Of Keepsakes and Butter Cakes

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 75 comments

Brown Butter Cake

How long does it take to pack away a lifetime of memories? Sadly, not as long as it takes to create them.

It is a task that many of us have already done or will one day have to face: gathering up the objects of everyday life and the mementos of special times that aging parents or elderly relatives can no longer maintain on their own. These items can be as mundane as a chipped coffee mug or as exceptional as an antique porcelain tea set, as imposing as a baby grand piano or as delicate as a silver shawl pin. No matter their form, utility or monetary value, they are all testaments to unique lives, long- and well-lived. But as fervently as we might wish that our loved ones continue to use these items for many more years, the realities of time and aging no longer allow it.

On an early morning this past March, my Aunt Sarah called with a request: would we be available that weekend to help her and Uncle Steve pack up Grandmother's house? I did not hesitate to answer yes, knowing that my husband would also readily agree without being asked, but as soon as I promised that we'd be there, I felt a sudden, unhappy reluctance at the coming prospect and the realization of what it meant for a beloved figure.

The woman whom my sisters and I affectionately call 'Grandmother' is not at all related to us, either by blood or by marriage. Instead, our enduring ties were woven from a single, slender thread going back fifty years, when she became foster mother to a slight sixteen-year-old exchange student from the Philippines, who would later become mother to a future food blogger.

The house on Timber Lane

Although her first Minnesota winter in Mankato was a shivery surprise, Mama was enfolded in the warm embrace of Bernard and Anna, and their children, Sarah and Bill. From the stories that I now know by heart, her year in the white-painted house on Timber Lane was truly transformative. She was awed by this country's economic riches, political freedoms and educational opportunities, but above all, she was enamored of hamburgers and milkshakes. In some ways, this meal was the embodiment of being American to Mama and when she returned to the Philippines, she carried with her memories of a loving foster family, a deep admiration for America and an extra 20 lbs on her petite frame.

But a grilled meat patty in a bun and an ice cream drink weren't the only treats that had her hooked during that year. Mama couldn't get enough of Grandmother's homemade caramels - luscious, softly sweet and creamy candies, lovingly hand-wrapped in plain wax paper. Years later, a precious package from Mankato would arrive at our home every Christmas: a tin of Grandmother's caramels, of which my sisters and I were grudgingly allowed to have one or two pieces while the rest was squirreled away by Mama to some unknown hiding place.

As a child, I knew about Grandmother only from her candies and the books that she sent us. And what wondrous books - Little House on the Prairie, Betsy-Tacy and Tib, Little Women . . .! I credit her for helping to foster my love of reading at an early age, even though we didn't meet until I was nearly a teenager. Despite the fact that we had no blood ties, Grandmother and I somehow connected when I reached young adulthood. I was only fractionally better at correspondence than my mother but she didn't give up on me, sending notes and gifts (of caramels!) as she once did for Mama.

When Mr. Noodle and I moved to Minnesota four years ago, we would visit Grandmother in the same house where my mother spent her incredible year. By then, Grandmother was already in her 90s but she was still active and energetic; we would enjoy lunch at the Country Club or VFW then continue our visit in her living room. But Grandmother's physical strength began to wane these past couple of years and when getting in and out of a car became too much effort for her, I would order out for lunch or bring treats to enjoy with coffee. Late last year, Aunt Sarah convinced Grandmother, now 100 years old, to join her family in Maine where they could care for her more closely.

Grandmother and I said our good-byes just after Thanksgiving. If she was saddened by the thought of leaving the home that Grandfather built for her after their marriage and where she raised her family, her resolute and quite practical spirit wouldn't show it.

A few years ago, she had given me her caramel recipe (although I have yet to master it well enough to produce sweets as consistently delicious as hers). During that last visit, when I mentioned how my caramel-making was often hit-and-miss, she whispered to her aide Kaye, who went into the kitchen and re-appeared with an object wrapped in paper towels. Without fanfare, Grandmother handed me her candy thermometer. The numbers on it are faded from years of being dipped into boiling cream, sugar and butter, but it might as well have be a bejeweled scepter, so much do I cherish it.

