Pimms cake with chocolate, almonds and pears
May is bird watching season where I live. David and I have ventured out a few mornings into the wild and winding path that is the other side of the other side of the canal. We’ve seen some bird
s: parulas, yellow throats, red starts, orioles, hummingbirds, thrushes, too many warblers to name, and catbirds, catbirds, catbirds. Of course we’ve seen the nesting bald eagles, who are so much more important than any other bald eagle in the world because they’re our
nesting bald eagles. They’re our neighbors. We’ve stumbled on a valley of new ferns so fragrant you could get drunk on the smell, we’ve seen a magical tree full of warblers of every description, a glowing field criss-crossed by swooping tree swallows. And we heard a cuckoo. A cuckoo! Cuckoos are famously hard to see, because they’re lurkers, they’re shy. Once, we thought we saw one, but it was very far away, and suspiciously similar to a kingbird. But I thought, if it’s just the two of us, and we both want to see a cuckoo, and we both decide we’ve seen a cuckoo, then we’ve seen a cuckoo! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, about people seeing what they want to see and hearing what they want to hear. (In fact it’s a theme
of my novel
, but I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about that any more.) It’s such a tempting and dangerous practice to read the universe around you as you want to read it. We all do it, on some level, it’s unavoidable. I suppose the trick is to be aware of it, and then to expand and bend your universe-reading powers to the light, if possible. Everything talks to you, if you listen. The birds say “Sweet sweet sweet,” on a sweet morning, my dog sings “hello,” and “I love you,” because I think she does. The oracle of delphi sits on a stool above a chasm in a rock, inhaling vapors from the earth. She makes predictions, in a gibberish language, and then a priest interprets them and predicts the future. But we don’t need a priest, we can hear what we want to hear, we can predict our future as we want to shape it, as everything around us is telling us it can be, if we listen carefully. Eventually we did see a pair of cuckoos, startlingly handsome, in plain view for quite a while. And you’ll never guess what they called us!
A friend of mine posted a picture of herself on a train drinking pimms. I’d read about pimms, but I had never tried it, and I became completely obsessed. I love it! We drink it with ginger beer. It’s spicy, surprising, almost savory. I thought it would make a nice flavoring for a cake, and I thought it would go well with almonds and pears. It did, and it did!
Here’s War es also gemeit, a poem put to music by Schubert, about a miller who hears what he wants to hear in the voice of a brook.
Was this, then, what you meant,
My rushing friend?
Your singing and your ringing?
Was this what you meant?
Now, however it may be,
I commit myself!
What I sought, I have found.
However it may be.
After work I ask,
Now have I enough
for my hands and my heart?
1 stick unsalted butter
6 oz good chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
1/3 cup pimms
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 bosc pear, peeled and chopped
Milk, if necessary to thin the batter
Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly butter and flour a cake pan.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and chocolate until just melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a food processor or a large bowl whiz or beat the egg until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, vanilla and pimms and beat to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt and almonds and process until smooth.
Add the chocolate butter mixture, and process until completely smooth again. You want it to be the constancy of whipped cream, thick, but not stodgy, and you can add a few tablespoons of milk to achieve this texture, if necessary.
Stir in the pear and chocolate chips, and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1/2 hour until it’s golden and firm to the touch and springs back when you lightly touch it.