Donna entered a couple of excellent stories in the 2014 Rodelle Challenge, and we selected this one to share since it is such a sweet tribute:
“My 100-Year Old, Aunt Katya & Her Ukrainian Walnut-Almond Torte.
Early this November, 2014, my only living aunt in the United States, who was born in Ukraine and immigrated to New York in 1960, was turning an extraordinary and blessed 100 years old. As an avid at-home baker, it was presumed that I would be the one to bake a special cake for her, with some Ukrainian influences for this momentous celebration.
My aunt Katya loved Ukrainian dancing and singing in her youth in Ukraine, as well as, observing performances later in New York, which reminded her of the beautiful landscapes of her former Western Ukrainian homeland.
Throughout her life, Aunt Katya was a vibrant, active woman, who was very courageous and brave, having gone through many traumatic life experiences and changes in Eastern Europe and then the U.S. She was a tremendous role model for me when I was growing up. So with love for her, I especially wanted to bring back some happy memories and joy to her birthday celebration with the torte I decided to bake for this occasion.
Since nuts are very commonly used in many Ukrainian recipes, and tortes are considered to be the crème de la crème of Ukrainian cakes, I made a huge 14-inch walnut-almond torte, with 3 frostings: chocolate-cocoa-coffee Buttercream, almond-vanilla Buttercream, an apricot jam filing, and a lemon-almond frosting. I then decorated the sides with chocolate-nut scrolls. Using marzipan paste, I shaped a Ukrainian dancing boy and girl and a colorful Ukrainian flower wreath, from marzipan paste, which was then arranged over the top of the torte.
Since the torte was so huge, I could not find a wide enough cooler in the house in which to transport this large torte from New Jersey to New York. So I had my 13-year old son hold the torte on his lap, with ice packs underneath, during the length of the trip to New York, so that it would not get damaged along the way.
When it came time to bring out the cake, I added only a few candles thinking that she would be unable to blow many out. To my surprise, she blew all of them out in the first attempt. Always the fighter, never giving up on any challenge!
Sadly, my aunt passed away only 3 weeks later. Despite our great loss, I know that she left this world being surrounded by the love of family, happy memories and some of her favorite food.”