Sugar and Spice

I was flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks this morning in search of a dessert to take to a dinner party on Friday night.  This particular cookbook is priceless to me as I have so many notes and additional recipes in it that I would be lost if something were to happen to it.  Anyway because the cookbook was published by our Church a few years ago, it also contains many family favorite recipes.  So in glancing through the dessert section, I happened to stumble upon one of my Grandmother’s Spice Cake recipes.

As I am half a world away from the place that I truly call home, every once in a while something will strike me as ‘home’.  Today it was this recipe.  As soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to bake my Grandmother’s spice cake.  The funny thing is, is that I cannot even remember having my Grandmother’s spice cake that she made.  The simple fact that it was her recipe made me have to have it.

So as I sit here writing and eating a delicious spice cake cupcake, let you me tell you about the remarkable women that was my Grandmother.  If there was ever a human being that could encompass the essence of the word home it was my Grandmother.  No matter what was going on in my life and from a very young age my Grandmother always provided me with the warm cozy feeling of being at home.  She was always warm and welcoming and she would give you whatever she had.  My grandparents never had much money, but they certainly made up for it in love – in fact I think my grandmother perfected that notion.  I believe in her kindness she was rare.  I can only aspire to be the kind generous person she was day in and day out of her everyday life.  She always knew just how to make anyone feel as if they were important, special and oh so loved.

My birthday is at the tale end of May.  Growing up with a teacher for a mother and a welder for a father, I often spent my birthday at my grandparents house as both of my parents would be working and I would already be out of school.  Upon arrival, my Grandmother would make me lie down on the sofa and shut my eyes, and before I knew it I would be awoken to scrambled eggs and crispy bacon (my favorite).  Then throughout the day my Grandmother would make me an English tea ring – which would turn out to be one of the best birthday gifts I received each year.  When I was younger my Grandmother would make it while I napped so it would be a surprise.  As I grew up, I started to catch on to her and I soon started to request, nay beg, to let me help her make my tea ring.

I can still remember watching my Grandmother take ingredients and without measuring, mix them all together.  It was if by magic they would create an incredibly tasty birthday treat.  I loved helping kneed the dough, then Grandma letting me use her rolling pin (which is now one of my treasured possessions), would help me roll out the dough so it was the perfect thickness, then spreading the butter on and sprinkling it with cinnamon and sugar.  We would carefully roll up the dough and shape it into a ring.  Usually when Grandma made a tea ring, it was  frosted with white icing and adorned with red Maraschino Cherries, however my favorite colors are purple and green – so for my birthday I always received a frosted purple tea ring with green Maraschino Cherries.  There are so many days in my life that I wish I could be back by her side, still trying to master baking skills, sharing smiles and nods of encouragement.

Back to today…

There was something about seeing a recipe from my Grandmother that brought her here to me today.  Even though she passed away years ago, today it was as if she were right beside me measuring ingredients and mixing away.  It is comforting to know that by drawing upon old memories and recreating certain smells – it’s almost like I can still feel her love.  No matter where I am in the world, I am able to find a way to feel home.

So for your pleasure, I thought I would share:

Grandma’s Spice Cake

1/2 C. Crisco or shortening (I use butter)

1/2 C. Sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/2 C. light molasses (I used dark because that is what I brought from the States)

1/2 C. Strong hot coffee

1 1/2 C. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon (I used 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice)

Thoroughly cream shortening and sugar.  Add egg and molasses, mix well.  Add coffee and mix.  Add sifted dry ingredients; beat until smooth.  Pour into waxed paper lined 9×13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.  While warm, frost with confectioner’s frosting (I made my frosting with left over coffee from the recipe).




Happy Halloween!

Oh how I needed today to be a good day and I firmly believe with all of your prayers and with the grace of God it was truly a good day!  This morning we woke up and decided that since we were all up, we would go down and have breakfast together at the buffet.  It was wonderful to start the day off together as a family, even if it meant that it caused us to be in a mad dash to get Sis ready and dressed in her Halloween costume and off to school on time.

Last night Sis and I worked very hard to make witches hat treats for school:

Sis helping make witches hats.
Sis helping make witches hats.

So after dropping her off at school and returning home, I accidentally called our neighbor (in the Vantone apartment) Julie.  I am still trying to learn my new phone and I have no idea how I even managed to pull up her number (I think God had a hand in this one).  After talking for a few minutes she asked if I wanted to go out for lunch.  This was something wonderful for both Bear and I to look forward to!  So to kill a time before then, I took Bear to play in the kids club room.  We both had a wonderful time.  The hotel keeps a staff member in the room while we play and I must say this particular staff member takes very good care of us.  She had bottles of water waiting for us, tissues to wipe Bears runny nose, and was ready to sit and play with Bear too.  She kept saying how lovely of a child he was (which makes this mama smile).

As we were getting ready to leave for lunch, Ayi Jo helped wrangle the Bear into shoes as well as remembered to put my phone in my purse so I would not forget it! As Bear and I headed down to the lobby to wait for Julie, I received a text message from our other neighbor, Heather.  Heather said that she was going on an unexpected trip to the U.S. and had lots of empty space in her luggage to bring things back.  If I get my list to her by Monday she will bring items back over for us.  So believe it or not we are excited about the prospects of getting our hands on a few boxes of mac n cheese!

Julie greeted us with treats for Bear – fruit snacks and animal cookies!  Needless to say this made him content.  We walked to a western pub where I had pizza and she had homemade mac n cheese.  Bear ate like a little bear.  Not only did he have almost two slices of pizza (small 9 incher), he also mooched cheesy pasta from Julie.  It was wonderful to sit and talk about everything and nothing at all.

Before we knew it, it was time to go to school for Sis’ Halloween party.  Bear and I took in the witches hat treats.  I think our driver Mr. Xu was rather disappointed that he did not get to go to Sis’ classroom to pick her up today.  (Because Bear has been so stressed he has not wanted to walk very much on his own.  As pregnant as I am, I just cannot carry a 30 pound bear cub up and down three flights of stairs.  Therefore, we have arranged for our driver to go all the way upstairs to Sis’ classroom to pick her up – and I’m pretty sure he loves every minute of it – he will not even let her carry her own back pack).  The party was fun with lots of treats for the kids.  Bear was even included and given a homemade cookie, drinkable yogurt, and crackers.


Tonight we had an amazing dinner compliments of Ayi Jo.  After dinner we went to the pool to play and relax a bit before bed.   Again I cannot reiterate how wonderful it was to have a good day – such a blessing!  The Lord is so very good!