Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Family Tradition

Swedish Tårta

My great-great aunt Norma (or "Nornie", as she was known to many) was a hugely important part of my childhood. I grew up living next door to her and my great-great uncle Earl, and the two of them were like grandparents to me and my two sisters. They loved us all unconditionally, and thought everything we did was wonderful - they rarely missed one of my spelling bees or school programs, and every picture I drew them, every school photo of mine found a prominent place to be displayed in their home. They took care of us when we were sick, and waited at the bus stop with me, my younger sister, and my mom every year on the first day of school. I have countless wonderful memories of my beloved B'Earl and Nornie...I was so lucky to have them in my life and miss them both terribly. I grew up with a lot of people loving me, and a lot of people to love. I have a wonderful family. Almost all of my memories from my childhood are happy, and I am so grateful for that. The unconditional love, the constant encouragement and praise, the comfort and security that was my relationship with B'Earl and Nornie is inextricably woven into the story of my childhood, and my life would not be what it is today if they hadn't been a part of it.

(Swedish Tårta, unfrosted)

Aside from all the gushing sentimentality in this post, another wonderful thing about Norma was that she was an amazing cook. Celebrations at her house always included a fantastic spread of food, much of which showcased her and Earl's Swedish heritage. I grew up with lefse, hardtack, (and stories of lutefisk, although I never actually experienced it myself). Her desserts were legendary: I've blogged before about her wonderful, comforting rice pudding, and now that I've finally mastered her famous (in my family, anyway) Swedish Tårta, I'm thrilled to share the recipe. This is a traditional hot milk sponge cake, layered with thick vanilla custard and bananas, then frosted with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Since I learned how to make it, it's been my most often-requested dessert for birthdays and other family celebrations. It's a fairly involved recipe, but the results are heavenly. This cake is phenomenal even if you didn't know Earl and Norma...and if you did, warm memories of the two of them makes each bite that much more delightful. Either way, make it once and this might become a tradition in your family too...I guarantee people will ask you to make it again and again.


Nicol said...

I love EVERYTHING about this post! You rock!

Joe said...

That is one beautiful cake!

Elisabeth said...

Yay, Nicol, I love when you leave me comments! The main reason I updated the blog this weekend is because you and my sister have both been hounding me. :)

Thanks, Joe - you have such incredible desserts on your blog, it's EXTREMELY flattering to get a compliment from you. :)

LeLe said...

this is the most amazing dessert -
it probably tops your german chocolate cake, but it is hard to compare as each is so unique. i love the denseness of this torte and also that it is not overly sweet. you do nornie and your swedish heritage proud. i can see her smiling as she says, "good job, liffa".

Elisabeth said...

Thanks, Lele! Every time I think of Nornie, I picture her saying, "Oh, I should say so" - it always makes me smile.