"one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade" - charles dickens
I lay in my bed, listening to road sounds, the hum of passing cars, the conversation amongst neighbors, the cold air trickling in through my windows. I remember a quote reminding, listen through the static to hear the music. I filter through the honking cars and sirens to the bird's springtime song, the faint brush of the wind through the trees, my curtains sway in the window, the soft light streaming onto my bedsheets. It is my first day to be alone, and still, in nearly a month, I think.
In keeping with the stir of spring, these days have been of movement and change, beauty and waking up. Last week Hudson and I went on a walk . It was my first day without work in the city, and a moment to reflect and transistion after an enchanted forest foraging adventure in the Shenandoah. And we walked, from the noisier, crowded streets of my neighborhood, passing the filming of a movie and construction scenes, to prospect park in the midst of winter's thaw. We walked by the zoo at feeding time, remarking on the enthusiasm and agility of the seals, all of the children, their noses pressed against the bars, in awe. Looking across the street and I noticed a patch of purple on the hillside, the bloom of crocuses , a small lavender stretch of hope - the coming of spring.
We arrived at the botanical gardens, observing the delicate line between winter and spring, the small patches of crocuses, budding faint green on branches. I loved the cherry trees, so strong and winding, the bamboo stalks, light yet durable. As we passed the Japanese garden, Hudson explained the concept of forest bathing- how in Japan it is customary to walk about in nature, to take time to breathe and literally 'shower' in greenery, as a regular health practice. And breathing in the rich air, observing children playing, one of the few places in the city where strangers smile upon passing, I felt my worries dissipate, truly content with the present. I wondered why the western world doesn't value such practices, how so much, even our health, is made into a sport or a commercial undertaking, yet how simple and beautiful it is to just walk around in the natural world.
I feel I could elaborate forever on my awe of these gardens, the magic of the greenhouses, and the restless excitement this spring is giving me, but instead, this cake:
My lovely and hardworking friend (fellow pie maker at Four & Twenty), Rica, had a birthday just a couple of weeks ago! As a gift for how much she does for us, how forgiving and kind she is with scheduling, her general soothing presence, and simply that it was her birthday -- I made this cake! As we were assembling apple pies one day, she had mentioned her favorite cake - a white cake with lemon buttercream and coconut shavings, and so, I made a mental note and delivered this to her surprise birthday party at our work! The cake is so (yes, the -m- word) moist and goes so well with the lemon buttercream and a thin, thin layer of strawberry jam in between.
White Cake Recipe
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
I. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter two 9" cake pans and coat well with flour, removing all excess flour.
II. Using an electric mixer, cream together coconut oil and butter until light and fluffy. Add in sugar slowly, one cup at a time, making sure each cup is fully incorporated before adding another. Add eggs in one at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding another.
III. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour whole milk, buttermilk, and vanilla into a measuring cup and whisk. Alternating, add dry ingredients and then wet ingredients to butter mixture in 3 stages, ending with the dry ingredients.
IV. Mix until well combined, scrape down sides and bottom of bowl until everything is well mixed.
V. Pour batter into pans, making sure they are evenly distributed. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool slightly in the pans and then transfer to baking rack.
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream (or milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest
pinch of salt
I. Beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 2- 3 minutes. Butter should be creamy and smooth with a lighter color.
II. Except the zest, add the remaining ingredients. Mix on low speed until all is incorporated and then increase to medium speed and mix for 3-5 minutes. Add cream if the buttercream seems too thick, or more sugar if it seems to wet.
III. Frost the cake or place in airtight container and refrigerate!