Today was supposed to be the happiest day for two people. One person: A beautiful, witty and truly unique lady. The other: A fantastic, generous, wacky, brilliant guy.
Spike, today was going to be your day. You finally found your dreamboat, Grace. Who seemed to come from nowhere into your life and we, your friends, welcomed her as your soul mate.
Grace, today was going to be your day. You found the match made just for you, Spike. Who adored you so much. It was beautiful to see, and with ease and open arms we made you a part of our “family.”
But today was not to be what you intended. It went off not according to plans, and while the love is still there and will forever be, it has been rendered intangible–just a memory. Some of the best memories that people who knew Spike could ever hope to have.
But, in all this, Spike would not have wanted too much sadness. He was all about life, living, giving, loving, building and creating. He would not have wanted us to feel like anything was amiss, he would want us only to build something new from the pieces we were left holding. Spike built things for all of us. Thing we can hold in our hands, and things we can hold in our hearts. The things in our hearts are the more important of the two, but sometimes it helps to see the bits and pieces you left behind you. The little handmade treasures that we took for granted while you were still here.
I can’t speak for the huge community of people that Spike’s life touched. I can only speak for myself. I am going to build something for you Spike, and I know just what it will be.
I was going to build it for today, for you both, but now I will build it for tomorrow. For the lives you would have touched. For the lives who will go on remembering you. It will be a little different than we planned, but it will be special nonetheless, and it will be sweeter than ever before. Because, it will have a little something extra–a little Spike, if you will, in the batter. It will be the best cake you ever had, Spike Perry, and even though you won’t get to eat any, we will all think of you when we sit down to enjoy it.
But even more than that, we will enjoy the company we savor it with, because that’s how you would have wanted it.
Lemon Poppyseed Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
Serves 8-10, Adapted from Baking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America
For the cake:
2 1/2 C. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1 Tbsp lemon zest
4 large eggs
1 1/4 C buttermilk
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp poppy seeds, optional
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease and flour two 8″ cake pans. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, creaming until very smooth and light in texture. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
Alternating the flour mixture with the buttermilk, incorporate the remaining ingredients in 3 batches, mixing on low and scraping down the sides as needed. Once everything is in the bowl, add the lemon juice and mix for another minute or so, until it’s light and smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, and bake until the center springs back when gently pressed, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pans on a wire rack. Let cool all the way before frosting.
For the buttercream:
2 C unsalted butter, room temp, cut into 1″ cubes
5 egg whites
1/4 cup water, plus extra for washing
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp good vanilla extract
Place the egg whites in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer.
In a heavy saucepan, boil the sugar and water together. When it comes to a boil, use a pastry brush to “wash” the sides of the pan to remove any stray sugar crystals. Insert a candy thermometer.
When the mixture reaches 130ºF, begin whipping the egg whites on high, until they reach a stiff peak. Once the sugar reaches 140ºF, and with the mixer still going on high, slowly (and carefully!) pour a thin stream of sugar syrup into the bowl, using all of the syrup. Allow the meringue to whip until cool, about 5-7 minutes.
Turn the mixer down to medium, and slowly add the butter. Once it’s all incorporated, turn it off, scrape down the sides, and then continue to mix on high until the frosting is smooth. Blend in the vanilla extract.
You can use the buttercream right away, or refrigerate for up to several weeks in the coldest part of the fridge. Let it come to room temp and then mix it with a paddle until smooth before using, if you choose to store it. It also freezes very well, so if you have extra, don’t throw it away! Save it for when you need to share a little treat with a loved one.