Of Roses and Buttercream

I still think of November as a barren time, a month of jackets and the hiss of dry leaves skittering across frozen roads.  But that was almost half a lifetime ago for me, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  In Maryland, November is still a time of roses.  November is also my sister in law’s birthday (this one a momentous round number) and so I made a cake for her party:

It is almond cake with buttercream and raspberry filling, an attempted reproduction of Grant and my wedding cake, which stands out in my memory as the Cake of All Cakes, the Ur cake, the Platonic Ideal of Cakeness.  Not just because it was our wedding cake, and I remember the day fondly – it was a damn good cake.  An aside here that has nothing to do with my point, which I will get to, which really is about gardening: I used Alice Waters’ recipe for almond cake this time, and it was less good than the last recipe I used for almond cake for my brother Nate’s birthday.  That one I found on Epicurious, and it had a higher almond past to flour and butter ratio.
To my point: Kyle’s cake is decorated with roses and sprays of raspberry leaves and unripe fruit.  In November.  I did not have to scrounge for the roses, or protect them for a week in hopes the tender buds would not get blasted.  I simply went into the garden on Saturday morning with my pruners, and cut some roses and raspberry sprays.  And Grant and I still talk about the year we picked tomatoes in his garden in a Baltimore row house the day after Christmas.  This all feels deeply weird to me, wrong, and far from my New England roots.  But…there are roses on the cake, and herbs in my cooking, and a couple of leeks yet to be eaten in the garden.  Maybe ten years of living in Maryland are simply not enough to accept that this gift of an extra month of garden harvest is for real.  I’ll have to try another ten.

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