to combine.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for 1-2 minutes after each egg, until full incorporated. (One minute in a stand mixer, 2 minutes with hand beaters). Batter will be light and fluffy.
- Pour cake batter into a greased, 9 x 13 pan, and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes, or until cake is done.
- Whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice to create a glaze. Start with less lemon juice and add as desired until consistency and flavor is desirable.
- When the cake is finished, immediately poke holes all over the top down to the bottom. Pour glaze over top of the cake, making sure to get into holes and completely cover the cake. Cool and enjoy.