Several months later, we were back at her house but this time, Grandmother was not sitting in her favorite chair by the bay window, impeccably dressed and coiffed as always as she waited for her visitors. Instead, there was Aunt Sarah in the midst of boxes, moving blankets and packing paper, efficiently organizing all of us for the task at hand and trying not to let emotion overcome her. After all, we were packing away her memories, too.

Knowing Grandmother, no-nonsense and indomitable, I don't doubt that she felt it was for the best; Aunt Sarah and Uncle Steve were bringing much of her belongings back to Maine while some were destined to find their place with the grandchildren. Toward the end of the day, Aunt Sarah asked me to pick out something as a keepsake of Grandmother, perhaps a crystal candy dish or lovely little silver condiment set. But all I could think of was Grandmother's caramels, of our few-and-far-between lunches together, and of how Mama grew plump and content on hearty Midwestern fare those many decades ago . . .

So I asked for her pots, pans and baking sheets. They aren't antiques or particularly unique - just the sort of items you'd find in most kitchens. They aren't restaurant-quality or made of special materials - just everyday cookware and bakeware. But to me, they represent the nourishing spirit of a special woman who opened her home and heart to a shy young stranger and made us a part of her family. I asked for these because I would use them regularly and by doing so, I can still be close to Grandmother, no matter the years and distance between us.

How long does it take to store a lifetime of memories? Only as long as it takes to tuck them into your heart.

Given how often I mentioned them in this post, it would have been an obvious choice to offer Grandmother's caramel recipe. Aside from the personal sentiments, there isn't a magical ingredient in these candies - only the usual sugar, butter and cream. But for those same sentimental reasons, I'd like to keep it to myself for just a while longer, if you don't mind. Instead, I thought I'd use some of Grandmother's bakeware and, inspired by the daisy motif that surrounded her 100th birthday last August, I found this lovely recipe . . .

Brown Butter Cake with Crème Fraîche and Blackcurrant Jam
The tart flavors of both the jam and the crème fraîche are perfect complements to the sweetness of this buttery-moist cake. Use your favorite jam or preserves and make your own crème fraîche for a truly individual dessert!

Brown Butter Cake
(Adapted from a recipe by Leather Storrs in Delicious Living 4/09)

10 Tbsps unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
2.5 oz almond meal (approx. 2/3 cup)
2.5 oz all-purpose flour (approx. 2/3 cup)
2 cups confectioner's/powdered sugar
3/4 cup egg whites*
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

*I used liquid egg whites; otherwise, this would be about 5 to 6 eggs

To make:
Preheat oven to 350°F

1. Cook butter over low-medium heat in a saucepan until milk solids become a dark brown color, approximately 10-20 minutes. Watch carefully so that butter does not burn;
2. In a large bowl, combine almond meal, flour and sugar and mix well. Stir in egg whites, vanilla and salt then add browned butter slowly, mixing constantly;
3. Generously coat* a muffin pan, ramekins or individual-sized cake pans with cooking spray; fill 2/3 full with batter;
4. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean; remove from oven and let cool;
*And I mean generously - my cakes stuck a bit because of the sugar content.

Crème Fraîche
Check out these recipes from GroupRecipes.com and EasyFrenchFood.com. Most recipes call for a buttermilk starter and heavy cream, NOT ultrapasteurized whipping cream. Guess what? I only had ultrapasteurized whipping cream and non-fat yogurt, so that's what I used. Although the end result was not as thick as other recipes describe, it was still quite creamy and delicious (if I may say so myself!)

Update 6/24/09: If anyone knows about making crème fraîche, it's Jenni of Pastry Methods and Techniques, who's made quarts of it on a weekly basis, and she shares her technique here. This will be my next batch of CF!

1 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 Tbsps non-fat yogurt

1. Carefully heat cream in a saucepan until just warm, between 85 °F - 100°F;
2. Pour into a clean glass jar or container and mix in yogurt;
3. Cover LOOSELY with lid or plastic wrap, place in a warm spot for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours;
4. After this time, cover fully with lid and refrigerate; it should thicken more as it cools. Crème may be stored in the fridge for about 1 week.

To serve the cake:

Mix crème fraîche with your favorite jam or preserves and spoon over individual cakes, or serve the crème and jam on the side. Daisies optional.

