I opened the oven door with my young children peeking around me and we all laughed! Instead of the meringue cascading in still perfection, cracks engulfed every inch as though an earthquake rumbled over the top. Through giggles, we yelled, “The Earthquake cake!” A Blitz Torte. It was my dad’s favorite, stemming from past generations of his German heritage.
The memories! There was Mom, standing in the kitchen of dark wood cabinets, hand mixer purring as she blended the magical ingredients for dad’s birthday each year. Mixing up this feather-light textured cake was no simple culinary experience; separating egg yolks from their counterparts, the egg whites, was a step mastered with practice over time. The meringue topping had to be whipped to precision like an image of still cascading waves in the ocean. Having only attempted this recipe once with the result resembling the earth riddled in quakes, Mom and Dad cracked up when they saw the cracked-up cake! Hilarious to the eyes, but the slight almond crunch of the meringue and creamy texture of the custard filling decadently pleased our palates.
And then one day I tasted carrot cake – the mixture of spicy cinnamon, tangy crushed pineapple, shredded carrots, and crunchy walnuts immediately deemed this cake my utmost favorite. Add the smooth, delectable cream cheese frosting (that I could eat by the spoonful) and you have life’s essentials on a plate! And it’s advantageous that carrot cake counts as a vegetable in my kitchen.
It was the day of my bridal shower. I walked into my maid of honor’s home, instantly inhaling the spicy scent. Carrot cake! She knew me too well, and her mother created the best recipe. Our moms and all the girls were in dessert heaven with each bite of that delicious piece of art. And so, the top of my 5-layer wedding cake was carrot – it had to be that way for my special day. Fortunately, my husband was a fan, too!
My two teenagers on a spring March day pulled on their carrot-shredding gloves and presented to me their creation while belting out, “Happy birthday to you...” With its two uneven layers, it wasn’t pretty, but it brought on the biggest smile. Their efforts earned them an A+, and when I treated myself to that first bite, I tasted spicy, creamy excellence. With their love and thoughtfulness stirred into the process, satisfaction was redefined!
I often delve into the carrot shredding and cream cheese whisking myself, watching my family revel in each forkful of the sinfully delicious dessert. This recipe has become a treasure in my collection evoking these precious memories. Whether it’s a Blitz Torte bringing to life images of my parents who have since left our physical world or a Carrot Cake from wedding and birthday celebrations, the stroll down memory lane becomes more poignant with each new bite.
Lauren Scott (c) 2021
Header: My birthday carrot cake this year that a wonderful friend made for me. 🧡🧡
Can you believe the holidays are just around the corner? It seems unreal because of the virus – how our everyday living has changed. Even though it’s hard to fathom that the year is coming to a close, my trusty calendar says it is, so I thought it would be a good time to post this Christmas tale from last year.
In excitement we wriggle from head to toe anticipating our daughter and fiancé’s visit from Nashville. The newly-engaged couple flies out early December to beat the holiday airport chaos. Thanksgiving dishes barely sparkle when we push and pull our Noble Fir through the front door. I want the house to be dressed in holiday attire for when they arrive. But the day after Thanksgiving is early to buy a tree, so the pickings are slim and the cost is a heart-stopper. Yet, there in the living room by the window stands the evergreen, reflecting in the paned glass.
My husband takes charge of putting up the outside decorations – hanging the Christmas flag, stringing the lights on the house, and sprinkling big ornaments on our shrubbery. My son and I begin indoor decorating by winding the lights among the branches on the tree. As we hand the wiry bunch to each other, around and around, they blink awake like eyes opening brightly. But then suddenly, they go out like sleepy eyes closing. When we tested them earlier, they lit up just fine, so their slumbering is surely a mystery. Feeling frustrated, we fuss with the tiny bulbs, and eventually, they blink “Merry Christmas” again. (Problem solved or so we think.) Then come the ornaments – many made by our children’s’ little hands: photos of them skirted in gold stars or in the arms of pink angels. The clothespin reindeer look excited to join Santa on Christmas Eve, and the homemade sequin ornaments from my husband’s grandma transports him back to the sixties. His grandma was stern but kindhearted, and when she cooked each Sunday for the following week, there was enough food to feed everyone in the county. Then my fingers feel around in the box for another ornament, latching onto the white puffy heart engraved with Dad’s birth and death date. It’s like hanging memories one by one, triggering teardrops or raising smiles. When the tree stands fully adorned, it truly looks Noble.
