Call me a curmudgeon, but I haven’t been wild about the whole “Thanksgivukkah” hoopla this year. Sure, it’s an odd coincidence—a once in hundreds-of-lifetimes coincidence, even. But to me, it’s emphasized all the wrong things.
One reason I love Thanksgiving is that it’s religion-neutral. Yes, it’s a made-up holiday celebrating a made-up history (at the expense of a real, bloody, and horrific one, at that). But for most of us, it’s about food and family and reflecting on what we’re truly grateful for. Apart from Independence Day, it’s probably as close to a shared national experience as you can get. Attaching it to Hanukkah for some of us but not others just feels wrong.
Meanwhile, we’ve worked hard in our house to play down Hanukkah. We give a few small gifts, fry some latkes, light our candles. It’s a minor holiday, and the insistence on elevating it to “Jewish Christmas” has always bugged me. Let Hanukkah be Hanukkah, I say. Not Jewish Christmas. And not Thanksgivukkah, which gives the idea all over again that this is the leading celebration of the Jewish year.
There. Rant over. Feeling grumpy didn’t prevent me from making this almond cake yesterday for a Hanukkah potluck with friends. It’s turned into one of my favorite wheat-free, dairy-free confections. With a little powdered sugar, it was a Hanucake.
The cake really has nothing to do with Hanukkah. Food historian and cookbook goddess Claudia Roden, whose recipe I used, even speculates that its origins may lie in the wheat-free, leavening-free traditions of Passover.
I used Roden’s recipe with a few tweaks, having learned that this is a forgiving cake, as long as you get those egg whites beaten.
Citrus-flavored pastry has never been a favorite, so I omitted the orange and lemon zests and instead added about a half-teaspoon of cinnamon and a shake of ground cardamom. (Note to self: A bit more next time.)
I also mixed some hazelnuts left from Thanksgiving in with the almonds. And I upped the nuts from 1/2 to nearly 3/4 of a pound. Getting the nuts sufficiently ground without turning them into nut butter is still a challenge, but that didn’t stop folks from devouring the whole business. Yum.
Whatever you ate, however you celebrate, I hope your Thanksgiving was lovely and your Hanukkah full of light.
P.S. – Remember last year’s rather lumpy Thanksgiving apple pie? This year’s was an improvement, even though the dough and I still duked it out mano a mano. Using Authentic Foods superfine rice flour is a game-changer though. Not a hint of grit. Win!