Today presented me with a real writing dilemma. It was Chocolate Cake Day which is kind of the perfect day to celebrate because it requires cake. Good chocolate cake, at that. Any day that ends with cake is a celebration, so I was looking forward to it. It turns out that today was also International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day that also deserves our respect and attention, so I wanted to do something to honor that too. My dilemma comes in when I have to write about it. How do I bridge that gap or segue from one to the other? Can you get from the Holocaust to Chocolate Cake?
I started with chocolate cake (see, even that transition seems callous). I think that if I were to make the perfect cake, I wouldn’t pick chocolate cake. I’d go yellow or white but I would have it with chocolate frosting. Lola put it best (as she tends to do) that chocolate on chocolate cake is wrong, like blonde on blonde action. You just can’t have that much chocolate. Then again, if you have ever tried the Death by Chocolate cake from Gregg’s, you could make an argument about the goodness of chocolate squared. In any case, today was chocolate cake day, so I knew I would have to partake in chocolate. I had big plans to make the perfect chocolate cake and I found two recipes that both considered themselves to be the “Best Ever” chocolate cake recipe. I wrote down the ingredients and headed to the store. Then, when I got to the store, it happened again. I started grabbing the ingredients and when I did, I noticed the cake mixes. I noticed one in particular, a Duncan Hines Decadent Triple Chocolate Cake mix. It had fudge in the mix and chocolate chips too. The picture on the box could have been classified as chocolate porn. I looked at the box, then at all the raw ingredients in my cart, then back at the box. I decided there’s nothing wrong with instant cake mixes so that’s what I came home with.
When I got home I made the cake which was easy. Throw in some eggs, a little water and some oil and bake away. In 25 minutes I had two 9″ chocolatey cakes that I just had to let cool. Then I had to make the frosting. I decided to make the famous Magnolia Bakery frosting. I’ve made this before for cupcakes and it’s easily the best frosting you ever want to taste. I usually make the vanilla frosting, but they also have a recipe for chocolate so I decided to make that to stay in the theme for the day. It calls for 3 sticks of butter, powdered sugar, melted chocolate and vanilla and I blended that all together until it was light and fluffy. It had a different texture than the vanilla frosting. The vanilla has a stiffness to it, while this frosting was really fluffy. I’m not sure if it was something I had done wrong, but it still worked and it was definitely tasty with great chocolate and sugary flavor. I put one half of the cake on the cake stand, topped it with frosting, then put the other half on top. Then I frosted the rest of the cake. I had a lot of frosting, so I was pretty generous with spreading it all over the cake. When I was finished, I decided to top it all with some chocolate jimmies to just give it one more element of chocolateness.
I served us both a piece later in the night. Cutting a cake with jimmies on the top can get to be a bit messy – they fall off and trickle everywhere while you are cutting. I learned that lesson the hard way. Otherwise, all looked good. The cake was a dark moist chocolate. You could taste the swirls of fudge and chocolate bits that the cake mix had boasted about. It worked well with the soft, fluffy chocolate frosting which was in every bite. I served mine with vanilla ice cream because I believe cake and ice cream go together, especially chocolate cake. Lola opted for a simple glass of milk. As far as celebrating chocolate cake, it couldn’t get any better than that.
And now the holocaust. Really, there’s now easy way to make that segue, so pardon me if it sounds insensitive. It is not meant to be. On this day in 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army. In 2005, the United Nations proclaimed this day Holocaust Remembrance Day to commemorate the genocide of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.* Take a second to soak in those numbers. We all know about the Holocaust, but sometimes we forget the scope of it all. This happened folks. Right in front of the eyes of the world. In front of the seemingly intelligent and good people of Germany. This happened. This was only 80 years ago.
I toyed with the idea of going to the Rhode Island Holocaust Memorial today. It’s in Providence at the Providence River Walk. I did not know it was there, although we may have walked by it once on one of our trips to the Waterfire over the summer. There are a few memorials in that park to commemorate those lost in the World Wars and the Korean Conflict, but the Holocaust Memorial is there too. It has a path that simulates the railroad tracks that would take the Jews and other victims to the death camps. It is surrounded by six pillars to represent the six million killed. At the center is a giant light colored Life Stone which, “represents the survivors, the unbounded spirit of life, and the continuance of a people and a tradition.” I ended up not going, but Lola and I promised each other we would go there when the weather is warmer to pay our respects and to reflect.
We thought that the very least we could do would be to educate ourselves and to watch a movie that would help illuminate the horrors of this event. We opted for a movie called The Boy in Striped Pajamas which is one we had never seen. It tells the tale about a boy who is the son of a German commander in charge of a concentration camp, although the boy is not aware of what’s happening in the world around him. He’s just a boy. He befriends a Jewish boy inside the camp who is on the other side of a barbed wire electric fence. The boy sees the world through his own innocent eyes and does not see what is really happening. He thinks the Jewish boy’s uniform are pajamas (hence the title), he thinks the fence is to keep animals from getting out, and he can’t understand why the boy won’t come play with him on the other side. It’s a great movie, but a dark story. But the Holocaust is a dark story (a dark reality), so it needs to be told. I recommend the movie for all. And on Holocaust Remembrance Day, it was important that we took the time to hear about what happened and to keep reflecting on it.
While we were thinking about the atrocities of the Holocaust, thinking about how could this happen in a civilized world, news of Trump’s executive order to stop Muslims from Syria entry to the United States was breaking. It’s hard to spend a day thinking about how an entire race of people were almost eliminated simply because they were a religion that the authorities did not like, and then reading about a ban of people from our country because of their religion. Did I say hard? I meant alarming. Frightening. Horrifying. All of it. These are scary times. And if I learned anything from Holocaust Remembrance Day, it was that we can never let this happen again. We’re not there yet, but we should all be on alert. Resist. Fight. Speak Up. Never forget. Never relent. We owe it to the boy in striped pajamas.
Next Up: National Blueberry Pancake Day
*Numbers from Wikipedia