My Baba, Lillian passed away when I was eight, it’s too bad because I’m sure we were kindred spirits…
She too was a teacher, an artist, a music lover, she struggled with infertility (yes, me too…another post, my friends), and she loved creating good food.
Just stumbled upon her handwritten cookbook, previously banished to storage due to “bad” words like LARD and WHITE SUGAR. It’s lovely..her beautiful cursive script carefully noting each detail, her little notes in the margins “just like store bought”, “better than Sonia’s”, her adjustments to the recipes as she discovered she had diabetes…
She thoughtfully recorded her cooking, baking and canning recipes for passing on, sharing with friends and family…like I said, kindred spirit.
Lillian grew much of their food in her brimming backyard, JAMMED corner to corner with vegetables, fruits and herbs. The smell of warm dill immediately returns me to endless days in the sunny garden, her skilled hands peeling off the juciest leaves, filling the pocket of her flowered apron. Admittedly, that is where Lil & I differ. I’m afraid I’m more of a plant…uhm killer. I have deliciously vivid dreams of my garden though! With sketches and pictures and …it’s all in my head, so someday…
She was magician of a cook, sending me into the empty lot next door…to select ‘pig’s weed’, “Not the tiny ones and not the ones gone to seed”. I’d bring back as much as I could squeeze into an old bread bag and within a few hours POOF! the most delicately flavoured white borscht would appear. No, don’t have that recipe YET! When I
find create it, you shall be among the first to see. I also recalled a date cake, that was so moist and tasty…I’d beg my mom to bake it and I don’t even like cake. That simple recipe I found!
For our upcoming Easter dinner, I felt the urge to take this humble cake and elevate it to ‘company dessert’, status.Enter the ganache (also makes a catchy title), the caramel, the salt…really…add those to anything and it’s going to rock your socks. We don’t do dessert very often, so when we do…I like it to be very special. This one takes a little time & prep, but it is truly worth it for the ooh’s and ahhh’s. I think of it as collaborating with my Baba, something old, something new…this is what ‘we’ came up with: Baba-Ganache Date Cake
Mix these ingredients & let cool:
- 2 cups of pitted dates, chopped finely (sticky business)
- 3 cups boiling water
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
Cream & add to date mixture:
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup white sugar…I warned you
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 well-beaten eggs
You’ll have to scrape the mixer bowl a lot to get this mixed well…looks a little nasty, don’t worry.
Sift together the following & add to wet mixture:
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
At this point you can choose to do the after school snack version: Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 13 cake pan & sprinkle with:
- 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- 1 cup brown sugar
Throw it into your 350 degree oven for an hour…pull it out, let it cool before cutting & enjoy!
Or the fancy dessert version: Divide the batter into two round 12″ Springform pans, sprinkle with mixture above
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, remove and allow to cool, you can make the cake and the ganache ahead of time…as in days ahead, which is great because I usually have way too much to do right before a big family dinner.
- 2 cups of dark chocolate chips ( I used Callebaut, they melt beautifully)
- 1.5 cups heavy cream
- 3 tbsp DiSaronno liqueur
Slowly melt chips in a double boiler, in another saucepan gently warm up the cream & liqueur for 2-3 minutes. Once the chocolate is melted,remove from heat & add the cream mixture , whisk until smooth. Cover pot with plastic wrap and allow to cool for several hours, don’t put it in the fridge to cheat, it changes the consistency. After it has cooled down, use a mixer and beat it until it’s light & fluffy! Put in the fridge until you are ready to use.
Layer the cake, ganache, cake, ganache…I sprinkled some almonds between the layers and then drizzled caramel sauce and coarse pink salt on top…just because it WAS NOT RICH ENOUGH, hee hee…it’s beyond yummers, if you make it…invite me over. NO, I’m not kidding…I’ll come.
It’s one of nature’s way that we often feel closer to distant generations than to the generation immediately preceding us.