Does the farm house creak in memory of me?

Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Spiced Orange Icing

My mother called me this morning to talk on her drive. She told me how the leaves are all dead now, how it was a hassle to rake them when it was inevitable they'd be covered in snow in a month. How she spilled her iced tea on her favorite scarf, so she wrapped an old t-shirt around her neck on the way home to keep warm. She said her body was like her home in Pennsylvania, filled with too many memories and creaking with each step.

I think they plan on moving soon; I think she’s telling me in her own way. I think they’ll sell the house I grew up in soon. She’s got arthritis in her collarbone, it hurts to hold the hand rail some days to get up the steps. My mother is barely fifty, but she’s full of memories and a lifetime of hard work makes her creak with every step. I won’t grieve the loss just yet, but I keep thinking about what she said this morning and the pause in conversation that was filled with my million questions of her future and my past, so intrinsically tied to that old farm house.

I’m surprised it’s still standing, the way the water floods the basement in the spring. It’s sits at a base of a hill called Friendship and water ran through our front door one April. I’m surprised it’s still standing, it seems like a thousand years went by since I’ve been home. Has the pool water turned that murky shade of green? Has the grapevine strangled the chickenwire fence that covers half the yard? How many bottles washed up from the creekbed? How many cigarette butts are still hidden underneath a rock I used to smoke next to in the backyard?

Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Spiced Orange Icing

How many years did I say I’d run away and never look back?

Home is every dandelion and birthday candle I blew out with one heavy sigh. It’s hard to see it straight-on, but it’s in the periphery of my comparisons. Pittsburgh and Italy, San Diego and Texas—I’ve been building homes from cardboard boxes, never getting the details of that old house in Pennsylvania replicated until it felt right.

How the rosebush blushed in the spring and by summer was shaking with aphids. How the floorboard creaked until it became a Hail Mary you’d say before you snuck out at night. How we never locked the door and kept the windows open until January. How the snow melted once and we found the skeleton of a chicken that must have escaped the coop. How my mother left bologna on the porch swing for stray cats to eat and they found a couple of baby skunks one morning too. How it all seemed to clear to me that I wasn’t a part of that world the last time I was there; how it all felt too pure and corruptible.

Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Spiced Orange Icing

And I still keep my mother at a 3,000 mile distance for this same reason. She’s quiet until the snow melts.  She blushes until you get too close. She creaks and says her prayers at night.  She’s so pure in her own way, but there’s chickenwire on her soul and she won’t stay that way for long. I keep my distance, so I won’t grieve the loss just yet.

Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Spiced Orange Icing

A cake you make when you need to feel a sense of home, whether that home is 3,000 miles away or from 7 years ago. Makes one bundt cake.

Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Spiced Orange Icing
Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Spiced Orange Icing

Ingredients for Cake:

  • 2 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, dark
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 tablespoon butter, extremely soft
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 cups milk

Directions for Cake:

  1. Heavily butter, grease, and flour a bundt pan and preheat oven to 350*F
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift together flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and sugars. Repeat. 
  3. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk all remaining ingredients until well blended and egg yolk is broken up.
  4. Create a well in the dry ingredients and add a small amount of the wet ingredients (about 1/2 a cup) into the dry ingredients, turn mixer on low
  5. Continue to pour remaining wet ingredients in slowly, turning mixer off a couple times to scrape bottom with a rubber spatula
  6. When it is all mixed together, turn stand mixer on medium-high and blend for one and a half minutes
  7. Give one last mix with the rubber spatula and pour into the prepared pan
  8. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, checking at the fifty minute mark for a cake where a toothpick inserted comes out clean
  9. Allow to cool before taking out of pan and icing.
Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Spiced Orange Icing

Ingredients for Spiced Orange Icing:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4-5 cups confectioner's sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Directions for Icing:

  1. Sift together confectioner's sugar and all spices in a separate bowl and set to the side
  2. In a small sauce pan, heat sugar, butter and corn syrup on medium-high, stirring occasionally to avoid burning
  3. Allow butter to melt completely into mixture and cook for a minute or two until sides start bubbling slightly
  4. Add milk and orange juice, stirring once. Allow to cook for an additional minute
  5. Take off burner and allow to cool completely 
  6. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment
  7. When cool to the touch, begin beating on medium-high and adding confectioner's sugar one cup at a time, allowing for each cup to be mixed in fully before adding the next
  8. Continue to do this until you yield your desired consistency with the icing (may use more or less of the confectioner's sugar).  Icing should be pale and spotted with orange and spices
  9. Spread desired amount over cooled bundt cake
  10. Fully iced cake can be stored for up to four days in fridge
Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Spiced Orange Icing
Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Spiced Orange Icing