In 2004 I inherited a cakebook from my Grandma Dingle, that was published by Grandma Rose – not Rose Birnbaum, that famous cake master, but a different Rose, well known in the Pacific Northwest where I hail. It’s inscribed to her as a gift from her daughter, my aunt Mary Nan, who that same year gave a copy of it to her baby sister Judy, my mom.
Growing up we were a scratch cake house. No one got box cake, or grocery counter cake for birthdays. The main thing we made from Grandma Rose was the Brown & Greens, one of our Hooliday cookie standbys. The rest of the book is full of a lot of arcane and fussy sounding, rather old-world cakes and other sweets which we almost never tried. There are a lot of whipped egg whites, and nuts, and strange things that I never imagined I’d be able to find in a modern grocery store, like canned chestnut. But I did reverentially recall the time my dad made the Walnut Torte for my mother’s birthday.
It’s a tall, rich, many layered splendor of an icebox cake. You roll out an impossibly crumbly biscuit-like dough into millimeters thin rounds, that you bake on the back of a cake pan. Then you stack them up, filled with a rich sweet sour cream and walnut filling, and spread the top with a layer of apricot jam.
After 24 hours in the refrigerator it’s so dense and rich and glamorous that you remember it as one of the top 5 cakes of your life, 25 years later.
February is the secondary Birthday Season in our family, primary Birthday Season being October. So I was planning to make that cake for Christopher’s birthday, and I started pouring through the book trying to figure out which cake it was, because all I remembered was that the cake definitely came from this book, and that it was amazing. I read description after description and each one sounded amazing. And I got that crazy cake lady gleam in my eye and declared that I was going to make every single cake in the book.
And so I started a Beeminder goal and here we are.