How to Bake a Three-Day Cake

This year, as in several years past, I'll be spending Thanksgiving with my Mayflower cousins the Hechts. They love my three-day cake, some white trash cookin' that is really the sweetest piece of concrete you'll ever eat. Here's how I make it (after having purchased all the ingredients):


Put on a good old Humphrey Bogart movie.

Search for old Sunbeam mixer Coco gave me when she left The Tab way back in 1988 or so, including the replacement bowl after the original was mysteriously mislaid after that BPA function at Sidney's apartment in 1993.

Briefly suspect the Last Roommate of having tossed out the mixer in a fit of pique, as was his wont, but then reject the idea.


Find mixer at top of the pantry and move all the damn clutter on the floor to put in the stepstool so it can be retrieved.

Assemble other necessary utensils, including the T*****ware cake dome possibly purchased at that T*****ware drag brunch on Worcester Square in the early 1990s, Gramma's stamped metal measuring cups, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Casually grease two cake tins, not being too careful about greasing the bottom only, as indicated on the cake mix box.


Combine cake mix, three eggs, and vegetable oil in mixing bowl and comence mixing. Be sure to keep moving the batter away from the edge of the bowl.


Decide that the setting "One Bowl Cakes" best corresponds with "medium."

Realize that the sound of the mixer is drowning out the dialogue of your favorite scene with Mary Astor ("Oh, help me Mr. Spade, I need help so badly") but that it doesn't really matter since you've seen the film eleventy billion times anyway.


Lick a beater, like your mother used to let you do.


Pour batter into cake tins, attempting to get an equal amount into each tin.

Discover with horror a tiny pocket of cake mix that was not mixed into the batter. Stir by hand with the speed of guilt until completely mixed and add to cake tin.


Understand that your mother would NEVER leave that much batter in the bowl, and remind yourself that it's time to get a new rubber scraper.

Tap each cake tin against the counter a couple time to try to burst a few air bubbles inside the batter.

Toss cake tins into the oven and set timer for 30 minutes.

Wash dishes while waiting.


Take a peek halfway through to see how they look.

Search halfheartedly for toothpicks to test the cake layers, because deep down you know there aren't any in the house.

Take out hot pads, cooling rack, and the grooved bread knife purchased for that disastrous dinner party on Parkvale Avenue in 1988.

When timer goes off, turn off oven, examine cakes, and decide to leave them in the (off) oven for another five minutes, thereby eliminating need for a toothpick test.


After five minutes, remove cakes from oven and put on hot pads to begin cooling. Wait 15 minutes (recipe says ten minutes) and put in a load of laundry.

Assemble ingredients for filling: two cups sugar, two cups coconut, and two cups sour cream.

Add sugar and coconut to mixing bowl, making sure that there are no big clumps of coconut.


Discover with annoyance that you're one cup short of sour cream. Decide with resignation that it's the Official Thanksgiving Gesture to Low Fat.

Stir with forthrightness until sugar begins dissolving, creating a thick but flaky goo.


Reserve one cup of goo for the frosting.


Put on another good old Humphrey Bogart movie.


Now the fun begins! Approach smaller of two cake layers and carefully slice off rounded top so that cake will be flat.

Eat the top. Om nom nom.


Carefully slice cake layer in half horizontally. Accept with annoyed regret that a couple chunks will come off at the end, even while trying to keep the layers even.


Move layer to base of cake dome and spread filling across the top. Make sure to get all the way to the edges, just the way Mother would.

Repeat for remaining layers.

Break out the tub of non-dairy whipped topping, confirming that the tub size is not more than the recipe requires, unlike that one time . . .


Combine topping and reserved cup of goo in a mixing bowl and stir gently but with decision.


Begin frosting from the top.

Continue frosting the sides, remembering that gravity is not your friend.


Be sure to patch up any possible points of exposure.

Make feeble attempt to flatten the frosting, knowing that frosting made with non-dairy whipped topping can never be truly flat in the first place, and fully recognizing that everyone already knows you graduated from Cordon Bleah, not Cordon Bleu.


Et voila, le gateau!

Cover with cake dome and refrigerate undisturbed until Thanksgiving.

Look at all that unused frosting in the bowl and start getting ideas.


Enjoy ONLY ONE spoonful, not wanting to cut short your love affair with Size 36 so soon that you have to start courting Size 38.

Wash dishes and clean off kitchen counters, to make Mother proud.

Remove cake from refrigerator on Thanksgiving Day and bring to the Hechts.