I used the Blackcurrant Blighty, one of two jars of England Preserves that I won courtesy of Adrienne at Gastroanthropology. Read her post about the marvelous young family behind these delicious products!


  • Jenn said...

    Thank you for sharing your story about your grandmother.

    The butter cake looks divine!! And I didn't realize how easy it is to make crème fraîche. Not I don't have to worry about not being able to find it in stores.

  • Anonymous said...

    I loved reading this post, what a great story, wonderful memories, and you write so beautifully! The cake sounds scrumptious!

  • Maria Verivaki said...

    an amazing story, you are so lucky to have met this woman who was so much a part of your own mother's life. i am imagining what your mother's introduction to america was with the help of this grandmother

  • Lori said...

    Such a beautifully written story. I think you need to set your sights on getting a novel out. It captured me from the beginning.

    How wonderful that you had someone so special in your life and someone that wasn't technically family at that. I could relate to this having both my grandparents die within the past 8 months. Packing up the memories brings both happy thoughts and sadness.

    The cakes sound wonderful and I know what you mean about special recipes. I read that some food bloggers feel that all recipes whould be shared, but I have a few from my grandmother that I don't plan on sharing anytime soon. They are just too special to my family and it would be disrespectful to others in my family to simply post them on a blog, no matter how big of a part that blog plays in my life personally or professionally.

  • gastroanthropologist said...

    You've reminded of my Grandmother - she also sent me my first copy of Little Women. We exchanged letters weekly since I could write. When she passed I found that she had saved every single letter her grandchildren had written her. She passed a few years ago and I miss her terribly.
    Brown butter and England Preserves - a lovely combination! I hope you enjoyed the jams!

  • OysterCulture said...

    Another fantastic post. While I never met your grandmother, I certainly knew of her based on all the stories that you told over the years. She sounds like an amazingly, special woman to have forged such strong bonds with you, your mother and sisters.

    I love the connection between food and memories. The caramels are the equivalent of Mr. Noodle's corn meal mush.

    The brown butter cakes sound lovely and what a great way to showcase the preserves you received from Adrienne.

  • Heather S-G said...

    Oh, Ms. Noodle...you've got me cryin' in my coffee over here. Thank you for sharing your touching story with us. I think you should hold that caramel recipe close and not put it in print until (of if) you're good & ready. But, on another note...these cakes...wow! Brown butter is such a comforting flavor and these look delicious!

  • Chef E said...

    I inherited a set of those little molds as well, and have enjoyed just looking at them. I enjoy your stories, and visualized the whole thing...brown butter cake sounds good, looks good...

  • Phyllis said...

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories with us TN, how lucky you are to have gotten Grandmother's pots, baking sheets and her cherished candy thermometer! (I would keep that special recipe a secret too). And I have to admit that when I first saw the photo of the brown butter cake with the daisy, I thought about that scene from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with the flower pot in the bundt cake!

  • Michele said...

    what a beautiful post!! the recipe looks delicious, but i was just enraptured with the story. it reminded me of my childhood cooking with my grandmother and not-so-childhood cooking with my mom. thanks for sharing!!

  • The Duo Dishes said...

    It's always great to read your posts. You have a way with words and food. Everything about that cake sounds good. And definitely keep that caramel recipe to yourself as long as you can!

  • Admin said...

    What a beautiful and beautifully-written story. It makes me miss my grandma and how she would read to and with me when I was growing up. The cake is also beautiful. I love the simplicity and unpretentiousness of daisies. In fact, if you ask a child to draw a flower, you'd most likely get something that looks like a daisy.

  • Reeni said...

    What a sweet and touching story. I went through a similar situation recently with my favorite and closest Aunt. It was real sad to see her house - and lifetime of memories being packed up. Life is cruel sometimes.

    This brown butter cake looks divine! Espcially with the jam on top!

  • Ozge said...

    makes me feel special that i am let to listen a precious memory, and i've read the comments - beautifully expressed what i'd like to say.

  • Daily Spud said...

    A special lady and a captivating post. And there are some recipes that, even if they are shared, will never be quite the same as when Grandmother made them, some ingredients that can't be rendered as a simple cup of this or ounce of that but are best described as a sprinkle of that something that you have tucked into your heart.

  • Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

    Gorgeous cake and a beautiful tribute to Grandmother. You and Mr. Noodle made a big difference in her move by making it easier for her. I know you'll cherish the things she gave you forever.

    When my parents died we had to clean out the house that they'd lived in all of my life.
    I'll tell you it's hard to say goodbye to your old dolls and other keepsakes.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Thanks for your patience! Spent a couple of days traveling to Iowa for a mini-family reunion on Mr. Noodle's side - had a lot of fun catching up with everyone and eating way too much good food!

    Elra - Thank you! The brown butter was a revelations - the flavor is so rich!

    Ciao Chow Linda - I've been meaning to write this since Grandmother moved away. She's so special.

    Jenn - Thanks! Seriously - now that I know how to make creme fraiche, no more store bought!

    Chow&Chatter - She has been the kind of influence that you don't even realize is there until you reflect back. I hope she'll be pleased to know that I'm making good use of her pots and pans!

    5 Star - Thank you so much! This story was easy to write because the sentiment was so strong. The cake was so easy to make, I think it's going to be a go-to dessert for company!

    Pearl - Thank you! It was my pleasure.

    Mediterranean Kiwi - For as long as I can remember, my mother has had nothing but deep admiration for the US and I know a large part of that was due to her wonderful experience in MN. I am fortunate that Grandmother is a tenacious soul - she refused to let us drift apart and I have benefited from it as much as Mama.

    Jennifer - I do, especially with the thermometer and caramel recipe! These keepsakes are true treasures worth more than crystal or porcelain.

    Lisa -Thank you! Such kitchen keepsakes are a wonderful way to think about our grandmothers on an everyday basis! The moment I saw the brown butter cake recipe, I knew that I wanted to make them w/Grandmother's tins!

    Lori - Thanks you so much! I'm so happy that you enjoyed this post. As for a novel, it's one of those happy daydreams, though I'm not sure if I've got it in me. But I do think about it . . . ! 8-)

    Grandmother is such a force to be reckoned with, even at 100 years old! I can't imagine how much more difficult it is putting away belongings when loved ones have passed away - at least I knew that she would be receiving much of them in her new home. You must miss your grandparents so much but I hope that you also have keepsakes and mementos that bring them to mind in happy memories!

    The cake turned out really well - Mr. Noodle loves them, and I'm happy to have found a substitute recipe for this post! I agree - before I post a family recipe, I clear it with them first (like my FIL's cabbage rolls). In this case, I don't think Grandmother would mind but I'm holding it back because for now, I like to think that it's privilege to have been trusted with it! I won't even give it to my sisters . . . !

    Doggybloggy - Thank you! The cake tastes wonderful and the slight tartness of the creme fraiche complements the sweetness of the cake. My only regret is that I couldn't quite make the creme pour more artistically over it . . . !

    DG - Right now, I'm batting about .250 - only about 1 in 4 tries results in just the right texture. I keep trying and Mr. Noodle doesn't mind eating the shortfalls! When I get it right, I'll be blowing my own horn right here. 8-)

  • Noodle's Ate said...

    Thank you for posting something so wondrous, poignant and heartfelt. This one brought tears to my eyes.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Replies, continued . . . !

    Spryte - Thank you! I really wanted to convey how wonderful Grandmother is.

    Gastronanthropologist - I'm so happy that you're reminded of your grandmother; how wonderful to see that she cherished every bit of her connection with you! Their gifts to us in our love of reading are lifelong and so precious.

    As for the jams, I've opened only the blackcurrant for now and it is sooo incredible! I actually found myself just spooning into it, not even bothering with spreading it on anything. Mixed with the crème fraîche, it's beyond delicious. Many, many thanks!!

    Lisa - I'm so happy you enjoyed it!

    OysterCulture - The preserves are definitely outstanding! I have a tendency to put them away for 'special occasions' but it would've been a shame to just let them sit in the pantry.

    Grandmother is definitely a special woman and such an influence although I really didn't realize it until I was well into adulthood, so subtle was it. I am going to print out this post and the comments so that she can read them for herself! And definitely the caramels are my 'cornmeal mush' - but I can make your Grandmother P's mush much better than the caramels, at least for now!

