Twelve years ago, on May 3, 2005, I became officially Israeli. I had already been living in Israel for a year and a half, but I updated my status to “citizen.” The whole thing was rather anti-climactic–no Nefesh B’Nefesh hats, no speeches, no groups of dancing Israeli soldiers, not even a friend flying with me, just a couple of representatives from AACI and the Jewish Agency holding a sign with my name, waiting to walk me to the absorption office in the airport. I stood in the small, windowless office, daydreaming about sleep while answering basic questions posed by the clerk. When I told her the address of my college dorm, she looked up from the computer. “I studied there thirty years ago!” she exclaimed. “Wonderful institution. Is the founder still teaching?” I answered in the affirmative. Israel really is, in many ways, like one big family. That was a truly special welcome.
Yesterday was Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s 69th Independence Day. It’s a day when every park is full of charcoal smoke and every highway clogged with cars, a day to get out and enjoy the land we so appreciate. With two kids who get carsick, one toilet training, and one nursing, we were not ready for a major road trip yesterday. Instead, we found someplace close to home where none of us had been before, the Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve. It was spectacular!Walking among these natural wonders, ironically felt like walking through the set of a fantasy movie. Gentle, artificial lighting that changed colors every few seconds lit up the walkway as well as the large and small mineral formations in the cave. There are long, thin stalactites that resemble spaghetti but are called macaroni because they are hollow. The ground is covered with rock colonies that look like coral or gray broccoli. This is the small stuff. Many of the stalactites hanging from the ceiling and stalagmites jutting up from the ground are bigger than me. One thing I was not expecting was the 95% humidity and wet floor in the cave. I should have realized that if stalactites are formed by water seeping through the rock above the cave the cave would be wet, but I didn’t think about it much. Our guided tour in the cave was about an hour long, enough time to enjoy without being dragged out and the kids getting bored. We ended the day attending a double birthday party, triple if you count Israel’s 69th. How could I not make cupcakes? In honor of Yom HaAtzmaut, I baked the cupcakes in blue and white striped holders and marbleized six-pointed star shapes in the centers. They are pretty standard vanilla cupcakes, but the applesauce and whole wheat flour lend a slightly earthy flavor. Happy birthday!
Marble Cupcakes Recipe
Yield: 30 cupcakes
1 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (70%)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
*1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- In a large bowl, mix oil, applesauce, vanilla and sugar.
- Add eggs and mix thoroughly.
- Add dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined. The batter will be thick at this point.
- Add a cup of water (or juice or milk of choice) and stir into batter, being careful not to splash.
- Spoon batter into 30 greased cupcake holders. Leave about two tablespoons of batter in the bowl.
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
- Mix cocoa into the end of the batter. Use a teaspoon to drop a tiny bit of chocolate cake batter into the center of each cupcake.
- To form the stars: Using a toothpick or the blade of a knife, gently pull across the surface, out from the middle of the chocolate drop towards the edge of the cupcake, in six directions. Do not dip the toothpick or knife deep down into the cupcake.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
*If you want to make regular marble cupcakes, twice as much cupcake batter in the bowl and double the amount of cocoa powder. Drop more generously, and dip as deeply as you want while marbleizing.