HOWLAND - Someday, Amber Peterson would like to go to culinary school in New York and eventually own a restaurant.
But first, she has to pass Grandma's class.
On a recent afternoon after school, Amber and Mae Etta Peterson have all their ingredients for a Triple Chocolate Torte Cake set out neatly in small glass bowls. The younger Peterson is wearing a pink and black apron that says "Will cook for shoes," while her Grandma's is a remembrance from a family reunion held in Crenshaw County, Ala.
Mae Etta Peterson, left, and her granddaughter Amber Peterson, 17, check the batter for their Triple Chocolate Torte Cake.
The high school junior said she's been interested in cooking since she was about 6 years old - one year, her Halloween costume consisted of chef's jacket, hat and pants.
Back then, when Mae Etta Peterson discovered her granddaughter's culinary passion, this woman who doesn't like a mess in her kitchen opened her cupboards and changed her philosophy.
"I never let my kids cook - I wouldn't let my kids in the kitchen," she said. "I'm humbling myself for my granddaughter."
A.M.P. Triple Chocolate Torte Cake
Submitted by Mae Etta and Amber Peterson
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsifted flour
1/2 cup Hershey's cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round layer cake pans (the Petersons use four). In small mixer bowl, beat egg whites until foamy; gradually beat in 1/2 cup of sugar until stiff but not dry. In large mixer bowl, stir together remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add buttermilk, oil and egg yolks; beat until smooth and well-blended. Fold in egg white mixture. Pour equal portions into prepared pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until cakes spring back when lightly touched in centers. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pans. cool thoroughly. Prepare chocolate cream filling. Place layer on serving platter, spread chocolate filling to edges. Repeat procedure, ending with plain layer on top. Prepare chocolate glaze, and pour over top of cake. Chill. Store covered in refrigerator.
Chocolate Cream Filling
In small mixer bowl, combine 2/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup of Hershey's cocoa. Add 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, unwhipped, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla; beat on low speed until blended. Beat on medium speed until stiff. (Makes about 3 cups.)
In small saucepan, combine 3 tablespoons margarine or butter, 3 tablespoons light corn syrup and 1 tablespoon water; over medium heat, cook and stir until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat; stir in 1 cup (6 ounces) Hershey's semi-sweet chocolate chips until melted. Cool to room temperature. (Makes about 1 cup.)
Note:?A.M.P. stands for Amber and Mae Etta Peterson
One of those three sons, and Amber's dad, is Vince Peterson, a probation officer and pastor who is credited with starting the Tribune Chronicle-sponsored Fitness Challenge.
The self-proclaimed "bigger than ever" former Youngstown State football player came home during the baking of this rich recipe. Since he is once again participating in the weight-loss challenge, he dutifully refrained from taking a slice of the cake.
Mae Etta Peterson said the recipe has been in the family for "a good while" and that it was one her mom had. She started making it for Vince's wife, whom she considers the daughter she never had, especially after the 64-year-old's bout with brain cancer.
"She took care of me like she was my daughter," Peterson said.
Mae Etta was in fact in the hospital recently, leaving her granddaughter with a very big responsibility.
"Girlfriend here had to cook the entire Thanksgiving dinner," she said proudly. The feast included all the fixin's, along with pound cake and sweet potato pie.
"I was impressed," Vince Peterson said of the holiday meal his daughter prepared.
And if you ever need a turkey cleaned, Mae Etta said Amber's the one to ask.
Amber Peterson, who is active at Howland High School in clubs such as Interact, S.A.D.D., Howland H.E.A.R.T. and Spanish Club, also cooks a couple meals a month and helps her mom, Evelyn, in the kitchen. She is active at her church and this year was named Miss Outstanding Debutante by the Warren Civic League.
Amber Peterson takes directions well, especially from Grandma. Four 9-inch cake pans each are filled with a thin layer of chocolate batter.
"Don't pull the rack out, don't ever do that. Put them all one the same level. Turn the light on!"
It's time to make the filling in Grandma's mixer.
"It should be standing by itself. Whatever you do to it, it's supposed to stay there."
Now to spread the filling on the cooled layers.
"Don't let it go over the edge! Bring it to the edge before doing the center."
Some chocolate chips fall on the floor. A young Vince Peterson, home from Villanova University for spring break, gives his sister a little flack for messing up the floor he cleaned. Then he realized it was Grandma who dropped chocolate.
"Oh, then it's OK," he says quickly.
Amber's making the frosting to drizzle on top.
"Keep stirring until it boils," advises Mae Etta.
"As you can see," explained the younger Vince Peterson, "My grandma is very bossy."
But Amber Peterson smiles, says "Yes, ma'am" and keeps on learning.
"After 17 years, you get used to her," she said.
"I don't know why she likes to cook with me. I don't know - I'm just picky," said Mae Etta Peterson.
When the cake is done, Grandma Peterson says it is to be kept refrigerated, although Amber likes to microwave her piece to have with a glass of milk.
After being in the hospital again for a while, Mae Etta said a cooking session with her granddaughter, whom she calls "Little Country Miss Sue," really picks her up.
Mae Etta also insists on a butcher knife to cut her cakes, although any way you cut it, it's absolutely delicious. Usually there are two or three of these made for holidays because "that's just how hot this cake is."
She recommends to those who try the recipe to make sure the filling is the right consistency. And maybe making more than one is a good idea.
"There ain't no way this side of the creek that one chocolate cake is going to be enough," she said.