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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Forget-Me-Not Cupcakes and A Pause to Remember


That night the search began for survivors. When the roll call was taken, only 68 responded. The full cost would not be known for several days. The final figures revealed that the regiment had been virtually wiped out: 710 killed, wounded or missing. Most were struck down before they reached beyond their own front line (Middlebrook 269).

[The Battle of The Somme] annihilated the Newfoundland Regiment, the colony’s premier contribution to the imperial war effort. The results were devastating, leaving Newfoundlanders bereft and confused, with a sense of loss that marked an entire generation. The legacy of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel continues to the present day, with special commemorations taking place every July 1.
 ~Excerpt from: The Somme, 1916


All across Canada July1 is celebrated as Canada Day.  Families gather for picnics, barbeques and fireworks to celebrate our great and glorious, Canada.  But in Newfoundland the day holds more significance for it was on that day in 1916 at Beaumont-Hamel the Newfoundland Regiment was almost wiped out.  It was a bitter blow to the little country of Newfoundland.  Her finest sons had rallied to Britain's call for aid and left their fishing boats, forests, shops, and farms to answer the call to arms. You may like to read more about it at the above link or here The Battle of the Somme.  


This fine fellow is my uncle, John (Jack) Field McBay.  Uncle Jack served as a private in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.  He was not at the Battle of Beaumont Hamel as he was wounded a few days prior to the battle and was invalided to the hospital (which probably saved his life).  This picture was on the front of a post card he sent home to his mother.  As you can see it was censored, as were most of the messages received by the families from the soldiers on the front.  I can just make out the words, "Dear Mother" at the beginning and his signature, "J. McBay" on the bottom.  He would have been about 21 or 22 years old in this photograph.

Edit:  My sister who could have worked in the war office has untangled the mess.  It goes like this:

"Dear Mother,
     Don't forget to send the socks. Tell Tom I was speaking to John, he is looking fine after his trip. We had it wet for a couple of days so it is not very pleasant under canvas. J. McBay" 



As a little girl, I was Canadian, born just a few years after Newfoundland joined the Confederation in 1949 and became Canada's 10th province.  But I still had one foot in the Country of Newfoundland as my parents were born and bred there.  Although they welcomed Confederation, Canada and its holidays and traditions were still foreign and one still spoke of going to "Canada" when leaving the province. One of the holidays that was slow in coming was "Canada Day" because on July 1 when the rest of the country was waving the flag and singing "O Canada" we Newfoundlanders were remembering the great sacrifice given on July 1 so many years before.  July 1 was always known as Memorial or Remembrance Day and we wore a little sprig of Forget-Me-Nots, the symbol of remembrance, on our lapels and blouses as a reminder.  Parades and marches to war memorials and cenotaphs with laying of wreaths were the order of the day.  For children it was a grand holiday with a parade of soldiers, cadets and bands playing wonderful marching music.  We waved the Union Jack flag and clapped as the aged veterans from World War I passed by and we could often wave to our friends' fathers who were the much younger veterans from World War II.   We children could not grasp the concept of war and the loss it created in the hearts of loved ones and countries.  We were bored at the memorial service and wished the speakers and wreath layers would finish so we could go to the park for the afternoon. How little we knew of the sacrifices of war.

The little Forget-Me-Not bouquets are almost forgotten and have been replace with another fine flower, the Poppy.  But every Canada Day, if possible, I try to wear a little sprig of Forget-Me-Nots in honour and remembrance of the battle at Baumont-Hamel where so many fine Newfoundland men lost their lives. 


This year was a particularly good year for the little flowers and they grew all over my lawn and spread near the fence to create a lovely blue carpet in amongst the other perennials. 


Now, you may wonder what all this has to do with a food blog.  It's because I wanted to commemorate July 1 and the little blue Forget-Me-Nots in a cupcake.  I'm using this simple little Dinette Cake from the red Betty Crocker Cookbook published in the 1970s.  It's almost as quick as a cake mix because everything is dumped in one bowl and mixed.  It makes a nice all purpose cake suitable for layers, cupcakes or upside-down cakes, etc.  Of course, you may use your favourite cake mix as well or any of the other cakes on this blog. Banana Layer Cake, Fabulous Fudge Cake, Cocoa Fudge Cake, Hot Milk Sponge Cake, Yellow Butter Cake,


Dinette Cake
1½  cups cake flour or 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½  teaspoons baking powder
½  teaspoon salt
¾  cup milk
⅓ cup shortening (I use butter or margarine at room temperature)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour square pan, 8 x 8 x 2 inches or 9 x 9 x 2 inches or line 12 cupcake pans. Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl. (If using the cake flour, it is wise to sift it into the bowl to remove any lumps.  All purpose flour can be added directly to the bowl without sifting.) Blend ½ minute on low speed, scraping bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes high speed scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes for cake or 15-18 minutes for cupcakes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on cooling rack. If desired frost cake with your favorite icing or make it into a strawberry shortcake.  

Of course if you are reading this entry you'll frost them for cupcakes and not just any cupcake!

Here's a simple American Vanilla Buttercream.  It's American as opposed to other kinds because it uses powdered icing sugar (confectioner's sugar) as the main ingredient.  You may need to make this twice or at least one and a half times to have enough for the decorating.  

Vanilla Butter Cream Icing
¼ cup softened butter
2 cups icing sugar, sifted if lumpy, plus more if needed
2 or 3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blue, green and yellow food colouring

Beat the butter while adding the icing sugar alternately with the milk.  Add the vanilla and adjust the consistency of the icing adding more sugar or milk if needed.  


If using the cake flour, it is wise to sift it into the bowl to remove any lumps.  All purpose flour can be added directly to the bowl without sifting.  Then dump everything else into the bowl and mix.  Simple as that!  Divide the batter into 12 cupcake pans (or cake pan if you are making a cake.) 


Bake 15-18 minutes.  Mine took the full 18 minutes.  They were so light and fluffy I wanted to eat them warm from the oven.  I didn't.  They remind me so much of the cupcakes Mom used to make for birthdays.

Mix up the icing as instructed. You may need to make the recipe twice to have ample for the flowers and leaves. Colour the icing blue but take out at least ½ cup to colour green and a small amount yellow.  Give the cupcakes a crumb coat of the blue icing.  The crumb coat allows you to make the flowers directly on the cupcakes without contaminating your tip with cake crumbs. 


I made a few practice flowers before I began.  I used the smallest rose tip I had. You can see the comparison with a regular sized tip.  I made the flowers directly on the cupcake.  You have to start with the fat end towards yourself and rotate to make each petal. I gave each Forget-Me-Not a yellow centre and trimmed the cupcake edges using a leaf tip.  Any large gaps between the flowers were given leaves, as well.  If you don't know how to make the flowers, I found a good tutorial on YouTube. The first minute or two of the video will show you how to make a 5-petaled flower.


 A garden of Forget-Me-Nots for July 1.


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