Saturday, November 26, 2011

A small victory

Rule number one is, don't have favorites. And for the most part, I don't have favorites. I pretty much love all the people I feed- the impossibly skinny girl, who gleefully announces while rubbing her stomach that, "she ate it all; everything that was on her plate"; the guy who calls everyone נשמה (Neshama-soul- a Israeli term of endearment) and likes nothing more than avoiding his work by coming down to the kitchen to take our cartons out to the trash; the woman who gives me kisses by licking my hand (don't worry, they get washed), which is entirely endearing; the young man who takes such pride in helping to wheel his friends who are in wheelchairs into the dining room- I love them all. All of those listed above, and those I haven't mentioned. But if I'm going to be completely honest, I'm gonna have to say that N. is my favorite. N. is tall and skinny and dark and has the most heartbreakingly wonderful smile. He doesn't talk, but he does communicate. He'll stand by the entrance to the kitchen and rock on his heels (or, on rare, wonderful occasions, do a little dance) and wait until one of us will ask him what he wants. Then he'll smile his smile and point. Unfortunately, the only thing he wants is ketchup. For the longest time the only thing he would eat was ketchup. It was a source of dismay for everybody. We take pride in our cooking. We want to feed people. We want to feed N. And all he would eat was ketchup.
Then one day while I was doing service, just at the end, I noticed that N has returned to the serving station. I thought he wanted more ketchup, but no, when I asked he pointed to the schnitzel. I literally jumped. There was only one piece of shnitzel left, I gave it to him and then ran into the kitchen, grabbed a frozen schnitzel and stuck it in the microwave, just in case N. wanted more. There was general happiness in the kitchen that day. N. ate! Sure, it was schnitzel, warmed in the microwave and doused in ketchup. But it was food, real food. A small victory indeed. Since that day, we been trying to sneak N. food whichever way we can. Now, ketchup only comes with bread and we always stand  by with an extra schnitzel or two, just in case. We don't get N to eat every day, but the days we do are good days.

The following cake from Alice Waters is a small victory cake. It's not intricate. It doesn't call for fancy ingredients. No bells or whistles. Its just a simple, very, very good cake- they type of cake you would make to celebrate a small victory.

A Small Victory Cake (or, 1-2-3-4 Cake)

Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Ms. Waters calls this cake 1-2-3-4 cake in reference to the amounts of butter, sugar, flour and eggs, respectively called for in the original recipe, which makes two 9-inch round cakes. However, unless you're making a birthday cake (and this caked, frosted, does make a lovely birthday cake) one 9-inch round is enough.

2 eggs, seperated
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour, sifted
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and then dust the pan with flour, tapping out the extra into the sink

2. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar to the butter, and cream. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time and then add the vanilla.

4. Add the flour mixture and the milk, alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.

5. In (yet) another bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Stir a bit of the egg whites into the batter to loosen it a bit and then carefully fold in the rest.

6. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack.


  1. Such a beautiful post. thank you for sharing.

  2. its obvious you care for your people who come to eat. in regards to the recipe please recheck... i am having trouble understanding it..

  3. Hey I just found this. Beautiful site and wonderful pictures!
    - Your cousin from across the street

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Anonymous- which part of the recipe is causing you trouble? I'd be happy to clarify?

    Cousin from across the street-welcome! So glad you like my blog

  6. Hip hip hooray for small victories! Sometimes it's those small ones that come to mean the most. I was actually hoping for a schnitzel recipe as it's my sister's favorite food group. No complaints about a solid cake recipe, mind you. Nope, none at all.

  7. Hi Molly. I was actually considering posting my mother's schnitzel recipe, but then I decided on cake, because, um, cake. I think that's self-explanatory. :)

  8. number 3 was giving me trouble. i guess you mean the butter and not the sugar? also it sounds like there should be cream in the recipe but on re reading it appears you should cream the ingredients.
    maybe i was tired when i read the recipe

  9. Thanks for pointing that out. Fixed.