Monday, January 28, 2013

On the important things in life: Planning my first cake for 2013

In the fall I spent every Thursday night sitting in a room reading texts with a bunch of other women. I was part of an amazing class co-taught by a very talented friend of mine, where Jewish and Muslim women gathered each week to read religious texts with each other. Was it a good time? Oh yes, it was.

Is this post really about cake? Yes, I promise. We'll get there.

I've written a little before about my conversion to Judaism, but I haven't written very much about my academic research, because I didn't want to bore you to tears was happy to have a space to write about things other than my interest in feminist theory and religion because for crying out loud the essays I have written. In my early graduate work I studied early Indian and Tibetan Buddhist literature as a way to learn about gender. It was a good time. No, seriously. My later graduate life was consumed by research into the way feminists study religion. All of this is to say that while I've spent many, many years learning about women, religion and studying texts, I've mostly only done this as an outsider, since I myself was not religious.

Since converting to Judaism this has changed. Reading religious texts, especially those that describe and debate religious law, can be very different for me now. I perk up when I read about religious dietary laws because now I keep a kosher kitchen. I want to know more about laws dealing with sexuality because I am a woman in a tradition that divides its believers along gender lines (in many different ways, according to many different traditions).

What made this course all the better, was that it wasn't a class filled only with Jewish women, but a group of Jewish and Muslim women reading together. We read from the Torah and from the Qur'an, from the Talmud and the Hadith. We read texts that prescribed laws about how to eat, who to touch when we are menstruating, and who we ought to marry. Then we talked about it. For a very long time.

Some of us followed our religion's laws closely, some of us didn't. Some of us covered our hair, some of us didn't. We all identified as Jews or Muslims, but none of us were the same. But same or not, we were connected by religions that had a lot to say about women. People write-off religious women too often, both from inside and outside religious traditions; I wish they wouldn't. There are as many different religious women as their are women on the planet. No matter where they fall along the spectrum of religious observance, women make critical choices about how they interpret their religious texts all the time. I loved reading a text and then hearing thirty different interpretations from the women around me. What I found limiting, others found freeing. What I read with great interest, others cared little for. We didn't always agree with other but that's ok. Repeat after me: we don't always have to agree. I'm pretty certain that I'll never cover my hair and I feel very strongly about this, but holy cow do I love learning about why other women do.

I learned so much and met some of the kindest, most engaging women this side of Toronto. We met as a class only for a few months, but, as women do, we are getting together to cook for each other early next month. How could we come and go without sharing a meal? Impossible. So this is where cake comes in. I'm bringing dessert.

It is one of my 100 Resolutions to make more cakes. I usually play it safe with cookies or squares (or brownies or breads or scones), but it's time for cake. The problem is I just can't decide which one. Can you help me? I've narrowed down some possible cake recipes, courtesy of my some of my favourite food bloggers. Which one?

This lemon olive oil cake from In Jennie's Kitchen? I do love olive oil.

What about cardamom? Food52 rarely lets me down.

I just can't decide. Please, with your help I can start tabulating votes by sundown. Do you know of another fabulous cake recipe I should look at? Please do share. A large room filled with Jewish and Muslim women depend on it. If you can't share a great cake together, what can you do?

P.S. Happy Monday!

You can find the cake print for sale here.


  1. Danielle, thanks for thinking seriously about the cake and event! I like to try cardamom. but all of them are nice.Please don't go to any truble, see you in my place! Zainab

    1. It's no trouble at all! I love baking. I'm going to make two of them, I think, because cake is delicious.

  2. You want to make more cake, so why not make them all to test them out and decide which is best!