I think of her most often when the lilac bushes bloom in May. I inhale their sweet floral scent deeply and see her as she was: short, dark curly hair framing her square face, beautiful brown eyes shining below thick eyebrows; strong hips sitting wide, above long skinny legs. Her easy smile.
I kneel on the damp ground, searching for a four-leaf clover while blades of grass, small stones and drying mud stamp petrified impressions on my bony knees. Looking haphazardly for luck, searching, minute after minute, for a clover windfall. She walks by, the white rubber soles of her navy Keds grass-stained, her khaki chino shorts a bit stained with the morning’s bacon grease spatters and long tan arms brushing past her hips as she moves towards the grape vines and lilac bushes. She pops a grape into her mouth, smiles. She pulls a pair of shears out of her back pocket and cuts a few clusters of lilacs, gathering them in her tanned, slightly wrinkled hands. I love her absolutely, as only a child is able to love. She is the great love of my life.
“What are you looking for, Kel?”
“A lucky clover.”
“You won’t find any luck around here.” She says with a quick laugh and a half hearted smile. [Decades later I will understand the multiple meanings of that one powerful sentence.]
Thirty years later, hip to hip, we inch across the driveway to my father’s car. I carefully hold her twiggy arms. Veins, tendons, bones now evident underneath her bruised paper-thin skin. The weight of her body leaning against mine is barely felt.
[Time passes. Time is an unsparing critic.]
“I want a chocolate cake for my birthday,” she says out of the blue. I kiss her on the cheek and breathe in her powdery scent, hoping some of her smell will latch onto my shirt.
“Ok, I’ll make you a chocolate cake.” I say as I ease her into the passenger seat pulling the seat belt across her concave chest, buckling her in like I do with own my children. She smiles, turns away from me and stares straight ahead through the bug splattered windshield. I know she is moving away from me, letting go. She knows I understand this. And yet, come August, with some luck, I’ll make her a chocolate cake.
Chocolate Cake Pan Cake with Whipped Chocolate Ganache Frosting
cake recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Original Cake Pan Cake
whipped ganache recipe barely adapted from allrecipes.com
1 + 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
1/4 unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk ( I used 2%)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8 inch square pan and set aside. (You may also use a 9 inch round pan.)
Place dry ingredients in a medium size bowl and whisk together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla extract, vinegar, oil and milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well combined. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
Bake the cake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs. Begin checking the cake around 22 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan sitting on a wire rack.
While the cake cools make the whipped chocolate ganache frosting.
Fluffy Whipped Ganache Ingredients:
9 ounces of semisweet chocolate, chopped or use chips
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum
Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. Heat the heavy cream in a sauce over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the rum and whisk until completely smooth and shiny. Cool the ganache until thick. (I let it sit on our counter at room temperature for a couple of hours.) Once cool whip the ganache using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment until very light and fluffy. Spread evenly over cake. Slice the cake and serve with a cold glass of milk. Enjoy! (Cake will last up to two days stored in air-tight container at room temperature.)
5 Lovely Cake Links for Mother’s Day
Treat your crazy mom to a crazy cake: strawberry pazzo cake with herbed creme fraiche. Pazzo means crazy in Italian which describes this cake well; balsamic vinegar drizzled over a sweet strawberry cake. I’m intrigued!
Speaking of strawberries, check out my recipe for a cold oven strawberry pound cake mom is sure to love. Or head to My Name Is Yeh for Molly’s cardamom vanilla cake with strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting. I’m drooling.
Looking for a simple yet delicious cake recipe? Head to Food 52 for their olive oil cake recipe.
Don’t feel like baking? Check out Baker’s Royale lemon ice box cake. Yum!