Aunt Marga’s Cherry Cake

By Elisa John

Aunt Marga was a terrible person. She was miserly and rude and my great-grandmother’s sister-in-law. And let us be honest, everyone knows that sisters-in-law are to be taken with a pinch of salt. According to my elderly relatives, my family rather celebrated than mourned her loss when she passed away. So, one could truly say that the name resemblance to Harry Potter’s aunt Marge is not without reason.

This is one of the two things I know about this infamous woman even though I have never had the pleasure (or the distress, depending on how one views it) of meeting her. The second thing is that she was the creator of the most outstandingly delicious cherry cake existing. In, well, loving memory of her, my family named this cake Aunt Marga‘s Cherry Cake.

Now, if the chance of surprisingly finding a pit in one‘s slice of the cake (which means good luck) is not reason enough to love any cherry cake,  people will argue that it is more than easy to find good, if not excellent recipes for cherry cakes. They are everywhere – on the internet, on the cooking channel on TV, learned by heart and passed on from ancestor to ancestor by tradition and written in every second cook book in the forgotten piles of books in people’s cellars. The world does not need another recipe that claims to be the best out of them all, right?

However, this time, it is true; this cake is the best one. All these other already existing recipes might be lovely but not one of them holds the same message as Aunt Marga‘s Cherry Cake. This message is that even the worst things can turn into something great. The worst of human beings can still leave something good behind. Just like this despised woman blessed this world with the best cherry cake that now brings the whole family together whenever something is celebrated.

When looking at my recipe for the one and only Aunt Marga‘s Cherry Cake, there are exactly six steps that make this cake stand out from other people‘s recipes for any other baked goods. Some of these steps are debatable, some of them are not, but I can ensure that only by following these steps one can create a cake that truly lives up to the meaning of the message Aunt Marga‘s Cherry Cake stands for. Here are my inevitably essential steps to prepare and bake Aunt Marga‘s Cherry Cake.

  • Firstly, one should separate the eggs into egg yolks and egg whites. Afterwards, one should beat the egg whites. The beaten egg whites should be folded in as the last step of preparing the dough. This is the only way to make the cake light and fluffy.
  • Secondly, after blending the butter and sugar, one should add the egg yolks.
  • Thirdly, ground chocolate, cinnamon, flour, baking soda and grated lemon zest should be added. Here, one should definitely make sure to not be lazy but instead to  use a real lemon and not any kind of lemon aroma. Only a real lemon can provide rich and authentic taste.
  • Fourthly, one should only ever use pitted morello cherries or any other sort of sour cherries. This is probably the most surprising step for most people. Actually, a lot of baking enthusiasts or enthusiasts of indulging in all sorts of cakes swear by using simple and fresh cherries because they are sweeter. But even if needing the remaining juice in the morello cherry glass was not necessary for the final step, the morello cherries would be the better choice. Cherries have a lower acidity as sour cherries. The higher the fruit acidity, the more suitable it is for any baking purposes.
  • Fifthly, one should bake the cake for 45 minutes in a preheated oven.
  • Sixthly, after the cake has cooled down, one should slowly pour the cherry juice that remained in the glass over the cake. This step throws off the majority of people who come across this cake. Most of them are afraid the cake will end up being a mushy shadow of what it could have been, had they just kept their hands off the attempt to pour cherry juice over it. However, giving in to that fear will make those people‘s cake be as dry as the desert. They will also end up with a cake that could never have a taste as strongly and a consistency as juicy as Aunt Marga‘s Cherry Cake. Also, the results of daring this step are always the first thing people compliment as soon as they try this masterpiece of a cake.

Anyway, the great taste and the message Aunt Marga’s Cherry Cake holds are not even what I love most about this cake. It is that this message can be applied to any bad situation. Whether it is a blessing in disguise, hard times that make one grow and learn, the one rejection that leads one to finding their dream job or an ongoing global pandemic that brings back all the bittersweet memories of the times I was able to eat cherry cake surrounded by my family – Aunt Marga‘s Cherry Cake and its meaning cover them all. And I know for sure that the meaning of this cake will also always be a silver lining for those who have not yet been able to find the good in the bad.

Recipes for Aspiring Writers

By Melissa Knox-Raab

For aspiring writers, few things could be better than miserable or even terrifying moments, moments like those many of us have experienced in pandemic times. Turning life’s lemons into lemonade is never easy, but here are five tips for aspiring writers:

(1) Keep a handwritten journal by your bedside and write in it when you wake up—especially when you wake up at four a.m.

