Tuesday, April 17, 2012

And it's not even my birthday ...

English Madeleine cake

One of the things you learn when caring for someone with dementia is how precious memories become. In our lives, we go around acquiring knowledge, ways of doing things, and mental images of the things  we love. We think -- and some times even say -- "I will remember this forever." And sometimes, that's a gift we are denied.
There are days with my mom are better than others, and one of things I have learned is that the bad days can be made better if I serve up long-time favourites for dinner.
Recently, quite out of the blue, there was a recollection that I never liked traditional birthday cakes for my parties. I always asked for English Madeleine cakes from the Dutch bakery in our neighbhorhood. (This is always been proof to me that all my past lives have been lived as an British tea granny.) Nonetheless, it is true. My birthday cakes were almost always one dozen jammy coconutty sponge cakes arranged in birthday cake formation -- a candle in each. Bliss.
Strawberry filling
I haven't seen these cakes since the bakery closed more than 40 years ago. And yet, the memory of them remained.
Today, in the morning of a slightly rough day, I fired up the oven and baked a simple sponge cake. Then I went to the fridge for the strawberry jam. Not there. I live with a teenaged boy who slathers bread with jam for a late night snack.
I did have frozen strawberries. So, I made a simple syrup, 2/3 cup of sugar dissolved in 2/3 cup of water. Boiled for 5 minutes. I defrosted and mashed up about 1/2 cup of strawberries, and then added the fruit to the syrup. I boiled the mixture for a minute and then simmered it to reduce it to half. I dissolved 1 tsp corn starch in 1 tbsp water and stirred that into the fruit syrup and stirred it until it was thickened. It's a kind of jammy pie filling, and it tastes pretty good.
I let the cake and the fruit filling cool slightly and then brushed the fruit all over the top and sides and the top of the warm sponge. This was smelling incredible. Next, I coated the whole cake in shredded coconut. When the cake cooled completely, I piped little butter cream rosettes all around the top edge.
This is tonight's dessert, and I will serve it in the hope that it brings some comfort and sweet memories. It's the least I can do, after all, it was Mom who let me celebrate my birthdays like a little old English lady.


  1. oh Nancy what a touching story,enjoy your cake.xx

  2. DAMN! To think I was at your house today but didn't have time to stop in --- I could have stolen a piece of your cake, arghhhhhhhh!!!

  3. Sounds absolutely delicious, Nancy! What a lovely story. Many of my childhood memories are related to similarly wonderful treats of life.


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