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.