Thursday, 4 October 2007

Cleveland (and honey cake recipe)

I absolutely love visiting Cleveland. Three of my father's siblings from London emigrated to Cleveland at various stages in the 20th Century. The first of my aunts to go there more than 70 years ago married a cousin from another branch of the family which had moved to the US shortly after my dad's parents moved to London around the time of WW I, and I now have first cousins and every other kind of cousin there, as well as two aunts and an uncle who number amongst my favourite relatives. My dad's mother died while visiting Cleveland not long after we migrated to Australia in 1949 and is buried there.

When I lived in NYC from 1968 to 1971, I went to Uncle Henry and Aunt Flo's house in Cleveland for every major Jewish holiday, and we have maintained a close loving relationship ever since. So I never miss an opportunity to visit, and since it was opened, almost always have made time to visit the Rock'n'Roll Museum and Hall of Fame while I am there, though this visit was too brief to fit it in. I had only a few days there and I didn't take any photos, stupidly. But I am posting a link to some photos I took in Cleveland last March/April so you can see what the family looks like. Henry and Flo are the oldest people in the photos - the family members who see this blog know who everyone is, and I guess it isn't really important to the rest of you!

These photos can be found at

You will not be surprised to hear that on my first day in Cleveland I made a honey cake. I am posting the recipe here in response to several requests - I have not translated it into Spanish (some of the requests come from Mexico City) but may take this on as an exercise once I am enrolled in my Spanish classes here later this month.
Honey Cake Recipe (derived from Bialik College Cookbook)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar (I keep a few vanilla beans in the sugar canister I use for cooking: so I guess you could call this vanilla sugar, it improves the flavour of all cakes)
¾ cup oil (light flavour, e.g. canola, safflower etc.)
¾ cup honey (experiment with your favourites, bluegum or yellow box are good, el cheapo blend is fine also)
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda)
1 cup plain flour ( In the US I think this is all purpose flour)
1 cup self-raising flour (called self-rising flour in the US. If unavailable, substitute 1 cup all purpose flour sifted with 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda and a pinch of salt)
2 tablespoons cocoa
½ teaspoon cloves ( I always add other spices as well, e.g. : ½ teaspoon each ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom)
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to about 170°C, fan-forced 160°C, or 325°F.

Beat eggs and sugar till light (I use speed 8 on Mixmaster), slowly add oil and continue beating. Add honey, (warm slightly in microwave if you like, it pours and measures more easily) and continue beating as long as you fancy. Sift together other dry ingredients, slow the beater right down to 1 - 2 and add dry stuff to mixture in two batches, with maybe ¼ cup of hot water in between, and finally add the rest of the hot water. Don't beat too long at this stage.

While the beating of the eggs et al is happening, lightly grease an 8 inch (20 cm) square pan which should be at least 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) deep, or spray with canola oil spray, and line with non-stick baking paper, using enough extra paper on at least 2 sides to be able to lift the cake out when cooked.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for around 1 - 1 ¼ hours. Rotate occasionally if your oven heat is uneven. Check after about 45 minutes, and if it seems to be getting too dark around the edges, turn the oven down to 160°. If it looks too sticky in the middle, cover loosely with baking paper or aluminium foil. The cake will probably crack in the middle when done: don't worry. If it is still a bit sticky on top in the middle but springs back to the touch closer to the edges, and if it's pulling away from the sides, take it out, as it is better undercooked and moist than overcooked.

Cool in the pan for a while then lift out onto a rack but keep it right side up, i.e. paper on the bottom, to finish cooling. It freezes well so if it is too big for your household to eat in about 3 days, cut it in half and freeze some. Keep the part you're eating closely wrapped to maintain moistness.
I also had a great time working in the kitchen with Aunt Flo on some food for breaking the fast (I made my eggplant dip: this includes lots of garlic and roasted cumin seeds, and is not for the faint-hearted). We really enjoy working as a team in the kitchen, both with ideas and labour. It is such a treat to be part of Yomtov preparations with family members and friends, whether at home or abroad. It is very much part of being a Jewish woman to celebrate the festivals with special food and shared family recipes and other traditions, and I just love it when people enjoy food I have had a hand in preparing.

