If you live in Ramallah, belong to a large family and enjoy an ever larger circle of friends, you would know exactly what it takes to put together a dinner party. We were getting ready to introduce our new twins to our group of friends. No easy feat I might tell you as in Palestine the birth of a baby is cause of celebration on multiple levels. While people are expected to come visit and bring gifts, you in return are expected to have a decadent line up of sweets and tiny gifts filled with chocolate to give away. While I would say we had an incredible line up of desserts from the very special Careway drink karawyeh to knafeh, kollaj and other sweets lined up for well wishers, we still had the daunting feat of inviting our closest friends for a get-to-know our babies dinner. When I say closest friends the number is not less than twenty guests and can easily exceed thirty adults, that is, not counting the children. Such was the case this past Thursday. Our guest list was full, our menu was complete and preparations were well under way at least two days in advance. The multiple course meal includen oven roasted meat with 7ashweh rice (spiced rice covered with minced meat and roasted almonds and pine nuts), roasted chicken with potatoes for those none meat eaters, and stuffed kusa and dawaly (zuchine and grape leaves). For starters it was tabouleh, salats arabiyyeh (Arabic Salad), and hummus. And for dessert…..mmmmmm dessert…..the most essential part of a meal, like the end note in a symphony, the last few words in an ever enchanting novel, the perfect end to a long day…Dessert, the part most people skip, but really should be the part all people never ever miss. For dessert I pulled out the big guns…moist chocolate cake, strawberry jello cake (it is strawberry season and the time is perfect to serve this cake) and my absolute master piece, my mother’s very special recipe: Ka3ket Al-Lawz Al-Latheetha (Delicious Almond Cake)….which is indeed delicious. After everyone ate, drank laughed and caught up. Our dessert buffet was rolled out, and pieces of chocolate cake, strawberry cake were carefully cut and served. Then came the night’s star, warm and ready to serve I brought out the almond cake…
The cake batter is very simple with sugar, canola oil, and flour mixed together in equal amounts, eggs are then added ( 4 eggs when using 1.5 cups of sugar), baking powder and a dash of baking soda. The topping is ground raw almonds sprinkled generously on top. After the batter is prepared, it is spread thin on one of the oven pans that come with it. The almonds are sprinkled generously all over, and then it is baked at 175 C for about 20-25 minutes. You know it is done when the almonds have a tinge of golden brown in them. Pull out of the oven and immediately soak with kater (sugar glaze). Serve warm and watch the happy faces around you melt into the crunch, the warmth, the sweet and the absolutely soft. Enjoy the flood of seconds requests from everyone, even those who are watching their sugar intake. This cake warms you up and lifts your spirits. It is like falling asleep and waking up in your lover’s arms every morning. It comforts and reassures you that life is still good. It reminds you that on cold winter days, with the winds howling outside your windows, it is the little things in life that warm you from the inside out. I love this cake for all its goodness. I love that this is a recipe my mother shared with me years ago, and now that I have a home and children I can share it with them. I love the flood of childhood memories that rush through me as I take the first bite, because when I cook, and every time I cook, I want to recreate a memory, a thought a feeling that I once had. And this past Thursday, I loved serving this cake to our guests and loved watching their faces react to the burst of sweet inside their mouth. It was only appropriate that a taste of my childhood was served to mark the beginning of my children’s life. Here is to many cold winters, to a busy kitchen, and countless times of baking this almond cake and watching the happy faces look back at you with gratitude and satisfaction. Here is to creating a childhood taste for my children….
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