Outside my office window, dawn’s delicate watercolor washes across the sky a little later each morning. Autumn is already gearing up in the mountains, waiting to rush down the Rockies and lash loose the leaves from the tall, old trees in my Denver neighborhood. This summer is the first one in many years that I’m sad to bid adieu. While the past few months have been very busy and have instigated significant change in my life (I’m now a first-time homeowner!), it’s also been a time of feeling rooted in my life, in my writing, and in my connections to the people I love.
One year into marriage and Cameron and I have found our rhythm as partners and best friends. Sure, there will be bumps in the road, but I’m thankful to have him along on our ride.
My novel’s first draft is months away from completion. I’m constantly surprised I’ve written over 465 pages in the past two years. (I came up with that many word combinations?!?) What started out as an unsatisfactory travel-based short story has grown into a novel set in the U.S. and China during the 1980s and early 2000s and includes spies, ghosts, and kids obsessed with local natural history. May someone besides my writer friends read it one day.
As for friends, during the two years of Colorado living, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a handful of funny, smart, and generous-spirited folks in Denver. You know who you are. Thank you for hanging out with this newbie and helping me feel less homesick for the homes I’ve had to leave and for reminding me there’s always room in our hearts for fellowship as long as we’re brave enough to be vulnerable.
Over the weekend Cameron and I visited Chicago to celebrate my friend Mike’s marriage to his now-wife Anna.
Mike and I,
along with several other folks, spent eight months adventuring in Malaysia during a Fulbright fellowship.
Since returning to the States, many of us have wed, and each wedding becomes an opportunity for a Fulbright Malaysia reunion.
Each of us grew during our time in rural Malaysia, changed by our interactions with each other and with the place and the people who invited us to live alongside them in their home. We were made vulnerable during that time as we tried to maintain a sense of self amid so much change. Malaysia was far from easy, but our difficulties laid bare during tough situations forged friendships that have withstood great distance over the years. To sit with each other and our partners this weekend and to witness Mike and Anna commit their lives to each other was another reminder that vulnerability is an act of bravery and a gift worth giving ourselves and others.
To Mike and Anna’s new chapter as a couple, to my far-flung Fulbright friends and our heartening reunions, to my new Colorado compadres, to finding home in unexpected places, to writing many pages and risking failure for art, and to my near and dear husband who’s held my hand during crying jags and fits of laughter, today’s cake recipe is for you.
Filled with rich chocolate and speckled with coconut flakes, this simple chocolate coconut cake relies upon the basics (butter, flour, eggs, and sugar) to bring deliciousness to those who munch on it. Also, it’s easy and quick to create and travels well, so you can spend your time with friends rather than slaving over a hot oven.
Gâteau Choco-Coco or Simple Chocolate Coconut Cake
(adapted from a Chocolate and Zucchini recipe)
Makes an 8-inch square cake
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup sugar
1 stick, minus 1 tbsp butter, softened (I accidentally used the whole stick, and it still worked out fine!)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used a low-fat version.)
1 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, diluted in 4 Tbsp hot water
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 10-inch square cake pan with parchment paper. (I used an 8-inch square baking dish.)
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and sprinkle the coconut flakes over it. Put into the oven for eight minutes or until golden, stirring halfway through. Remove from the oven (leave the heat on) and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl or in a food processor, combine the sugar and butter. Mix until white and fluffy. Add in the yogurt and the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition. Add in the cocoa powder mixture and mix again.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder and toasted coconut flakes. Add the flour mixture into the batter, and mix until just combined. Don’t overmix unless you like rubbery cake. As soon as the batter comes together (you don’t see any white flour), it’s ready to go!
5. Pour the batter into the cake pan, level the surface with a spatula, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back to the touch, and a knife inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Be careful to not overbake. I live in the high altitude baking zone and my oven may or may not be calibrated correctly. This recipe took only 25 minutes in my kitchen, so I’d check your cake at the 25 minute mark. Let rest on the counter for a few minutes, and then turn out on a rack to cool completely.