…. Mother’s Day has never been the same for me
Mother’s Day is always a bitter sweet day for me. My husband and my children go out of their way to make the day special for me but not being able to buy a gift for my own mom or have her over for dinner leaves me feeling like something is missing in my life. The first few years after her untimely death were the hardest. I think about her every day.
To honour my mom I thought I would share some memories I have of her as I was growing up.
Mom always worked. When we were little she worked at Appleby College serving dinner to the boys. When she came home at night we would anxiously await to see what “leftovers” she’d bring to share with us. Not that Mom wasn’t a good cook, she was but she cooked ‘different’ food and what she brought home was ‘Canadian food’. Besides after working all day I’m sure she was pleased not to have to cook all the time.
Mom was definitely an entrepreneur. She worked side by side with my dad when they started their own catering business and then managed a Becker store together. After a couple of hold ups in the store my parents decided to open their own business that was less risky. What better than a fabric store. Did she know anything about running a fabric store? No, but she knew how to sew and so did all her daughters.
In her 30s Mom learned how to be a dental technician, in her 40s and 50s she learned how to operate knitting machines and other specialty sewing machines and she took courses to become a night school teacher. The money she earned from teaching was always put aside for a yearly vacation. Mom and Dad travelled every year. Trips included Germany, Mexico, Florida and numerous islands in the Caribbean.
My mom liked to experiment with cooking and we had a neighbour who shared many of her recipes with her. Some of our more Canadian meals resulted from this sharing of recipes. She learned to make a great spaghetti sauce and delicious cabbage rolls. She aimed to please her family, especially her husband but if you ever crossed my mother she had a bit of a stubborn streak. I remember one day when Mom served us cabbage rolls (this is after cooking them for years) my father announced that she didn’t have to make them again because he didn’t really like them. My mother was furious. If you’ve ever made cabbage rolls from scratch you know how labour intensive they are. She never made them again, despite the fact that the rest of us liked them.
My parents had to scrimp and save all their lives. My parents finally owned their own home long after I was married and my sisters were in their 20s. One of my favourite stories happened when I no longer lived at home so I heard it from my middle sister. Mom really wanted new dishes and my father kept saying ‘no’ and that there was nothing wrong with the old ones. One day she pointed out how badly the dishes were chipped. My father insisted they were fine and when they broke he would buy her a new set. So my mother promptly broke all the dishes and she finally got her new ones.
I was shocked when I heard this story because in all the years I lived at home I never heard my parents argue. My mom was truly loyal to my dad but she always ‘quietly’ got her point across and I know she defended our decision to go to university. If it were up to our dad he would have had us all working in an office as secretaries. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just not what we wanted to do.
When mom baked she frequently made a cake called Koenigskuchen which literally means King’s Cake. It wasn’t my favourite unless she iced it with chocolate. As I got older I became very fond of it and recently I’ve been really missing it. Maybe it’s because I’m trying not to eat sweets at the moment and I have this urge to bake all of a sudden. I found several recipes on line and played with the those that most closely resembled the one my mother made.
Koenigskuchen or Cake Fit for a King
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup of seedless raisins
- 1/2 -3/4 cup of dried cranberries (some recipes call for dried currants or double the amount of raisins)
- 1/4 cup rum or other spirit or hot water
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 7 egg yolks
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 cups blanched almonds, ground
- grated lemon rind from one lemon
- 7 egg whites
- Grease the bottom and sides of a large loaf pan. Dust with flour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine the dried fruit with the alcohol or hot water and set aside to soak.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy.
4. Beat in the egg yolks and continue beating until batter turns a light yellow colour.
5. Combine the flour and baking powder and beat them into the sugar the sugar and egg
mixture, 1/2 cup at a time.
Blanching and Grinding the Almonds
- I remember having to blanch almonds when Mom baked and since the almonds I had on hand were not blanched I’m adding instructions on how to do that.
- First boil a small amount of water in a pot and add the almonds for about 20 seconds. When you spoon them out of the water you will notice that the skins are wrinkled.
- Place the almonds on a paper towel and then slip the skins from the almond with your fingers. Be careful, they’re slippery.
- To grind the almonds you could use a food processor but I found a food grinder or grater very similar to what we used when I was young.
6. Stir in the dried fruit with the liquid and the grated almonds and the grated lemon rind.
7. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk or electric mixer until stiff peaks
form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 1 1/2
hours or until the cake tester comes out clean from the centre of the cake.
9. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, loosen the edges with a knife and turn out onto a
10. Prepare the chocolate glaze (my favourite part).
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. boiling water
- Over boiling water or in a double boiler, melt the butter and the chocolate.
- Add the sifted icing sugar and blend thoroughly.
- Add the boiling water to thin the glaze to a pouring consistency.
- Pour and spread immediately over the cake.