My Aunt Mary was my grandmother’s younger sister. Actually, she was the middle one. My Aunt Angie was the youngest. Aunt Mary was the baker in the family. She was a wonderful cook as well, but when it came to baked goods, Aunt Mary knew what she was doing. Her signature cakes were cassata Catanese (Italian Cheesecake) Mpanada, and she made a killer butter bundt cake.
* Nutella is one of the greatest additions from Italy to the culinary world!! Nutella didn’t make its way onto American grocery shelves until sometime around 1983. So the Nutella marble is my addition to Aunt Mary’s Butter Cake.
One day when I was in the third grade my mother was not going to be home when I got out for lunch. She made arraignments for me to go over my Aunt Mary’s house for lunch. My Aunt lived halfway between Our Lady of Guadalupe, where I went to school, and my house. She rented the first floor of a two family house on 16th Avenue and 75th Street. Her and my Uncle Sal lived there for quite a while until they retired and built a house on their “farm” in Long Island near Babylon. The farm in Long Island amounted to about an acre of land with a garage on it. We used to go up there during the summer. My Aunt and Uncle would go on weekends. It was their getaway spot.
I walked to my aunt’s house from school and saw her standing by her front gate waiting for me. I was expected. I was able to cross the streets OK but the avenues were another matter. My aunt came up to the curb and made sure the way was clear before I crossed 16th Avenue to get to her house. She gave me a big hug and a wet kiss on my cheek and led me into her apartment for lunch.
My aunt was all of 4 1/2 feet tall, about the same height as my grandmother. Four and a half feet tall but built like a tank. A rotund body with arms the thickness of my thighs. At 9 years old I was almost as tall as her. Aunt Mary’s hair was silver-grey. She loved to kiss me and my brother, and my brother Richard would always run away from her because he couldn’t stand anyone kissing him. I always had the honor of Aunt Mary squeezing my cheeks. She loved to do that as well. I always liked going over Aunt Mary’s apartment. I loved seeing her as well as her parakeet Chippy. My Aunt Mary always had a parakeet for as long as I can remember. Chippy was with her for a long time. As I walked in Chippy would be chirping like crazy, welcoming me. Once my aunt closed the door to her apartment she would let Chippy outside of its cage and allow it to stand on top. My aunt would balance Chippy on her index finger and bring her face close to Chippy’s beak and give it a kiss. Chippy would chirp like crazy when she did that. Chippy would also go to the edge of the sink and take a drink of water when my aunt ran the faucet.
There on the table was my lunch all prepared. That day my Aunt Mary made me a tuna fish sandwich on a hard roll. She made the tuna like my grandma, with just some olive oil, lemon juice and some bits of lemon peel and chopped red onion. I loved it that way. Went great with the hard roll. Once I was finished with my sandwich I knew I would be in for a real treat for dessert. On top of her kitchen table was a large plate which looked like her butter cake covered in foil.
No sooner did I take my last bite of my sandwich, Aunt Mary was cutting me a thick slice of her moist and buttery cake. She put it on a plate and filled my glass with cold milk. I couldn’t wait. Aunt Mary joined me for lunch so she was enjoying her cake right along with me. She even gave a few crumbs to Chippy.
Aunt Mary’s Butter Cake with Nutella
- 1 box of Duncan Hines Butter Cake mix
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 stick of sweet butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1- 13 ounce jar of Nutella, place sealed jar in a bowl of hot tap water to help soften
Grease and flour a tube or bundt pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time . Beat for one minute. Mix in the rest of the ingredients together, except for the Nutella, and beat on high-speed for 4 minutes.
Pour half into the prepared tube pan.
Top with half of the Nutella. The Nutella should pour like a melted chocolate if you kept it in the hot water long enough.
Add the other half of the batter and top with the rest of the Nutella.
Swirl with a butter knife. Do not over mix, you just want a marble effect. Bake 45-55 minutes. Poke a knife into the center of the cake. When it comes out clean, it’s done.
Cool and remove from the pan. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.