Last year, I brought a flag cake to a 4th of July rooftop barbecue. Earlier in the week, I’d harbored fantasies about making an elaborate ice cream cake or layered berry yogurt popsicles or salads teetering on the edge of food safety standards but New York City, as it always seems to be in the first week of July, was at the crest of a week-plus of ever-increasing temperatures and stickiness, a summit where it tends to linger for a few even more airless days before finally releasing the thunder and lightening, sinking the mercury back to a brief day or two of something resembling temperate before it starts the climb again. What, me? No fan of NYC summers? Where would you get such an idea?
Our toddler left us. Or, at least until Friday. Over the last 2 3/4 years, we’ve occasionally been blessed with the chance to go away for a few days sans bébé. We return well-rested and smiling, sandy grit in the bottom of our suitcases, traces of whatever had vexed us before we left deliciously eviscerated from memory, and almost giddy with excitement to start scraping spaghetti from the underside of the high chair again. But this is the first time — with barely a “Sayonara!” as he ran out the door or a single “Wish you were here!” postcard from the road — that Jacob has headed out for lazier climes without us. He’s spending a week at the mountain retreat of Camp Grandparents, where he’s forced to endure petting zoos, baby pools, wide expanses of fresh air, nonstop adoration, and, no doubt, all of the ice cream he can talk them into.
Every year around this time, behind the scenes, I go through my annual Macaroon Marathon, in which I decimate bags and bags of coconut in an effort to find a variation on the lowly macaroon worth noting, publicly. As evidenced by the fact that my archives are virtually coconut macaroon-free, I hadn’t thus far succeeded. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.
This is the very first recipe I developed for my cookbook. It came as an accident — you would think that someone who spends as much time shopping for groceries as I do wouldn’t constantly run out of flour and cream mid-recipe but I’d surprise you — but I immediately fell in love with it and knew it needed a home in print. Over the last year, I made them whenever I’ve had an excuse and a few times that I didn’t. They fit so squarely within the vision I had for the book that when everything else felt impossible I’d think, “It’s okay. I’ve still got those whole wheat raspberry ricotta scones.” They made me happy.
I have decided not to leave. Yesterday, I was eating a drippy peach we’d bought from one of those roadside stands that have baskets of homegrown stuff and instruct you to leave your money in a little container (you know, just like in Manhattan!) over the sink and two tiny deer and a bunny appeared in the woodsy area next to our house and seriously, I cannot believe that people own these places and willingly rent them to strangers. Where else could they possibly want to stay?
This is the ugliest, best thing I have ever made with three ingredients and the happy ending to three weeks of obsessing. And here you probably just thought it looked like an accident, didn’t you?
As you may have guessed, I have a serious soft spot for everyday cakes.* I call them Dinner Party Cakes. Or Potluck Cakes. Or I Heard You Were Coming and So I Baked You a Cake, cakes. Or If You Bake a Cake, The People Will Come cakes, as a fresh-from-the-oven cake has a way of drawing friends around your coffee table on an otherwise blah Monday night. Home baked goods are magical like that.