back2When my grandmother died, seven years ago, one object I took from her home to mine was her book of baking recipes. Grandma was a good cook, but a passionate baker. She loved trying out new recipes, and the book I inherited is full of traces of sugar and flour. Whenever there was a family party, she would proudly carry in several huge, delicious confections and spoil us all with the results of her latest experiments. What I remember most fondly, however, are her simpler cakes: poppy tart, Baumkuchen (layered cake?) and cheesecake. She encouraged my sister and me to start baking ourselves, and we began doing so when we were no more than 9 and 7 (and yes, that included dealing with the hot oven).

The baking book is from the 1970s, I guess, and it is comfortably old-fashioned. There is no thought whatsoever of calories, and very little of using wholemeal products. No mention is made of cake mixes and batter mixes. Instead there are loads of classic German and international recipes for cakes, tarts, pies and cookies. Some of them are too rich for present taste, but the great majority holds up very nicely.

What is my grandmother’s legacy beyond the recipe book itself? I still bake cheesecake using her recipe, and I have never come across a better one. I am not afraid to try new recipes, although nowadays I do more cooking than baking. I never ever use ready-made mixes and batters, mostly because I know how incredibly fast I can mix the fresh ingredients myself. I love the sensuous experience of touching ingredients with my hands, be it kneading yeast dough or peeling almonds. By now my older nieces have started baking, and I hope that the cheesecake will delight another generation.

What recipes or other traditions have been passed through the generations in your families?