Friday, October 28, 2011

Have Your Cake - Parshat Noach

Sam and I spent a blissful four days with my parents in their home in Upstate NY last weekend. Aside from rediscovering how much I love napping in an indoor hammock, I found a treasure - a picture of an early mabul cake I baked for Parshat Noach.

Mabul cake circa 2000

I had totally forgotten that I made a round version of the cake - it looks so much more elegant than the rectangular aluminum pan version. It's inspired me to revamp the mabul cake this year and class it up a bit. But first, we have the portion to discuss.

Last year we cleared up all the misconceptions about the portion (7 of some animals, not 2, they were in the arc for a lot longer than 40 days and nights). This year I'm pondering what there is to learn from the cataclysmic flood. With messages from the high holidays in the recesses of my mind it's troubling to read of a time when humanity went so far astray, were so corrupt, that repentance wasn't an option. God gives a sliver of creation a second chance by having Noah assemble his family and the back bones of the animal kingdom into the arc. There they wait out God's fury for close to a year as He causes water to burst from every directions and drown all other living things. Cooped up together, possibly in fear, it's a long "time out" until they are released onto dry land to start rebuilding their lives.

But it doesn't seem like the redo improves the situation of the world. Noah starts things off on the right foot by offering a sacrifice to God upon emerging from the arc. In return God displays a rainbow across the sky as a symbol of his covenant with the rest of the generations never to wipe out the world again. But soon after, Noah becomes intoxicated and gets into a scuffle with his children, cursing one of them for generations. Fast forward a few generations and people attempt to build the tower of Babel, which they plan will reach the sky as an expression of their power. God and His angels don't like that attitude and confuse their speech to disperse them.

So the lessons God was trying to convey with the flood, of respect for one's fellow and  devotion to a higher power, weren't so well learned. Yet God can't start over anymore with humanity after his promise with the rainbow covenant. But one thing He does set up is responsibility for humanity going forward: "I will require a reckoning of human life, every man for that of his fellow man." We are responsible for how we treat one another, and this story reminds us of it.

I guess we could make a tower of Babel cake this week, but baking a mabul cake is too strong of a tradition for me to give up.

This year I'm feeling a pull away from the overly sugared technicolor mabul cake tradition and have been thinking about how to achieve the water and arc look in a more natural way. I've made a round base of a blueberry cake which will get white frosting as well as a loaf pan of chocolate cake which I will shape to look like the arc and frost with chocolate. The cake recipes I'm using the following recipe for inspiration for the two parts of the cake:  I'll be adapting this dairy blueberry muffin recipe and this chocolate cupcake recipe (secret ingredient - vinegar).

I'll post again this afternoon after all the pieces have been assembled. Check out this other cute Noah themed cake. 

Mabul Cake 2000 construction - fluff not as strong as hoped
Shifra and Shoshana help with the construction in our Jerusalem dorm


  1. From these pictures, it doesn't seem that much has changed over time, and i am not just talking about the cake.

  2. Marc glad to see your comment here. I'm not sure if your sending me a compliment or not, but I'll take it!