Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gluten Free Sponge Cake

This year has been an absolute whirlwind for my family, taking us to both soaring highs and epic lows. Yeah, it's been tough, and it's easy to get caught up in the negative, but it's important to look at the situation from every perspective in order to see the good. One of the most significant stresses that has forced a dark cloud over my family is the health of my grandfather, or who I call my Zhada. My Zhada has always been one of the strongest members of my family, never one to get too caught up in his emotions, always one to set our values straight making sure our focus remains on education and setting goals for ourselves, and, being a former pharmacist, making sure that physical activity and health play a significant role in his day-to-day life. So it was shocking to see and hear just how quickly his physical and mental health could take such a decline in such a short period of time. I could hardly believe the stories my dad would tell me about how his behavior had changed so dramatically. It sounded as though he had become a completely different person, and it scared me. I watched as my dad devoted almost all of his time to Zhada and my grandmother, my Baba, trying to make sure they were as healthy and well taken care of as possible. There were numerous times when my dad would sit me down and tell me that this was it, and I better start getting ready to say my goodbyes, just to hear only a few days later that he was back on track and things were looking good. It felt like a game of tug-of-war with my family on the one side, tugging to have him pull through, and his illness on the other, trying with all its might to take him down.
It's exhausting flip flopping your emotions like that, but experiencing that taught me just how much I've taken him, and my other three grandparents for granted. These are some of the most important figures I will ever meet in my life, the people who love me for who I am, and I know would go to the other end of the world and back for me. It's hard to imagine that someone who plays such a large role in your life could leave it so quickly, especially when you have been fortunate enough to have all of your grandparents still living. Going through this experience has made me reevaluate the issues that I can stress myself over everyday, and look at what's really important in my life. Yes, it's not an easy thing to see someone you love come to the end of their life, but it will do nothing for anyone to dwell on the negative and fear the future. I can only look at how lucky I am to have these four unbelievable individuals in my life, and take advantage of every moment that I can still share with them.

After a year of ups and downs and almost goodbyes, I can't tell you how special it was to get to celebrate my Zhada's 93rd birthday on September 12th. Now living in the beautiful Sunnybrook Veterans Ward, my grandfather is happier and more fulfilled than he has felt in years, getting to meet new friends, learn new skills (the centre offers an incredibly wide range of activities such as pottery and photography classes), have medical support on hand if needed, and have piece of mind knowing that each day he has the ability to experience something new and exciting!
We would have given Zhada anything he could have asked for for his big 93rd birthday, but his only request was to have a gluten free sponge cake as his birthday cake. My Baba used to always make a delicious light and fluffy sponge cake, speckled with her own personal touch, chocolate shavings. It was what we would look forward to enjoying for every Jewish holiday, but after Zhada was diagnosed with being Celiac, we no longer saw our favourite sponge cake. I knew it was up to me to try and replicate Baba's sponge cake in gluten free form for Zhada. With very little experience baking gluten free I found a very simple recipe that I thought would do the trick, adding my own little touches to attempt to mimic the flavours from my Baba's. The sponge cake turned out to be a huge hit! Zhada had the biggest smile on his face and devoured 3 pieces of cake himself, in a matter of minutes, and taking very few bites! Watching him eat that cake was better than any compliment on my baking! You could tell from a mile away that the man was loving it! I did enjoy the cake but I would change some things for next time. Because I wanted to replicate my Baba's sponge cake as much as possible I left it as just a cake and dusted it with some cocoa powder for visual appeal. When I make this cake again, I will nix the cocoa powder and instead make a chocolate mousse to layer inside the cake. This would add moisture to the slightly dry cake as well as a contrast in texture. I hope that next year I can serve Zhada the perfected layered gluten free sponge cake at his 94th birthday celebration! Even though I don't express it nearly enough, I love you so much Zhada and I hope you never question that!

Recipe adapted from
3/4 cup corn flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, separated
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Sift corn flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

2. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.

3. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla extract.

4. Gradually beat in sugar until mixture forms a figure 8.

5. Fold in the dry ingredients and chocolate shavings.

6. Pour into two 8" square pans and bake at 350ยบ for about 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool.

7. When cakes have cooled top one with chocolate mousse and layer the other on top. If desired, dust with cocoa powder.

Listening To:
Coldplay - Strawberry Swing

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1 comment:

Naveen said...

What a touching story! I can relate a bit to your story about your Zhada -- I recently lost my maternal grandfather and it happened suddenly -- from getting sick to really ill and then his passing. Sometime it does take a nudge from Life to remember the important people and things in life. Best wishes to you, Zhada and your family. Enjoy each other as much as you can... with lots of cake!