The Cousin and I have looked back at one of our old stories–we had written it years ago, a sprawling epic about twin girls who attend a new school. It was ridiculous and illogical, but so much fun to read. I had a less embarrassing time, as The Cousin has done the most growing up since (this story memorializes even the development of her skill of paragraphing–we go from page-long solid chunks to lovely digestible little bites of dialogue).
Both of our sections revealed the very minimal planning that went into all parts of this story. We noticed how The Cousin cheerfully threw my character (named “Muffy”) under the bus: whenever The Cousin was writing, Muffy was either having a tantrum or being otherwise very annoying. My subsequent section was damage-control, forming some sort of half-hearted justification for poor Muffy’s outbursts. I often wrote some desperate segues into eventually discarded and unpursued plot avenues–oh look, a trophy has been stolen! Oh well, let’s forget about it and let it fade into the background.
But after literally years spent on that story, I was surprised by how much fondness I had for the characters in their strange, half-formed, often self-contradictory personalities. They had been subject of enough thought and discussion to develop a palpable (and contrary) substance of their own.
The Cousin is an even more avid writer these days (while I don’t do anything but essays and this dribbly blog), and her solo efforts speak to the leaps and bounds that her passion for writing has brought her. Characterization, humour, well-written dialogue, and even premeditated plot lines star in her writing. I feel quite chuffed when I think about our old story perhaps playing a foundational role, even if only a cautionary tale of poor planning, in these developments.
I put this cake together during the Cousin’s last visit–it was plenty of good fun that only comes with enthusiastic kitchen company. The sort of fun where you make last minute flavour decisions and just keep adorning the cake.
The cake is moist and very soft, and works well with a heavy-structured icing such as this mascarpone. But does a cake this heavy make sense as a layer cake? Not really–I would prefer it as a single layer, maybe a loaf (the original recipe that I based the cake off is, after all, a zucchini loaf), with one thick swipe of icing over the top. However it makes a great celebration of a slightly overwhelming zucchini harvest–because I’ll admit, nothing says celebration better than a layer cake. zucchini, caraway, and lavender layer cake
zucchini, walnut, and caraway cake
1 medium yellow zucchini
1 medium green zucchini
200 g oil (1/3 olive oil, and 2/3 vegetable oil)
110 g brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of ½ orange
375 g flour
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp caraway seeds, ground
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
1 generous tsp kosher salt
75 g walnuts
1/3 c thick yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter three 6″ cake rings and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Grate the zucchinis, wrap in a dish towel, and thoroughly wring out the liquid. Set aside. Whisk together the oils, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
Whisk together the flour, nutmeg, caraway, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Put the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse, along with a spoonful of the flour mixture, until finely ground.
Stir the zucchini into the egg mixture, then the flour, and finally the yoghurt.
Divide equally among the prepared pans. Bake for around 30-40 minutes or until an inserted skewer is removed clean. Let cool on a wire rack.
100 g cream cheese
100 g mascarpone
25 g sugar
~1 tsp dried lavender flowers
100 g heavy cream
Cream the cream cheese and mascarpone together until lightened. Crumble the lavender into the sugar and then mix into the cheeses. Whip the cream until it is thick and fold into the cheese.
Slice the top off of two layers of cake. Place one layer on a plate, spread with the cream. The cream is quite thick and the cake quite soft and crumbly, so spread carefully until the surface is just covered to avoid a crumbly mess. Repeat with a second layer. Place the final layer on top and generously spread with the remaining cream. As the top isn’t trimmed off the final layer, the cream will be much easier to spread and will not result in crumbs. Arrange: crabapples, edible flowers, and sprigs of lavender.