May 1st was the day that I officially turned 39 1/2 years old. It passed without any notice form anyone, without any hoopla, cake or presents. It was, as they say, just an ordinary day.
However, 40 looms much closer than it did before. Suddenly I am closer to my 40's than my 30's. Suddenly, I realize my time has come. I will be 40 and as time marches on, I cannot avoid it any longer. Somehow I have started celebrating a birthday that has yet to come. Earlier this week, friend JEL treated me to something of a dream - GLEE live tour! As a professed GLEEK, my heart was eagerly anticipating the event. I counted down the days to going to this concert, asked mom in law to watch the kids for me, planned the day down to the minute as coordinating three kids, meals and an hour drive to the concert location takes some effort.
When we arrived to the concert arena, JEL reached over hugged me and said, "Happy Birthday!"
"Are you trying to turn me 40 before my time?"
Laughingly she asked," "Do 40-year-old women have mid life crises?" (This question probably because we've both watched our respective husbands display some erratic behavior after turning 40)
"Yes. I'm planning mine. I've made some appointment to see some plastic surgeons for some work on my face," I responded jokingly. Mentally I thought, why would I have a mid-life crisis? I'm so mature, accepting and at peace with the whole 40 thing.
We ran into the concert and waited eagerly for all that was to happen. I scanned the audience and it was clear that I was one of the oldest people there without a child. There were clearly many moms present, but they had their kids with them as an excuse. I had come with three other people, none of them under the age of 35. I sat down in my chair (EXCELLENT seats) and prepared to enjoy the concert, much as one would enjoy a play, quietly, in my seat as mature people do.
But it seems that the true crowning moment of the evening was when I jumped up screaming Finn's name until I was hoarse and acted like an insane teenager. (Truthfully I think I might have been worse than the calm teenagers around me.) I grabbed JEL's hand and forced her to do the same maniacal behavior for about 10 minutes until my aging body could do it no longer. Ah...it seems that I am primed for a midlife crisis.
As I prepare for that very crisis, I'm going to make this cake. It's the perfect cake which defines my coming 40's - elegant yet casual, simple yet special, portable and ready to move at the drop of the hat.
It is coconut with lovely vanilla notes, with an incredibly moist texture.
Vanilla Coconut Cake in a Pan
adapted from Ina Garten’s Coconut Cake
Makes a 9X13 cake (12 to 16 large pieces)
¾ pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean split, seeds removed
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup coconut milk (from the carton, not the can - I like So Delicious brand)
¾ cup shredded sweetened coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9X13 pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the coconut milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the ¾ cup of coconut with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter evenly into the pan and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes..
2 sticks (½ lb) of unsalted butter, softened
8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups of confectioners sugar
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
Cream together butter and cream cheese until uniform consistency. Add vanilla extract and mix again. Add confectioners sugar and beat until everything is incorporated.
Spread frosting over cake in a single layer over fully cooled cake. Sprinkle top with coconut.