Sunday, January 30, 2011

Zangebak - Finding a Forgotten Memory

Six years ago I became an adult orphan when my mother passed away. For us, our mother was the nurturing soul that pulsated through the family. No matter what your age, when you lose your mother, it is a pain that stays with you as daily life brings its constant reminders of her. And with food being such a central focus of her life, the reminders are many.

Last weekend while at Edgar in Hull I enjoyed a "mini almond cake" with my tea.

Another recent visit to Art-is-in Boulangarie with a friend had me trying their wee 'financier'. A financier is a small French cake usually containing almond flour, crushed or ground almonds, or almond flavoring.

Perhaps trying these similar treats so close together in time was enough of a jolt to excavate a food memory from my childhood that has long been buried. Maybe as much as 30 years? When I was young, we made a treat called zangebaks. They were very almond tasting dense 'cakes' made in muffin tins. The outside had a bit of a crunch to it and the inside a bit chewy.

I shared this jettisoned memory with the good people at Edgar and vowed to comb through my shoebox of old recipe cards to see if I still had this gem. I keep all my active recipes in Mastercook and go to the archives when I want to resurrect the past and officially include it in our repertoire. Many childhood recipes are in Mastercook now but some still remain without attention on 4" x 6" yellowing cards.

Bless my organization skills! I found it. Written out in what I call my 'high school font'. Always block letters. Always using a fountain pen. Although it appears tidy, it is missing some instruction. Like when to include the almond extract. Also missing is the source. I always put the source of the recipe in the top right hand corner. Not so much for attribution in the digital age but as part of the preservation of the recipe's genealogy. Where did this zangebak recipe come from? I assure you my four brothers will not be of help on this one. And again I am reminded of the finality of my mother's passing. No more going to her for details, memories and understanding. No more help in colouring in the finer details of the past. Again I feel the severance of time gone before me and my time now.

My father was the one who regularly made requests for zangebaks back in the days when I was still at home. But I do not remember them ever being around when I went home to visit. Did he tire of them and move on to a new favourite? Did she lose interest in making them? I too had forgotten about them and had never made them again since leaving home.

Despite the very fuzzy details, I loved meeting up with an old food friend this week. I loved 'spending time' with my Mom in the kitchen again. I would do anything to have her back.


In the second batch I put in 1/3 cup ground almond and then reduced the flour by that amount. It worked well.
I also tried them in a mini muffin tin yielding at least 24 mini cakes. Baking time should be reduced to closer to 15 minutes. Do not over-bake or you will not get the center chew.

1 cup butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
sliced almonds, optional

Heat oven to 350ºF. Cream butter. Beat in sugar. Add egg. Continue to beat. Add almond extract. Beat thoroughly.

Mix flour and baking soda today and then fold into butter mixture.

Divide dough evenly into 12 portions and fill into buttered muffin tins. Push a sprinkling of sliced almonds on the top of each cake.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Let stand in muffin tin for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on rack.


  1. I LOVE this entry! I find that by baking certain recipes I get to visit with my grandmother ... I can say that your little treat was a delight to eat - I munched on it as soon as I finished my Edgar french toast on Sunday afternoon ... thank you for a delightful treat - and an even nicer blog entry to read today.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Lynne! Zangebaks were a kind of every day treat my Mom had around for my Dad's sweet tooth. Nothing grand or super fancy per se but it did the job. Much like we count on a cookie to do for us. Just that little something to go with afternoon tea. I can't believe I had totally forgotten about them.

  3. Your post made me tear up a little. I miss her too. I'll have to try making these some time, I love pretty much anything almond.


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