She remained for so long a fragment of eyelash wishes and the dimpled smiles of her grandchildren. She would have fourteen now, if I’m not mistaken. I’ve never met her, only spoke about her a handful of times. We keep silent about her. She’s been gone since 1985.
Anniversaries are hard to come by in my family; people just don’t stick around long enough to have many of them. My grandfather who went by Eugene only celebrated 22 years with his wife before he lost her. Half that time was spent on the road, the other half was spent drinking in the garage behind the house, avoiding diapers and tantrums and the bills changing colors. Anniversaries were hard to come by then, too. Sometimes they celebrated in September, sometimes when the tax check came in. Sometimes that money went to school clothes for their six kids. Sometimes it went to get rich quick ideas: investments in land, oil, a no-good brother down the road.
We don’t have a lot of photos of her, of anyone really. I know there’s a photo of her sitting on a step and she’s smiling and she’s beautiful. There’s a photo of my grandfather in a white shirt, sleeves rolled up, drinking a soda in that same album. Photos of me, top lip stained red with juice, are tucked in those pages, too. My mother said she would have liked me if she had met me. I wonder about it sometimes, too.
We do have a few things, artifacts of a time when my grandfather felt whole and my mother still felt like a child. A ring my sister wears on her index finger, the patina of a cheaper metal shining, dappled, in the sunlight once in a while. An unfinished quilt that sits in a hope chest in my parents’ room. A cast iron skillet that’s more for decoration than for cooking. And a cake pan. Light and slightly dented, it sits on a shelf in the back of the house called the mudroom. We use it once a year, maybe at Christmas, maybe at the Fourth of July. But it’s there when we need it, unquestioningly so. I look forward to the cake, to the memories we made with it. How it is one of the last relics of a woman I never met. How she bought this pan and fed six kids on a budget with it. And now I bake with it, too. It’s a Nordic Ware Bundt pan, one of the classic designs.
I was fortunate enough to celebrate their 70th anniversary with them. And I can’t stop wondering if that fragment of a grandmother named Norma, bought her own bundt pan for some celebration, too. But in that celebration, I roasted some cherries and mixed my batter. A vanilla bundt cake with goat cheese icing, baked in a crown-shaped pan. Fit for a king, or a baker in Pennsylvania, or a mother of six in rural Indiana.
Vanilla Bundt with Roasted Cherries and Goat Cheese Icing
A cake this could needs to be in the shape of a crown. Celebrating Nordic Ware's 70th Anniversary, this cake is light but filling with its cherry and goat cheese accents. Yields one Bundt.
Ingredients for the Vanilla Bundt Cake:
- 1 tablespoon. vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk, half ‘n half, or whole milk
- 1 and ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup shortening, room temperature
- 1 stick butter, room temperature + more for pan
- 1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 and 3/4 cups AP flour + more for pan
Directions for Vanilla Bundt Cake:
- Preheat oven to 325*F
- Butter and flour your bundt pan
- In a medium bowl, sift together baking powder, salt, and flour
- In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together milk and vanilla
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat fats and sugar on medium-high until light and ribbony
- Gradually add one egg at a time until incorporated
- Reduce speed of mixer and alternate between adding flour mixture and milk mixture, a third at a time
- Mixture will appear lumpy and perhaps very dry, but when constantly stirred, the batter will come together
- Gently pour batter into prepared bundt and bake for 55 minutes to one hour
- Cake will be done when a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into bundt
- Allow to cool while continuing with recipe
Ingredients for Roasted Cherries:
- 1 quart frozen or fresh cherries
- 2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
Directions for Roasted Cherries:
- Preheat oven to 425*F and prepare a half sheet pan with parchment paper
- In a large mixing bowl, stir all ingredients together, ensuring all berries are coated in sugars, oil, and vinegar
- Pour onto prepared sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until caramelized and juices are running from cherries
- Remove from oven and allow to cool before spooning into center of bundt
Ingredients for Goat Cheese Icing:
- 2 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
- 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2-3 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons whole milk or cream
- A pinch of salt
Directions for Goat Cheese Icing:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, beat goat and cream cheeses together on medium-high until light, fluffy, and well-incorporated
- With mixer still running, beat in vanilla
- Add confectioner’s sugar, one half cup at a time, until icing starts to come together
- To thin out consistency, add milk
- Add a pinch of salt to taste and ice on bundt immediately
A special thanks to Nordic Ware for sponsoring this post. Nordic Ware has been producing quality kitchenware products in their 70 years and are now one of America's most beloved and iconic brands. I am honored to be celebrating their 70 years in business and especially excited at using their commemorative gold crown bundt pan for many years to come. For more information or products, check out their website!