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I inherited the cookbook from Mom many years ago and made the cake for my kids a couple of times, but after maraschino cherries, with their dazzling red dye, became ingredients non grata, I stopped. Sometimes I ordered birthday cakes from a bakery rather than making the old favorite. Once in a while, when I was feeling particularly sophisticated, I made a cake using a recipe written by an actual chef like Julia Child or Pierre Hermé. Basically, I made fashionable cakes more often than family favorites.
I recently saw maraschino cherries without the dangerous dye in my supermarket and decided to make the cake again. When I picked up the book, it fell open to page 134. There was my mother's distinctive handwriting. As soon as I saw it, I saw my mother making the cake. I tasted the cherries and the walnuts. I wished I had made it my tradition as well -- but it's never too late to start. My own birthday's coming up, and I know exactly what to bake.