Dad’s Bday – An Occasion for a Treat:

Well, Dad’s birthday came along. He turned 77. I have to say, first off, how proud I am of him. He, like me, has spent most of his life as an obese person.  But not long after I did, he began eating better. Now he is in better shape at 77 than he was at 70 – and likely for many more years than just that. 

I knew that when I started to eat healthy that temptation was going to be difficult.  Since I do most of the cooking for us, I told him that if he was willing to eat a healthy dinner like I was going to, I would be happy to cook for him as well.  Being the wise arbiter of cost-benefit ratios that he is, he immediately agreed.  The arithmetic is simple: to cook or not to cook? The answer was clear.  Quietly, without fanfare, he has dropped over 60 pounds.  Dad is not a big exerciser, so to accomplish that without augmenting your activity much requires a metric ass-load of discipline.  This is the same man who, many years ago, quit smoking cold turkey. In a word, he is impressive.

The Quiet Celebration

Growing up on John Wayne movies, he often reminds me of the main character featured in the film The Quiet Man.  John Wayne played a character whose strength emanated from their quiet calm, and peaceful demeanor.  Until provoked, naturally.  I mean – it IS John Wayne we are talking about.  In the same way, Dad sports a dry sense of humor, his quiet and reserved nature is unmistakably the Flatten brand of Norwegian heritage.  

Movie poster
The Quiet Man movie poster

Similarly the celebration he opted for was a simple affair with just me and his good friend Pam Hargrove over for a glass of wine and his favorite summertime meal: hamburgers.  I picked up some gourmet burgers from Hyvee, who makes a remarkable variety of burger. I took full advantage of the variety! We had a pleasant meal, full of conversation and laughter. It was a great was to celebrate his birthday!!

Sometimes the Simple Things Are Best:

Living in the upper Midwest, particularly Minnesota, our winters can be brutal.  We have a talent for understatement.  Ask any old Scandi how the winter was last year and you will likely hear “ohhhh …it wasn’t too bad, don’t-cha know!” In reality it was probably a winter replete with Alberta Clippers and mountainous snowfall…the likes of which would have Roald Amundsen saying “man, I’m outta here, this place is too cold!”

Naturally, when summer shows up, it always goes by too quickly.  We do the best we can to be outside and enjoying the fair weather – all 9 days of it. Yes, that’s sarcasm. All of this is to say that we truly enjoy a simple and quiet day outside, great weather, and appreciating the lack of snow on the ground.  We all have the inevitable onset of winter in the back of our minds, and are thankful for whatever fair winds and warm sun that comes our way.  

A beautiful summer day – perfect for a birthday celebration!

It’s All About the Cake:

This year I made him his favorite cake.  It is a raisin spice cake. My grandmother and great aunt used to make this cake all the time. It’s a combination of nostalgia and pure deliciousness for dad.  I have to admit, I agree with him 100%.  This cake may, perhaps, be one of the best ever conceived of by human beings. Who, other than human beings make cakes, you ask? I’m not sure – aliens? Cows make pies, I can tell you that for free.  But this cake bears no resemblance to anything aliens might make nor any cow byproduct. It is moist and delicious and has been a Flatten family favorite for years.

I love making treats for Dad.  I know neither of us need it, but the appreciation and how much he enjoys these favorites from his youth makes it all worth it.  We don’t partake all that often, but when we do, this cake or shortbread, along with my grandma Wyland’s cookie brittle recipe are all solid gold. 

While I am not sure from where this recipe originated, it would be my guess that it had it’s origins in the depression era “poor man’s cake” which is similar.

Raisin Spice Cake
It’s necessary to test a cake …and we thought a piece in the center would be a good place to start!

Raisin Spice Cake Recipe:

While normally I share great and healthy recipes on this blog, it’s also about living well and being reasonable.  This delectable treat is far too good not to share.  So I will be happy to make the Flatten raisin spice cake available to everyone to enjoy through this recipe. Some of the best things ever are recipes that have been handed down through families.  Bon appetit!    


Ok folks, pay attention – this is exactly as my aunt wrote it down.  And it’s dad’s favorite. Don’t fuck it up. 

Ingredients are for an 8” square pan. 

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

1 cup of raisins

2 cups of water

½ cup of shortening

1 cup of sugar

1 ¾ cup of sifted flour

¼ teaspoon of salt.

1 teaspoon each of baking soda, ground cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice.

1 egg beaten

Nuts (optional)


  1. Start by boiling the raisins and water for 10 minutes.
  2. As soon as you turn off the heat, add the shortening, stir it in until liquified and then allow to cool to room temperature. 
  3. Once the mixture reaches room temp, then sift in the remaining dry ingredients and beat. 
  4. Add egg, beat again until thoroughly mixed
  5. Add nuts if you choose and mix thoroughly. 
  6. Place mixture in pan and bake! 


  1. I did not have an 8×8 pan to use so I used a 9×13 cake pan.  To facilitate the difference in size, I doubled the ingredients.  That worked nicely for a 9×13.  The cooking time also needs to be scaled up to perhaps an hour.  I used toothpicks to check whether or not it was done.  If you poke the toothpick in it should come out clean when the cake is done. 
  2. I still boiled the raisins for 10 minutes – I was conscious of not wanting too much moisture to dissipate. 
  3. If you use an uncoated cake pan, use a little shortening or something to coat the inside of the pan.  It makes the cake come out much easier.  Dad told me grandma always coated the inside of the pan with a little shortening or butter.  Anything helps to keep the cake from sticking.  I had a container of crisco I could use. It worked perfectly. 
  4. At each stage of mixing ingredients, I put a little extra elbow grease into the effort to ensure everything got fully mixed up.  I mixed manually and did not use a mixer only because I envisioned my grandmother doing the same.  That’s just how she rolled. 

Credit where credit is due:

This recipe was my grandmother’s and also used by my great aunt Jen. Sadly, both have passed on, but my Aunt Anita came to the rescue! She had a copy of the recipe and was able to share with me! Thankfully I could call her and get any clarifications I needed.  As a result the cake came out perfectly and I was thrilled with it.  More importantly, dad was also thrilled with it. Thanks Aunt ‘Nita!

me and dad

You can find more great recipes from my blog here:

For information on eating healthy and developing a sound diet, you can go here:

2 Responses

  • Jarrett

    Great story!!


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