A few years ago someone told me about the Great Molasses Flood of 1919. On January 15, 1919, a massive molasses storage tank burst in north Boston, and as much as 2,300,000 US gal came rushing out into the streets of Boston, killing 21 and injuring 150 people. How is that possible? It was January, in Boston — apparently a warmer day at +5°C — but how can molasses move quickly in January? That molasses came rolling out of the tank and down the streets in a wave 8m deep and moving at speeds up to 56 km/h. If you'd like to read more about the incident, the clean up, the research into it many years later, Wikipedia has a page with photos. It's worth the few minutes to read it.
Today, in honour of the 100th year of the Great Molasses Flood, I've baked a molasses cake (using my Aunt Louise's recipe). It's something of a novelty to my Irish husband, and a warm memory of growing up to me. I suppose I could write about how things aren't always what they appear to be, or about expecting the unexpected, but I just wanted to commemorate those 21 people who died in one of the strangest ways I've heard of. Here's to good engineering that has prevented more molasses floods, and to good cake.
I was asked to post the recipe. This is not a healthy cake! I try to improve it's nutrition by subbing in half whole-wheat flour, and I usually cut the white sugar in half (but then I sprinkle icing sugar on top). Make this sparingly, eat small servings (it's really good warm with a cup of tea), and it freezes well, so cut some chunks off and freeze for another time.