A Not So Typical Thanksgiving Cake For A Not So Typical Story

Preparing for Thanksgiving always revolves around one thing, food. How many meats can we stuff with more meat? Are six different kinds of stuffing enough? How about twelve different casseroles? Does each dessert have some kind of pumpkin in it? Let’s not forget about the biggest game of the day. No, not football- who will win the great cranberry debate on game day? Canned or fresh cranberry sauce? Though, personally, there’s nothing more comforting than hearing processed cranberry jelly flop drunkenly out of a can and onto fine chinaware. 

As a foodie, I dove head first into the food blogging sea of recipes in order to think of my perfect Thanksgiving dessert. But honestly, it really doesn’t matter. The food serves one purpose, to bring family together.

 So instead of being thankful for a fried turkey, why not be thankful for the person who made it? All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein tells the story of Gerda’s terrifying six year ordeal as a Jewish girl during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

 Over the course of six years, Gerda lost her home, her family, and her culture. She recalled her experiences living in the ghetto, traveling in cattle cars to concentration camps only to be separated from her family and stripped away of almost everything that was important to her. She managed to find spirit and hope in the darkness of the camps. During a death march led my Nazi officers, Gerda was saved by American soldiers, one of whom she married.

The Nazi’s killed her parents and her siblings, they destroyed her home and Jewish community, but after everything, she still had her life.

 Gerda celebrated a birthday, while living in the ghetto. Finding food was a difficult task, but it was especially rare to find fresh fruits, like oranges. However, on her birthday Gerda’s mother sold some of her possessions to buy her an orange. It was the last birthday her family would celebrate together.

 So for this Thanksgiving, I want to inspire you to make this Cran-Orange Cardamom Upside-Down Cake. It’s out of the Thanksgiving norm, but it captures a poignant family moment in All But My Life and the essence of what Thanksgiving is all about.

Cran-Orange Cardamom Upside-down Cake


4 Sweet Oranges (If the oranges are bitter, so will your cake- Yuck!)

1/2 Cup dried cranberries

1/2 Cup + 3 Tablespoons dark rum

3 Cups all-purpose flour

2 Teaspoons ground cardamom

4 Teaspoons baking powder

1/2 Teaspoon salt

3/4 Cup (1- 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 Cups sugar

4 Eggs

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1 Cup orange juice

1 Teaspoon orange zest


  1. In a saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of dark rum to a boil, then add dried cranberries. Bring to a low boil and let simmer for 20 minutes. THen remove from heat and let sit, covered, for anther 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add eggs, one at a time. Then, add vanilla and rum.
  4. Slowly begin to add half the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Then, pour in orange juice and orange zest. Once incorporated, add the rest of your dry ingredients until just blended.
  5. Cut oranges into 1 inch thick, round slices. Grease a springform pan and arrange oranges and rum-infused dry cranberries to the bottom on the pan. Then, pour in your batter.
  6. Cool for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it is golden brown and cook al the way through. You can test if the cake is done by poking it with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, then it is done.
  7. Let the cake sit until cool, then remove from the springform pan and flip over for a unique holiday dessert.

“I hope you will never be disillusioned. To you, life still means beauty, and that is how it should be.” ~ All But My Life



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1 Response to A Not So Typical Thanksgiving Cake For A Not So Typical Story

  1. Pat and Angel says:

    Thank you baker in the rye for that literary reference, not easy to remember this holocaust stuff during the busiest shopping day of the year.

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