Happy Birthday, Grandma! (With German Chocolate Filled Cupcake recipe)

Today is my grandmother’s birthday! I’m so blessed to be visiting her today to celebrate with her! Growing up, my grandmother was a huge fixture in my life. I have many memories of spending time with her when I was younger.

Grandma holding me the day I was born. 

At one point when I was younger, I would spend the night at my grandparents’ house every Friday. Sometimes, my mother would drop me off at grandma’s workplace at the time. I would sit in her office and file paperwork, or at least, pretend I was. After grandma would get off of work, we’d go home and spend time together. I had two nightgowns at my grandmother’s house… one was brown flannel, and one was satin and pink. Each Saturday morning, we would clean up the house, just the basic tasks like washing windows and dusting. I would wear my brown flannel gown and pretend to be Cinderella, and then when the cleaning was finished, I’d change into the pink gown because, to me, it looked more like a ball gown or pretty gown, and it meant my Cinderella transformation was complete.

Visiting Grandma one day.

Grandma and I would also often play restaurant. She would get a notepad of paper and pen, and write down my “order” for breakfast. As I grew up, when my grandmother moved to an apartment, much closer to our favorite bookstore, it was not unusual for me to spend a weekend with her, and wake up in the morning, head to the bookstore when it opened at 10, sit around reading and drinking coffee drinks, and stay there until 10 at night when they would close up and ask us to leave. At the bookstore, I would often get a huge stack of books and read a chapter of each, pruning it down from about 20 to 5 or 6. It was nothing for us to spend a full day there, and as I ran around the store reading chapters of various books to decide which ones I wanted, she would instead sit there with one book, typically a Sue Grafton novel, and read the entire thing.

In addition to helping foster my love of reading by taking me to bookstores for long hours (Borders was our favorite, and we were both so sad to see it go), my grandmother also inspired a great love for theatre by taking me to many, many theatre productions. I can’t even count the number of productions of West Side Story I’ve seen anymore.

On the way to a theatre production.

One of my favorite anecdotes about my grandmother is the time we went on a cruise when I was younger. My parents shared one cabin, and my grandmother and I shared the other. Our cabin had a window, and one day when we were docking in the Bahamas, we woke early to watch out our window. Because the cruise had free room service, we ordered breakfast, and sat and ate breakfast as we watched our boat come into port. After enjoying our breakfast by the window, we started to get tired, and decided to go back to bed for a few hours. We woke up, we ordered breakfast like we did every morning, and halfway through, we realized that we were eating breakfast for the second time. On many occasions, we have thought back on that day fondly, talking about the day we ate breakfast twice.

In the Bahamas, on the beach near the Atlantis resort.

A couple of years ago, we had the good fortune to travel on a bus tour to New York City. It was my second visit to the city, but her first. It was incredible traveling with her, my aunt Carol, and Uncle Freeman. We were able to explore the city and really have a lot of fun seeing everything New York City had to offer. Our hotel was within walking distance of both Central Park and Times Square. It was about five blocks from Times Square, and five in the opposite direction to Central Park. It was just incredible to get to see the city, and the travel there was a lot of fun. I took so many photographs on that trip!

On the bus to New York City.

My grandmother was the fifth child born into her family of all girls. She had four older sisters, Faye, Carol, Glenda, and Carlene, with her being the fifth. Each time, her parents came up with a name for a male child, and each time, it was a female and they had to adjust it. Faye was Norma Faye, her male counterpart name being Norman. Carol Dean, naturally, was supposed to be a Dean had she been a boy. Glenda Maye was a Glen. Carlene’s male counterpart name was Carl, and Myria Francis, well, was to be Francis. They grew up in a small town in Missouri, called Seymour.

Clockwise from top left: Carol, Glenda, Carlene, my Grandmother Myria, Faye

Recently, I began interviewing my grandparents about their lives and their childhoods, curating stories to document for the future. I got to hear some incredible stories about my grandmother’s childhood, and I want to share them with you, in her own words.

My grandmother, seated on her mother’s lap, with her parents and sisters.

Faye once made me get a spanking, but it wasn’t my fault. Mother had gone in to take a nap, and told Faye to watch us, since she was the oldest. So, with the mean old sisters I had, I asked if I could go down to Grandma Davis’ house, since she lived just over a block away. Faye said I could go, so I did. When mother woke up, she asked where I had gone, and Faye said “I don’t know. She was here, and then she just left. She didn’t say anything to me. She just left.” So, other came looking for me, and found me at Grandma Davis’ and spanked me all the way home.

