My grandmother bustled about her kitchen cooking away for the annual New Year’s Eve Party which was held at my parent’s house each year. Arriving at her door, I could hear the rattling of pots and pans as I could just make out her panting as she traversed the pantries. Knocking on the pine door, which was half-way opened, my grandmother turned, startled to see me. “Michael, you gave me a fright!” she said as she went back to her search. All around the kitchen stacks of pots and pans rose from the table and countertops. “I just can’t find that round glass cake plate I use to make my peach upside-down cake. I know it’s here somewhere!” she said as she shoved and pulled more pots from the cabinets. “Grandmamma, I am sure you will find it soon,” I assured her as she sat pondering on the floor. “You know, this reminds me of a story I almost forgot ‘til this moment,” she said as she got up from the floor.
Christmas had come and gone in the town of Donbridge and the townsfolks were going about their daily routine of clearing snow and chipping ice from their roof tops. The year was typical for Donbridge and in much the same way the year was ending; the New Year was beginning just the same as the last one. But as with all tales about Donbridge, calamity tends to find its way into the homes of every Donbridgian.
Madeline Thayer was new to Donbridge, having moved from Boston during the election of President Washington. She was the first generation in her family to be a glassmaker as her family was one of clockmakers for nearly five generations. The reason Madeline went into glass was for her discovery of a formula to make glass usable for cooking food. It was said that the glass she created was so durable that it would withstand the heat of a brick oven and never shatter. The glassware she made came in all shapes and sizes and since her family made clocks, Madeline made sure that every edge of her glassware had teeth like the gears of a clock in tribute to her family.
Now as it was, most Donbridgians never thought to use glass as tin and cast iron seemed to be the preferred material for each kitchen. But Maggie Blum, the town’s baker, was intrigued by the prospect of using glass and ordered 10 new pie plates for her bakery. Not soon after, several Donbridgians began to purchase the kitchenware until Mrs. Sharp of the general store finally stepped in. Seeing a drop in sales of her cast ironware, Mrs. Sharp approached Madeline and asked to have an exclusive agreement that only Sharp’s General Store would sell her products. It was not an uncommon practice for the Sharps to do this as they did their best to corner most commerce in the town.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve of that same week, Alfred Daily, the town’s clockmaker, was working on the clock tower at the church. While he was toiling away, a massive wind began to howl and as it did, the roof of the church steeple began to bend in the wind. Alfred grabbed hold of the internal beams to center himself and just as he did, another stiff wind blew and this time the roof shingles tore clear off, leaving the inner works of the clock unprotected. Alfred scrambled to cover the brass works with his jacket, but it was too late; the winds brought forth a heavy rain. Soon every gear in the massive clock began to cease and not soon after the clock stopped working. When the rain stopped by mid-morning, the townsfolks began to work to fix the roof of the steeple. Inside, Alfred felt as though he would never get the clock working again as ever gear was ruined. It would take months to find replacement parts. Sad at the concept that the clock would not be ready for New Year’s, he climbed down the clock tower stairs and headed into town. Stopping in at the local bakery, he ordered a cup of coffee and sat down at a table near the pie counter. Maggie was serving some pie from one of the new glass plates Madeline had made her. Alfred looked up for a moment and thought nothing of it at first, and then noticed that the edges of the pie plate were jagged like that of the gears of a clock.
“Where did you get that pie plate?” Alfred asked. “The new girl who lives down the street, she makes glass that can withstand a brick oven,” Maggie said. Without hesitation, Alfred ran down the street to Madeline’s shop. Seeing her working away through the window, he knocked and she quickly ran to the door. Alfred explained his situation to Madeline. She began to smile at the notion that her glass plates could work in the clock, but soon she realized that it would take time to make that much glass and install it in time to get the clock working for New Year’s. But then an idea came to mind; if Alfred knew what sizes he needed, she would know where to get them. Grabbing Alfred’s hand, the two began knocking on doors throughout the town and soon the two had amassed enough shapes and sizes to fix the clock. Alfred began working on the gears, replacing each rusted gear with a glass plate. By the last minute to midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Donbridge clock tower was finished and with one swing of the internal pendulum, the clock began to work and rang in the New Year.
When my grandmother finished her story, a knock came at the door and a neatly dressed man wearing a bow tie entered holding a bag in his hand. Grandmamma smiled as the man entered the door. “Jules, I am sorry to have troubled you on New Year’s Eve, but I think I have something you are going to need,” the man said as he handed a brown bag to my grandmother. I watched as my grandmother laughed and looked back at him. “I knew it was somewhere. I just could not remember where,” she said as she began to unwrap the brown paper. The man nodded his head and wished us farewell and headed out the doorway and down the sidewalk.
My grandmother finished unwrapping the bag and there inside a note read, “Thanks for letting me borrow the plate; the new clock tower is working wonderfully. Sincerely, A. D.” Then from inside the paper came a round glass cake plate stamped M.T Glassmaker and on the edges of the plate, sharp teeth looking as though they were a gear to a clock glistened under the kitchen light. Stunned, I just looked at my grandmother, who smiled at me and then turned to bake her cake.
Peach Upside-Down Cake
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup of milk
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 jar of peaches, drained (fresh would need to be cooked down)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons of water or more as needed
Pre-heat oven to 350˚. Mix batter except for cinnamon and brown sugar. Grease a 9”x12” cake pan or large 14”x2” pie pan. Pour peaches in the bottom of the pan, then pour batter over peaches. Next, combine cinnamon and brown sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle over the batter. Take a knife and lightly swirl the mixture into the cake pan. Bake for 20 minutes. While cake is baking, combine all dry ingredients of the topping, then add butter and mix through with a fork to cut the butter in. Next, add water and stir until topping becomes lumpy. Add more water if necessary.
After baking the cake for about 20 minutes, take the cake out of the oven and add the topping, carefully spreading it over top of the cake. Place the cake back in the oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until center is baked through, then remove. Let cool and then enjoy.