Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Funeral for a Friend: Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Coconut Pecan Icing

I lost a dear friend the other day. Her life was quite dramatic but I loved her anyway. In the five years since I met her, we weathered her acrimonious divorce, crazy neighbors, jobs she didn’t like, kid problems, a couple of stupid boyfriends and one pretty good one. She helped me by listening to my constant ranting when my daughter was having trouble with some girls at school. She tasted my Pillsbury Bake-Off entries even when they consisted of deep fried crescent dough which no doubt clashed with the flavor of her martini and caused her to spend an extra hour on the treadmill.

We laughed so hard we cried and spoke for hours on the phone about nothing at all. She was even kind enough not to laugh too hard when she witnessed me backing into my daughter's car on prom night. Always my cheerleader, you can find her smiling face under my "Followers" a.k.a. 5280GRL. My life will be so much lonelier without her.

Kim was a real dish. More than one of my daughter’s 17 year old male friends fell in love with her at first sight. I, on the other hand, look like the typical mom but was never threatened by her beauty. She was my friend and she was everything I was not. I was her friend too and everything that she wasn’t.

She was a pretty good cook and loved to give it a try when she was in the mood, but her love for instant mashed potatoes was a dead giveaway that she was less than passionate about cooking. The first time my son ate reconstituted potato flakes was at her house. He had no idea that there existed a seedy potato underbelly but thanks to her, he began to appreciate the peeling, boiling and mashing that went into the fluffy white mounds on his plate. She said her crock pot Taco Soup was her specialty but somehow I never got around to tasting it and now sadly I never will.

I, along with many others, will say farewell to her tomorrow. I’m not sure if there will be a funeral luncheon or not. In south Texas where I grew up this after party is absolutely obligatory. It is a time when the living exchange pleasantries, have pot luck and take a deep cleansing breath. I have shamelessly tracked down some of my best homespun recipes at these gatherings in a bid to get my mind off the task at hand.

While painful, I have learned valuable lessons through my grief. Lessons like no matter the magnitude of our sadness, the sun will rise again, new friends will be made, and most certainly lost, and life will go on with or without us. Such is life, but with every day that we are able to enjoy it, we should embrace each other and take a big bite out of it and enjoy.

My favorite funeral luncheon recipe is the one that I share here today. Many years ago my mother’s stepmother made this cake for the funeral of one of her friends. My mother loved it and made it for years before we lost her too. It was a while before I could make my mom’s recipes without tearing up, but now whenever I think of her I smile and am comforted. I think I'll go now and have a piece, because boy do I ever need a bit of comfort today.


Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Coconut Pecan Icing

1 cup (75g) quick cooking oats
1 – 1/2 cups (375ml) boiling water
1 cup (110g) light brown sugar
1 cup (175g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (113g) butter (room temperature) or vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 – 1/2 cups (240g) flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, 180C.

Place oats in a medium size bowl and pour boiling water over and stir; cool to warm.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugars and the butter or shortening with an electric mixer set to medium; add oatmeal and continue mixing to combine. Add the eggs, vanilla, flour, cinnamon, soda and salt; mix well.

Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13” baking pan. Bake 30 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in pan.
Ice while still warm.

Coconut Pecan Icing:

6 tablespoons (85g) melted butter
1/3 cup (80ml) half and half or whipping cream
1 cup (110g) light brown sugar
1 cup (100g) coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup (50g) sweetened or desiccated coconut*

Place all of the ingredients in a medium size bowl; blend well. Spread over warm cake and place in the oven under the broiler (grill). Broil icing for approximately 3 minutes, watching very carefully as it can burn easily. Remove when the coconut and pecans are light brown and icing is bubbly.

*If using dessicated coconut, increase the cream to 125ml and combine it with the coconut in a medium size bowl to soften when you begin making the cake.  Cover it and set it aside until ready to use.
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