Xmas Baking Recipe: Christmas Rum Cake à la Merrill Lyew Emanuel

Christmas Rum Cake

This is the recipe for a delicious rum cake that our CaliforniaGermans contributor Merrill grew up with. It’s a treasured recipe from his mother, who used to make many smaller cakes from this recipe instead of one big one. It stayed a tradition for him and his family and every holiday season they are the delight of everyone in his family.



1. 1/2 Pound Cake Fluor
2. 1/2 Pound Sugar
3. 1/2 Pound Butter
4. 5 Eggs Separate the yolks from the egg white
5. 1/2 Cup Evaporated milk
6. 2 Tea Spoon Baking Powder
7. 1 Tea Spoon Vanilla
8. 1/8 Tea Spoon Salt
9. 3 Table Spoon Burned Sugar (see procedure)
10. 3 Table Spoon Raisins and cut Prunes soaked in Rum for several weeks
11. 1/3 Cup Chopped Walnuts
12. 1/4 Cup Red Cherries cut into Halves
13. 1/4 Cup Green Cherries cut into Halves
14. 1/3 Cup Dark Beer
15. 1/8 Tea Spoon Grinded Nutmeg
16. 2 Table Spoon Orange Juice
17. 1 Orange Skin Grated orange peel


STEP #1: Burn the 3 tablespoons sugar to a dark syrup then add 1 tablespoon of water, keep to a thick consistency. Let it cool down.

STEP #2: Mix butter with sugar, add dark syrup from STEP #1, grated orange peel, vanilla, nutmeg, orange juice. Add egg yolks one at a time. Add evaporated milk little by little.

STEP #3: Strain flour, baking powder, and salt together in separate bowl and add to the batter.

STEP #4: Add the cherries, prunes, chopped walnuts.

STEP #5: Whip the egg white apart and add to the batter at low speed. Add the dark beer.

STEP #6: Pour into a buttered 9-inch mold.

STEP #7: Bake at 350 ° F for around one hour

Bon Appétit!

Image: Pixabay.com

Merrill Lyew EmanuelAs a recent retiree, Merrill Lyew Emanuel now has time for his old and new hobbies. Within his hobbies are writing fan fiction in German, solving chess puzzles, repairing things at home that are not broken, doing a little bit of social media, reading every and anything that looks like a book, traveling a little, and taking snapshots with his mirrorless camera.

Having lived in Germany, Costa Rica and the USA, he is fluent in the languages of these countries. As a professional geographer he traveled profusely throughout Latin America. He is living in Southern California for over thirty years. Find more of his work at http://www.merrillius.net



Christmas and the First Sunday of Advent Is Near- Are Your Christmas Cookies Ready?

It’s Holiday Baking Time!

This Friday marks the 1st of December and while we can start opening the first door on our advent calendar (Yay!), we still have to wait a few days to lighten the first candle on our Advent wreath. The first Sunday of Advent is near however and on December 3rd we will officially enter the 4 weeks of Advent before Christmas Eve.

Typical for the Christmas season in Germany is having an Advent calendar helping you countdown to the 24th December, an advent wreath that is the centerpiece in the dining room or living room, and… lots of homemade Christmas cookies to share with family and friends! And some families do take holiday baking really seriously! It’s not uncommon for some families to sport up to 15 different cookie varieties. No kidding!

So…, how is your holiday baking coming along this season?

If you are still struggling with deciding what to bake and want to get inspired, check out our posts on Thursdays. Every Thursday until Christmas one of our CaliforniaGermans contributors will let you in on his or her favorite baking recipe for the holiday season. 

We hope you’ll discover your favorite one among them!

Image: Pixabay.com





(A Poem by Nils-Henrik Fuertes)

Laughter echoes off the timeworn landscape of birch cabinetry
Pealing in my ears as I sit on
My straight-backed chair,
Chattering of my siblings such an archaic sound
Yet worn with a love I never forget.

The glare of cheerful electric lights enlightens every corner
Enhancing the metallic sparkle of the fridge.
Dull green paint on the walls
A faded memory of the old days
Like an endearing grandparent.

Calm air flows smoothly from the humming kitchen vent.
Classical music ever-present in the background.
Dancing flames tapping
A variety of rattling pots on the excited stove
Attempting to consume the savory scents drifting about the room.

