There’s a pleasant sort of anxiety about the last week of summer vacation. We made plans to do every single fun thing we’ve talked about doing all summer long! All in one week! At the moment, of course, the boys are watching dumb cartoons, and I’m sitting in front of the computer writing about cake. (Did you ever see the Simpsons when Homer thinks he’s going to die, and he promises that if he’s allowed to live he’ll never ever waste another moment of his life? He lives, and the credits play out to the sounds of Homer watching bowling on the TV. It’s like that.) But we did go for a walk in the woods. The far far away woods. It was a big adventure. The weather was crisp and perfect, and the boys turned the walk into a search for efts and salamanders. There was a scoring system! Points were awarded! Four points for a red eft, and I can’t really remember the others. Well! The woods were teeming with efts! Generally we’re lucky to see one or two, and we saw hundreds of the tiny, unbelievably beautiful chinese-red, green-spotted, soft-skinned, dog-like, sweet-fingered little creatures. I went ahead at Clio’s pace, and stood to wait for the salamander searchers. The light was dappled and shifting. If you tried to take a picture of a boy glowing in a pool of sunshine, you couldn’t, because he’d walk into the shade and then the sun and then the shade again. The light ran over the moss and rocks and leaves like water, swirling with the shadows of branches far overhead, branches moved by a wind that felt like autumn. The earth was soft with dead leaves, which had been packed down year after year after year, and left the ground under our feet feeling hollow and sweetly, whisperingly resonant. I looked back at my three boys, bent over a stone or log that they’d moved, just for a moment. They ran their fingers through soft decaying wood and soil, wet and rich and fragrant. They bowed their heads together over outstretched hands, and David held their palms towards him as if he could read their future. They replaced the rocks and logs to their place of quiet, slow decay, and they ran to catch me up, nearly knocking me over with the force of their hugs. And so goes another summer, and I wonder what it feels like for the efts when they know that winter is coming. Do they remember their watery birth? Do they have dreams of their return to the water when the time is right?
I made this cake for a back-to-school luncheon for the teachers. And, of course, I made one for us, too, just to be sure it was edible. It’s a French-style cake, quite simple, but very tasty with hazelnuts and chocolate. I made it almost all in a food processor, except for the egg white-beating, which I did by hand. It’s a simple cake…but flavorful and pleasing. Like soft, intensely flavored brownies, maybe. Very easy to make, and very tasty with coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon or wine after dinner, like all good-hearted cakes.
Here’s Flatt and Scruggs with Wildwood Flower.
3 eggs, separated
1 cup powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
1 T rum
1 cup hazelnuts
4 T soft butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 cup milk
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 375 and butter and flour a cake pan.
In a food processor, process the yolks until light and creamy and lemon colored. Add the sugar, and process some more until fluffy and smooth. Add the vanilla and rum and then the hazelnuts. Process until you have a thick, smooth batter, about five minutes. While this is going on you can whip your egg whites until stiff (like snow!).
Add the butter and process until completely combined. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, and process until combined and smooth. Add the milk and process until combined and smooth.
Add the chocolate chips and process until the batter starts to brown. You still want some flakes of chocolate, but not whole chips. The batter should be fairly thick and quite smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Gently stir in a big dollop of egg whites, and then carefully fold in the rest.
Pour into prepared pan and bake 20 – 25 minutes until puffed and pulling away from the pan. It should spring back when you touch it lightly.
Let cool, and sprinkle with powdered sugar and/or finely grated chocolate.