Holocaust survivor’s orange cake recipe turned into cupcakes at BC bakery

A treasured family recipe for orange cake that survived the Holocaust was reproduced by a Chilliwack bakery this week to honor a Holocaust survivor.

Survivor Alex Buckman is the keynote speaker at the sold-out event, A Conversation With a Holocaust Survivor, at the University of Fraser Valley (UFV) Abbotsford campus on Wednesday (November 23).

Sebastián Huebel, who teaches a history course on the Holocaust at the UFV, organized the event.

Huebel invited Buckman to share his story with the class, making arrangements through the Vancouver Holocaust Education Center.

“I wanted my students to be able to listen and talk to a survivor,” Huebel recounted.

But rather than just the speaker addressing his 30 students, he decided to open the event up to a broader community, thinking it might attract broader interest. And he did, having exhausted himself.

The event was described as an opportunity to: “Witness a powerful and personal story of survival and courage while learning and reflecting on how we can participate in meaningful ways to build a better world.”

Buckman survived the Holocaust as a child by hiding in Belgium, but his mother and aunt perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

“However, one thing that survived was a cookbook that included some family recipes,” Huebel said.

The cookbook somehow found its way into Buckman’s hands, having been given to him by another survivor.

Huebel decided to approach Travis Neels of BeNanna Bakery in Chilliwack to see if they could reproduce the decades-old cake recipe in time for the event.

“Sure enough, they did!”

Neels said the recipe they turned into cupcakes included orange juice and a bit of orange zest. It was a fun challenge for the European style bakery.

“It turned out wonderful,” Neels said. “It was a simple recipe to make.”

BeNanna staff baked around 150 cupcakes from the orange cake recipe and packaged them in pastry boxes, which were handed out to attendees at the end of the Holocaust remembrance event.

In his closing remarks, the history teacher explained that one of the “lasting legacies” of the Holocaust are memories that must be preserved.

“In the end, the Nazis didn’t succeed,” Huebel said. “They tried to eliminate everything Jewish but they didn’t. There are family histories. There are the survivors and the memories we need to keep alive. So it’s more than just a cupcake!”

So when the event ended, attendees were offered a taste of those lingering memories as a meaningful way to end it.

“So maybe we can treasure his memory and the memory of his family by taking home that cupcake, and the recipe, and living it.”

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UFV History instructor Sebastian Huebel with BeNanna Bakery owner Travis Neels.  (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

UFV History instructor Sebastian Huebel with BeNanna Bakery owner Travis Neels. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

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