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Sophia Ducich and the Serbian Sisters’ Bake Sales December 29, 2011

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts, Other.
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This article was published in the July/August 2011 issue along with my article “Remembering Our Past Through Celebrations at LA’s St. Sava & Jackson’s Summer Camp”  and is posted here with  permission from Serb World USA.  Order a copy of the magazine to also view the companion piece “Everything Old is New Again” by Nadine Radovich and Anita Sabovich Rowe.

Draga Milkovich, Olga Stanisich, Baba Sophia

Sophia Ducich and the Circle of Serbian Sisters, or Kolo Srpskih Sestara (KSS), were steadfast supporters of the St. Sava Summer Camp and Mission. They had a contract with the mission and ran the day-to-day operations of the camp and the kitchen—ensuring that the camp was open to all children every summer.

Sophia’s experience had begun decades before. At the age of 5 and already proficient in arithmetic, she had helped her mother run a boarding house in her native Montenegro, or Crna Gora. Sophia would use those skills often throughout her life.

First, there had been another boarding house in Wyoming after her father died in World War I (1914-1918). Years later in Butte, Montana, Sophia Ducich often provided board for miners, and in Fresno, California, she had owned and operated the Hiawatha Guest House.

When she came north to Jackson, she devoted herself to supporting the St. Sava Summer Camp and Mission. When donations were sometimes difficult to come by, she would offer her home to Serbs visiting Jackson, suggesting they donate what they felt was fair for their lodging: every penny went to St. Sava Mission since her own income came from other properties she owned.

In addition, Sophia and the ladies of the KSS would raise additional money by catering events for up to 450 people two or three times a month. The banquets were held in the mission’s large dining room, one of the largest banquet facilities in the area.

Also to benefit the mission, the Serbian Sisters would hold large bake sales. The whole of Amador County would be invited, and the sales were a huge success.

Another of Sophia Ducich’s projects was remembered by Lana Vukovich: “Baba Sophia would sell the old miners’ favorite meat pas ties up and down Main Street on St. Patrick’s Day to raise money for the mission.”

One St. Patrick’s Day, a reporter from The Amador Dispatch recognized Baba Sophia and asked, “Isn’t it unusual for the ladies of St. Sava Mission to participate in a St. Patrick’s Day event?”

“I don’t see why not,” she responded. “St. Sava and St. Patrick were both working for the same cause.”

While the recipe below is not one of Baba Sophia’s, I’d like to think it could have been at one of the bake sales, and in that spirit, I have chosen it. There are similar recipes, with slight variations, from Montenegro to Vojvodina, and for me, the fresh cherries are a reminder of all the roadside fruit stands along old Highway 99 heading north to Jackson’s St. Sava Summer Camp.

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Višnjak : Serbian Cherry Cake December 29, 2011

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts.
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I first published this recipe in Serb World USA July/August 2011 issue.  It is part of a series of articles about the 50th anniversary of the Serbian Summer Camp in Jackson, CA.  Read my related articles: “Remembering Our Past through Celebrations” and “Sophia Ducich and the KSS Bake Sales”

8 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2cup, plus 1 T sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1T lemon zest, finely grated
2 T lemon juice, fresh
1 tsp. vanilla extract, pure
2 C flour, all-purpose
pinch of salt
10-12 oz cherries, fresh and sweet
powdered sugar to finish

Pit the cherries and cut in half. Set aside.

Separate eggs.

Lightly butter an 8×2-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with wax paper and butter the wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Add the egg yolks, then lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. (I use all the zest from 1 lemon: 1 tablespoon is approximate).  Scrape down the sides to incorporate all, then beat in the flour and mix well to make batter.

In a separate, clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form (if doing by hand, use a large balloon whisk). Using a rubber/plastic spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter (about 1/3 of the egg whites at a time), just until all is incorporated.

Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. Place the pitted cherries evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle sugar over the cherries (up to 1T).

Bake at 350 F. for 40-50 minutes. The top should be golden and spring back when gently pressed.

Cool in pan on wire rack for about 10 minutes. Run a thin blade around the edge, then remove the outer ring of the springform. Allow cake to completely cool before removing bottom and transferring to a serving plate. Sift powdered sugar over the top before serving.