Outside for onlookers, the house lights blink a winter white with a splash of red, gold, green, and silver hanging among the greenery, but more Christmas spirit arrives with our Nashville kids. They gave us a beautiful wreath which hangs on the front door and completes the decorating. In the evenings, we gather around the table, catching up on life and sharing delicious food. They share their wedding plans and we hear their excitement to search for a special place to exchange vows. And we bake! Having my daughter home to help mix up some sweetness conjures up delightful baking memories.
I want to freeze time – for it alone is an illusion: drifting by like the slow drip of honey, yet, flying by like a hummingbird seeking nectar. With a blink of an eye, our visit with them has ended and it’s time for goodbye-hugs which are never easy; bittersweet tears fall like liberated water over a broken dam. Too soon my cell phone pings, telling me they’re boarding their plane. Once their feet safely touch Tennessee ground, I push the restart button in my routine. Phone calls, Facetime, and text messages don’t replace their presence but will suffice until their next trip.
Our focus is back to the Noble Fir and we notice it doesn’t appear to be thirsty. This evergreen that cost an arm and a leg is beginning to dry up faster than a drop of water on a sun-kissed sidewalk. Then to our surprise, the bottom lights go out! A couple of days later with one tilt of our heads, we spot the lights on top of the tree are out! Frustration seeps into our veins for a second, then trickles of laughter follow, and because we’re too busy to shop for new lights, our tree remains topless and bottomless where festive colors once shimmered! We join Charlie Brown and call it our Peanut’s tree – a little forlorn to our eyes but beautiful just the same. The angel our daughter made years ago, though only a toilet paper roll with lacey craftsmanship, sits in a place of honor on top of the tree. Replacing this dear angel is out of the question, so we look to her for hope that the tree lasts until the big day!
Moving on from our tree-light calamity, it’s time to bake again. I find my mother-in-law’s gingerbread recipe, preheat the oven, then press the button on my faithful hand mixer. When all ingredients are blended, I dip a spoon into the sweet-spicy batter. I have to make sure it’s fine for others to eat. Of course, I do. I was about to put the pan in the oven, opening the door, when I realize 350-degree heat did not whoosh out at me in the face. I call my husband over and we do some button-pressing, hoping our magic touches will perk up the oven. No luck, but no need to panic fully because the burners work, so not a total loss. The gingerbread stays overnight in the fridge, but I’m unsure as to how refrigeration will affect the batter. I call on a friend for help and use her oven the next day. When the timer beeps, the bread looks done, except for the molten-looking center – mushy, but honestly, gooey and delectable.
Two weeks pass since the oven’s demise, and no repairman is available until December 30th. It sounds like the death of many appliances! At least the oven functioned when my daughter and I needed it to for our upcoming cookie exchange. Four dozen buttercream-frosted sugar cookies were displayed on glass platters: stars, Christmas trees, gingerbread men, and angels all bejeweled in red and green sprinkles. Now, as Christmas draws closer by the minute, I feel off-kilter because I’m unable to bake.
While the oven sits waiting to be repaired, the alternator in one of our cars dies! First the lights, then the oven, now the car! But wait, there’s more…our big TV is next on this chain of events! What a kerfuffle this holiday season has been with things going kaput! I won’t ask, because if I do, we’ll wonder what’s next! I didn’t ask!
Because of the unexpected and unfortunate events, our shopping sprees have barely begun. But we’ll still find merchandise sitting on the shelves, contrary to popular belief that Black Friday is the only day to shop for Christmas. And each time I walk past our unique Christmas tree, I am reminded of the quote, paraphrasing, of course, “It’s not about the beginning or destination; it’s about the journey.” Well, the tree’s middle glows with Christmas enthusiasm and so does our journey through this holiday season in spite of the blips.
These hiccups caused us to pause, but they’re not the end of the world. Baking later could develop into a new tradition. Our tree will remain noble until Christmas Day, or at least we hope it will. Those temperamental lights will be tossed when the tree comes down. The car is on its wheels again. So, regardless of these glitches, the blessings stand tall: precious family time, safe travels for our Nashville kids, and gifts beneath the tree acting as an evergreen anchor. Saving the best for last – our family’s good health. What more can we ask for besides new lights for our tree next year!
