Today my grandmother, who died just two weeks ago, would have turned 94.
For as long as I can remember, my Mom and Nana, whose birthdays are just a day apart, have celebrated them together.
And Mom has been making Nana the same birthday cake since she discovered it at a bake sale more than 50 years ago.
We call it maple walnut cake.
It’s just a boxed white cake mix made according to the package instructions that is embellished with maple extract and chopped walnuts, but Nana loved it and looked forward to it every year.
So for me this is the cake forever associated with Nana’s birthdays.
More than a decade ago I decided to try to be with Mom and Nana for their March birthdays as often as I could. I’m glad I did.
The years passed quickly and now a family tradition has come to a close.
Although Nana wasn’t here to enjoy her cake today. I made it anyway. The family and friends who have been celebrating with her all these years wanted it; needed it. We are still recovering from our loss. As we adjust to life without her gentle presence, we craved the sweetness of her special cake.
Food can be so much more than fuel for our bodies. It can connect us, bridge cultures, carry history, make friends, create community and evoke memories.
Nana’s birthday cake helped to make today a just little sweeter.
Do you have a sweet food memory to share?
- 1 package white cake mix
- Ingredients for making the cake as directed on the box
- 2 tablespoons flour optional
- 1 tablespoon maple extract
- 1 cup chopped walnuts plus more for garnish if desired
- 1/4 cup butter softened
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons maple extract
- 2 tablespoons milk plus a little more as needed
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
Make the cake according to the package directions, adding the maple extract and additional flour if desired. Stir in the nuts. Pour into the prepared bundt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely. Frost with maple icing. Sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.
To make the frosting, put the butter and cream cheese into a very large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until very smooth. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and beat well. Add the milk and maple extract and beat well. Gradually beat in the additional cup of sugar. Beat in enough additional milk until the frosting reaches the spreading consistency you desire.
More Maple-flavored recipes…
Maple & Walnut Applesauce Cake – Whole Foods
Maple Nut Coffee Cake – Cake Mix Doctor
Maple Walnut Coffee Cake – Miss in the Kitchen
Maple Apple Ginger Cake – Baking Bites
Maple Walnut Blondies – Best Ever Cookie Collection
Whole Wheat Banana Maple Muffins – Vegetarian Family Table
Maple Pecan Bread – Betty Crocker
Maple Cookies – Simply Recipes
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