Malcolm’s tree cake

Tree cake

Our Malcolm is ten today! It boggles the mind! How did it happen? Where did the years go? *sniff* Of course I’m thinking a lot about the day that he was born, and the overwhelming joy of meeting him for the first time, with all its fear and exhaustion and hope and bewildering amounts of love. But I keep thinking back to a day a few years ago. He’d had a bad cough. I took him to the doctor to get it checked out. He hates the doctor! It’s one of the few things in life he’s afraid of. Well, the doctor said we should go to the hospital and get an X-ray. Horror! He was so anxious and reluctant. But we went, and he was calm, even cheerful when we got there. I was worried about him, I was trying to keep his younger brother happy. We were waiting and waiting. And then they brought us to see the X-ray. I was undone! He’d taken a breath, and held it for the picture, and you could see the air in his lungs. It was so beautiful! His small bones were so delicate and strong, and so gracefully formed. I nearly cried! It’s moments like that, and births, and birthdays, too, that hit you over the head with a wollop of all of the love you feel for someone that you see every day, feed every day, scold every day, clean up after every day. Our Malcolm is a bright, funny, sweet boy. He’s full-speed-ahead-on-to-the-next-thing. He’s a pack rat and an inventor. He tells wonderful stories about things he’ll make some day. He’s fearless in the ocean. He’s thoughtful and comforting when you’re anxious. He’ll teach you everything he knows. He makes me angrier than anyone I’ve ever met, and then mocks me in my anger. He doesn’t stay angry long, and will hug you and go right on with his schemes and plans in a moment. He breaks everything he touches, but he’s clever enough to put it back together again. He could swim in a puddle. He claims to be an outside-water-creature. He claims to be part dog, and he says he can hear dolphins when he’s underwater. He’s always up for a walk, and he’ll talk your ear off while you walk, as if his voice moves his feet, and he’ll say the sweetest funniest things. He never listens!! But he hears everything. You can’t get a thing by him. He’s savvy, he’s sassy. He’s wise. He’s decisive, and good at giving advice. I’m so happy to know him, so excited to see what he’ll do with all his energy and creativity and strength, as he gets older. I was walking with him the other day, thinking about how much fun he is to have around, and I realized how lucky I am to have him as a friend.

He wanted a tree cake with monkeys on it. He wanted the tree to stand up like a real tree, in three glorious dimensions. I was up for the challenge. We came up with a fiendish plan. We improvised as we went along, changing the scheme when we got to the candy aisle at the grocery store. And look at what we made! Martha Stewart eat your heart out! Doesn’t she wish she could make a giant messy lopsided tree cake? Doesn’t everyone! The trunk is made of brownies, and the two layers are held together with nutella. The cake itself is a chocolate chip cake. The frosting is a sort of buttercream. (That’s sugar and butter, people! That’s sweet!) We couldn’t find gummy monkeys, but we used spearmint leaves sliced in half, gummy flowers, a few gummy bears, and two little wind-up toy monkeys. It’s a mess, but I like it!! Here’s my philosophy about birthday cakes…I’m not the neatest decorator on the planet, but if you cover something with candy, it appeals. If you basically have a few giant chip cookies poised on top of brownies, you’re golden!!


Here’s July Tree, by Nina Simone. We’ve always thought it was about Malcolm being born!

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Cardamom coconut brownies with white chocolate.

cardamom coconut blondies

A few weeks ago I was reading about Indian sweetmeats, as one does, and I thought, “These would make great cakes!” Not that they weren’t perfect in their original forms, I’m sure, just that some of the flavor combinations, and some of the interesting techniques seemed so inspiring to me, so full of possibilities. One in particular, a kind of fudge, with cardamom and coconut, became stuck in my craw as a perfect combination. Time passed, and the combination of cardamom and coconut haunted me…but I really felt that I wanted to make something with a different texture – not light and crumbly like a cake, but dense and tender, like the fudge that had inspired me. And then the whole thing with the brownies happened (I made 2 trays in 2 days…) And then it hit me!! These should be brownies!! But really blondies, because they wouldn’t have any cocoa in them! And they should have white chocolate chips, because brownies are required to have chocolate chips, but I liked the idea of all the wintery white colors in these. Before the last brownie was eaten, I got to work. And, let me tell you, these are the most ridiculously tasty, tender inside, crispy outside blondies I have ever eaten!!

Here’s Jole Blon by Harry Choates
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