(2) Carry around a little notebook to capture any thought you imagine you’re going to remember later—you won’t. A cell phone will do, but there’s something about the little notebook that inspires. David Sedaris has an amusing essay on this, on which he elaborates here.

(3) Write a set amount daily; 600-800 words is a good goal.

(4) Never judge what you are writing as you write. Dreams, rages, moments of despair—dump those thoughts in your journal. Enjoy whining. You can often turn a temper tantrum into an intriguing train of thought when you’ve cooled down.

(5) Borrow from writers who appeal to you in order to make something of that hodgepodge in your journal. Wordsworth thought of poetry as the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling,” but Coleridge, whose poetry often fit that description, offered another formula: “emotion recollected in tranquility.” I find both methods useful. The French writer Jules Renard remarked: “Look for the ridiculous in everything and you will find it.” He’s right.

***

You’ve got to keep up your strength while writing. Here’s a fun one. You’ll need a wok. All items can be purchased at the Asian store near the university at Viehofer Platz:

Rice noodles

Soy sauce

Sesame oil

Peanut oil

Black rice vinegar

Shao Hsing Rice wine

Spicy black bean sauce

Soy sauce

Tofu

A chili pepper or two, depending on how hot you like your food

Crushed garlic—lots

Grated ginger—as much as you like

Sesame seeds

Sugar

Cornstarch

Vegetables of your choice—bok choy and snow peas are some good choices

(1) Cut and drain the tofu. Place on clean kitchen towels and cover.

(2) Wash and slice vegetables.

(3) Sprinkle a little cornstarch over the tofu.

Put about two tablespoons of peanut oil in the hot wok. Add tofu as soon as the oil is hot; let fry on high heat for a few minutes and then turn over. When it looks crispy, remove and set on paper towels to drain.

Add a little more peanut oil to the pan. Stir in crushed garlic, grated ginger, and vegetables. Stir fry for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Add tofu.

Throw a package of rice noodles into boiling, salted water. Depending on how thick they are, they’ll need five to ten minutes. Follow package instructions. Drain, rinse, and add to the vegetables and tofu in the wok.

In a small saucepan, combine about a half a cup of the rice wine, a tablespoon or two of the black rice vinegar, a shake or three of the sesame oil, about third of a cup of soy sauce, several tablespoons of the black bean sauce, a chopped chili or two, and a tablespoon or more of sugar. Put on high heat, stirring, and when it’s just boiling, pour it over your rice-tofu-veggie mixture. Sprinkle on a handful of sesame seeds.

Enjoy.

Last Word

By Melissa Knox-Raab

As we embark on our second semester of Zoom conferences, social distancing, and FFP2 masks, I’m delighted to see one positive effect of the pandemic: those who have to sit home write more. When there’s nothing else to do, paper is remarkably patient. While no substitute for jovial dinner parties and casual encounters with friends, writing counters a remarkable number of everyday frustrations.

I also find cooking a pleasant way to forget COVID. Here’s one of my latest recipes. Call it “Boomer Chicken.”

Content warning: contains meat.

Ingredients:
One corn-fed chicken
One pack of REWE fennel sausages
At least eight cloves of garlic
One or two red onions
Olive oil
Salt and pepper.

  1. Remove the bird from plastic-wrap. Season it—salt and pepper will do; any flavored salt is fine, too. Place the chicken in a dish and leave in the fridge overnight. You can omit this step if you’re in a rush, but the skin will be crispier if it spends the night in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 220º. Remove skin from around eight garlic cloves. Set aside. Remove sausages from package. Slice each one into four or five pieces.
  3. Stuff chicken with garlic and sausages. Sew shut with twine, binding legs as well. Again, you can skip the twine if you’re in a hurry, but the bird will be more flavorful if you don’t. If not all the sausage and garlic cloves fit, that’s okay—they can mingle with the onions in the dish.
  4. Slice red onions into four-five pieces each. Put in a medium-size baking dish and add about a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Toss. Place the bird on top of the onions. Insert dish into pre-heated oven and let bake for about an hour (longer if it’s a big chicken). About halfway through, you can turn the chicken over, and if it looks like it’s getting too brown, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the chicken.
  5. Serve with white wine, the vegetable of your choice, and rice or potatoes.

Dr. Melissa Knox-Raab teaches American Literature and writing at the UDE. Read more of her work here: https://melissaknox.com