Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day 7: Fearless Females: Journey Back in Time with Sarah Crane's Honey Cake

March 7 Pompt— Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.

Allow me to take you back in time with Sarah Crane's Honey Cake. Today's journey begins in 2010. If not for our Kranowitz/Crane family reunion (August 2010), I would not have any family recipes to share. The planning committee reached out to family members and inviting them to get more involved in the organization of the event. My uncle Larry volunteered to create a family cookbook! Larry was an  well known architect who was especially famous for building some of the best restaurants in New York. He was a wonderful chef and ideal for the job of putting together a family cookbook (see Larry Bogdanow's New York Times Obituary from June 2011). His excitement was infection and he succeeded in collecting culinary contributions from across the country. I chose to share Sarah's Cake because the story of this recipe includes at least three generations of fearless women and of course my uncle Larry who revived and preserved the recipe for a whole new generation of Cranes! The story exemplifies how a recipe can reveal so much family history!

Cover of our family cookbook created by Larry Bogdanow
High Praise from Famous Food Critic

Sarah Crane's Honey Cake was voted most popular in our family cookbook. It was submitted twice and Larry choose to include both versions. Here is Mitzi Crane's version. Mitzi's (Miriam Crane Cohen) was Sarah's daughter. She had a long career as a professional home economics consultant and food writer. Her health deteriorated rapidly shorty after our family reunion and she died a year later of Multiple Myeloma (to read more about Mitzi see her obituary). Mitzi used her culinary expertise to revise her mother's original recipe. Her explanations of how she tinkered with the recipe, gives high praise to her mother coming from such a renown food critic!
"Sarah gave the recipe and directions to me in her own words. I have simple revised the order of the ingredients and  the order of the directions to the recipe in the correct order for pouring. I have not changed any amounts or directions. NO ONE could improve on this cake as it is now!" 
Mitzi Crane, early 1940s (1930-2011)
Makes two delicious loaves. 
  • 3 1/2 cups of flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Grated rind of 1 orange
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground mace
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 8 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) honey
  • 1 cup brewed coffee at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup corn or canola oil
Preheat oven 325 
Lightly grease and flour two 9"x5" loaf pans; line with waxed paper then lightly grease and flour wax paper. Set aside. In large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, grated citrus rinds, spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, mace) and salt. Stir well until thoroughly mixed. Make a well in dry ingredients. Add egg yolks, honey, coffee and oil. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer for 3 minutes or until well blended. Let stand. Wash beaters and dry thoroughly.
Sarah Crane, cooking in 1975 from the book Shiloah 

In separate bowl beat egg whites at high speed until mixture stands in peaks when beaters are lifted out of the whites. Using clean hands or a spatula gently fold beaten egg whites into batter. Cut through the batter and bring it up from the bottom until all whites are evenly incorporated and mixture is well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans. Gently shake or tilt each pan so batter will be in an even layer. Bake at 325 ℉ for one hour (or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean). Cool on rack for 15 minutes. With spatula, gently loosen waxed paper from pan. Turn cakes out; remove waxed paper. Return to racks until cakes are completely cool. 

It is worth noting here that the second version of the cake (not submitted her due an attempt of keep this post "short") came from Sarah's granddaughter Laurel's kitchen. Laurel Jones (Crane) passed away in 2008 and her husband was responsible for getting Laurel's version to us. According to his note, Sarah came to spend time with Laurel in 1973 when their first child came into the family. Grandmother and granddaughter enjoyed their precious time together. Some of their fun activities included making some of Laurel's favorite dishes from her childhood. Sarah wanted to pass these recipes to Laurel's young family. Recording the recipes was a slow process. Sarah worked with "Pinches, bits and scoops." Laurel would stop her beloved grandmother at each step and convert the measurements to the more reproducible "teaspoons, tablespoons and cups." This explains the slightly different versions of Sarah's Honey Cake!

My spiral bound copy of Shiloah. The photo on the cover is
a photograph of my second-great-grandparents
 Moshe Aaron Kranowitzand Feige Yarmovsky.
To read more about this amazing family
photo see A Photo Worth a Thousand Words
 The picture of Sarah in her kitchen comes from a book called Shiloah, co-authored by one of Sarah's other granddaughters, Minda Novek. Shiloah, is a sourcebook about discovering Jewish identity through oral and Folk history, published by the Institute for Jewish Life in 1976. The sourcebook is no longer in print, but I somehow got hold of a xerox copy, which in it's day sold for three dollars and fifty cents. Minda included her grandmother's recipe in the book as an example of how a recipe can be presented to preserve family memories. She interviewed her grandmother and skillfully pulled out some family stories while her grandmother was cooking. We can learn so much about Sarah, and her life from this short little interview it's amazing! Here are the tid bits Sarah shared which frame her picture above:
  • My mother used to make honey cake, but she didn't want to teach me. She said, "when you need it, you'll learn how."
  • I had a neighbor, a wonderful woman... when I first married...she taught me.
  • I make honey cake mostly for Rosh Hashana, for only made cakes for holidays in Europe.
  • Q: Did your father like honey cake?
  • He liked what he got! There was no such thing as like in Europe. Whatever's being made- men ate!
  • Oi, American people, you don't know anything. Es bricht fun haltz- here, it crawls out of your throat. When I make honey cake, I don't make anything else. 
  • ...honey cake! In the beginning, I couldn't even cook water without burning it. When you want to, you learn.
Sarah Crane (Breitman) and Harry Crane
Wedding picture c1918
Sara came into the Crane family thanks to my great-grandmother Minnie Crane who was her friend during their early years in Hartford. In an excerpt from Stored Treasures, Minnie describes the match between her good friend Sarah Breitman and her handsome brother Harry Crane around 1917.
"Harry met his wife in our apartment. Sarah and I were members of a Zionist group. One Sunday after the meeting, we came to our place. Harry liked her at once. They were married that same year.
Harry married Sarah despited her self proclaimed inability to cook. Her neighbor must have been a great teacher. Even though, like many of her generation, she minimized her talent, she clearly became a great cook!

If you enjoyed this post and want to read more post from this series, visit:

Women's History Month Day 1: Fearless Females: Favorite Female Ancestor & Genealogy Guru!
Women's History Month Day 2: Fearless Females: Third Great-Grandmother!
Women's History Month Day 3: Fearless Females: The Middle Name That Almost Was
Women's History Month Day 4: Fearless Females: Hats Off to the Top Fearless Female!
Women's History Month Day 5: Fearless Females: How I Met Your Mother
Women's History Month Day 6: Las Mañanitas

To learn more about +Lisa Alzo's 31 inspirational writing prompts in celebration of Women's History Month visit her blog:  The Accidental Genealogist. It's not too late to join!


  1. Another excellent post. I feel like I am starting to know your family.

    1. Thanks, Betty! This series is different from what I usually write on my blog which usually more focused on documents and what can be learned from genealogical research. The Fearless Females series is an opportunity to share more family stories. I guess our ultimate goal in this work is to get to know our ancestors, so if I'm successful at introducing them to you, than I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job!
      You support mean a lot! Thanks

  2. This honey cake has a serious history, through three generations of women! Sarah, Mitzi, and Laurel. I love that you can quote some of Sarah's phrases. She sounds confident! The cake looks delicious, and I have never made a cake with coffee before! Probably I would fail the step of folding in the egg whites. But I'm going to copy the recipe anyway.

    And your uncle Larry built restaurants in New York! Very impressive. Wow.

    1. Full disclosure: the egg white step scares me as well. I've shied away from actually trying the cake because of this particular step! But now that I've written this post, I'm going to have to try it!


Thanks for sharing your comments!