    Joelen - Thank you! I loved the simplicity of the cake recipe and was amazed that the crème fraîche was easy to make as it was. I need to tweak it a bit more as I didn't use exactly the ingredients called for but I don't think I'll be buying it from a store any longer!

    Girlichef - I'm so happy to know that I was able to convey in some way what an awesome lady Grandmother is. I will hang on to the recipe for a while - I haven't even shared it with my sisters (and even my mom doesn't have it!) As for the cake, brown butter was a revelation! I had never (I think) had a such a cake - the flavor is really so deep and rich. It's a new favorite!

    Chef E - These molds are so awesome! I wasn't sure if they could be used for baking but they seemed to have survived. And thank you re: the cakes - they turned as well as I'd hoped.

    Phyllis - I wish I could have included a picture of Grandmother's 100th birthday cake with all the icing daisies on it - the photo might have made even more sense! Thank you and I was pleased to share the story; she's such a wonderful lady. I'm going to make good use of what I received . . . !

    Angie - That's exactly how my husband has been having the remaining cakes!

    Gera - Thank you! I enjoy sharing these memories and I'm so happy when it sparks remembrances in others! The cakes were a hit with my husband - he might choose this for his upcoming birthday cake!

    Karen - I'm so happy to know it resonated with you!

    ValleyWriter - It was my pleasure. Grandmother has been such a force that I wanted to share a part of her with everyone. The cake is a new recipe but it's definitely a keeper!

    Michele - I enjoyed writing it! Sometimes, as we do these things with our mothers, grandmothers or special relatives, we don't think about what it means - we're just enjoying the company. But years later, it's amazing how vivid the memory can be and you realize all that you've learned from that person. I'm so happy that it reminded you of special times, too!

    Bob - Thank you! There is a definite sweet-tooth theme in this post, huh? Sweet butter cake, caramels . . . !

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    An more replies . . . !

    DuoDishes - Thanks! Even though I know that Grandmother shared the recipe with a few other people, I feel like it's something special between us. One of my sisters has been asking for it but I just change the subject! 8-D For now, they're content to receive the candies at Christmas . . .

    Leela - My grandmothers (my parents' mothers) were so far away in the Philippines that I never really got to know them. It may be part of the reason why I connected with Grandmother so much. Your memories of your grandmother, I'm sure, are as vivid as the day they happened!

    The cake by itself is so good and making them in the molds I received, they turned out so lovely. The daisy fit perfectly!

    Reeni - It is sad, even though I know that it is rather inevitable. It's why I want to make sure she knows that her pots, pans and thermometer are being as well-used as when she had them. The cakes are tasty on their own but the tartness of both the creme and jam really added something extra!

    Beancounter - Thank you! I posted about being lucky and I have so many people that I am so fortunate to have in my life.

    Greg - Thank you so much! This was a way for me to express how much this wonderful lady means to me and our families.

    Ozge - Thank you! You've shared so much of what is meaningful to you so I'm happy to know that you enjoyed this post.

    Aruna - Thanks! I enjoyed your site and will be back!

    Nora - Thank you! The cake recipe is so simple and flavorful because of the browned butter. I'm so glad I came across it and will be making it again.

    Spud - That is exactly right. I think I will be successful making the caramels when I stop worrying about it as a recipe that has to come out right and just think about Grandmother in her kitchen as she made them - that's the sprinkle of a special ingredient that I need!

    Sam - I'm sure that is exactly how Aunt Sarah felt. We came across crayon drawings that she had made in elementary school - the paper was so old and dry that it was in danger of crumbling in her hands but I could tell she saw it just as fresh as the day she drew it. I hope that Grandmother will be happy knowing that I'm using her pots and pans just as she did.

    Ate - Do you remember when those caramels would arrive? Once Mama got a hold of them - poof! Wish you'd had a chance to visit Grandmother before she moved to Maine.

    Ruth - It was sad that day, especially for Aunt Sarah but I know that it had to be done. But I'm happy to say that Grandmother is surrounded by family, especially her great-granddaughter, named after her! She continues to make new memories . . . !

