The Revealing, Secret Diaries of a Not-So-Secret Foodie


In Faith, Family, Food, Photography, Writing on January 31, 2014 at 7:49 pm
Irish Date Cake with Whipping Cream

Traditional Irish Date Cake with Whipping Cream.

Sticky cake clings to the edge of the plate. Clinging tight, refusing to let go.

“You missed a spot,” the youngest sister notices. French porcelain thin, hangs fragile in her hands. The rose-covered plate moves back towards the dish-filled sink.

“It’s a poor dish dryer that can’t help the dish washer,” the older sister reminds, elbows deep in bubbles.
Inherited bone china, held quiet, between them now.

Side-by-side sisters, sleeves rolled and cuffed clearing the mess left behind. Together in the mess; this time cups and saucers, stacked and balancing high on the counter. Beside the dessert forks and plates, cleared and bouncing in the soap.

Discovered and placed before her now, one sister scratches off the stubborn speck. The other follows. She dusts with a towel soft, the forgotten. On the finished pile it lands, rubbed clean, never having hit the water again.

Years forward, a lifetime of dishes and days gone by, a hurried mother calls to her children, “Get your shoes on.”

Summer hot beats down on their tanned feet bare. Shoed now and scrambling for the car they file in, one by one. Brother, then sister and sister, all in the back seat. Windows down, air humid presses in while two girls exchange harsh words over a hair ribbon taken not borrowed, nor shared.

“Children, do you love each other? Are you always kind and true? Do you do to others as you’d have them do to you?” sung familiar from the front seat. The rule’s golden notes passed mouth to ear. A mother’s command not question for answer.

In silence and in reverse they back down the long sloped drive over the ditch. Meeting the road they make their way pausing at the tracks marked bright with lilies. Riveted strong tank cars stand, weathered orange in wait.

Moving fast now on the freeway down into the steel valley. A mill’s stack below sputters smoke slow. Up and up to the sky blue above the houses perched precarious at ridge’s edge. Little eyes take notice of the steep walls and trees held lose in earth with roots exposed.

Breeze blows gentle. Turning the white house trimmed with green comes into view, its large front porch empty. Pushing away wind-scattered hair from her eyes a granddaughter shouts, “Great Grandma’s not out. She must be inside.”

“Let’s go round back, Mom,” suggests her daughter grand with hair wrapped neat in ribbon red. Down the alley behind the house the car full lands. Stopped before the old garage. Door flung wide, girls and boy run inpatient across the yard, up the steps into the back of the house.

A date cake and woman in the tight kitchen welcome warm. On crystal pedestal high, a round dessert sits familiar. “Grandma it’s not Christmas Eve. It’s the middle of July and much too hot to bake,” the motherless daughter who mothers smiles. Its sweetness embraces her heart wounded with loss.

“Do unto others. It’s what to do”, replies the grandmother heart held well. Goodbyes came early at eight days new. Her mother lost during Love’s labor hard. Mother unknown, but always beholden. The circle of a mother’s love never-ending remains. Carried forward ever faithful, unbroken chain. Arms circle tight. Older sister called to mother sister younger is comforted strong.

Children run wild. Laughing free and loud. Screen door creaks. Out the door they fly. Nestled safe in picket fence. Summer sun shines bright. Children play and inside two mothers cling hearts tied tight with invisible string.

* * * * * * * * * * *

This cake is enjoyed by of all my men. I must admit I was surprised when my pickiest eater gobbled it right up. Traditionally we serve this dessert on Christmas Eve topped high with whipping cream. But recently I’ve brought it to events at school and it has been enjoyed by a crowd. As a result, I’ve started making it throughout the year. It’s an old recipe that’s as tasty as it is unique. This was a cake my Great Grandmother would use at the holidays for gift giving. She’d wrap and tie it with a bright ribbon, hand-delivering it to folks around town. My mom continues on with her Grandmother’s gift-giving tradition. What a gift it is! This rich, moist cake is wonderful. It’s deliciously dense and sweet in an earthy way. Dates and walnuts are packed with nutrition. Almost makes you not feel too bad when you head back to the kitchen for a second piece.

Great Grandma.  Sunday Best on Ridge.
Great Grandma’s Irish Date Cake

1 10-ounce package dates, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water
1 cup dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons margarine, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Grease fluted Bundt pan well and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut up dates and place in Pyrex bowl. Sprinkle dates with baking soda. Pour boiling water over mixture. Let stand.

Cream brown sugar and melted margarine. Add egg, flour, baking powder and vanilla. Mix well. Scrape down sides of bowl and add date mixture. Mix well. Next fold in chopped walnuts. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan. Place in center of preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Let cake cool on wire rack before removing. Serve cake with whipping cream. A cup of milk and sugar tea is lovely along-side, if desired.

  1. What a beautifully written narration about The Traditional Irish Cake! Thank you for sharing about your cherishable family moments too. Not only the recipe sounds so delicious but I truly enjoyed your heart-warming story.

    • Grace,
      Your comment brought me joy. This story has been simmering for awhile. Next time I make Great Grandma’s cake I’ll save you a piece. It always makes me smile and it is so delish!

  2. Sue, love the story, love the cake and love the writer and baker! You really need to take your writing a step farther…not kidding! Love you!

    • Aunt Jo,
      You are up early on this snowing morning. But, you’ve always been an early bird. Thank your for your impressions. Your encouragement means so much. Love you too.

  3. Oh, I can not wait to share your Great Grandma’s cake!
    Sue, I would love to repost your blog entries on my facebook and share your special recipes. Is there a link for me to do that? 🙂

    • How kind of you. At the very bottom of each entry is a share tab. There is a tab for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Linked In. If you click on the blue Facebook button it should share on your feed. Let me know of it works for you. Hope you are enjoying the day’s beautiful snow.

      • Hi, I enjoyed this so much!!! I am going to send a picture of Grandma’s Plum Pudding. My brother made it for a party ( late Xmas family party) Also will send her a pic of Grandma’s hat. She was a wonderful woman and Grandmother. I think of her often. I can remember my Mom helping Gram cut and sort all the fruit. On the recipe for Gram’s fruit cake it states that you would need 10 cents worth of lemon oil…..we would go to the drug store and buy this tiny test tube type bottle of oil….I miss her fruit cakes. Her entire dining table and bay window would be covered with colorful cakes and I can remember one year driving all around delivering the cakes!!!! In case you are wondering who I am….My Mother was Rosemary, your Grandfather’s sister. I’ll get you some more of her recipes, Mary Beth

  4. Wow thank you for sharing your talents/God given gifts of cooking, photography And writing. I love the pictures you draw with words. My mouth waters for the pictures you post of that cake!!! Adding dates to my shopping list!

    • Gina,

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment for me to enjoy. Next time I bake up another cake, I’ll be sure to save a slice for you. Hope your week is a good one!

  5. Wow! This was amazing. The perfect amount of sweetness. Thank you for including us Reeds. Can’t wait until your next masterpiece.

    • So good to find your comment waiting for me today! I am so glad you enjoyed the traditional cake! Thank you for leaving your review here. Value it! Cheers-sueBthefoodie

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