The rich history of a family’s rich cake

Most moms hold memories and recipes close to their hearts, especially ones with family history and ingredients that include chocolate.

Maryville mom Lillie Nester is raising a 13- and a 6-year-old. She is co-owner of Griffitts Drilling & Seals, a business that manufactures a ground water well product her grandfather invented. At home, Nester manufactures her grandmother’s often reinvented recipes.

The Blount Moms Today reader shared her recipe for Weary Willie Cake and the history behind it.

Weary Willie Cake

By Lillie Nester

My grandma grew up on a farm on Mint Road in Maryville during the Depression. As farmers, their largest family meal of the day, which they called dinner, occurred at lunch time. Evening supper was a very subdued event.

At her house, when I was a child, supper might include leftover mashed potatoes from dinner, mixed with a bit of flour to make them thick and fried in the cast iron skillet on the stove. Talk about comfort food! Sometimes supper would be popcorn. And sometimes grandma would have a craving and make Weary Willie Cake for supper.

I remember that usually she poured the batter into a muffin tin, and you would have one (ok, maybe two) of these little Weary Willie cakes with a big glass of milk for your supper.

I think what makes this memory so endearing now is that those evenings at her house were so calm and quiet. As the sun set, a hush would fall in that house, which was like being wrapped in your favorite quilt. Even the smell of the house changed. This scenario is in complete juxtaposition to evenings at my house now. We get home from school and work, then we have Scouts, sports and music lessons; homework, baths and laundry, dinner, packing tomorrow’s lunches and setting the coffee maker because I can’t function well enough at 5:30 a.m. to make it then. I wish that I could take an evening and just refuse to let our house spiral into chaos, turn the lights down and the TV off and make Weary Willie cakes for supper.

I have always assumed that the name of the recipe derived from the Emmet Kelley hobo character, like maybe it’s so easy that he could make it or because it calls for so few ingredients and isn’t fancy. A quick internet search proved my theory wrong, as it seems it has been around since the early 1900s. I have no explanation for why ours is chocolate though. I suppose perhaps it is because my great-grandmother had a love of chocolate. I can’t imagine what it would have been like back then to have a chocolate craving and not have a bag of Dove minis stashed away above the fridge. I guess necessity really is the mother of invention.

Weary Willie Cake

Melt 2 squares baking chocolate and 2 Tablespoons butter over low heat on the stove. Break an egg into a 1-cup measure and fill the rest of the cup with milk

Sift together 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 cup of sugar and 1 heaping teaspoon of baking powder. Add milk and egg to sifted dry ingredients and beat well. Add melted chocolate, butter and beat.

Pour into a greased and floured 8-inch round pan

Bake at 375 for 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve for supper.

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