In early May, the innocent evening sky
Can turn dark and prophetic
If you wander out at twilight
Thinking of feeding the birds
And inadvertently glance up
At fast-moving clouds,
Deep violet against the pale, watery sunset.
Suddenly you think of Druids,
Dark oaks dripping with ancient mosses,
Dank with May moisture.
You hear the call of long-ago spirits,
The clack of thrown diving stones.
The iris at your feet,
Ordinary in the afternoon,
Take on cloud shapes in the wind’s riffle,
Their color the dark mauve
Of a northern gloaming.
You hope for something more.
May’s evening breeze,
Too soft to move the strong lilies,
Touches the wisteria’s new lavender blooms,
Clustered like graceful fingers
Pointing down at the sacred ground.
A dove in silence feeds on scattered seeds,
And the air’s light currents
Suddenly gust through the deep green rose leaves
And up to the eucalyptus’ tangled top.
My heart stops there;
Then as the dove lifts up
On the wind-breath,
My heart flies with her wings.
When I first started writing this blog in 2016, I titled it “Tea and Travels.” Back then, Wayne and I traveled every year to some place we had never been before, eager to experience the history, art, culture, food, and of course tea and coffee customs of each new destination. I thought this pattern would continue. Then covid arrived, and my expectations had to change. Change is a natural aspect of human experience and can be good. And a curious mind can learn plenty without leaving home. You are welcome to review my earlier blogs, chronologically listed, right on this website, to share our food and fun adventures in lots of exciting places throughout the world. But when the covid crisis started to wane, and we accepted the fact that we would not be visiting Japan, a country we both love, any time in the near future, Wayne and I talked about the places we have visited and the experiences we might still want to pursue.
We agreed that London would be worth visiting again, since “Tea” is the first word in the title of my blog, and Kathleen’s wonderful April 2022 blog featured the delightful art show “Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Once we made the decision, Wayne secured tickets to the Beatrix Potter Show and made reservations for Afternoon Tea at the Savoy Hotel and Claridge’s, two of the classic venues for traditional tea in London. Our thoughts raced on to the fact that we have never traveled through the “Chunnel,” and that there were several places in France that we had never visited. We found an excellent history and art tour that would take us to London, for two days of museums and Afternoon Tea, then through the Channel Tunnel and on to Paris by train, followed by a river boat cruise down the Seine.
I am hoping in future blogs to share our adventures at the Palace of Versailles, the Gardens of Giverny, where Monet, one of our favorite artists, created his magnificent waterlily paintings, the glorious Rouen Cathedral, Bayeux, home to the famous, almost one thousand-year-old tapestry, and the beaches of Normandy of World War II fame, among other moments still unimagined. We realize that not everyone feels ready or able to travel during these unpredictable times, but we look forward to this adventure with joyful expectation, and we promise to be good sports if these plans also fail to materialize due to circumstances beyond our control.
Meanwhile, we need to think about Mother’s Day, one of the most important days in the month of May. Since Wayne and I are elders, our mothers, Misae and Betty, are no longer living, both having been born in 1918 and died in 2010, but they will never be forgotten. Our long journey from Honolulu to London will begin the day after Mother’s Day with a stopover in Los Angeles to visit the last living family member of our parents’ generation, Wayne’s precious auntie, also named Rose Higashi, who celebrated her one-hundredth birthday in January. Every mother is precious, and I hope that all will be honored on this special day.
I continue to believe that Afternoon Tea is the best way to celebrate our mothers. What could be better than being the Guest of Honor at a special tea party? Your mother will not have to cook or clean up or participate in any of the planning. She can just get dressed up, if she wants to, and bask in the pure joy of being genuinely appreciated by all of the other guests. Obviously, this is not the time to remember any of your mother’s mistakes or character flaws. This is your moment to get on the high road and create the loveliest springtime setting you can imagine with your best dishes, linens and teapot and fresh, tasty and festive food.
- ½ cup butter (1 cube), melted
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 large lightly beaten eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- ½ cup flour
- ¼ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Cooking spray for the pan
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut (such as Angel Flake)
- ½ cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 2 ¼ cups whole milk or half and half, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup whole toasted almonds
For the Dark Chocolate Glaze:
- 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
- ½ cup (1 cube) butter
Special equipment: 9-inch springform pan, parchment, glass measuring cup, large mixing bowl, wooden spoon, 2 wire cooling racks, foil, cookie sheet, medium saucepan, rubber spatula, attractive serving platter, plastic wrap
Makes: 12-16 small servings
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Make the Brownie Layer. Cut 2 rounds of parchment to fit the bottom of the 9-inch springform pan and 3 strips of parchment to fit the interior sides of the pan. Spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray and fit the two parchment rounds into the bottom and the strips around the inside. Spray again with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Cut the butter into chunks into a glass measuring cup. Microwave at 30-second intervals until the better is melted, about 1 ½ minutes total. Pour the butter into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and beat lightly with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and beat lightly again. Add all the remaining Brownie ingredients: vanilla, cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon, and beat with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, and bake in the 350-degree pre-heated oven for 25 minutes. Do not over-bake. Place on a wire rack to cool. Do not turn off the oven.
- Make the Coconut Cream Layer. If the almonds are not already toasted, cover a large baking sheet with foil and scatter 1 cup of almonds over the sheet. Place the sheet in the hot oven and toast the almonds for about 10 minutes, stirring them with a rubber spatula a few times to make sure they brown evenly. Remove the almonds to a wire rack to cool when they are lightly toasted and fragrant. Turn off the oven.
- Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add the remaining ingredients for the Coconut Cream except the vanilla: coconut, sugar, flour and milk. Cook and stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture is bubbly and very thick, about 10 minutes or longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Cool to room temperature; then refrigerate for about 1 hour until the mixture is set.
- Assembly and Glaze: While the Brownie Layer is still in the springform pan, remove the parchment strips around the sides and spoon the Coconut Cream over the Brownie Layer as evenly as possible. Gently press the toasted almonds into the coconut cream to make the top of the cake as smooth and even as possible, but don’t worry about it. The top of this cake does not have to be perfectly smooth. Either cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or continue.
- Carefully remove the cake from the springform pan, removing the parchment on the bottom, and place the cake on an attractive serving platter. Break the dark chocolate into chunks into a glass measuring cup and add the butter, cut into chunks. Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring, until the mixture is perfectly smooth. Set the glaze aside for a few minutes to firm up a little. Pour the glaze over the cake and allow it to drip down the sides. Let the cake stand at room temperature for about half an hour. To serve, cut into small slices with a sharp knife. Enjoy!