  • zerrin said...

    I enjoyed reading every line of this post! How nice that you have strong feelings for a person not even related to you by blood. And she is such a lucky person that she has daughters and grandchildren around her, and Aunt Sarah did a very good job by taking your grandma to her home. You know, there aren't many people around the world looking after their parents when they get older. However, in Turkey, this is our tradition to take our parents to our home when they get too old to live alone. I can say that one may feel the social pressure if he is reluctant to take his parents near him. This is like an invisible rule, but I love it as it reminds us we are human.

    As for the keepsake I got from my grandma, it is a large copper jug she would carry water with. There were no tap water in houses in her time, and people would carry water to their houses from a fountain nearby. It serves as an antique object at our hall now. And whenever our guests ask what it is, we tell its story and in this way I feel close to my grandma.

  • Anonymous said...

    What a beautiful, poignant, touching post! I loved each and every word of it, and how you described your grandmother and connected food with such awesome memories. A truly amazing person, and a truly delicious cake!

  • Sarah said...

    What a beautiful story! I too have a "treaure" from my grandmother, a box of all the recipes I remember as a child. From my husbands grandmother I recieved about 20 china teacups passed down from her grandmother. Other than my children and husband they are the things I treasure most in this world!

  • Midge said...

    Those memories sound so wonderful! You're lucky to know someone as lovely as your Grandmother. There's just something about inheriting kitchen utensils that gives them more magic and value than by simply buying them.

  • Brenda said...

    Blighty jam! I recently learned that Blighty is a slang term for "Britain!" Apparently it comes from an Arabic word (and a Hindustani word as well!) meaning "foreign"...Ah the British Raj! Oh well, their jams are grand either way and look all the more delish on your cakelets. :)

  • Anonymous said...

    What a stirring and beautifully written tribute to your Grandmother. Of course the caramel recipe can wait. You've shared so much...I am so impressed by the memories that you've envoked and the picture that you've painted. I hope you might be writing a book about these experiences of yours, drawing food and family together. Your writing is just that engaging!

    I found you on TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.


  • Marta said...

    I loved your post! People that come into our lives and leave such an important mark in our family history should be remembered, their legacy should be passed on. So, I'm glad you're doing just that, in the culinary form.
    the cake looks lovely :)

  • Nazarina A said...

    I had a lump in my throat when I read your story!!!I know you are going to treasure those kitchen utensils from your Grandmother!Thanks for the delicious butter cake and a beautiful memory of Grandmother!

  • Carolyn Jung said...

    What sweet memories of your Grandmother. I, too, have my Mom's old rice cooker, which I use all the time. As well, as her old rolling pin, with the red handles quite worn now, too. And pie plates she used to use. There's nothing terribly special looking about any of these things. But they couldn't be more special to me because they remind me of her, and of the magic she once made in the kitchen.

  • Dee said...

    This post brings a tear to my eyes as we are in the process of going through my Nana's house & dividing things among family. We just spent a weekend of packing & moving things there. Finding those things they loved & cared for as well as handled everyday gives them a new life & in your case a new baking life. What a beautiful way to honor her.

  • Tina said...

    What a wonderful story. And recipes of course!

    By the way, it's "Pierce" although when I am logged in to Google my name shows as Tina. I don't understand it.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    The last of the brown butter cakes are being thawed out but I just realized that I need to make more creme fraiche so perhaps tomorrow . . .

    Helen - Thank you! She really is special and we are so fortunate that she considers us like family!

    Zerrin - What a wonderful keepsake you received from your grandmother! Don't you find that the most practical objects (like a baking pan or a copper jug) are actually so beautiful, not only in their form but also for the deep meanings behind them? And as you noted, they give us a chance to talk about the special person behind the story!

    I know what you mean about older relatives and where they go in their later years. The tradition in the Philippines is much like as it is in Turkey; there is no debate, no question, no discussion - parents should find a home with their children. I think about my parents because we are all here in the US and they are in back in the Philippines. I think they are happier there with all their friends but I hope that someday, they will feel just as happy in my or one of my sisters' homes!

    Burpandslurp - Thank you! Although the cake recipe is not hers, I loved using the little tin molds. I wanted to be sure that her kitchen tools are used as well in my home as they were in hers!

