My mother, of blessed memory, hated the heat. Born in Lithuania, she spent the first 35 years of her life either there, or freezing her tushy off in Sweden (with a short stop in Bergen Belsen, also not exactly warm, balmy breezes). My mother loved freezing her tushy off, she hated the heat. When I first became engaged to The X, with an August date set for the wedding in Israel, my mother kvetched about the trip which would take place during the hottest month of the year. After the glass was broken and my mother hugged me under the chuppah, she whispered in my ear, “If you ever give birth to any babies in the summer, I am not coming to help!”
Mommy plans, God giggles…
Ever hear the phrase lazy days of summer? Hah! I have four of the most gorgeous daughters on the planet, each one more beautiful than the next, each one simply exquisite, each one born in the summer.
Three of my gorgeous girlies have birthdays at the end of July, all within two weeks of each other. Nomush, my maverick, decided to let me experience pregnancy during a record-breaking swelter, all the way through to the end of August.
And you know what? My mom came out each time to help! In the multiple diaper-induced coma back then I am not sure I fully appreciated her sacrifice. Back then we had no air-conditioning, and I’ve never seen anyone wait for the chill of the Jerusalem evenings more.
Five years ago I got married again, and yes, it was during the summer. When I called my mom with the good/bad news, she said to me, “Oy! Miraleh! Again with the summer?” And this time, with the wisdom accumulated over score of years (in between weddings), I absolved my mother from coming out. She loved the pictures I sent her.
So July and August can be busy months in the Miriyummy household. Once upon a time there were birthday parties to plan, Bat Mitzvah celebrations to coordinate, presents to buy, cakes to bake… oh yeah, the cakes! I once tried to get the girls to have ice-cream cakes for their parties, but all they really have ever wanted was a deep chocolate cake (like their Miri-mummy, can I blame them?).
Deep Chocolate Birthday Cake with Miriyummy Ganache
I’ve made bajillions of birthday cakes over the years, but back in 2004 the lovely Molly53 posted a cake on Recipezaar that has become THE birthday cake in our household. We accept no substitutions. I usually make a non-dairy version.
- 1 cup butter or 1 cup margarine (200 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs, well beaten
- 1 cup cold black coffee
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 300 grams (12 ounces) dark chocolate
- 1 cup cream or non-dairy substitute (I use Rich Whip)
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 F).
- Grease and dust an 33 x 23 cm (13 x 9 inch) cake pan with cocoa. Actually, I just line it with parchment paper.
- Cream the butter and add sugar a little at a time.
- Add eggs the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa together 3 times. Sometimes I don’t bother to do this and the cake still bakes beautifully.
- Add the coffee to the batter alternatively with the flour mixture.
- Mix well after each addition.
- Then add vinegar and vanilla. Mix well again.
- Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until your cake tester comes out dry. Leave to cool completely.
- To make the ganache, simply melt the chocolate and cream together, either on top of the stove over low heat, or nuked in the microwave for about three minutes.
- Pour over the cooled cake and let set.
- This cake actually tastes great when kept in the fridge. You can also decorate it with little silver sprinkles or anything that shows up well against the deep, dark chocolate of the ganache.
Today is the 12th of Elul — happy 25th birthday Nomush!
Today is the 22nd of August — happy 21st birthday Chip!
They say a little competition in life is healthy. I once had the bad judgement to take a class in philosphy. Not much of that class has been retained, but I do remember writing a paper about Adam Smith. One of my vague memories of him is that he wrote about cooperative competition, where individuals compete to improve their levels of happiness, but do so in a cooperative manner, joining forces to achieve a desired end and not violating each other’s targets.
Ju-boy and his friend Tom Jones do not believe in cooperative competion. They just believe in competition, period. They compete over who has the best whisky collection, they compete over who paid less per kilo for a whole chicken at the supermarket, and they compete at the gym. There they are, running side by side on their treadmills, little gerbils spinning their wheels, trying to see who can get nowhere first. Tom’s wife, Sweet Caroline, and I just shake our heads. Let the boys play their little game, we have better things to discuss.
The other day it was Tom’s birthday. Ju-boy, in the spirit of friendship, asked me to bake him a birthday cake. I thought, how sweet. Tom works hard to help everyone see a better world, and my altruistic husband wants to give him a surprise for his birthday. I can be so naive. When I asked Ju-boy what kind of cake to make for Tom, he cackled his reply, “Who cares! Just shtup the thing full of sugar and fat and calories. We’ll see how fast he runs at the gym, mwah hah hah hah hah!”
Did I really want to do that? Tom’s a nice guy. He and his Sweet C belong to that group of friends-in-law that made me feel so welcome when I moved to Ra’anana. And did I want to sacrifice quality over quantity (of calories)? I went pouring through my recipes and found one that would make all parties happy.
Carine Goren has a recipe for cinnamon rolls that I’ve been dying to try out. I can also have my own agenda. The recipe was calorie-laden enough to make Ju-boy happy, interesting enough to make me happy, and Tom ate just one, managing to both treat himself and not totally annihilate his diet, so everybody wins. Except Ju-boy, who would have preferred that Tom scarf down the whole plate. Ah, well, he lives to plot another day.
