Celebrating Rosh Hashanah: Grandma Hilda’s Chocolate and White Cake

Posted on September 21st, 2012 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

It’s erev Rosh Hashanah and as I arrive at my parents’ house for our family meal (and by family I mean all 30+ of our nearest and dearest) to kick off the holiday celebration, I am overwhelmed by the delicious aroma of dinner – homemade gefilte fish, brisket, turkey, and all the trimmings.  It’s true that for many, it’s the traditional foods that hold center court – kreplach (check out Esther Weiner’s recent blog post for her wonderful recipe at http://?s=kreplach), matzah ball soup, gefilte fish. For me, however, it’s all about the dessert. And not just any dessert, but Grandma Hilda’s chocolate and white cake.

Grandma Hilda’s Chocolate and White Cake at the dessert table.

While I have fond memories of many of my grandmother’s meals (fried chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, and let’s not forget the iceberg salad wedge!), it is her famous cake that has lived on as a must-have at family celebrations including birthdays and holiday meals. I have shared the recipe with many friends who are always delighted by how easy it is to make and how wonderful it tastes.

Recipe for Hilda Edelman’s Chocolate and White Cake

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter*

3 eggs

3 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 cup milk*

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

¾ can chocolate syrup

¼ tsp. baking soda

Cream together sugar and butter, blend in eggs. In two separate bowls, mix together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) and liquid ingredients (milk and vanilla). Alternate adding dry and liquid ingredients to sugar mixture. Begin and end with dry ingredients. Pour 2/3 of the batter into a well-greased and lightly floured tube pan. Add chocolate syrup and baking soda to remaining batter. Spoon chocolate batter over white batter in pan. Do not mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and ten minutes.

*To make a pareve version, substitute margarine and coffee rich for butter and milk.

See how pretty it looks inside!

Best wishes to everyone for a sweet and happy new year!

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The Rosh HaShanah Seder

Posted on September 12th, 2012 by

By Rabbi Barbara Aiello 

After the Chosen Food exhibition opened almost a year ago, my research on Jewish food slowed considerably, but it did not come to a complete halt. I’m forever hearing about something that is new to me, or seizing on bits of history and culture that I put aside for further investigation. The Sephardic/Mizrachi custom of the Rosh HaShanah seder was included in our exhibition, thanks to Poopa Dweck’s generosity in sharing a photograph from her beautiful cookbook, Aromas of Aleppo (Harper Collins, 2007), but we didn’t explore it in depth. So I reached out to Rabbi Barbara Aiello, a woman on the forefront of popularizing this lovely custom in America, to write about her experiences for us.

Rabbi Barbara, as she likes to be addressed, is the first woman rabbi and first non-orthodox rabbi in Italy. She serves Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud, the first active synagogue in Calabria since Inquisition times. During the winter months she serves the Kobernick senior living campus in Sarasota, Florida where she is resident rabbi. Contact her at www.rabbibarbara.com.

For more information about how to celebrate a Rosh HaShanah seder, complete with a “mini haggadah,” go to Rabbi Barbara’s 2010 post on Interfaith Family at http:///www.interfaithfamily.com/holidays/rosh_hashanah_and_yom_kippur/The_Rosh_Hashanah_Seder_Who_Knew.shtml

 Shana tova umetukah!

Karen

Rabbi Barbara Aiello

All of us know the most popular seder of all – the Passover Seder. “Seder” is a Hebrew word that means “order,” and the Passover seder includes an order of prayers and blessings, symbolic foods and songs, and of course, a special seder plate, to help tell the story of the our Jewish ancestors’ flight from slavery in Egypt to freedom.

The less well-known Rosh HaShanah seder is a Sephardic custom.  In Jewish homes in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, North African countries like Morocco and Egypt, and India, it is traditional for families to hold a seder on the night before Rosh HaShanah.

The Rosh HaShanah seder is similar to the Passover seder in many ways.  It includes stories, prayers, blessings, songs and symbolic foods. In recent years seder plates designed especially for the symbolic Rosh HaShanah seder foods have become available so that families can create a specific “order” to celebrate the birthday of the world.

The Rosh HaShanah seder  is called “Seder Yehi Ratzon,” the Seder of God’s will, because we offer blessings that it will be God’s will that we are blessed with bounty, strength, and peace in the coming year. The seder has its origins in the Talmud (Horayot 12a) where Rabbi Abaye writes about eating those foods that grow in abundance at this time of the year. We serve this abundance at our Rosh HaShanah seder table as a symbol of prosperity.