I must take this point to share that, many times, Grandma mentions having “mean old sisters.” Grandma and her sisters are incredibly close. Faye passed away as a result of complications from ALS, and Carlene passed away of cancer. Both of those losses still weigh very heavily on our family’s hearts, and especially my grandmother’s. But her sisters, oh, her sisters. She loves them more than anything, and so when she says things like that, it’s always very tongue-in-cheek.

Grandma also told me a story once about her walk to school, which provides some insight into those “Uphill Both Ways” tales.

I always walked to school. All of us girls did, and we had to cross the railroad track. There was even an incline up to the railroad track. When we were growing up and would have to cross that, it seemed like it was so high. When it was icy, it would be impossible to get up the incline! Then, 20 to 30 years later, we went back there, to walk up the incline, and it was barely an incline at all.

My grandmother, the entire time I’ve known her, has had some very precocious qualities to her. The story below, I think, really features that in her.

I skipped school one time, I was in grade school. Well, it was before we moved to Springfield, so I guess it was grade school. I was so smart, that when I skipped school, where do you think I went? To my granma and granddad Sims, which was across town. I don’t know how they did it, because they didn’t have a phone, but soon, Daddy showed up at their house. The principal had a paddle that was about two feet long, and had little holes drilled into it, so when I came back to school the next day, I was called into the principal’s office. What was really bad about that is the principal and his wife were close friends with my parents and would come over to my parents’ house. When I got called into the office, he handed me a pen, because whenever you were paddled at school, you had to write your name on the paddle. I knew, just knew, I was going to get paddled. I wrote my name on it, and he said “This is just a warning. Don’t do it again.” So, luckily I didn’t get a spanking. But, yeah, I just had to go to my grandparents’ house when I was skipping school, didn’t I.

My grandmother, a precocious little girl.

I’ll leave you with just one more anecdote about her today. I also got the opportunity to hear a little bit about each of my grandmother’s parents, so she could tell me some special things she remembered about them.

My dad was a very smart, learned, educated man. Not formally educated, but self-educated, especially on the Bible. He was a very kind man, loved music. He sang bass in several different quartets and performed and sang solos in church. He was a very good singer. He loved his family very much and always made sure he provided for them. He worked for a milk company, worked several years for Carnation, then Cloverleaf for a little while, and retired working at Highland. He taught five daughters how to drive. He raised his five daughters to fear God and have a personal relationship with Him. My mother was very quiet, a very quiet person. She had a fantastic sense of humor. She loved life, loved her family, and just enjoyed life, truly enjoyed it. She was a great cook. I probably resemble my mother the most, except I’m not nearly the cook that she was. But I’m probably most like my mother.

My grandmother’s “mother and daddy.”

My grandmother is a huge part of my life, and someone I love quite a bit. She truly is a wonderful person and a great influence on my life. It’s harder now that she has moved three hours away, because I grew up spending a lot of time with her when I was younger, but she and I still enjoy spending time together and I love the great memories I’ve had with her.

Here are a few other fun photographs I was able to find of my grandmother.

(I’m always making fun of her curtains in the image above).

Happy birthday to you, Grandma! I cannot thank you enough for the support and love that you’ve given me through the years. I appreciate your comments on my blog and all of the support you’ve given me with my blogging and my goals for the future. I love you, Grandma!

For my grandmother’s birthday, I decided to make some very special cupcakes. My grandmother loves German Chocolate Cake. Fun fact, it’s actually not from Germany, but instead is named after Sam German, the man who created the chocolate that was once used in the recipe. I decided to do a pseudo-German chocolate filled cake. My cake recipe is modified off of one from Hershey’s website. It’s based off of their recipe to their “Perfectly Chocolate” cake.

The recipe kind of sounded a little odd to me, but it is truly a very soft, moist, and incredibly chocolate cake. Bear with me, as odd as the recipe sounds, it produces one of the best sets of cupcakes I’ve ever made.

2 Cups Sugar
1 ¾ Cups All-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 Cup cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
1 Cup milk
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 C boiling water

Start by heating your oven to 350 degrees F. Fill your cupcake tin with liners, or grease it. I prefer using liners because it’s easier for batter to crawl up the paper than it is for it to cling to a metal pan, so cupcakes baked with a liner rise higher.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, pudding, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add your eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla, then beat for a couple of minutes. Stir in the vinegar quickly to activate the baking soda. Now pour in your boiling water. It will make for a very thin batter. At first, it kind of made me nervous how thin it was, but it ended up making some great cupcakes, so don’t get too worried about it! Plus, the batter smells incredible after you pour that water in!

