What’s in a Name?

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“Name Day” in Swedish

If I’d been born in Sweden, as my grandparents were,  I would celebrate my Name Day on December 9 with all the other Anns and Annas.  According to one source “the Swedish Church (which was a State Church from 1527 to 1999) encouraged the celebration of namedays, since the Church considered the celebration of birthdays a pagan custom.”

But I wasn’t born in Sweden, and my actual birth day places me directly under the sign of Aquarius.  Astrology.com states that “Aquarians are the perfect representatives for the Age of Aquarius.

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I’d say about 10 of the 19 traits apply to me

The Age of Aquarius from the Fifth Dimension was released in 1969 – and, coincidentally, we just had a blog about 1969.  Be sure to re-read the great lyrics of the song or, better yet, listen to it sung. 

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius

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Andy just laughs when I read off some of the other traits – “temperamental,” “uncompromising” –  which we Aquarians might be expected to have.   When looking at compatibility with folks from other Zodiac signs, those who are Taurus (Andy) are considered way too kind and easy going to be hooked up with Aquarians.  LOL.  Those who know us from our MiniBlooms gardening business days will nod knowingly 🙂

When I was born that day in February,  my parents chose to name me after my Swedish grandmother – Anna Carlson – who had passed away 5 years earlier.  Except my parents simplified it, and I became just Ann.   Ann Hill.

“Anacin Pill!”  “Ant Hill!”  I still remember the young man who mercilessly teased me with those spin-offs.

I’m a little bitter that my parents didn’t think up a more charming name for me.  Why couldn’t they have stuck with Anna?  That one syllable makes all the difference.

So when I got married taking my new husband’s surname was a no-brainer.  I was tired of being Ann Hill , so I gave up “Hill” and took up “Deseran” with no feminist-inspired look back.  But even “Deseran” could have been more fascinating.  Andy’s dad’s family came from Belgium with the surname of Deserranno (which we’ve seen spelled several ways) but, arriving at Ellis Island, Andy’s dad, Gustaf Josef Jean Deserranno, became Gus Deseran.    And my Swedish grandfather’s name went from August Karlsson to Gus Carlson.  Such a shame.

Maybe the pain of a plain name made me more contemplative in naming my own kids and pets.  Andy is delving deep into our pet-name thing in today’s Andy’s Corner.  It’s pretty funny….even if I was admittedly a part of it all.

Before considering what birthday cakes I’d go ga-ga over (and do you like the name Lady Gaga? :), I have to add a favorite quote about names.  Barack Obama, when he gave his first nationally publicized speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 stated “my parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or ‘blessed,’ believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success.”

Now the ga-ga cakes:  most cakes we suggest are super simple and more casual than a proper birthday cake.  But when a special occasion requires a special cake, here are four great ones.  Just click on the name to get directed to the recipe.  And be sure to scroll to the end to see the beauty that was part of this year’s birthday celebration, recipe included.

The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake is a family favorite and has been for many years.  It’s baked in a rectangular cake pan and the chocolate chips and walnuts are baked with the cake, so it needs no additional frosting – i.e., no additional work.

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

Richard and Rima Collin’s The New Orleans Cookbook has been a favorite of mine since I bought it back in 1978 – when we were living in Baton Rouge.  Their Carrot Cake is lovely and delicious – perfect for a birthday party.  I prefer it unfrosted but we provide a simple little cream cheese frosting with the recipe, if you want to up the ante a little.

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Carrot Cake

I grew up with Angel Food cake being the cake we baked and loved for all family birthdays.  However, when I tried this Moonshine Cake I was smitten.  Plus, you don’t waste so many egg yolks! 🙂  I would serve it with whipped cream and berries but frosting it with a glaze is delicious too.  Just mix together about 1 1/2 c powdered sugar and 3 T orange juice and drizzle it over the top and down the sides.

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Moonshine Cake

TA-DA!  The cake which was served for this year’s birthday celebration is the Italian Cream Cake, which I’ve been baking for 50 years.  It’s clearly a keeper.  And so beautiful and birthday-perfect when frosted with the cream cheese frosting and chopped pecans.

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Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake

  • Servings: 1 3-layer cake
  • Print

This comes from my old Cane River (LA) Cuisine Cookbook, circa 1974.

  • 1 c (2 cubes) butter, softened
  • 2 c sugar
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 3/4 c flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1 c pecans, finely chopped

Beat butter at a medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add vanilla, beating until blended.

Combine flour and soda; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until just blended after each addition. Stir in coconut and pecans.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and then fold the whites into batter. Pour batter into 3 greased and

floured 9″ cake pans. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Frosting (if you want ample – to frost between the layers and generously all around and on top of the cake – consider doubling the recipe)

  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 c butter (12 T), softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 lb box (16 oz) powdered sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 c flaked sweetened coconut (optional)

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add powdered sugar, a little at a time, beating at low speed until blended.  Then beat frosting at high speed very briefly – just until smooth; stir in pecans (and coconut, if you’re using it).

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.


  1. pocahannah says:

    A Buck family Birthday tradition cake was always an Angel Food Cake with whipped cream that is mixed with whatever yogurt flavor you preferred (I always picked Lemon). TBuck always put a broken up SKOR candy bar on hers…and she wonders why she got cavities! SKOR is Swedish for brittle 🙂


    • theRaggedys says:

      Andy here: Thanks for the comment. My mom always put coins (wrapped in foil) in our birthday cakes. I don’t even recall what kind of cake, but I do recall how exciting it was to find a dime or nickel. I wonder if that would even be allowed in today’s litigious world. To my knowledge, no one in our family ever lost a tooth.


  2. I used to enjoy listening to the old NPR program, Car Talk. I remember an episode when a woman name Anna called in. She pronounced her name “Ah-nah.” They asked about her husband’s name. She said “James.” One of the Car Talk guys relied, “Not Jaw-Mez?” I can’t remember what was wrong with her car.

    Liked by 1 person

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