In celebration of July 4th, I found a recipe on the Food52 website (https://food52.com/recipes/28811-american-flag-cake) for baking a cake that, when sliced, looks like the U.S. flag. Though it seemed a little daunting, I decided to do it. My finished product didn’t come out quite as clean cut as theirs, but the reaction from my family was definitely worth baking all day for. And I mean all day—with one 9″ pan to make 5 cakes (I wanted to make it 9″ but couldn’t find disposable pans at that size), I was literally mixing, baking, cooling, cutting and icing for over 9 hours. I may not be the most skilled baker but I’ve got heart.
I was fortunate to grow up with both of my grandmothers alive during my childhood, and enjoyed diverse cooking between the two of them (Italian and Jewish). And while they both made amazing dinners, especially for the holidays, my Jewish grandmother was favored more by my sister and I as a baker. Anytime you walked into her home, you’d know to go straight to the kitchen to see what was newly baked and sitting on the table waiting to be devoured. Of all the sweets she baked, I think her lemon iced lemon cake was by far my absolute favorite. And it’s likely why I have a penchant for it til’ this day. But aside from the smell of bread or cake baking, there was always another familiar scent that occupied her kitchen. I never knew what exactly it was and just associated it with the baking process.
When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, my family made sure one of the things we didn’t discard was the tool she possessed for over 50 years which helped bring her creations to life – a chrome Sunbeam Model 11 Mixmaster.
It sat undisturbed somewhere, packed away for a few years, complete with the glass bowls it came with it. I can’t recall if it was used since my grandmother’s passing prior to this Christmas but the minute I turned it on, that familiar smell buried deep in my brain woke up. It was then I realized that the scent which accompanied all of her baking came from the mixer. This model mixer, manufactured in 1955/56, still functions perfectly after all these years. I was able to make a cake with it, and while I did I admired this machine as it churned away, thinking about the hundreds of desserts my grandmother lovingly made for her family. I think the motor needs a replacement as it gets pretty hot on the higher speeds, but until it completely conks out I continue using it and thinking of the woman to whom it once belonged.