Ramona Susan was born just as Elvis Presley was starting to make waves, the seventh child in a growing family that would swell to thirteen. Ramona and her five sisters shared an attic bedroom in a modest home in Omaha, Nebraska, while downstairs their mother - known to me as Grandma Wolff - ran what was essentially a small industrial kitchen. Grandma Wolff had her hands full feeding a large family on a limited budget and bought flour and sugar 50 pounds at a time. She spent the morning frying donuts- which disappeared as fast as they came out of the oil- while fresh bread rose on the counter. By dinner time, the stove top was full of simmering pots and pans. In the time before air conditioners, the heat of so much work in a small space reminds me that the warmth of eating as a family can be as sweltering as it is comforting.
There were only 4 children in my generation, but the philosophy on food remained the same. A pot of boiling oil meant French fries cut from that huge bag of potatoes, disappearing just like the donuts did 50 years ago. Restaurant trips were few and far in between (while I’m not saying that was necessarily our fault, my siblings were not as well behaved as my own angelic self) and while we joke about it now, Jell-o was present at almost every meal.
Luckily, sweets were abundant. One particular sheet pan was home to many specialties: chocolate sheet cake, highly-adored pumpkin bars, chocolate-butterscotch pudding layered dessert, cheesecake with cherry pie filing on top. Each recipe mysteriously fit perfectly in this pan, and disappeared quickly. To this day, that special sheet pan is in use, faded and a bit bumpy, marked by many knife passes, but always delivering exactly what comforts the family.
We want to share with you what my mother gave me: a lot of love in the shape of cakes, cookies and other sweet treats. My family celebrated together often because my mother taught us to celebrate everything, always, with the ones you love. You’ll find Ramona in the touch of almond extract we use. You’ll eat your way though my childhood favorites, often Ramona's childhood favorites as well. Yes, we both want to sandwich everything with cream cheese frosting. And you’ll meet her every time you visit the bakery, where we hope you’ll come celebrate with us.