Women.  Women everywhere!  Growing up, that was pretty much the name of the game.  On my mother's side, there are six cousins, all girls.  And we were surrounded by women, who stayed strong, loving, creative and hard-working.  If there was an opportunity to be ridiculous or dissolve into a fit of giggles, they did it.

My Nanny was, for the time, a combination of traditional and untraditional.  She worked full-time, crazy long full-time hours, as head nurse of a city emergency department.  Yet, she maintained an impeccably clean home, ironed her underwear and created, with the help of my grandfather, a yard magical to the six little girls who ran through it.  Rock-lined ponds, oak trees with their fairy-cup acorns, granite rocks jutting up as reminders of the underlying glacial moraine.  There was a two acre bush, snapdragons in summer and lines of manicured lilacs.  At the garden edge, a wooden barn stood, lined with windows, an old wooden radio on the shelf and a bevy of wood-working tools at the ready for a little crafting/building sit-down on the cool concrete floor in summer.   

On my father's side, the women seemed just as strong, but more stoic with a quiet air.  But one of my great-aunts was known for her wide, ready smile, a laugh that would set you to feeling light and loved inside.  She was beautiful.  We didn't see her often as she and my uncle kept busy working with the Mennonite Central Committee.  But when she was at, or hosted, a family gathering, the line-up of aunts and uncles on my father's side seemed complete.  

Her specialty was Bienen Stich.  A simple white cake layered with an ethereal whipped cream frosting and topped with candied almonds and coconuts.

I am not a prodigious baker of sweets. I will do bread, scones and biscuits. I despise muffins and deflate with making cupcakes. It's all a bit tedious to my way of thinking. But Bienen Stich, I will do, largely due to my ever-abiding love of whipping cream and that it is a rustic, forgiving cake.  Those reasons, and it is a lovely reminder of childhood memories and people to whom I am forever grateful for their love and guidance by example.

I love when food becomes more than what is on the plate.  It is richer and ultimately more satisfying.  Are there any recipes you make purely for memory's sake?

Bienen Stich


4 eggs

2 c. sugar

pinch of salt

2 c. flour

2.5 tsp baking powder

1 c. milk

2 tbsp butter



1/4 c. butter

6 tbsp whipping cream

3/4 c brown sugar

1 (100 g) package slivered almonds

3/4 c. coconut

2 c. whipping cream

2 tbsp instant vanilla pudding mix powder


Beat eggs with sugar and salt, add flour and baking powder.  In meantime, boil milk and 2 tbsp butter together.  Very gently, add milk and butter to egg mixture with a big spoon.  Do not beat.  Pour into a 9" x 13" buttered and floured pan and place in 350 F oven, baking for 30 min.  I baked mine in 2-10" round pans for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick, inserted in the centre, came out clean. Cool.

If baked in 9X13 pan, slice into two layers.  While cake bakes, melt butter, sugar, whipping cream and nuts un a pan.  Pour on cake when done.  Broil till bubbly.  Cool.

Whip 2 c. whipping cream and beat in instant vanilla pudding mix.  Spread as a layer between the two cake layers, placing nut coated layer on top.  Freeze or keep in fridge.  Let cake sit awhile before serving.