Recipes hold the sweetest memories. Just ask Colette Srebro Hughes.
The Scott Twp. resident still holds on to the many recipes passed down from the late Sophie Begey, her aunt and godmother whom she called”Cioci Sue.” (“Cioci” means “aunt” in Polish.) Whenever Hughes recreates the dishes from the hand-written recipe cards Begey gave her, she’s immediately flooded with happy memories of spending time with her beloved aunt.
“She loved cooking and collecting recipes, and it was something she shared with me,” Hughes said on a recent day at the home she shares with her husband, John. “Even in this recipe book she gave me, it was so sweet because she (wrote in it), ‘To Colette from Cioci Sue. To good cooking and good eating.’ There is so much love there.”
One of Hughes’ most cherished dishes is Begey’s recipe for No-Bake Rum Cake, a layered cake made with pudding, Stella D’oro Anisette Sponge Cookies and a little rum flavoring, topped with homemade whipped cream and maraschino cherries.
The recipe – which earned her a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore – calls for pudding mix, but Hughes stressed it cannot be instant pudding since it needs to be hot for the cake to have the correct texture.
The cake is easy to make, she said, but must be prepared well in advance of when you want to eat it. After assembling the layers, the cake must be covered with waxed paper and refrigerated for at least 24 hours in order to soften the cookies. Its consistency would remind someone of tiramisu, Hughes said, though it has a creamy taste from the pudding with a bit of a kick from the anise.
“It’s just so good and so light, but still satisfying,” she said. “I do a homemade whipped topping for it. That and maraschino cherries really make it.”
Hughes loves to cook and makes mostly everything she and her husband eat from scratch, so something is always going on in her kitchen, from soups and salads to homemade bread.
“We don’t do a lot of processed food in this house,” she said, adding that they also have their own garden. “There’s nothing quite like something homemade, you know?”
Hughes’ cooking reflects her pride in her Polish heritage as well, since she still makes family recipes for traditional delicacies including Pierogi, Golumpki and Chrusciki. Her husband fishes, so Hughes joked that she’s spoiled with fresh fish for all kinds of dishes. The rest of the family – Hughes has two grown sons, Jonathan and Joel, and four grandsons, Greyson, Brady, Ryan and Oliver – and the couple’s friends also enjoy all of Hughes’ great cooking.
Hughes traces her love of cooking back to days spent in the kitchen with Begey, joining in as they made their beloved Polish family recipes. Whenever she’s cooking, she thinks of those times with her aunt and how it shaped her, inside the kitchen and out.
“Cioci Sue was such a special person, and everyone called her ‘Cioci Sue,'” Hughes said. “I’m so grateful for the time I had with her.”
Colette Srebro Hughes’ No-Bake Rum Cake
2 packages Stella D’oro Anisette Sponge Toast Cookies
1 large box vanilla pudding and pie filling mix (prepared according to directions on box)
2 tablespoons rum flavoring (1 tablespoon added to each pudding mixture)
1 large box chocolate pudding and pie filling mix (prepared according to directions on box)
Slice cookies in half lengthways. Layer cookies in bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan pan to fill the space.
Prepare vanilla pudding mix. Stir in 1 tablespoon rum flavoring. Spread vanilla mixture over cookies. Put a layer of cookies over the vanilla pudding mixture.
Prepare chocolate pudding mix. Stir in 1 tablespoon rum flavoring. Spread chocolate mixture over cookies. Cover with waxed paper and chill in refrigerator at least 24 hours.
For homemade whipped cream topping:
1 pint whipping cream
Beat together whipping cream, vanilla extract and powdered sugar.
Top cake with whipped cream and cherries.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT