I awoke to the sound of rain. As my consciousness pushed past dreams to surface, I became aware of the rhythms tapped out on the roof and the soft, asynchronous sound of Alexi’s breathing. In the darkness, I began to form thoughts about the morning. “I’ll text Dana and cancel; I’m sure it’s too cold and wet to run,” my sleep-deprived, warmth-coveting brain reassured itself. Before I realized any time at all had passed, the jazz improvisation on the roof was over, and I was alone in bed. Alexi was up and running. Reluctantly, I dressed in running clothes. There exists a magic window in the mornings here wherein it doesn’t rain, whatever the rest of the day holds. I call it my running window.
After surveying the placemats I’d set with bowls and spoons Abbott asked me, disappointment fighting with his otherwise hopeful expression, “What are we having for breakfast? We aren’t going to have cereal, are we?” I said, “Tomorrow I’ll make something. Today we’re having cereal.” He nodded and accepted his fate. As I packed lunches, I slipped in a slice of coconut pound cake; the last vestiges of something homemade in the house, from the weekend.
Dana and I met at Discovery Park for our run, after taking our children to their respective schools. The rain-scented air felt clean in my lungs. For the first time this year I noticed the tiniest of green-gold buds on the otherwise bare branches along the wooded trails. Our shared stories were absorbed in the broader silence of the forest.
Back at home, I listened to the rain start up again as I ate a slice of the leftover cake, still delicious two days out, for a midmorning snack. My great-aunt Wanda’s recipe. I imagined the boys at school, eating it from their lunchboxes, and then I imagined my younger self eating this same cake at Aunt Wanda and Uncle Tootle's farm, and playing with their cats that only occasionally scratched. Whenever I conjure her in my minds eye, I hear the sound of her laughter.
Wanda’s Coconut Pound Cake
This is a pretty standard pound cake recipe, but with the addition of coconut, which elevates it to something special. You can skip the glaze if you can’t find, or don’t want to wait to order, the coconut flavor/extract, but it really makes the cake. Like most pound cakes, this one bakes at a moderate temperature for close to an hour and a half. The flavor improves after sitting for a day.
For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp. salt
1 small can Angel Flake coconut (3.5 ounces)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease with butter and then dust with flour a 10” angel food cake pan.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a medium bowl, sift the flour and salt together, and then slowly add the flour/salt combination to the butter mixture. Fold in the coconut. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool while you make the sauce (below). Run a knife along the edge of the pan to loosen the cake, and then remove from the pan.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. coconut flavor or extract
Mix all the ingredients together. Bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute.
Brush the sauce on the cake with a pastry brush while the cake is still warm.
Yield: 10 to 12 servings