May 1, 2011

trip down memory lane

cooking class, or home economics class, do they still give that in schools? i remember having them when i was a teenager, i think for the first time when i was 13 or 14 years old. we were expected to keep notes of the recipes we were taught, which i did, meticulously it seems, because i still have that notebook, in which i kept writing down recipes that i found in magazines, or in books. it hasn t stopped since.

then, miraculously, some years ago, while cleaning out boxes at my dad s old apartment, which we rented while he was still back in Japan, i found another old notebook: my mother s! how amazing is that? to find that she too had made notes on recipes, written them down, just like i would do many years after she had passed away. it was and still is a comforting thought. to know that we share(d) more than just genes... a love for cooking (and, haha, perhaps a need for keeping things as organized as possible in chaotic times).

i only wish i d been smarter and instead of only learning how to speak the language, i should have taken reading and writing as well (my written Japanese, i m ashamed to say, is not more than what a second-grader would know).

anyway, my mother s notebook is one of my most precious treasures, i have promised myself, hopefully with the help of my sis-in-law, and my Japanese friends, to translate her recipes.

in mine, i found a recipe for a cake that uses no eggs, but vinegar and oil. i could call it vinaigrette cake just for fun, but at the time, because we did make this in class (i remember being so amazed it worked) our teacher called it Krazy Kake, so that s what it shall be.



11/2 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar (i used half light, and half dark muscovado sugar)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (the recipe called for 1 whole teaspoon, but i think that s too much. so even just a pinch might be fine)
3 tablespoons pure cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons vinegar
5 tablespoons vegetable oil (i used rapeseed)
1 cup water


1. sift together the first five ingredients into a baking tray (i used a round non-stick cake tin)
2. make three wells in the dry mixture and put the vanilla into one, vinegar in the second, oil in the third.
3. pour the water over everything.
4. mix everything until smooth.
5. bake at 350°F (i guessed 175-180°C) for 35 minutes or until the center is light and springy to the touch.
6. cool and ice cake in the tin.

that last bit, about cooling and icing in the tin is not quite what i did. after about 10 minutes cooling i turned the cake out onto a cooling rack.

meanwhile i made a sort of ganache by whipping 150 ml cream with 1 tablespoon icing sugar to soft peaks, and adding 100 gr melted dark chocolate. this i left in the fridge to set a little and then iced the cake with it.

to finish it all off i just sprinkled some dark chocolate shavings over the top.

as i mention in the ingredients list, the recipe calls for a WHOLE teaspoon of salt (remember, this was 1978 or 79)! and so i did follow it to a tee... which meant the cake had a fudgie salt caramel flavor. please, feel free to use the whole amount of salt. however, if you want to be more health-conscious, i really would advise to just add a pinch, i will definitely do so next time.

i wonder if some of my old classmates might remember this one, it would be fun to know.


  1. Was it Home Economics in Stella Maris? Sounds really familiar.

    Your mother's recipe notebook is truly precious.

  2. yes Sheri, it was Stella... i don t remember who taught us then, do you?
    oh, it was very emotional when i found her notebook, she passed away in 1975, and i found it in 1995... so you can imagine. but it feels very good you know, this is a wonderful connection i have with her ;-)

  3. Idem dito... My mom's and nan's... Used a loose piece of paper that sat between the pages (from both) when we had to make a work at art school.
    It is confronting and brings back warm memories, and in my case both booklets can be considered as antiques now! :)

  4. Oops and by the way, I still have the receipes from school as well...

  5. hi aiko-chan,
    how beautifully you have presented this cake. it was mrs. obana or mrs. leonhardt who shared this crazy choc cake recipe--only successful if you follow the order exactly and do not overbeat! i am so glad i found a friend who shares the same passion of collecting recipes from everywhere--i have like 6 folder files but nowadays not being used and having no daughter to pass on to. i've certainly picked this up from my dear mom, and also have preciously saved her notebook, aichan, it is a feeling no one can explain! so enjoy the love of your dear mom while trying out her recipes, i can read in Japanese, and can also help you! just read the tamago sandwich recipe, she's written it so precisely, my mom also makes it the same way, and oh how these little points make a difference! gambatte ne!love ya mona

  6. wow, Mums Know Best indeed ;-)

    Mona-san, i really have to check my yearbooks again. it could be Mrs. Leonhardt, but i m really not sure anymore. thank you though for your suggestion to help, perhaps if you could send me your e-mail address we can work out how to begin?


  7. wow how precious that you found your mum's old book and knowing how much you've in common with her! :) hope you'll be able to translate all her recipes one by one! ive seen a lot of amazing japanese cookbooks at the bookshops and always wish i could read jap too!