Sugary orange yams with cinnamon
Melting in a tray of warm creamy butter,
Homemade goodness enveloping my senses.
A stark contrast to the homely furnishing
Splashing color upon the scene.

Dishes bang on the smooth granite countertop
Met with the subtle and sophisticated
Tinkling from champagne glasses,
And the merry jingle of silverware,
Preparing for the feast.
Ice-cold cider whooshes into glasses with gusto
Eggnog clouds my nostrils,
Radiating heat from the oven clings to my face.
Softened by the breeze of pattering footsteps.

Water merrily babbles from the sink like a well-known relative
Harmonizing with the whistling of the teapot.
Grouchily the oven screeches on its rusty hinges
Competing with the oblivious chirping of my parakeet
Not aware that a bird is being prepared for dinner!

The spice-filled pumpkin pie waits on the microwave
Awaiting its moment of glory,
Gravy splashes in the boat.
Mashed potatoes steaming impatiently
As the cranberry sauce giggles in its bubbly pot.

Stealthily, I sneak up next to the animated stove
The hilts of the knives glinting me a mischievous smile,
And there it is!
The gem of Thanksgiving dinner
A seasoned turkey roasting to a crisp inside of the searing oven.

Thanksgiving is shortly upon me.
My kitchen is now alive with newfound sensations,
A reassurance to me and my family
Warmly filling my heart.


©Nils-Henrik Fuertes

Image: Rockwell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons







I have been to Las Vegas countless times.  My first time was when I was 15 during a three week road trip with my family. I will never forget how I was asked to leave the bar my parents were having a drink at because I was under 21. I started crying because I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to sit down, and so my first initial impression about Vegas wasn’t the most welcoming in my eyes.

But then I learned about the “casino for kids” at the Treasure Island hotel. From that moment on I would spent the majority of my time over there while the adults had their fun at the “real” casino, and I made amends with Vegas.

The next time I came to Sin City was when I was over 21 and able to join in all what the adult fun had to offer.  I have been to the major clubs, have danced to the music of incredible DJs playing on stage, and had the occasional “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” experience.  But this last time was very different from any other trip I took out there.

In my last post, I wrote about my friends coming to visit from Germany, who I met up with in San Francisco. When we were planning this trip way back in the beginning of 2017, we decided to fly down to Vegas for a couple of days, since my one friend had never been.  We had planned to leave on Thursday, October 7.  Even in our wildest dreams, none of us could have ever imagined what happened only five days before our trip to Las Vegas.

On Sunday, October 1st, the deadliest shooting massacre in modern U.S. history happened, where more than 50 people lost their lives.  I had watched the reports on TV news; I had seen the videos on social media, where you could hear the horrific gunshots the shooter fired on those innocent concert goers; I had read the stories about the victims. But nothing can prepare you for what you are going to see when you are at the actual place.

The first night of our arrival in San Francisco, we talked about what happened. We weren’t scared of going, but we were clearly in shock and unable to grasp such an event. Would it still be ok to visit a club and dance the night away? Would it be fine to have a couple drinks, celebrating our reunion after not seeing each other for two years? Would it be disrespectful to have fun at a place where such a tragedy took place only a few days before our arrival?

The morning of our flight to Las Vegas, I wasn’t able to function well; partly because I didn’t sleep the night before and we had a very early flight, and partly because I was nervous about what to expect.  The moment the plane touched down in Vegas, we could witness the aftermath of the tragedy: we spotted the broken windows of the hotel room. It felt surreal to actually see a crime scene in real life rather than on TV.

The view of the broken windows followed us along all the way from the airport to the hotel. The sight definitely impacted our moods, but we still wanted to make the best out of our time being in Las Vegas. Since our room wasn’t ready at the time we arrived, we decided on walking along the strip for a bit to find a breakfast place.

It was a nice warm day out, but the bulletins we saw along the strip made me chill.  Where tourists were usually being bombarded with bright light advertisements, people could read messages like “We’ve been there for you during the good times. Thank you for being there for us now.”

We walked past a restaurant that had a poster displayed in its window, mentioning that all first responders who were present at the time of the tragedy trying to help would receive a free meal.  Plastered along the streets was the hash tag #VegasStrong. Thank God for sunglasses in moments like this, because I was about to start crying whenever we passed one of those billboards or placards.

