“Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.” ~ Samuel Johnson
Shelley (Boyd) Stone is my dear friend and neighbour here in Cambridge, Ontario. She has done many things with her boundless energy and creativity over the years. After studying theology, she worked with young people (street youth, high schools & a camp director at Pioneer Camp). When her children were young she ran a great daycare out of her home (where she cared for our daughter). She adventurously took those little ones on regular field trips and fed them healthy food that she gave fun names to. When her kids got older she worked in a local college and then a few years ago she found her dream job – I called it her “Erin Brokovich job” – coordinating the efforts of the Ontario chapter of the non-profit organization “Ontario Christian Gleaners.”
Gleaners take in surplus vegetables and fruit from farms. It is dried and made into a soup mix. The soup mixes are sent all over the world to area of need, refugees camps, communities and crisis areas. In the wake of the recent earthquake in Haiti, she has been working over-time to direct extra food to the relief efforts there. If you like what the Gleaners are doing, here two different ways you can donate.
Our paths have crossed repeatedly for the past 25+ years. On New Year’s Eve, I spent the afternoon with Shelley and her two children, Victoria & Tyler. She had just finished making her mother’s Black Forest cake with brandy. We took a moment to sit and catch up over a piece of cake. It was delicious – all the way around.
Shelley was raised in Dundas, Ontario. Her parents Bill and Jean Boyd were actively involved in their church and, true to their beliefs, faithful abstainers. With one exception. Jean loved to make her Black Forest cake with brandy. Jean loved to cook and especially enjoyed desserts, but her Black Forest cake was a favourite for special occasions. In Ontario, liquor is only sold in government controlled stores called the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). Shopping for brandy would have been strongly looked down up by her fellow church members, so she would put on, what she called, her “Jackie O” outfit . She hoped that the scarf over her head and the large sunglasses would make her incognito on her trip to the LCBO.
In the fall of 1981, Shelley was in her 2nd year at Briercrest Bible College. Briercrest is located in Saskatchewan, part of the “Bible Belt” of the Canadian prairies. Shelley remembers her time at Briercrest with true fondness. She made a lot of great friends and had a wonderful time, but the college had rules and expectations in the ’80’s that would shock most Briercrest students today. Female students had to wear dresses/skirts to all classes. They were allowed to wear dress pants to supper and could change into jeans after 7 pm. Married couples were not allowed to kiss in public, but were allowed to hold hands and link arms if it was slippery. Students were only permitted to leave the campus a few times a month and were allowed only one date a month. Dorm supervisors had to be notified anytime students left the campus. Everyone had to sign-in for breakfast and all dorms had to have lights out by 11 pm. Dancing and drinking were absolutely prohibited.
Undaunted, Jean decided that Shelley’s birthday that fall would not be complete without her special Black Forest cake with brandy. So Jean baked the cake, soaked it in brandy and arranged it all carefully along with all the accessories in a special package. She then took special precautions and had it sent to Shelley in Saskatchewan by bus. Jean chose the bus because she was concerned it would get too jostled in the mail. When Shelley heard her cake was enroute, she actually consulted her dorm supervisor, but she didn’t ask permission, instead she simply told her, “My mom is sending me a brandy cake for my birthday and I am eating it.” Fortunately, the supervisor was easy-going and trusted Shelley, so it wasn’t an issue, but considering the climate, it certainly could have been. Shelley remembers running around her dorm looking for beaters for the whipped cream.
Ironically, during my visit with Shelley one of her former Briercrest classmates Brenda Nickerson dropped by. They hadn’t seen each other in a long time.Jean has since passed away – gone too soon. She was always fun, energetic, wise and full of adventure. I am so pleased to share her Black Forest cake recipe here with Shelley. It’s a great way to honour a truly wonderful woman.
“Special Delivery” Black Forest Cake
(As prepared by my mom, Jean Boyd ~ who taught me to love desserts, truly and well! ~ Shelley Stone)
Ingredients:Chocolate Cake Mix Can of Cherry Pie Filling Jar of Sour Cherries, drained Brandy (I use a French brandy, but go with your preference) 500 ml Whipped Cream Chocolate Shavings Fresh Cherries
Shhh… No need to whisper to anyone how easy this creation comes together and your guests will feel fussed over!
Make the chocolate cake according to package directions, baking it in 2 round pans. When completely cooled, carefully cut both cakes in half horizontally, creating 4 rounds. A bread knife works well for this task.
Drain the sour cherries well. In a bowl, stir the cherries in with the cherry pie filling. Whip the cream, adding a little sugar to suit your taste.
You’ll want to arrange the cake on your most beautiful pedestal cake plate (or borrow one!).
Time to get the brandy!
This is the fun part. With a fork, poke holes in each cake round, here and there on top of each layer. Drizzle a capful of brandy over every layer and let it soak in.
CAREFULLY layer a sliced and ‘doctored’ (that’s what my mom called it) cake round, topped with 1/3 of the cherry mixture and a thin layer of whipped cream. Repeat twice. (I know the repeat thing is obvious, but recipes tend to be written that way.)
Be sure to have plenty of whipped cream to slather on the outside of the entire cake before decorating. You want it to look luscious!
The chocolate shaving and fresh cherries are momentarily your best friends in turning this wonderful dessert into a lasting memory with your guests. Do your artistic thing, and Voila!
Carefully store your treasure in the fridge to keep the whipped cream cold.
The ooh’s and ahh’s of the recipients will ring in your ears for the next five days!
Shelley Stone, Cambridge, ON
Chocolate, Fruit, Vegetarian