As a Sephardic Jew and rabbi who serves a congregation in Calabria, Italy, for part of the year, I brought the Rosh HaShanah seder to my congregants who live at the Kobernick senior community in Sarasota, Florida.  I’ve offered the seder tasting for three years to participants who range in age from 70 to over 100 years old, and members of the community who volunteer on our campus. We create small seder plates so that each individual can sample the symbolic foods. A larger plate contains a taste of the symbolic foods such as dates or pomegranates, figs, apples and honey, carrots, pumpkin or squash, beets, scallions or leeks and tuna fish. The table centerpiece features a large fish head, reminiscent of the ancient seder tradition where a large steamed fish was offered as the main course.

The Rosh HaShanah seder is quickly becoming an important event in the celebration of the Jewish New Year, mainly because it offers a joyful simcha during a solemn time of the year. Sometimes the birthday of the world is secondary to Rosh HaShanah’s more  somber message of teshuvah (return). The Rosh HaShanah seder offers a moment of joy prior to the services that contain a more serious theme.

The cultural element to the seder experience gives American Jews, the majority of whom have roots in the Ashkenazi tradition, a chance to experience a simcha that originates from Sephardic or Middle Eastern culture. Because we Sephardic Jews are a minority within a minority, our unique culture is often obscure or misunderstood. The seder gives Jews of all backgrounds a glimpse into the beauty of the Mediterranean Jewish culture, broadening the “meshpucha” feeling for all of us.

Finally those who participate in the Rosh HaShanah seder have the opportunity to add another family-based observance to the New Year experience. We Jews enjoy gathering around the family table. The Rosh HaShanah seder is another way to bring the family together, not only to tickle the palate, but to share in gratitude for another year of love and life.

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“You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s”

Posted on October 2nd, 2011 by

A blog post by associate director Anita Kassof.

How many of us remember that famous advertising slogan for Levy’s rye bread? The fact of the matter is, Levy’s had it right with that 1960s ad campaign; Jewish and kosher-style food have wide appeal. Think matzoh ball soup, bagels and lox, corned beef on rye, and no matter what your background, your mouth starts watering. Statistics bear out the claim. According to Sue Fishkoff, author of Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority (2010), the majority of people who buy kosher food products aren’t even Jewish. 

To honor the New Year—and to prove my point that great Jewish recipes are great for everyone—I share below a favorite recipe for “Jewish Apple Cake,” which I make every Rosh Hashanah as a sweet way to welcome the New Year. I urge you to try it out and see what you think. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Image via Flickr.

The recipe is adapted from Covenant’s Still Cookin’ 50th Anniversary Edition (1997), which I received as a thank you gift after I addressed the Covenent Guild many years back. Founded in 1947, the Covenant Guild is a women’s philanthropic group that raises funds for various organizations in theBaltimore area.

Whatever your own holiday food traditions and however you observe Rosh Hashanah—even if you don’t observe it at all—may the coming months be filled with sweetness for you and your families.

4 eggs

2 1/2 c. sugar, divided

½ c. cinnamon

3 c. flour

3 Tbsp. baking powder

2 tsp. vanilla

1 c. neutral oil (I use canola)

½ c. freshly squeezed orange juice

5 medium apples (I like to use tart ones)

3/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix cinnamon and ½ cup sugar.

Peel the apples, cut them into thin slices, and toss them with about a tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Set aside.

Sift the remainder of the sugar, flour, and baking powder together in a large bowl. Add oil and eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed as you go. Beat in orange juice and vanilla. The batter will be very thick and goopy.

Coat a large pan or pans with oil or cooking spray, coat with flour, and shake off excess. I have used two round cake pans, or one 9×13 inch pan.

Layer batter and apples, ending with apples, which you should press down into the batter. Use all the syrupy liquid that the apples have released. You can even swirl it on top after you’re done layering things. The cake will be pretty messy and gooey but, trust me, it turns out fine—super moist and not too sweet. Top with cinnamon sugar mixture and chopped nuts.

Bake for about 1 hour, testing after first 30 minutes, especially if you are using two smaller pans.

The original recipe says you can invert the cake on a platter after it has cooled, but I’ve never been able to do that. Never mind—even served straight out of the pan, it’s delicious!

 

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