I can’t really describe the feelings that went through me during those three days.  My friends and I still enjoyed the warm weather and what the city has to offer, but it did make me feel guilty.  One night, we watched the amazing water show in front of the Bellagio hotel. A few steps further down from where we stood, people had built a memorial with candles, signs and flowers. All three of us grew quiet when we passed by it.

While we were reading the messages, a couple feet further down, two women dressed up as showgirls were trying to get tourists to take pictures with them. That is Vegas for you: no matter if during the good or the bad times, the city is still trying to give you what you came for: an escape out of everyday life.

We didn’t end up going to any clubs or shows this time rather than just relaxing by the pool, indulging in some good food, and exploring the city. At the end of our three day trip, Las Vegas bid farewell to us with the same scene it welcomed us: the view of the broken hotel windows.

It is really hard to grasp such a tragedy and witnessing the aftermath first hand. But it is also beautiful to see how a city stands strong and brings strangers together during hard times like this. #VegasStrong

Images: pixabay.com

Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.



“Musikalisch” oder Mord im Konzertsaal


(Eine Kurzgeschichte von Dieter Kermas)

Unsere Familie, so darf ich mit bescheidenem Stolz feststellen, kann auf eine viele Jahrzehnte erfolgreiche Musikerziehung zurückblicken. Doch zuerst möchte ich mich vorstellen. Mein Name ist Ludwig Anobium Punctatum.

Sie dürfen mich, der Einfachheit halber, jedoch Ludwig nennen. Sicher ist ihnen im Zusammenhang mit dem Namen Ludwig und bei meiner Erwähnung der Musikerziehung, der Gedanke gekommen, meine Mutter hätte da an meinen Namensvetter Ludwig van Beethoven gedacht. Fürwahr, er stand Pate für meinen Namen.

Ich sehe es an ihrem fragenden Gesichtsausdruck, sie hätten gerne gewusst, wer sich hinter meinem, so Ehrfurcht gebietendem Namen verbirgt. Nun, ein wenig muss ich sie jetzt enttäuschen. Im allgemeinen Sprachgebrauch zähle ich zur Familie der Holzwürmer. Bitte wenden sie sich nicht entsetzt ab. Hören sie lieber meine Geschichte.

Etliche Generationen vor mir gelang es meiner Urururgroßmutter ihre Nachkommen in einem Konzertflügel unterzubringen. Dieser stand, sie ahnen es bereits, im Hause der Familie Beethoven.

Anfangs erschraken ihre Nachkommen, wenn die ersten Akkorde das Holz zum Vibrieren brachten. Allmählich jedoch fanden sie Gefallen an den Melodien und richteten ihre Mahlzeiten danach. Sobald die ersten Tastentöne erklangen, hörten sie auf zu nagen und lauschten der Musik. Für das Fressen blieb die lange Nacht über Zeit genug. So wuchsen viele Generationen meiner Familie musikalisch gebildet auf.

Hochbeglückt, in dieser Umgebung aufwachsen zu dürfen, vermieden sie es, mehr als unbedingt nötig, den Flügel zu zerfressen. Sobald eine Generation zu zahlreich angewachsen war, musste sie aus diesem Grund, bis auf einen von ihnen,  die Unterkunft verlassen. Der Verbleibende kam nun weiterhin in den Genuss, sich musikalisch weiterzubilden.

Wie schön wäre es gewesen, wäre es so weitergegangen.

Eines Tages jedoch entdeckte die Haushälterin das feine Holzmehl, das meine Vorfahren erzeugt hatten. Sofort wurde der Flügel untersucht, der Befall festgestellt und das Instrument kurzerhand verkauft.

Nach Monaten in einem Lagerhaus, die verbliebenen Verwandten  hatten, bereits entmutigt, überlegt das Instrument zu verlassen, fand sich glücklicherweise ein junger Pianist als Käufer, und der Flügel wurde zu ihrer Überraschung auf die Bühne eines bekannten Konzertsaals transportiert.

Voller Hoffnung warteten meine Vorfahren auf die ersten Töne des Pianisten. Dieser, ein auf sein Talent über Gebühr eingebildeter junger Mann, verursachte bei den ersten Akkorden einen Schauder des Entsetzens bei meinen Familienmitgliedern. Sie waren durch ihre Generationen im Hause Beethoven so musikalisch hochgebildet, dass sie sich am liebsten die Ohren, sofern vorhanden, zugehalten hätten.