I hope this account of my family’s last Christmas brought smiles and maybe even a few giggles. And I have a strong hunch, this holiday season will look a little different. But if good health abounds, that’s what matters most. And Cheers to hoping 2021 is much brighterfor all!
In these unsettling times, it’s important to find joy in each day, even if digging a little deeper is necessary. Anxiety, fear, and sadness have certainly been fueled this year, which is reason enough to find thingsin life thatmake us happy. Throw in a dash of fun and a sprinkle of silly – bring on the smiles and laughter! It’s important for our mental and physical well being to find a balanceso that all of our energy and focus isn’t directed only to the negative. I’m sure you’ve heard of a gratitude journal, so let’s count this post as one of my long journal entries, but first the visuals:
I’m grateful foranother drive through the majestic redwoods and then onto Bolinas Ridge where the view of Stinson Beach was stunning – no fog or wind, just a glorious June day. I find joy in receiving fun gifts like the musical note earrings my daughter gave me because of our shared passion for music, and then the socks from her that tell me “I’m gorgeous, don’t change.” Wearing this kind of encouragement throughout the day is definitely a mood-booster.
I’m thankful for how I followed in Mom’s footsteps as my family indulges in sweet decadence once in a while, as well as baking for gifts. The plate of cookies are oatmeal chocolate chip, so don’t be shy! The cake was for a birthday: lemon with raspberry filling and buttercream frosting (all homemade). I also look forward to our relaxing patio time where we can talk about the day, make plans for tomorrow, and clink our glasses to celebrate being healthy and employed in these Covid times.
And then there are books! Can’t live without the exciting and adventurous worlds they draw me into. My son gave me “Little Fires Everywhere” not knowing anything about it. It turned out to be an engrossing and riveting read, and the mini series starring Reese Weatherperson and Kerry Washington was just as captivating. I found “Nineteen Minutes” listed on one of Stephen King’s book recommendations and am half-way through it. Can’t put it down either, but I must so that I can write this post! I highly recommend both books.
You see Copper lying on the bed…he was also enjoying “Little Fires Everywhere.” He is diligent in practicing how to relax and has become very good at it. 🙂 The love and joy this big puppy gives us is priceless. Oh, and look at Mini! As a child, I lived in Anaheim with Disneyland in my backyard. So, Mickey and Mini will always have a special place in my heart.
Nature provides serenity. It calms and emboldens us to look deeply within ourselves. It is a teacher of simplistic living, especially while backpacking. The sunset was taken at one of our favorite campgrounds, Look Lake – a gorgeous body of water in the Sierra without the crowds. The other photo is of Spider Lake that is a higher elevation, and I’m happy to report not one spider was found! Both destinations were perfect to take in the beauty around us, to spend time together, and to simply be. No technology, just a tent, a couple of chairs, and a picnic table. This is what we love to do, and we hope to venture onto the trails as long as our bodies will allow.
I hope you enjoyed these samples of some things in life that bring me joy – the list is never-ending. What do you lean towards in these times of uncertainty? What brings you calm? What turns your frown upside down? What makes you chuckle?Do you find that some of these photos bring you joy, too?
Wishing you a wonderful Friday and much joy in your days ahead, Lauren 💗🎉💗🎉
For the past week, we’ve had some unexpected guests, a mama and daddy finch. They’ve given us the pleasure of watching their home-building process inside our gazebo, and sometime soon, cute little baby chicks will complete their feathered family.
Yesterday’s entertainment came when daddy began playing on my car side mirror. Actually, it appeared that he was fighting for his territory. Little did he know that what he saw was his own reflection, and the third photo, you see a glimpse of his tail only. So, I grabbed my cell, zoomed in, and took these photos before he took flight. If you also look closely enough, you’ll see that I have some cleaning up to do. 🙂
It was fun to watch this little guy, as long as he didn’t hurt himself, which wasn’t the case. When it was time for me to leave and I was nearer with Copper in tow, he took flight without hesitation. I was happy to catch his wings all a flutter, though, before he went on his merry way. I’ll keep you posted with their growing family…
The last photo is the homemade carrot cake I baked for a dinner we went to last night with friends. It was a potluck, and all the food was delicious, not to mention, the company was great. Do you like carrot cake? It’s my ultimate favorite…always…forever and ever…
If only that ‘share’ button was literal; I’d offer you a taste. 🙂