18 March 2011

A Memoir and a Cake ... Pineapple Chocolate Chip Cake

Do you have time for a piece of cake, a cup of tea, and a good read ?

Miriam's Kitchen - A Memoir by Elizabeth Ehrlich

It seemed to me that it was time again to share a really good book.

If you have been following along with me of late, you know that I've had a fascination with Jewish cooking and cuisine. Well, recently a friend passed me a memoir by Elizabeth Ehrlich and I have waited for just the right time to settle in for the read. Now, I won't go into Lent and all it means to me. Suffice it to say, this is my time of year to go on a spiritual journey. It's a slow, tentative thing for me ... but reading of another's coming to terms with their cultural and religious heritage is a perfect way for me to contemplate my own .
This book gave me a wonderful exposure to Jewish culture, some philosophical ideas to ponder, and a few dishes to try ... I started with a sweet one ... a cake. But first, the book ...

 Miriam's Kitchen is Elizabeth Ehrlich's memoir of her spiritual journey. It begins in her childhood in Detroit and winds its way through her wonder years to Europe, through her early career in New York, her newlywed times, and into the years of bringing up a young family while keeping ties to her Jewish family and all they bring to her. She shares the most wonderful and haunting family memories given to her by her grandparents, aunts, and in-laws - memories that are sometimes happy and ofttimes wrenching. She shares her own squeamish feelings about embracing the traditions both religious and culinary of the Jewish faith and over the course of the memoir, she slowly comes to a happy medium with her spiritual and cultural need.

Her progression within the Jewish kitchen toward a kosher culinary style brings the reader along on a journey through the Jewish religious year with its requisite feasts, everyday dishes, and Seder preparations. We benefit from her family recipes, sprinkled throughout the text like precious offerings. Egg salad, chicken livers and noodles, mandelbrot, sweet and sour cabbage, potato latkes, matzo balls, and cakes ... in particular, a pineapple-chocolate chip cake that caught my attention ... so in honor of Elizabeth Ehrlich and her spiritual and kosher journey, I made her family's cake today.

Another beautiful cake ... a simple cake, a rich cake, a sweet cake, a special cake.

Simple ingredients ... fast assembly

A thick buttery batter that must be flattened into the bottom of a greased glass pan

a layer of chocolate chips ... a layer of crushed pineapple

a smooth layer of meringue tops everything

45 minutes in the oven and you have a pretty, sweet, rich, special cake

Back to the book-

If I learned anything from this book, it is to value the history that is closely guarded in family stories, the value of ritual in keeping family and cultural ways alive in practice, and just how wise and learned our elders are. Oh, how I wish my grandmothers and aunties were still alive to tell me all their stories ...


  1. This is incredible - I have a dear Jewish friend and am learning more and more everyday about the cuisine! :) But pineapple and chocolate - is that even possible? Apparently so judging by this pan of deliciousness you've made. As always Susan, you're the best! :)

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  2. My what beautiful creation; I can almost taste it and I know it has to be good. Thank you for your visit.

  3. I am going through a phase of Turkish and Lebanese cooking myself.
    The pineapple chocolate cake sounds delicious - very unique.

  4. Mmmm I would have never thought of these flavors together! I bet they are delish!

  5. This cake looks delicious. It is books like this that make you want to chronicle your families recipes and history .

  6. @ Devaki, Indie, and foodies - I know! These two flavor combos were what grabbed my attention, but the tang of the pineapple and the sweet chocolate somehow work! I suspect, though, that this was EE's grandmother's modern tweek on the cake for her grandchildren. I think this cake originally had only the crushed pineapple layer ...

  7. What a lovely post! I feel blessed just reading through it...Lent is definitely a good time to slow down and reflect on things.

    And I'm really intrigued by this chocolate-pineapple combination! I bet the toasted meringue topping is a wonderful finish to the cake. :)

  8. I love reading about the history of cooking and when it's personal it's even better.

    Now about those oatmeal cookies . . . are we going to have to have a "throw-down" LOL!!!

    Have a wonderful day!

  9. This sounds like a book that is right up my alley....what a wonderful memoir!!! and the cake....oh my, wish I could pop over and share it with you!

  10. I have been looking for this recipe. While I have my mothers notebook, her recipes are written in Yiddish. This was my favorite cake growing up. Thank you for posting. I will look into Miriam's Kitchen as well.


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