Coconut, almond & cherry cake
When I was twenty I went to school in England. I was supposed to be there three years, but after a year I was completely miserable and I came back home. Maybe I should have stuck it out, but it didn’t feel like an option. Three years is such a long time, when you’re twenty. Besides, I wouldn’t have met David and had my boys. It’s hard to regret former decisions, once you have children!! Anyway, I’d never been very patriotic, but a strange shift occurred, and I started to be very defensive about America, and very nostalgic for it. Not the way it actually was at the time, though, but for some myth of simplicity and pioneer spirit. I devoured the Little House on the Prairie books, though I hadn’t really liked them when I was little. Laura’s dad made a big blanket pancake, to keep all the little pancakes warm! I loved
that! During a holiday, we stayed at the mennonite center in London. I found a cookbook – The Mennonite Community Cookbook. I can’t tell you how comforting I found this odd little book. It was compiled by Mary Emma Showalter in 1950, but many of the recipes are much older than that, I think. They’re contributed by women from all over the country…Mrs. D.D. Driver, from Heston Kan contributed the Salmon Roll with Egg Sauce recipe. The Pansy Cake was the work of Mrs. Henry Brown, of North Lima, Ohio. The Chicken Relish Mold was provided by Mrs. Lillian Wought of Cullom, Ill. The back of the book contains extensive lists of helpful information. When wrapping a package for mailing, dip cord in water to moisten. The cord will shrink as it dries, and will make a tighter package. Save the empty adhesive tape spool to wind your tape measure on. This will save trying moments caused by a jumbled sewing basket. Boiled rice water makes an excellent starch for dainty collars, cuffs and baby dresses.
It’s like the hagakure for housewives! I liked to read these women’s names, and locations, and recipes, and think about them having lives and passions just like mine. I can’t quite explain why this book appealed to me so much, but it did, I read it like a story book, and I bought it, and I still consult it from time-to-time, for baking basics.
This cake reminds me of one that could be in the oddly dark little pictures in the book. It’s a simple, flavorful tea cake. I like almond and coconut together, and I like the texture that they give to a plain cake. After making the gateau basque, I wanted to experiment with a layer of cherry preserves baked right into the cake. It sorta sunk to the bottom. Not quite what I had in mind! Good, though – it reminded me of a fruit-filled danish, somehow. You could just as easily bake this cake, and then slice it in half when the cake cooled, and spread jam on then.
Here’s The Carter Family with Single Girl, Married Girl. A remarkable, subersive song that gives me the same feeling as my Mennonite cookbook. What were these women’s lives like?
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 t vanilla
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sliced almonds, ground
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup (or more) milk
1 1/4 cups flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup cherry preserves (or any flavor you like!)
Preheat the oven to 375
Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the vanilla, then beat in the egg yolks.
Add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt, and beat well. Process the coconut with the milk till it’s still flaky but a little smoother. Stir this mix into the batter. Add a little more milk if necessary to make it quite light and fluffy.
Beat the eggwhites till quite stiff and fold into the batter.
Spread half the batter in a prepared cake pan. Dot the surface with blobs of cherry preserves, trying to connect them with the back of a spoon. Spread the rest of the batter over the top, smoothing it over as best you can.
Bake for about 40 minutes, till the top is nicely browned and springs back when you press it lightly with a finger.