AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Eggs are a crucial ingredient for the making of today's Found Recipe, plus strawberries, a little old lady from the Midwest and Jell-O.
JEREMY JACKSON: My name's Jeremy Jackson and I'm the author of "Good Day For A Picnic," and I'm here to talk about my grandmother's strawberry cake. This goes back into family lore because, to be honest, I do not think I ever ate my grandmother's strawberry cake. You know, she must have made this cake at some point for a church potluck or something like that. And one of the local families in her small town in Missouri loved it so much, they commissioned her, I suppose, to make the cake for them once a week and she did.
We didn't have a recipe. It was sort of grandma's mystery cake. And then, lo and behold, one day the recipe was found by my aunt and in my grandmother's handwriting and it was not what I thought. The first ingredient was a box of cake mix and the second ingredient was a box of strawberry-flavored Jell-O.
I remember this very clearly. In her very small pantry underneath the stairs, she had what I would describe as a library of Jell-O boxes. I don't know if they were sorted by color or not, but she was doing what every other home cook of her era and her region were doing at that time and shortcuts were part of that.
It's a wonderful cake in its own right, but its color hurt my eyes a little bit. It's very, very - I can't stress this enough - very pink. And then it has an extremely pronounced strawberry flavor because of the Jell-O. This wasn't what I was going for. So I made a decision to try to honor the recipe and my grandmother by remaining quite faithful to it but subtracting the cake mix and subtracting the Jell-O.
And I turned it into cupcakes, partly because I felt like it would be easier to transport cupcakes than a large iced cake for picnic purposes. And they are soft. They are just sweet enough and they have the bright pink icing, which is made pink by pureed strawberries, of course. So you can identify them immediately upon sight as strawberry cupcakes.
CORNISH: Jeremy Jackson, author of "Good Day For A Picnic: Simple Food That Travels Well." If you want to try his recipe or his grandmother's, you can find them on our Found Recipes page at NPR.org.