The Most Delicious Recipe by Julia Henry

My grandmother was famous for fixing recipes. She’d cut recipes out of the newspaper or a magazine, tape it to a index cards, and make notes on any changes she made. Happily, I have those notes and those recipes. Unhappily, I rarely can recreate the wonderfulness of her baked goods. But I persist.

In 1962 the Pillsbury Bake Off winner was a Chocolate Intrigue Cake.

[] My mother and my grandmother both made the cake, and it is my sister’s favorite. I make it for her every year on her birthday. Here’s the Pillsbury recipe:

Chocolate Intrigue Cake recipe (pound cake)

Ingredients3 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cup sugar
1/3 pounds (1-1/3 sticks) butter
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup (1/2 can) Hershey chocolate syrup
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon mint extract


  1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk mixed with vanilla alternately with flour mixture; cream well.
  2. Put 2/3 of the batter into a greased and floured tube pan. Add to remaining batter: 3/4 cup (1/2 can) Hershey chocolate syrup, baking soda and mint extract. Spoon over batter. Be careful not to mix. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 60-70 minutes.

Here are the changes my grandmother made.

  1. No mint extract. This was likely a “so and so doesn’t like mint” decision. I can’t imagine it with mint, and can only imagine my sister’s face if I decided to add it one year.
  2. 1 cup of margarine. Not butter.
  3. She also suggested baking it for 45 minutes, then covering it with foil for the remaining 20-25 minutes.
  4. A few years ago I used butter instead, and it was dry. I also used lowfat milk once, and it was dry. This cake moves to dry easily. My sister loves this cake, and the dry years are a disappointment to all.
  5. This year it was close to a success. Close. I had to turn it out before it was cool, so the top got stuck in the pan. My sister had a pile of crumbs for her birthday. Delicious crumbs, but nevertheless, crumbs.

I owe her a cake.

Post-retirement aches and pains can’t prevent sixty-five-year-old Lilly Jayne from keeping the most manicured garden in Goosebush, Massachusetts. But as a murder mystery blooms in the sleepy New England town, can a green thumb weed out a killer?

With hundreds flocking to her inaugural garden party, meticulous Lilly Jayne hasn’t left a single petal out of place. But the picture-perfect gathering turns unruly upon the arrival of Merilee Frank, Lilly’s ex-husband’s catty third wife. Merilee lives for trouble, so no one is surprised after she drinks too much, shoves a guest into the koi pond, and gets escorted off the property. The real surprise comes days later—when Merilee is found dead in a pile of mulch . . .

Lilly wishes she could stick to pruning roses and forget about Merilee’s murder—until her best friend and ex become suspects in an overgrown homicide case. Now, aided by the Garden Squad, an unlikely group of amateur crime solvers with a knack for planting, Lilly knows she has limited time to identify the true culprit and restore order to Goosebush. Because if the murderer’s plot isn’t nipped in the bud, another victim could be pushing up daisies!