I can’t count how many people have told me I need to publish “my” Hershey cake recipe every few years. I put “my” in quotes because that’s what readers have come to call it. But I have never baked a Hershey cake, or anything else for that matter. The only thing I’ve ever baked is a Pop Tart.
We’ve come to the point, though, where I think it is fair to call it my sister Sheila’s Hershey cake. She’s made hundreds, if not more than a thousand, of them over the years. And since Jan. 27 is her birthday, what better time to trot it out?
I first introduced the Hershey cake recipe in a column more than 30 years ago. It appeared on a Super Bowl Sunday under the headline “Super Sisters” and was offered as a reward for allowing me to brag about Sheila and my late sister Barbara, who will be gone 16 years this May. Independently of each other, my sisters had done exceptional charitable deeds during the previous Christmas season and I wanted to tell my readers how proud of them I was. But I was pretty sure the best way to turn off your readers was to go on about your family, so I struck a bargain. Let me talk about my sisters, I wrote, and I will give you a present.
The present was the Hershey cake recipe.
A few years ago, I asked Sheila how many Hershey cakes she’s baked since then. “What do you make,” I asked, “four or five a year? As many as ten?”
She laughed. “I made four last week,” she said. “Any time someone dies, I send a Hershey cake. Any time there is an event at work I bring a Hershey cake.”
While I may deserve credit for making the Hershey cake famous locally, and Sheila credit for filling Greater Pittston with them, the recipe really belongs to the late Nick and Johanna Vitale, or perhaps more accurately, their daughter Carol. Johanna, our neighbor, brought a Hershey cake to our house at the time of the death of my Uncle Buddy, my mom’s brother, in the mid-’70s. She said the recipe came from Carol, who lived in Hawaii.
Little did I know what a stir the first printing would cause. Ray Savokinas, who with his late brother Mike operated the legendary Savo’s Pizza, told me he went shopping
for the ingredients the Sunday morning the column appeared only to find several stores already had sold out of Hershey syrup. John R. Reap, a dignified elderly attorney from Avoca who served with me on the Salvation Army Board, said he made one himself.
A woman named Edith Nye, of Woodbine, Maryland, wrote to tell me she got her hands on the recipe and botched up her first attempt at making it because she substituted butter for stick margarine. But she made a second one and won the first prize and grand prize at the Maryland State Fair.
Perhaps my biggest surprise was getting to meet a childhood hero of mine, Carl Tunylas. I was 5 years old when Carl played on the legendary 1955 Pittston Little League All Star team that advanced to the state finals. My uncle was one of the coaches, so I wound up at several of the games. I remember Carl starring in sports in high school and hearing that he moved to Las Vegas, where he became somewhat of a legend around the casinos. He was always larger than life to me.
Several years ago, Carl was visiting locally and went out of his way to track me down and shake my hand, saying he was a big fan of my column. I was both humbled and flattered. And then he told me about his favorite: the Hershey cake one.
Really? Of the thousand columns I’d written, that was the one?
“I can’t tell you how many Hershey cakes I’ve made myself,” he went on. “And I’ve sent the recipe to a lot of people. It’s gone as far as California.”
So, here you go.
I really should attempt to whip one up for Sheila. But instead, I’ll just hope she makes one for herself. And invites me over.
1 stick margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 16-oz. can Hershey chocolate syrup
Cream margarine, sugar and vanilla; beat in eggs, one at a time, with a wooden spoon; add flour; mix well; add Hershey syrup. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes in a 9-by-12 (greased and floured) baking pan.
1 stick margarine
1 cup sugar
¼ cup milk
4 Hershey bars (plain)
Boil first three ingredients for 3 minutes; remove from stove and beat in Hershey bars. Spread on warm cake. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts or peanuts, if desired.
Note: The cake is not supposed to rise much. It is more like a brownie. I forgot to mention that in the first printing and people got concerned when it didn’t rise. Cut in small squares. And bring one to a Super Bowl party next Sunday.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.