This post has been a long time coming. I’ve baked and photographed and eaten this coconut cake three times with the intention of sharing the recipe here, but up until now, you have not seen it. The problem wasn’t that the cake or the photographs weren’t good enough, the problem was that I couldn’t decide which story to connect this cake to. There is coconut cake in Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, William Faulkner’s The Unvanquished, it even recently got a small mention in Ruth Reichl’s new novel, Delicious! I’ve been avoiding what I know is the best option—Emily Dickinson’s poem, “The Things that never can come back, are several”– which she wrote in scratchy but elegant handwriting on the back of a recipe for coconut cake. It is one of my favorite poems, but gut-wrenching enough that a giant, flamboyant coconut cake has never felt appropriate. This is hard when a giant, flamboyant coconut cake is what your heart craves, and nothing else—not even homeliest but most delicious coconut quickbread—will do.
Sometimes you judge a book by its cover—that’s just a real life fact. Because I am who I am and I like what I like, I was drawn to Jami Attenberg’s The Middlesteins because of the French fries, cheeseburgers, and soda cups strewn across its cover. I read the book in one sitting a few weeks ago, on a bus ride home to Boston for a Passover feast with my family. It was timely, seeing as the book focuses on a suburban Jewish family—the eponymous Middlesteins—and their relationship to food.
See the recipe ▸ ▸ ▸