Christmas Walnuts
White Cake Recipe

There is something in this December. In the wind that runs through the sleeves and socks, in a frozen tip of the nose, in cinnamon and vanilla that smell streets.

I’m not a fan of winter. I love it when it’s warm. When clothes are light, and when the sun caresses the body early in the morning, and when the world is painted yellow, bright and crystal clear. Winter, I could oversleep, like a teddy bear, without any remorse.

But there is something in this December.In the wind that runs through the sleeves and socks, in a frozen tip of the nose, in cinnamon and vanilla that smell streets. At that end of the year, that we look forward to like no other completion. In those last days of December, it is as if a magic wand had taken away the despondency of that gloomy dormant gait. Blurred thoughtful glances replace again the sparks in the eye. People fill the streets and squares. The humming re-decorates the city like a necklace, hands are warmed with mulled wine, friends with a smile and the snow under our feet squeak like a divine melody. In those days, the world looks like the one from a glass ball. You shake it a little, and the crystals are already dancing, the bells are ringing, the golden coins under the ribs are shining, and we are all good, and everything is fine.

By saying goodbye to the old year, we forgive failures and mistakes, of our own and others’. Sending off the last days of December, we release the troubles we have experienced, our outstanding debts.

As we prepare to welcome the New Year, we open our arms, open our hearts, and embrace all the good and encouraging things that come our way. It’s certainly powerful magic. An invincible alchemical formula that with December turns a depressing cold and unkind winter into a fairy tale, a childhood dream, a party. In those days, when the smile does not come off my face, in which I pass through the city as a little girl, in which I hug every known person, and stop to talk to every stranger who smiles back at me, just in those days I remember those dear people who, in the maelstrom of everyday flow, I somehow inadvertently drop out of my mind.

That is why I am telling you today about Pišta, a nice Hungarian who I, fortunately, met in those unlucky years who tried to spoil the holiday magic with bullets and blood, and went into the history of unfinished work thanks to such people as Pišta. The Slavonian lowland was innocent and untouched, covered in snow, like a girl before marriage, winter never angrier and more determined. Between the two northerners blown, under the light of a petroleum lamp, in some shelter, Pišta spoke of a great cake baked by his wife on holidays. This story was filled with love like an Almond tree with fruit, a swirling passion mixed with pride, swollen like beaten egg whites, and with a veil of reverence whitened far beyond, and before which all the spoons and all sins would fall to their knees.

I haven’t met Pišta for a long time. Here and there, some knight of the Slavonian lowland brings me some good news about him. But there’s no Christmas in my house without that cake, that magically moves time and space, and always, but always brings Pišta to my table at the exact moment when we cut the first slice. I smile at him, he smiles back. And so the two of us, without words and meeting, we wish the world a happy New Year.

TEXT – Karmela Vukov Colić
PHOTO – Robert Blašković

Pišta’s cake

Bake 3 crusts of 12 egg whites and 12 tablespoons of powdered sugar. It is best to beat 4 by 4 egg whites with 4 tablespoons of sugar. Bake each crust on an overturned pot (lined with greasy paper) at 200 degrees, just 5 minutes. Mix 12 egg yolks with 8 tablespoons of sugar and 8 tablespoons of flour, pour the mixture in 1 liter of milk and continue to cook. Stir constantly to avoid lumps and let it cool. Beat 250 grams of softened butter with 100 grams of powdered sugar, then pour into cream of eggs and milk and add 30 dags of walnuts. Stuff the crust with cream, lay one on top of the other, and spread the whole cake on the outside with the stuffing. When it shrinks, spread the whipped sweet cream. And of course, last but not least, taste the cake.