Summer fruit plonk from Aunty Paula

Aunty Paula's Plonk cake - this one made with nectarines.

No matter how good recipes are in the multitude of cookbooks on offer these days, there’s nothing more delicious than a tried and true family recipe – one that’s been handed down through the grapevine of family.

So it is with Aunty Paula’s Plonk cake. It’s incredibly simple and never fails.

Aunty Paula was born in Germany. She was a young married women when taken incarcerated in Theresienstadt (concentration camp) with her young son. Her husband died during the war. I have no idea of the story behind her and her son’s survival or how they came to live in New Zealand. She married my uncle – that’s all I know. He was a very small man – probably where I get my height (or lack of it from) and she was shorter! Aunty Paula died in 1988 from liver cancer. She was 75 years old.

She was a most wonderful cook with a warm sense of humour. We always looked forward to visiting her and Uncle Leon, especially if a meal was on offer. Her baking was sensational –  there’s no other word for it! If I close my eyes I can still taste her Bienstich (a cake called ‘bee sting’) and also her chicken broth!

But our favourite was always her Plonk cake. How did it get the name?  Well as with all good family recipes, the ingredients and the methods are based on eyes and texture. There is no exact weight given to the amount of fruit used. You just plonk it on top until it looks right! Hence the name – plonk, nothing at all to do with alcohol!

Plonk cake is a real favourite in our family and is like soul food. The smell permeates the house and everyone identifies it at first sniff. It’s eagerly awaited and never turned down – never! We make it for special people – not just for anyone…not that it’s difficult or anything because it’s quite the opposite. We make it for special people because it’s a special recipe, and has special associations. It’s part of the family legacy…

We guard the recipe too. It will never be found in a collection of recipes for school fundraising, or shared with others on facebook. It’s guarded and shared only with the closest of friends. Those who we consider part of our extended family…

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