Kay Dell’s Famous Cake

PrintI just received the carrot cake recipe. THE RECIPE. Direct from Kay Dell. This blog post came to mind after I sent a message to my high school home-ec teacher, Kay Dell Parratt (Mrs. Nelson in those days). It turns out, when I was typing my message to Kay Dell on my phone, she was in the process of writing a newsy letter to me! We have kept in touch since high school (class of ’72) off and on, and we send newsy, hand-written, sketchy (as in sketches and doodling) letters to each other. And rolling pinI’m especially lucky because I always have a reminder of Kay Dell in my kitchen: the wedding present she gave to my husband and I almost 44 years ago – our trusty Foley rolling pin, complete with ball bearings to make a perfect pie crust (okay, I’ve discovered Pillsbury ready-to-roll crusts) and yearly Christmas cut-out cookies. That rolling pin got even more of a workout after our two kids came along. I may have misplaced the cake recipe, but ahhhh, that rolling pin – she still has lots of life in ‘er.

Kay Dell and I often include copies of photos in our correspondence because, well… bragging about our loved ones and favorite things that happened during the year is part of friendship and kinship, right? Kay Dell’s mention of my dad and/or mom in her beautifully penned letters always seems to end with  my hand on my heart and a smile on my face as I read her sweet memories of Ralph & Margaret. KayDellEnvelopeMy dad taught PE and coached Track & Field at Great Falls High School from about 1968 to 1984 (if my memory is correct). And Kay Dell was on the teaching staff and they became lifelong friends. Obviously they were good judges of character and they valued each other as friends.

Back to the recipe. (If you can’t stand the suspense, scroll to the bottom.) I sent Kay Dell a message asking if she still had her carrot cake recipe that she shared with probably every one of her students. One of my Facebook friends, a high school chum Roxanne, asked if I had the recipe, which reminded me that I really needed to ask/beg for another copy. And I knew Kay Dell would say yes. I don’t know if I had ever tasted carrot cake until home-ec class with Kay Dell, despite having a mother who baked homemade stuff all the time. It was delicious, moist (from the pineapple) and I became a fan. As I type this, I’m picturing our home-ec classroom: Per my recollection it seemed about halfway between the front entrance of GFHS and the wooden phone booth by the main office. Our little teams at the classroom cooking stations grated carrots like nobody’s business. We measured, sifted, chopped, learned the difference between a dry measure and a liquid measure, cleaned up our messes, probably licked our fingers, and kept on task with time leftover for a few belly laughs because after all… we were Kay Dell’s kiddos. Right? Her energetic, smiling self in her colorful dresses and skirts made us want to please her – the queen of home-ec teachers. (I actually sewed my kind-of simple ’70’s wedding dress during the sewing portion of home-ec, under Kay Dell’s watchful eye. Side note, do younger people even know what home-ec is?) Our Kay Dell just didn’t type out a recipe and run it through the mimeograph machine (circa many moons ago) on plain white 20# bond. Oh, noooooo. Her not-so-secret desire to be an artist or art teacher was obvious on our salmon, light pink or mint green 8-1/2 x 11 recipe sheets, with her flourishes of vines, doodles and squiggles, and beautiful calligraphy styles and bubble letters detailing her prized recipes.

Kay Dell’s interesting, funny and heartfelt stories were food for thought in life, not just in the kitchen. I’m not sure even now, with her bazillion FB friends, that she realizes how much her students benefited from her genuine kindness, giving nature, and creativity. I sure did, and still do. I’ve had many an occasion when preparing for company I’ve thought, WWKDD, or “what would Kay Dell do?”

The wait is over. Here’s the recipe link for the delectable Kay Dell’s 14 Carat Cake. PrintBest carrot cake ever from one of the best people ever. It’s a PDF, so download, print, and start shredding those carrots, people! And Kay Dell – thanks again for the recipe! Luv ya!!


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