A recipe for family

I’ve been missing my grandmas this month, having lost one twenty years ago and another a month ago.

So I’ve been baking all their favorite recipes.

On St. Patrick’s Day I made my sweet Rose’s soda bread. I first made it right after college, living in Boston, when a St. Patrick’s Day card from my mom made me call her in a panic because it would be my first year since age four without her famous Irish soda bread.

The recipe is still on the back of that Snoopy card from my mom, though the See’s cocoa-and-nougat Irish potatoes that accompanied it are long gone.

My kids love the family’s soda bread. I love the bread. It’s one of our Springtime rituals. And for the first time in twenty years, my soda bread tasted terrible. It was dry and crumbly.

I felt I’d failed grandma.

She will likely forgive me, since she’s a swell old gal, and was known to muddle perhaps one recipe a year herself. And because I never question her patience with and love for me. Ever.

But that recipe got me thinking about all my heirloom recipes. My great grandmother’s honey cakes, the recipe for which my aunt gave me on my wedding day, nestled in the sterling silver tiers on which she used to serve them. My uncle’s crepes, a special treat for the kids the morning after thanksgiving, which we wolfed down as the grownups lolled about in sleeping bags and we giggled at how much powdered sugar we could keep off the table by just licking it off the thin pancakes.

During this nostalgic romp through my food memories, I found my beloved grandmother’s Crested Butte Chocolate Cake recipe. I love this recipe. I used to swear by this recipe to impress and nourish the friends who made me feel adored. But since a treasured aunt, my godmother, gave me the phenomenal Moosewood Cooks at Home, I’ve been making their 6-Minute Chocolate Cake. To the exclusion of my grandmother’s old standby, and my favorite.

Finding the cocoa-dusted recipe cards for this cake made my week.

I made my nieces this wonderful cake for a family celebration of birthdays and loss. To celebrate the end of a very stressful month. To celebrate my son turning five. To celebrate love and life. And grandmas.





Yes, he cut his own piece. And he ate a every bite.

15 thoughts on “A recipe for family

  1. Happy 5th birthday!!! I don’t have these family recipes even though I’m Chinese and yes eating/food is a big thing for my family gathering. Somehow the passing on of how to make dishes involves being actually there and watching and helping in the kitchen. I also worry that my kids will grow up with no such memories because I don’t cook (for real, I don’t). I worry that they’re missing out more than just me not cooking, that they won’t have these memories.

    • You play games, though, and thats a legacy they wont forget and that they can share with family and friends. Hardcore games, simple games, and everything in between. I hang onto these recipes because they’re a link, but give me a scrabble board and I’m closer to the chocolate cake grandma than I ever will be in the kitchen.
      Teaching your kids any ritual of any kind will bond them to that memory.
      Dr. Who will forever remind them of you!

  2. Crested Butte as in Colorado? What’s the connection to the cake?

    Moosewood is forty minutes from my house. I’ve been there. It’s really good. As you can guess from the cookbooks . . .

  3. Just started reading your blog.I admire that you are so down to earth. As far as this post, recipes are something we can all cherish. You sit down to a meal cooked by a recipe from a family member and you immediately get a smile on your face because you have that forever unbreakable bond with them. Your family members are forever imprinted in your mind and heart, that’s why even when they are far, they seem so close.

  4. I can’t believe Butter is 5. Happy birthday kiddo! That cake looks amazing. Grandma woulda cut her own piece and devoured it too!

  5. I love the idea of passing down memories through food [cooking/baking]! Recipes within a family are always something to hold onto dearly. The Crested Butte Chocolate Cake looks delicious :) Thank you for sharing!

  6. I can relate to his post so much. I adored both of my grandma’s! They’ve been gone for years now, but I can always connect to them in my kitchen! With my babies that never met them, and in my own mind and heart! Thanks so much for sharing ;)

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