As well as preparing food, a bit of shopping and a couple of meals out, I also went for my ritual walks. I have visited Henry and Florence's apartment often enough now that I don't need a map as long as I stick to a few familiar routes, and there is a walking track through the nearby Shaker Park frequented by joggers and dog walkers that I include whenever I can. The native vegetation,wild flowers and bird life are so different from Melbourne (and it is a lot more humid), and it is nice to walk somewhere you can see people, even if none are visible till I get to the park, as everyone else seems to come by car. And I finally learned how to open the door to the public loo: I have always thought it was locked before, which irked me as a sign claims it is open during daylight hours. It just has a tricky catch on the door, which I finally figured out because I saw someone else going in! There is a drinking fountain where I replenished my water, and I even saw Leah, my first cousin Jeff Stern's daughter, jogging with team of teenage girls one day as they were waiting to cross the road. It made me feel like a native!

I really wanted to see Aunt Lil, whose husband Mel died earlier this year, which we managed to do one evening after dinner. I went out for lunch another day with another first cousin, Fran, who with her husband Jerry spends half the year in Las Vegas. Jerry took me back to Henry and Flo's while Fran was having her nails done, so we had a brief catch up. A lot of time was taken up in Synagogue for Kol Nidrei and all day Yom Kippur. Uncle Henry sings in the choir and also davens Mincha, so he has a very heavy day. There were different tunes and traditions at this Temple: after the shofar blast that signals the end of the fast, the children are invited to blow plastic shofars and joint the festivities. They make Havdalah while encouraging everyone from the congregation to come up close and participate, then they provide light food and drink so people can break their fast communally at the synagogue rather than racing home. Most of the choir joined us and Shirley, Aunt Flo's twin sister, for the meal to break the fast properly at home. Aunt Flo had made a blintz souffle (Google this, you'll be amazed). I did taste a very small piece which was extremely delicious, but my internalised Weight Watcher restrained me from further indulgence - I had bagels, lox and cheese, heaps of veggies, large quantities of my low-fat but high-garlic eggplant dip, and a couple of small pieces of cake (just tasters!), plus lots of cups of tea and glasses of water. I actually didn't eat way too much, so was quite pleased with myself. Pam and Stan (Henry and Flo's daughter and son-in-law, to and from whose 1-mile-away house I have successfully walked via several different routes in the past) also dropped by briefly.

Later that evening, my cousin Jeff and his daughter Leah popped by for a short visit - Leah confirmed it was indeed she who I had seen in the park, though both of us had been sufficiently surprised by unexpectedly spotting the other that we hadn't said hello at the time.

Next morning before heading to the airport together with their son David, who has just started college in Washington DC but had flown home for Yom Kippur, we had brunch at Pam and Stan's. Another cousin, Michelle, joined us. Very rudely, I wasn't able to do justice to the company. I discovered I had run out of air time on my US prepaid mobile (though not out of money) and so spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone to AT&T trying to deposit some more money and hence extend the air time. There is some extremely annoying bug in their system when using an overseas credit card that has tripped me up in the past- although they prompt you to you name a different billing country they require you to use a US state! This tied their system in such knots that in the end the operator was getting rejections even when both Michelle and Pam tried using their local cards to help me out. One day when I am feeling stronger I will try again, as I will be in San Francisco with Barry later in October and will want the phone working then!

And so I returned to Mexico City, via Houston. Barry met me at the airport on Sunday night - it was very nice to be reunited and really felt like coming home. We were expecting Bev and Judy as house guests on Wednesday, so there was not much time to resume a normal routine. Watch this space for the next entry about our adventures in and around Mexico City

1 comment:

Aviva said...

Hey, Barbara, you've made me homesick for the Cleveland Mob!