    Maria - Thanks! Despite sticking a little bit to the mini-pans (I need grease them more next time), they turned out really well.

    Sarah - How wonderful! I know that our families are the greatest treasure but such keepsakes keep us connected to those loved ones who are no longer close by or with us. The china teacups sound like lovely heirlooms but I can also relate to the recipe box - isn't it wonderful not only to remember and make your childhood favorites but also to see what kinds of recipes were popular in your family in the past? It's like a mini-social history lesson!

    Midge - Thank you! And yes, indeed, they are a lot more than just kitchen tools! I've purchased at least 3 'modern' candy thermometers but none can compare to Grandmother's in accuracy. Perhaps it's just in my head but that's how it seems to me! 8-)

    Brenda - I had no idea that 'Blighty' was slang for 'Britain'! Honestly, I was focused on the 'blight' part of the word, thinking that an otherwise organic blemish made the fruit sweeter (like botrytis "noble rot" in grapes!). Oops. So it's not a plant disease or infection after all . . . Noble rot or not, the jams are delicious and perked up these little cakes!

    Tastestopping - Thank you so much! I enjoy writing about personal connections with food but I'm not sure I'm at book-writing level yet! Still, it's a dream . . .

    And I just stopped by your site - what a great idea! Your subtitle "Feasting on Seconds" captures exactly the right spirit - a chance to see recipes that didn't pass the beauty check but are still quite tasty. I'll be visiting (and probably submitting) often! 8-)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Had to split up my replies - apparently, I'm way too 'chatty' for Blogger comments!

    Marta - Thank you! As much as I can appreciate lovely keepsakes like vases, paintings, etc., the ones I can still use mean so much! For many of us, our memories of loved ones are often about the everyday things they used to do - like making caramels - so it's nice to be able to re-capture that.

    Jennifer - Thanks! I'm so happy that you enjoyed the post!

    Nazarina - Thank you so much! I do treasure these pieces and must remind myself that the best tribute to Grandmother is to actually use them. So I'll be baking a lot more, I hope! 8-)

    HoneyB- Thank you! I wish I had a picture of Grandmother's 100th birthday cake, covered with icing daisies. It was the inspiration for these photos . . .

    Carolyn - Yes, that's exactly how I feel! Even though I became close to Grandmother when I was older and didn't see her all that often, it seems food has been central in our relationship. There will come a time when these utensils will become too worn to use but until then, they'll be well and lovingly used!

    Jackie - Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed!

    Sophie - The cake did indeed taste fab! In fact, I had to freeze the remainder, otherwise my husband would eat them all up. And thank you - I wanted to share how special a lady she is!

    Foodcreate - Thank you so much! Considering that we saw each other so rarely over so many years (except through phone calls and letters), we have created wonderful memories together.

    Dee - It is a little heart-wrenching, isn't it? My in-laws in recent years have had to close up their mothers' homes. Their belongings and keepsakes are cherished by family but it is bittersweet. I hope I do justice to that candy thermometer by making Grandmother's caramels as well as she did!

    Pierce - Google apparently has a mind of its own! Thank you for your comment - the cakes turned out well but I'm now hooked on making my own creme fraiche!

  • Joie de vivre said...

    Oh Tangled,
    Your ability to sum up difficult situations in beautiful words is second to none. I'm reading your essay as I go through a similar situation. My parents are not sick, but they have retired and have moved to Hawaii. As a result, they have sold their home and gotten rid of ALL of their possessions. I am sorting through some things that they brought up for me, photos, videos, etc. But you are right, there was also my great grandmother's wedding ring and an old pocketwatch that they can't quite remember who it belonged to. It's just a lot of stuff that is associated with a life. Fortunately for me, they are still well and are enjoying the good life in Hawaii, but there are still those feelings associated with going through the evidence of a life. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  • Anonymous said...

    Oh, TN--what a lovely post. I'm all welled up and misty. Seriously. We are in that place in life with our aunt and uncle of the heart (not of blood). Auntie Ev is receding into the nighttime of Alzheimer's, and Uncle Ray, at 92, is trying to hang on to take care of her. Their 65th wedding anniversary is on Thursday. We have done some packing up at their place, and I am certain that there will be more of that in the months to come. Here are pictures of them from Chicken Noodle Soup Day:

    Love the beautiful daisy cakes, and I love that you have Grandmother's bakeware.

