Thursday, July 5, 2012

Yesterday was just a normal day in Istanbul.

While friends and family members in the U.S. celebrated 4th of July with fireworks and BBQs, my husband worked a 12-hour day, and I hosted a patriotic lunch with several American friends at our apartment.

As with every holiday abroad as an expat, we make the most of it. Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is the only one where I really miss being in the U.S. But I've learned to adapt and I enjoy spending time celebrating American traditions with my new friends abroad. (Here is last year's post about celebrating 4th of July in Istanbul.)

So yesterday, I prepared hamburgers with all the fixings, a ranch dip with yogurt, sangria and an old-fashioned Jell-O "poke cake." (I also shared my treasured baklava from Gaziantep.)  My friends, met through the American Women of Istanbul group, brought deviled eggs, a carrot salad, three kinds of potato salad, chicken salad and chocolate chip bars.
Our 4th of July buffet spread at my apartment yesterday.
I've had pudding poke cakes while growing up in the U.S., but I've never had a Jell-O poke cake. Apparently, this type of cake was invented in 1969 as a way to increase Jell-O sales. The basic recipe usually entails baking a boxed cake mix in a 9"x13"cake pan, poking holes in the baked cake, pouring a Jell-O mixture on top, and later topping it with whipped cream.

Well, I'd been saving my imported blueberries for this holiday and decided to make a patriotic poke cake with a bit of Turkish flair of course. The cake layers ended up looking more pinkish and purplish with white frosting versus red, white and blue, but we ate it anyway!

(NOTE: Blueberries are nearly impossible to come by in Turkey without paying an arm and a leg for a pint. Feel free to substitute another fruit to make a colorful layer.)

Luckily, I saved a piece of cake for hubby and grilled a fresh burger for him when he finally got home from work.
Burgers at home in Istanbul. 
Being with friends and loved ones is all that really matters when you celebrate a holiday abroad.

Did any other expats celebrate 4th of July yesterday?

Afiyet olsun!
I quickly took a photo of my Red, White and Blue Poke Cake before it got devoured.
The "pokes" didn't quite turn out as nice as I had hoped, but you get the general idea of the colored layers.
Red, White and Blue Poke Cake (Turkish Style)

2          (9-inch/22 cm.)            baked, round white cakes, completely cooled and still in pans (I made my cake from scratch, but a boxed cake mix would work as well.)

4          c.                     lightly sweetened whipped cream (I whipped up 2 packages of Dr. Oetker Krem Santi with whole milk to keep it simple.)

1          pkg.                 Turkish or regular strawberry-flavored Jello-O (made according to boxed directions)
For Blueberry Syrup Layer:
1          c.                     blueberries
3/4       c.                     water
2          T.                     sugar

In a small saucepan, cook above ingredients together over medium low heat until blueberries are softened.

Stain the fruit, if you desire, discarding the solids. I didn't because I wanted the blueberries.

Then, add 2 Tablespoons of prepared gelatin. Let the mixture cool down slightly.

For Strawberry or Cherry Syrup Layer:
1 1/2    c.                     strawberries or cherries (I couldn't find strawberries so I used frozen sour cherries instead.)
1/2       c.                     water
2          T.                     sugar

In a small saucepan, cook above ingredients together over medium low heat until strawberries/cherries are softened.

Stain the fruit, discarding the solids.

Then, add 2 Tablespoons of prepared gelatin. Let the mixture cool down slightly.
Fruit syrups and Turkish gelatin ready to be used for the cake.
To assemble:
Using a skewer or kebab stick, poke 25 holes in the top of each cake, twisting slightly to make the holes bigger.
Pour the cooled blueberry syrup over one cake and the red fruit syrup over the second cake. Cover cakes with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the gelatin is set, about 3 hours or overnight.

Run a knife along the interior of the cakes. Flip the cakes over onto a wire rack or plate.

Place the blueberry layer on the bottom of a plate/cardboard cake circle, top with whipped cream. Place the strawberry/cherry layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over the top and sides of cake.

Let the cake set up for a bit in the refrigerator and then serve.

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Una Semplice Passione said...

As an expat myself I can immagine how it feels to be away from home on certain special days. Yummy looking cake!

jaz@octoberfarm said...

i always found it fun to recreate the holidays in other countries. the locals always enjoyed being invited too!

Joy said...

@ Una Semplice Passione, Thanks...the cake was delicious! As an expat, you just have to make the best of every situation.

@Joyce, very true! The next holiday we may celebrate here in Turkey will either be Halloween or Thanksgiving. Definitely, some of our local friends will be invited to those events. :-)

Karen said...

What a lovely way to celebrate your holiday - sharing it with other expats! We may have some mutual friends - the American Women of Istanbul taught me to play mah-jong.