Strawberries remind me of my mother. Which you would understand if you had ever seen her kitchen. But you haven’t, so I suppose I should paint a picture for you. Of a kitchen with deep purple walls and a sink window and parquet floors and strawberries. Lots and lots of still life strawberries.
Her enthusiasm for the delicate, seed speckled berries is one of the things I treasure most about her – because every time I see one I forget about the fact that we don’t really have a relationship and am taken back to those weekends spent driving through the Indiana countryside. She’d have the music up and windows down, and she’d sing along to Hootie and the Blowfish or the Cranberries or any other band that was on regular radio rotation in the 90s. I’d sit in the back seat, captivated by her harmonic vocalization, and watch as her pretty auburn hair got tangled in the wind. Every once in a while she’d adjust the rear-view mirror and shoot me a smile or a wink, to remind me that I was loved. It was a love so massive – so powerful – that I didn’t understand it then and I can’t even imagine it now.
Eventually I suffocated the love. I smothered it with a pillow and left. Often times I find myself wondering what would have happened if we had worked harder to maintain a strong relationship; if I had fought for my mother the way I fight for Thom or my health or that homeless man who sleeps on the bench outside my house. You see, I’m an inherent fighter. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you, That lady doesn’t give up. But I gave up on my mother; on our love and our seemingly symbiotic relationship. And you know what? I kind of hate myself for that. For packing up and moving across the country and shutting her out of my life for reasons I don’t think are fitting to share on the internet, but reasons 20 year old me felt were justifiable for assembling an indestructible concrete wall.
That concrete wall has been the bane of my existence for the past five years. And just when I think I’m ready to take it down, I hesitate for a brief moment and previously suppressed, acrimonious feelings rise up and ooze out of every pore on my body – impairing my ability to completely love my mother, and impairing my ability to reduce the wall to rubble.
But eventually I did. On Mother’s Day, no less. I spent the better part of that day in complete paralysis on the couch, drifting in and out of consciousness and dreaming of the wind in my mother’s pretty auburn hair. Every once in a while a very concerned Thom would come into the room to check on me – but he knew there was nothing he could do except pour me a bath, light a few candles, and let me be. So he did. And I laid in the water, watching as the candles flickered and my hair as it snaked to the surface, feeling completely empty and broken and so fucking lost that I decided it was time. Time to deconstruct the wall. And so with the pull of the plug I watched as the dirty bath water swirled down the drain, taking with it all of the feelings of disappointment and frustration, and the too-many-grudges I held against my mother.
I was free, at last.
I sat in the empty tub – arm hanging over the side, head resting on the ledge – and I sobbed. I sobbed for a good 10 minutes until I realized there was a man in the other room who would come in like a knight in shining armor and sweep me away to a land of salted almond dark chocolate if I didn’t cut it out. And so I pulled my towel from its hook and used it to muffle the sound. And when I was finished – when I felt like I had gotten it all out – I wrapped the snot stained towel around my body and emerged from the bathroom a better woman. Better because I forgave my mother. Better because in doing that, I became a better daughter.
I walked through the living room, leaving a trail of wet footmarks on the cold tile floor, and into the kitchen where I retrieved a bowl of strawberries from the refrigerator. I leaned up against the countertop and, with every last bite, I was reminded of how good it feels to completely love my mother.
Notes: I’ve been using white (light) spelt flour lately and love the results. If you have some on hand, I highly recommend using it. If not, go ahead and use all purpose, unbleached flour. These cakes are fairly dense. If you’re not into dense cakes, omit two tablespoons of flour. I really do not recommend replacing the oil with any other oil because the unrefined coconut oil is what gives the cakes their mild coconut flavor. But if for some crazy reason you’re not into that, replace the oil with any other neutral flavored oil suitable for baking. I also recommend olive oil – definitely not neutral but it pairs perfectly with the strawberries. I haven’t tried making these cakes gluten free, but if you want to give it a whirl simply replace the flour with a gluten free flour blend and appropriate amount of xanthan gum. It probably wouldn’t hurt to add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder, either.
STRAWBERRY COCONUT CREAM CAKES
1 cup white spelt flour
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup coconut milk
Coconut whipped cream
1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup coconut flakes
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly oil 6 3.5″ ramekins or 4″ tartlet pans, then sprinkle with a good dose of flour; arrange the pans on a small baking sheet and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract. Using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat the flour and coconut milk into the sugar mixture, alternating in halves. Once all of the ingredients have been combined, mix on high speed for 20-30 seconds. Scoop 1/4 heaping cup of batter into each of the prepared pans and bake at 350˚F for 16-18 minutes. Allow to cool in pans for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Cooled cakes can be kept frozen for up to two weeks – just make sure you wrap each cake in plastic and store them in a freezer safe container.
When you’re ready to assemble, top each of the cakes with a spoonful of coconut whipped cream, sliced strawberries, and coconut flakes. Best consumed immideately.
Yield: 6 cakes