Before I go any further, have you all seen the Book Domino World Record? You must! It happened at the Seattle Main Library. Please watch this now!
What a delightful piece of performance art! Listen to that satisfying thwap the books make as they gracefully tip. Yet even as my daughters and I watched this, mesmerized, the part of me that is unsettled by chaos was wailing, “The books are getting out of order! Who will put them back on the shelves?” And there I was, no longer in the moment.
My name is Marycake and I have a degree in Library Science. And I am tense, and that is why I bake.
This week I made Porcupine Cake for a small gathering. It was a group of fairly like-minded, friendly individuals, but we were all just too busy to be there. I thought some cake might salve some of our waning-summer-bittersweetness.
I baked my standard, two-layer chocolate cake with buttercream frosting (with a little cream cheese in it) and loads of blueberries dotted all over it. I picked them at my usual haunt, Leon Gile’s farm in Olympia. The outbuildings at Leon’s farm are filthy as all-get-out and packed to the gills with rusted boats and oily engine blocks. Leon’s son David and his cronies are always around starting up various motors and commenting in some sort of grunt-based dialect. There is never, ever a woman in residence. But quell your inner librarian and grab a bucket because the season is short and sweet. But really, so are the Giles men; don’t let the grunting fool you.
Here is how I made the frosting:
2 cubes of softened butter
8 ounces of mascarpone cream cheese
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1-2 Tablespoons of milk (or cream)
Whip the butter and cream cheese, add the sugar then the liquids. This works best if all ingredients are at room temperature.
Aren’t porcupines cute? In truth, my cake looks nothing like this creature, and it is vastly more approachable. I almost named it Domino Cake but years ago I was delighted when a particularly prickly relation pronounced this cake “handsome,” and Porcupine Cake it has been ever since.
There are a variety of unsightly desserts referred to as Porcupine Balls, (presumably the dessert resembles a porcupine, not a porcupine’s male parts, though who wants to get close enough to be sure?) but those bear no resemblance to my handsome cake.
But looks aside, I don’t think my ply-them-with-desserts ploy worked on my friends quite as I had hoped it would. Everyone seemed plagued by ennui and unmoved by my whimsy. They were, pardon me for saying so, a bit prickly. Or perhaps their spirits were dampened by the undeniable turning of the season – I know mine are. But my daughters enjoyed the cake, which they finally got to have after a day-long conversation that went like this: “Now?” “No, not yet.” “Now?” “No, it’s for the meeting.” “Okay.” Pause. “Now?” “No.” Now?” It was not a stimulating exchange but a somewhat flattering one.
If you have any prickly creatures in your life, surprise them with something sweet. Then slowly, slowly, back away.