Carine Goren is my favorite (at the moment) for sweet yummies. This is my variation of what she calls Better Than Store-Bought Cinnamon Rolls. She uses instant vanilla pudding in the yeast dough, which gives it a nice flavor and an wonderful texture. Carine’s original recipe calls for a cream cheese frosting, which I left out. Also, her recipe is dairy. I originally made this for Tom with milk and butter, but have since altered the recipe to make this non-dairy. Feel free to sub milk and butter for the soy milk and margarine.
Yummy Cinnamon Buns
4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
one package instant vanilla pudding (3.5 ounces, 80 grams)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups soy milk, lukewarm
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
melted margarine for brushing, 1/4 – 1/3 cup
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Mix and proof the dough:
- In a mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook, mix the flour, yeast and instant pudding mix.
- Add the sugar, soy milk, egg, melted margarine and salt, knead for 5 minutes until the dough is fairly soft and smooth.
- Cover and leave to double in size.
- Make the cinnamon filling:
- Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and set aside. You get to melt the margarine later…
- Assembling and baking the buns:
- Turn the risen dough out on the a floured surface and roll it out to a rectangle about 1/2 an inch thick (1 1/4 centimeters).
- Brush with the melted margarine, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon, and roll it up width-wise into a long roll. Cut into equal sized buns about 1 inch thick (2 1/2 centimeters).
- Place the buns in a parchment paper lined tray, give them enough space to spread out. As you can see from the picture above, I didn’t, but they came out just fine.
- Leave them to rise and double in bulk once again.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
- Brush the buns with the egg wash and bake for just 15 minutes, or until the buns are golden but still soft to the touch. DO NOT OVERBAKE. These are yummy when soft, not so yummy when overdone.
When I was a little girl I had conflicting views on what a grandmother should be. There was the storybook grandmother, the one you saw on the cartoons on television, who sat in a rocking chair, knit you sweaters for your birthday and baked you oatmeal cookies. And then there was my grandmother. She couldn’t knit, she couldn’t cook. She didn’t even own a rocking chair. She had a makeup collection to rival the cosmetics department of Saks Fifth Avenue. That’s where she worked, the cosmetics department of Saks Fifth Avenue. In my eyes that trumped any cookie-baking, sweater-knitting grandmother any day. Her claim to fame was that she was Jackie Onassis’s favorite saleslady. When I was little and came over to visit, she used to let me play with her powders and creams. She would let me have tea parties with the 100 year old samovar she had brought over from Sweden. She didn’t bake me any cookies, but always had my favorite black and whites from the bakery waiting for me in her kitchen. She didn’t knit me any sweaters but took me shopping for my first handbag when I became Bat Mitzvah, because “every young lady is never properly dressed without a handbag.”
My grandmother was my mother’s step-mother. That made her officially my step-grandmother, but in my eyes, she was always just my grandmother. She was my grandma. I have something in common with her. I am also a step-grandmother. In fact, I am a third generation step-granny. There’s my grandmother, the original. My mother was step-granny to my step-children (even though they never met), and now there’s me, step-granny to the Crown Prince. Crown Prince is the son of Ju-boy’s eldest, Optimus Prime, and his bride, The Rani. Last year they added the next generation to Ju-boy’s dynasty, and yesterday he turned one.
I am the sweater-knitting, cookie-baking grandmother. When Crown Prince was 10 hours old I gave him his first pair of booties, knit that morning. And for his first birthday I offered to bake him his birthday cake. But there was a few provisos… The Rani declared that the cake must be healthy. The cake must be low fat. The cake must be low sugar. In my opinion, this meant the cake must be low taste. But The Rani is the Crown Prince’s mother, and in her house, The Rani reigns. I’ll shtup the kid some sugar next time he’s in my house and his parents aren’t looking (kidding, Optimus, kidding….).
I don’t really do low fat, low sugar low taste cakes, so I went off and did a little research. I didn’t have to go far, just a few clicks away to the Recipe Sifter on Recipezaar and within minutes I had the perfect cake to make all parties happy. You can find the original recipe here, but of course, I played around with it a little. I changed the ingredients just a bit, and instead of one large cake I made little cupcakes. I thought that with the lack of fat the cake would be dry, but it was chocolate-laden, moist and delicious. I’m pleasantly surprised, and actually plan to make these again.
Chocolate Apple Birthday Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or half white, half whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar (as per recipe reviews that stated the original 1/2 cup did not work)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup water
1/4 cup applesauce (I used no sugar added applesauce)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 apple, peeled and chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350° F (180 C).
- Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- Combine the dry ingredients your mixer bowl.
- In another bowl, combine the liquid ingredients. Add to dry ingredients, stir until just combined.
- Toss in the apples and fold into the batter.
- Pour into the prepared muffin pan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. These are really moist so a little bit of wet crumb might stick to your tester.
Ju-boy and I bought Crown Prince some great presents, lots of wooden blocks to gnaw on and throw, but Optimus Prime seemed to be more excited than his son. In fact, both grandfather and father didn’t let the birthday boy play with his presents, they were having too much fun.