Nach ihrer Überzeugung wurde der Genialität des verehrten Komponisten nicht genug Können und Einfühlungsvermögen entgegengebracht.

Diesem Treiben musste Einhalt geboten werden. Da waren sie sich einig.

Tagelang berieten sie, wie es ihnen gelingen könnte, dies zu verwirklichen. Schlussendlich wählten sie eine Methode, die ihnen subtil und trotzdem todsicher erschien. Hierfür begannen sie, einige Vorbereitungen zu treffen.

Sie wählten einen Tag, an dem der mäßig begabte Virtuose sein erstes großes Konzert vor einem ausgesuchten Publikum zu geben gedachte. Der Premierenabend war gekommen und der Saal mit erwartungsvollen Besuchern bis zum letzten Platz besetzt.

Der Künstler, nennen wir ihn der Einfachheit halber beim Vornamen Johann, also Johann schritt zum Flügel, verbeugte sich artig, und begannzu spielen. Zum Erstaunen vernahmen meine Vorfahren in den Pausen leises Räuspern, Hüsteln und auch leichtes Füßescharren.

Sie interpretierten dies mit dem Unwillen des Publikums über die dargebotene Leistung. Das bestätigte sie erneut darin, die richtigen Schritte unternommen zu haben. Johann griff in die Tasten und begann die 5. Sinfonie zu spielen. Der Name Schicksalssymphonie wies bedeutungsschwer auf das Kommende hin.

Zuerst vernahmen die Besucher in der ersten Reihe einen kurzen, dumpfen Laut aus dem Inneren des Flügels. Kurz darauf erstarrte Johann beim Anschlag einer bestimmten Taste. Sie erzeugte keinen Ton. Etwas schien im Inneren des Flügels gerissen zu sein. Er sprang hektisch auf, verbeugte sich, eilte auf die Rückseite des Musikinstruments und wuchtete den schweren Deckel des Flügels hoch und arretierte ihn mit dem dafür vorgesehenen hölzernen Stab.

Tief beugte er seinen Kopf in das Innere, um die Ursache für den Fehler zu finden. Gebannt schauten die Konzertgäste auf das weitere Geschehen. Zuerst jedoch hörten sie, zwar sehr leise, aber dennoch gut vernehmbar, ein Knistern aus der Richtung des Flügels.

Dann gellte ein vielstimmiger Schrei aus dem Publikum. Der hölzerne Stab war eingeknickt und der schwere Deckel des Flügels war herabgefallen. Er hatte den Kopf des Pianisten so heftig getroffen, dass dieser tief ins Innere des Instruments gedrückt wurde. Hierbei kam der Hals des Opfers auf die schmale Kante des Pianokörpers zu liegen. Die Wucht des Deckels zerquetschte augenblicklich den Hals, sodass der Mann leblos wie eine Fliege an der Seite des Flügels hing. Seine Knie befanden sich in der Luft, während seine kurz zuvor noch wild rudernden Arme nun schlaff seitlich herunterbaumelten.

Die tagelangen Nagearbeiten am Arretierungsstab und an der Befestigung der Klaviersaite waren somit erfolgreich gewesen. Die Ehre für die Verunglimpfung der göttlichen Musik Ludwig van Beethovens war damit für sie wieder hergestellt.

Sie hofften, dass man den Flügel als Tatwerkzeug in die Asservatenkammer der Kriminalpolizei brächte und kein stümperhafter Pianist die Möglichkeit mehr bekäme die Meisterwerke zu entweihen.

©Dieter Kermas

Image:  pixabay.com


Dieter Kermas, CaliforniaGermans Author and a true Berliner, turned to writing after he retired from his profession as an engineer. Family and friends urged him to document his many experiences during his childhood in wartime Germany. This made for a collection of various essays which have been published here at CaliforniaGermans. (You can find the stories here on CaliforniaGermans.com by putting “Dieter Kermas” into the Search Box.) Apart from his childhood memories, he is also sharing some of his short stories and poems on CaliforniaGermans. Dieter Kermas, who loves to write, has published his first novel “Kolja. Liebe im Feindesland” in 2016, available at Amazon. Some of his work has been included in anthologies.

To get in touch with Dieter Kermas, please send an email with subject line “Dieter Kermas” to californiagermans@gmail.com