This recipe and an abbreviated version of this story originally appeared in the Feb. 27, 2012 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine.
My earliest Purim memory comes from the year I was about eight.
I was looking forward to dressing up as an Indian princess, and my mother and I had already started putting the costume together. I was to wear an oversized T-shirt dress with the sleeves and bottom cut up into a fringe. My mother showed me how to string brightly colored beads onto each strip of fabric, then knot them at the ends. I loved the sound it made as I walked.
My stick-straight brown hair would be divided into two long braids, and I’d top it off with a (homemade) headband.
With a feather, of course.
Each year, the local shul held a costume contest, and this year was no exception. Like every other kid in the community, I dreamed of winning some day. I knew my costumes were good. The question was whether the judges would think so, too.
Shortly before Purim, a group of girls approached me. They were planning to dress up together as a basket of mishloach manot, and they needed someone to be the wine bottle. Would I do it?
I thought about it for a few minutes. After all, they had professional, store-bought costumes. It was hard to beat something like that. But my heart wasn’t in it.
I was a girly-girl (still am!), and wine bottles were not girly. I wanted to be an Indian princess, and I wanted to wear that feather on my head. I told them I already had a costume, but thanks anyway.
You know the ending, of course: They found someone else to dress up as their wine bottle, and went on to win the contest. What’s a little girl to do?
In the Purims that followed, I wore many costumes, all of them homemade. When I was in the ninth grade, I took the festivities a step further and got my family hooked on themed mishloach manot.
My mother’s well of Purim ideas never dried up, and we’d brainstorm the entire year, sometimes starting on the next Purim as soon as that year’s had ended. I was always in charge of writing the poem to accompany the food packages. (As the years went on, our themes became more elaborate, making my explanatory poems actually necessary.)
There was the year we gave out garden-themed foods in flower pots and the year we waxed patriotic with red, white and blue foods arranged in festive July 4th hats.
One of my favorites was our computer theme, when we gave cheese crackers “for the mouse,” an apple (think Mac), and alphabet soup to represent keyboard letters. There was also the year of the Gush Katif mishloach manot, in which we gave an assortment of orange-colored foods complete with the Gush Katif bentcher.
In the weeks before last year’s Purim, I patiently explained to my husband that it was very important for us to have extremely cute costumes with equally cute mishloach manot.
It would be our first Purim as a married couple, and he hadn’t even heard of themed mishloach manot, let alone given them. Much to his credit, he came along whole-heartedly for the ride.
After endless meal-time conversations weighing the pros and cons of various costumes, we agreed to be Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf.
This satisfied my various criteria: The costumes would be easy enough to make at home, the necessary materials were inexpensive, and above all, it was sure to be adorable.
I briefly considered going the ironic route and dressing up as the wolf myself, but my husband drew the line at donning Little Red’s cape.
Fortunately, he didn’t at all mind sewing the cape for me. He’s good with his hands, you see. The same hands that built us a living room bookcase and braid most of our challahs are the hands that sewed me that Little Red Riding Hood cape.
In return, I made a contribution to his costume: A hand-drawn “hello my name is” name tag with “Big Bad Wolf” in no-nonsense black letters.
For me, Purim just isn’t Purim without coordinating costumes and themed mishloach manot.
But even if all that isn’t your thing, you can get into the Purim spirit with this moist vodka amaretto cake.
The alcohol evaporates during baking, leaving you just with the delicious flavors in this pretty-much-perfect cake. The glaze added to the top lends extra sweetness and kicks up the vodka and amaretto flavors another notch.
Add sprinkles, and it’s ready to grace any seudah…themed or not.
Tip: If you want the orange flavor to be more prominent, you can omit the heavy cream and double the orange juice.
- butter or margarine, to grease pan
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 package of instant vanilla pudding (80 grams or 5 Tbsp)
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- 7/8 cup canola oil
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup heavy cream (or Rich’s Whip)
- ¼ cup vodka
- ¼ cup amaretto
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vodka
- 3 tsp amaretto
- 1½ tsp fresh orange juice
- sprinkles (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Combine flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pudding mix in a large bowl. Stir to break up any lumps.
3. Add vanilla, eggs, oil, orange juice, cream, vodka and amaretto. Beat together until a batter forms.
4. Scoop the batter into a bundt (or tube) pan greased very well with butter. Bake for 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Slide a thin, sharp knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Carefully invert cake onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and set aside.
6. Pour powdered sugar into a small bowl and mix in vodka, amaretto, and orange juice about 2 teaspoons at a time. The end result will have a paste-like consistency.
7. Spoon it out onto the top of the cake. It will drip down by itself within a few minutes. Decorate with sprinkles if you like.