Gobs … You Know You’re from Western Pennsylvania if …
Johnstown, Pennsylvania – my hometown – is known for many things. There are the beautiful rolling mountains; its world famous floods of 1889, 1936, and 1977; Glosser Brothers Department Store; the legend of Morley’s dog; Coney Island Hot Dogs; and of course … home of the GOBS. For those of us from Western Pennsylvania, this term conjures up a chocolately-sweet-creamy sandwich memory that is the sheer definition of childhood in this part of the state. All it takes is one little bite of these yummy cake-like confections, and youthful mayhem carries you back to barefoot summer days playing “Kick the Can” until it was dark enough to catch fire flies.
Every family in the area seems to have at least one semi-secret gob recipe. I say only semi-secret because recipe swapping is also a bit of a tradition among these Western PA folks, and they happily share everything they own. Just recently, when going through some of my Mom’s recipe books and collections, I came across a hand-written copy of one such recipe. I don’t recognize the handwriting, but I believe it may have been one of her sisters – I am guessing Betty or Helen – or her sister-in-law, Naomi. I am hoping some of my Lugar Clan cousins can identify the writing.
And — since it IS the holiday season, which means it is ALSO baking season, I figured I would take this vintage recipe out for a spin. PS~~~ they are as yummy as I remember, even in December without fire flies, and no one to play Kick the Can with me. 😉 The steps listed below are as they appear on the paper, but a printable version is available at the end of the post (you’re welcome).
Cream together 2 cups sugar and ½ cup Crisco (side note – there are very few recipes that I keep in my arsenal that I actually use Crisco or shortening and not a substitute as it is not the healthiest ingredient out there. However – THIS is one of them).
Add 2 eggs and 1 cup milk…
… 1 cup boiling water … and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Sift together 4 cups flour, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¾ cup cocoa. (Another side note – yes, that is my assistant James, taking a brief sifting break from his homework, which is seen resting with his pencil nest to the bowl – a Mom’s gotta multi-task).
Add flour mixture to sugar mixture. Blend well.
Drop by spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. The batter will not spread much, so you can place them fairly close together – I did about an inch apart. I also lined my sheets with parchment paper, and found this really was an unnecessary step (again with the side note – sorry for the shadow … I did not inherit my father’s photography skills, nor am I able to make nice round mounds of the batter, as evidenced below…)
Bake at 450 degrees for 5-7 minutes.
To make the icing:
Place 1 cup milk and 5 tablespoons flour in a sauce pan on the stove. Heat until thick, stirring constantly to avoid burning.
Once thick, remove from heat and allow to thoroughly cool. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Don’t get so excited to put your gobs together that you don’t let this get completely cool or your icing won’t set properly (yet another side note — trust me – I have learned this by experience).
Once cooled, beat in 1¾ cups powdered sugar, 1 cup Crisco (again with the Crisco! What is it with vintage recipes and Crisco?!), ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Beat until creamy and fluffy.
Spread between your gob cake rounds. I am always kind of skimpy on icing at first and then heavy handed at the end when I still have a lot left in the bowl, so I now ice one side without putting the “top on. That way, I can add more icing to the lighter ones when I know I had enough to cover them all.
Creamy vanilla icing sandwiched between two palm sized chocolate cake rounds - a bite of Pennsylvania heaven!
Cake round ingredients
- 2 c sugar
- 1 c milk 1 c boiling water
- 1 t vanilla
- 4 c flour
- 2 t baking soda
- ½ t baking powder
- ¾ c cocoa
- 1 c milk
- 5 T flour
- 1 ¾ c powdered sugar
- 1 c Crisco
- ¼ t salt
- 1 t vanilla
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Cream together sugar and Crisco.
Add eggs, milk, boiling water, and vanilla.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa.
Add to mixture
Drop by spoon onto cookie sheet.
Bake 5-7 minutes at 450 degrees.
Combine milk and flour in a sauce pan. Cook until thick, then let milk cool.
Once cool, add powdered sugar, Crisco, salt, and vanilla.
Beat until creamy and fluffy.
Spread between two of the cake rounds.
So — do you have one of these semi-secret gob recipes? Is there a trade family secret ingredient? Do tell ….