Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Out on the Ocean with God: Buttercup Cake

My birthday was a week ago and so my mom baked a cake while the family was assembled for the wedding of my daughter. We celebrated as we usually do in our family on special occasions, with homemade ice cream. My parents still hand crank a wonderful freezer of ice cream. My mother found a cake recipe from the Mennonite Community Cookbook that she brought along to wish me well on my last 40-something birthday. Which means I am looking 50 straight in the eyes! With no fear or trembling on my part, I might add. I am grateful for life and health and a body that still works on my behalf. It bends, lifts, runs (if it has to) and houses my spirit which is, I believe, getting stronger with age.

When my family celebrates my birthday, we always reminisce about a declaration I made when I was a young one. "Before I was born," I would state resolutely, "I was out on the ocean with God." I was totally convinced of this, still am actually. I don't know what led to this formulation of thought or how I knew or if it contradicted any theological beliefs I was taught. I do know that I liked telling my family that before they were honored with my presence, I had been in some pretty awesome company. I also enjoyed the thought that I had been somewhere beautiful and calm and natural. As I grow older, I am still calmed by water in natural places.

I do seek those places where God seems only a whisper away. I have felt a holy presence in an airport, classroom or sanctuary but it takes more of a conscious effort. When looking at a vast expanse of water, hearing the wind move over the water and through the trees, and seeing the dappled light on the surface, I believe that we, along with the rest of the natural world, were born from a creative and loving source of life. For me, connecting to that source, is what breathes new life into old veins, damaged cells, and fragmented thoughts.

When we celebrate it is fun to hear stories around our birth. This is one my family tells and it always makes me smile. Because before I was born, I was out on the ocean with God. Part of me still is.

Buttercup Cake
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla or 1/2 tsp each of lemon, orange, and almond extract
Cream shortening and add sugar gradually. When mixture is fluffy, add well beaten eggs and beat thoroughly. Sift flour; measure and add salt, baking powder and soda. Sift again. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk and flavoring. Beat thoroughly after each addition. Pour into greased layer pans.
Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes.

This recipe is from the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).



  1. What a beautiful birthday memory. Happy Birthday, Ellen! I love following this blog.

  2. Susie KlausmeyerJuly 16, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    Happy Belated Birthday! July birthday people are so cool:)

  3. I believe you. I was in a cool, shaded forest watching nature with God before I was born. :)

  4. What a beautiful post, Ellen! Thank you for sharing. I am reading your blog for the first time after attending your presentation at Kauffman museum on August 1st.