When I finally managed to get some information out of Ray, about what kind of a birthday cake he wanted, this is what I got:
Ray waxing nostalgic about a cake from his days at Goshen scout camp, where he was both a camper and a staff person, at different times. What he described was a coconut cake: a yellow cake with white frosting in a rectangular shape. The cake in question came out of some sort of an industrial kitchen, what we are talking about here is mainstream food service fare, with all the accompanying trans fats and high fructose corn syrup type ingredients. Actually, I recently learned, from my reading of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, that high fructose corn syrup has only been around since 1981. I thought that was interesting, something so ubiquitous has really only been on the landscape for a quarter of a century?
Regardless, the point here is that we are not talking about some warm, cozy homey cake, emerging from memories of the kitchens of Ray’s childhood, made with love by Geraldine. Here, my husband has the choice of anything, a wife who will happily take on any cake challenge, and what does he pick? A food service cake. A food service cake coming out of a fascist organization that promotes bigotry and intolerance.
So I start thumbing through the cake books, and settle on a yellow cake recipe, really a “golden sponge” from the Tish Boyle Cake Book which I got out of the Louisville Library last week. It’s just a basic yellow sponge cake. But a few things worth noting: the recipe calls for two extra egg yolks, plus the regular three that a cake this size has, and the eggs being our wonderful local farm fresh eggs, really did make for a lovely yellow cake. I then chose a frosting from Dorie Greenspan, what she calls a buttercream – basically, egg whites and sugar and butter, and more butter, and then some more butter. I am not kidding. Huge amount of butter. Then, you sprinkle coconut shreddies all around the top of the cake.
I was a little worried about the whole thing not being quite coconutty enough, since it was just a yellow cake, and since the frosting was not actually a coconut frosting. So, I decided to try something (not easy for me to go out on a limb like this, as some of you know.) The yellow cake calls for 1 1/3 cups of whole milk. So, here is what I did, replaced 2/3 of that milk with 2/3 c of organic coconut milk. I have to say, I think this was a really successful adaptation. The cake was not very coconutty, but I think did just have a hint of coconut flavor, which of course Ray liked. Really, I have to also just say, that in terms of texture and taste, this was one of the best cakes I have made, I think (I am just talking about the cake here, not the frosting).
The frosting was fine, I guess. I think the coconut on top works really well for Ray. For Alden and me, not so much. You remember how I feel about coconut cake… Alden did not eat any of the cake at all, claiming not to like the frosting, although, interestingly, he had managed to lick the mixer beater clean, after he and I made the frosting together. He was momentarily sad, about not getting to eat cake, even though it was his choice to not eat it. But, I reminded him he would be getting his own cake very soon.