Let Them Eat Cake!

In my home, it’s a season of birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations and special events – and that spells C.A.K.E. I have many signature cake recipes and have not had a chance to share them all. So far, you can check out Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Hurry Up Chocolate. (The promised "never before published" Grandma Cake – is now here.) 

The documentary “Sugar Coated” aptly noted that sugar, especially in the form of cake, appears at every one of our celebrations. Recently, there have been a LOT of sugar documentaries (just Google it) all beating the same drum. Oh dear…

Me, Jani bácsi and grandparents

Me, Jani bácsi and grandparents

As I tackle the challenge of trying to eat less and less sugar, I visit memory lane. My first clear "cake memory" was linked to Ontario tobacco country – the Delhi, Leamington area - where members of the Hungarian community travelled to visit friends - and where many found seasonal jobs before the trend to use temporary foreign workers.

Were the people we visited family or friends? That distinction is blurred. Everyone was “Auntie / Uncle”, or in Hungarian - “néni, bácsi” (naynee, bawtchi). Some of the aunts/uncles were also referred to as "falubeli (s)" – meaning, "people from my village back home". Far from the “homeland”, bonds among the “New Canadians” were important.

We once dropped in to see one of these families in tobacco country – and yes – people really did just "drop in" unannounced – and usually were greeted with a warm welcome (and for the men, a shot glass of palinka – a "knock your socks off" fruit brandy.)  To me, these people seemed rich and modern – a large, new house, lots of land, and they were the only people I knew who had a chest freezer. Out of it, the hostess grabbed some frozen home-made cake and within an hour it was served, covered with whipped cream. It was a confetti angel cake – and I was in heaven – with a lasting memory. I don’t recall ever trying to replicate that cake, though I notice that one can buy cake mixes for confetti angel cake. 

Somewhere along the line, I stopped using cake mixes, as I began to make most things from scratch. From time to time, I come across articles debating whether it’s Ok to use cake mixes, how to make a cake mix taste like a scratch cake – geesh! The big name cake mix sites offer lots of fun ideas for decorating – though that's not my "thing". (It's my brother who, over the years, has turned out amazingly decorated cakes.)

My cakes are simply iced, and I know nothing about fancy decorating. I feel tickled that I am two degrees of separation from the talent at Cake and Loaf Bakery on Dundurn St, Hamilton. I follow them on Instagram and there is never a day when my jaw does’t drop at the sight of their creations.

Wikipedia claims the word "cake" has Viking / Old Norse origins - from the word "kaka.". (I always though that meant something else - wink.) Could that also be linked to the word "fika"? This is a just published book - "Fika: An introduction to the Swedish coffee break". Don't forget that a lovely coffee break awaits at Kensington Market's Fika Coffee Shop.

I come by my love of cakes honestly, since it is a big part of Hungarian culture. Google - Hungarian coffee houses – and the Image results of these (still existing) coffee houses (called cukrászda) are a thing to behold. The cukrászda culture was famous, and survived 40 years of Communism. The pastries and spaces are "eye candy". The history of cakes points out that they are most popular in Europe and North America. Not surprisingly, there are cake variations across Europe. The charming Great British Bake Off is airing again just now on PBS.  I was surprised to see the number of cakes the contestants had to make that I never heard of!

Though I don’t get fancy with cakes or decorating, my idea of a fun outing is to check out all the baking supplies at Bulk Food stores, or even better – Golda’s Kitchen - and when the drive seems too far, one can order online.

So, "Let them eat cake!" I know... turns out Marie Antoinette never said that. Reading about cakes has fewer calories than eating them, but let's all eat cake anyhow!

It would be fun to hear your cake memories and loves.  Use Comments below to share (you can post anonymously or just leave a first name) - and if you enjoyed this read, please take a second to click on "Like"!