  • Confession Nook said...

    TN...You are one of the most fun and creative mom blogger i know and for this..you deserve to have this award The "Creative Mom Blogger Award" which you can see at my site..=)

  • The Diva on a Diet said...

    Oh, Noodle, this was so beautiful it made me cry ... in a good way. I really connect to the emotions you've written about here and am so touched by your words. When my own grandmother passed away 13 years ago, I wanted nothing more than her old, chipped, blue ceramic mixing bowl. It was the bowl she used to create, and sometimes serve, her amazing meatballs (she was Italian) - and when I use it now, I feel so close to her. Naturally, I have other keepsakes from her home - and to this day I wear her engagement ring - but the blue bowl is it for me. Which is my way of saying - I know just what you mean about that cookware. I can't imagine a more fitting remembrance.

    God bless your grandmother - 100 years old is quiet remarkable!

  • Deb in Hawaii said...

    Such a moving and beautiful post, it brought tears to my eyes. She sounds like such a wonderful person and I think it is great that you have some of her kitchen tools to remember her by each time you use them.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Joie - Even when your loved ones are still hale and hearty (and living in paradise!), putting away all these familiar belongings still marks such a change, a transition. Grandmother is now enjoying life with her family around her everyday and for that I'm happy.

    OPC - I'm so sorry to hear about your Auntie Ev but your support and help, I'm sure, is a great comfort to her and your Uncle Ray. I wish them a happy anniversary - although it is during a difficult time, it is an amazing milestone. Good (soup-loving) people, indeed!

    Confession Nook - Oh, thank you so much but I sorry to say that I'm not actually a mom! Our only 'baby' is our dog, Cruise. But can I still claim the award? 8-D

    Diva - Thank you. Although Grandmother and I are not related by blood, the force of her personality and generosity of self makes her so special to my family. Food is nourishment so our keepsakes from these remarkable women represent their nurturing spirits!

    Deb - Thank you; she is a truly marvelous person. I've been using her wares with great joy!

  • Deeba PAB said...

    What a beautiful post...touched my heart! Thank you for sharing your memories...felt like I was walking with you! Love love love the brown butter cake too. FAB!! Your creme fraiche is something I can make here...YAY!!

  • Rico said...

    The cake looks amazing and then with the flowers wow what a presentation, my eyes are asking me to eat it already, but I know is probably all gone by now. but I really loved it very inspirational. kisses :) xx

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    I finally finished my most recent post! This is the longest it has ever taken me to write one. I was hoping this blogging thing would get easier, not harder! 8-)

    Vrinda - Thank you! It means a lot, coming from someone who knows her cakes. 8-) I sent you an e-mail re:your question. Pls let me know if you need anymore info!

    Deeba - Thank you so much! I'm sorry I haven't been by your site in ages but will be there shortly. And I just made another batch of creme fraiche that turned out even better than the first! This time, I used the instructions given by Jenni - I just updated this entry with a link to her instructions. I hope you try it out!

    Phanitha - Thank you! I'm lucky they turned out - both clicks and cake! 8-)

    Ricardo - Obrigada! I'm not a gardener but the plants that my mother-in-law gave me are blooming so I want to show them! Actually, there are still 2 cakes left in the freezer but my husband has been eyeing them . . . !

    Chaitra - Thank you for visiting! I'm going over to check right now . . . !

  • Cris said...

    Hi TN, I almost posted a recipe last week with brown butter! But so far I had used it only for savory foods, so nice to know you can bake a cake with it... and it looks gorgeous huh, brown butter really gives a twist.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Cris - Obrigada, amiga! I'm the opposite - I've never used brown butter for savory dishes! 8-) We'll have to swap recipes. But if you get a chance to make something like this, you won't be disappointed. The butter flavor is so deep and rich! We finished them quickly. 8-D

    Fahrenheit 350 - Thank you! With so many things happening in our day to day lives, some projects always get set aside. Glad to help with reminders!


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