Fill your cups between 2/3 and ¾ of the way full with the batter. Bake them for 25 minutes, and cool completely.

For the filling, I decided to use a modified version of the Coconut Pecan Frosting from Back To Her Roots. Her frosting recipe tasted delicious, but it was sort of soupy, which is why I provided for the modification below. However, if her recipe comes out perfectly for you, you may not end up having to use my modified technique and may be able to use the frosting perfectly like she did. Her recipe was positively incredible, though, even soupy, which is why I decided to use it instead of switching to a different recipe.

3 Egg Yolks
1 Cup packed brown sugar
12 tablespoons butter (1 ½ sticks), cut into pats
1 (12 oz) can Evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of Salt
1 ½ cups pecans, chopped
2 cups toasted flake coconut (I used sweetened, but her recipe calls for unsweetened. I would say it’s up to your personal preference).

Combine your yolks, evaporated milk, butter, and brown sugar in your medium saucepan, keeping the heat low. Cook and stir constantly until the butter is melted, and all ingredients combine completely. Remove from heat.

Stir in your vanilla and salt, and then add coconut and pecans. Stir until it’s well-combined. Transfer this to a bowl and refrigerate until it’s cool throughout. Make sure you allow for a lot of time for this to stay in the refrigerator. I refrigerated mine for 10 hours. If you can get it to go overnight, that would be best.

If, after refrigerating it for a very long time, it’s still soupy, grab a strainer and strain off all of the excess liquid. I’m going to tell you right now, you should save it, because the liquid is incredible for coffee, ice cream, everything. It is a truly delicious liquid.

To fill the cupcakes, you need to grab a sharp knife, cut into the cupcake at an angle (about 45 degree angle) and cut a cone shape out of the middle of the cupcake. If you cut it too deep, you might puncture the bottom of the cupcake, and that would be bad news, so make sure you’re careful to cut into the cupcake deep enough to give you a lot of filling, but not so deep that there’s no cupcake to go with it.

Once you’ve got the cone out of the cupcake, fill ‘er up with that delicious coconut pecan filling.

Grab the part of the cupcake you cut out, and cut the cone shape off so you’re left with a flat piece. Put that on top of the filling, and viola, you’re back to an easy-to-frost surface.

Back to her roots also has an incredible ganache recipe on her website that you could choose to frost your cupcakes with. I tried to make it, twice, and it was pure liquid, even after letting it stay in the fridge for about 7 hours (her recipe suggests two). If you can get the ganache to work (and I’m sure it does… I’m just ganache-challenged). Worst-case scenario, if her ganache doesn’t work, then you can put about 5 spoonfuls into a cup, and add your coffee… instant mocha!

Because the ganache didn’t work, I have a confession… I used some store-bought icing to use on the top. I grabbed my star tip, my decorating bag (it’s fancy. I take a quart-sized Ziploc, cut a corner off, nest my star tip in it, and spoon the frosting in), and my favorite Duncan Hines chocolate icing. I’m pretty brand-loyal when it comes to store-bought frostings, and Duncan Hines is where it’s at. I whipped up the icing so it would be nice and fluffy, and I piped it onto my cupcakes. Then, I took it that extra step and sprinkled each cupcake with a little touch of coconut (the coconut also helped so I could tell the filled and un-filled cupcakes apart… my little brother isn’t a fan of coconut and pecans, so I left several cupcakes unfilled for him).

And that, my friends, is my perfect kind-of German chocolate filled cupcakes. I hope some of you will be able to use this recipe in order to make a birthday special for someone as special to me as my grandmother!

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4 comments

  1. This is the sweetest post ever. I love all those anecdotes you have about your grandma! I’m not sure I could come up with as many lovely stories as you do. Anyway, this just made me smile! Happy birthday to your grandma.

    Oh, and those cupcakes…. Yummmmmmm! I didn’t read the instructions at first, I just looked at the pix and when I saw the coconut/pecan filling, I thought it was… wait for it… sauerkraut!! Then I remembered you said it wasn’t german, so it couldn’t be sauerkraut. The fact that it would have been simply disgusting didn’t occur to me, just the fact that it wasn’t german. Oh man, I should get back to sleep (and have a second breakfast)! LOL

  2. This is so wonderful. I would tell you how much but I can’t see my keyboard for the tears. I love you so much.

  3. This is such a wonderful depiction of your Grandmother. I see her each week at church, as well the “sisters”, they are so much fun to be around and an experience to have know for many years. And to see the pictures of your Great Grandparents, who I also remember. You are so blessed to be part of such a great heritage. And your Grandmother tells many stories of times spent with you too. You are both truly blessed.

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