southern comfort coconut cake
For someone who loves Nashville so blindly, I haven’t really lived here in eight years. I usually have no idea how to get anywhere and haven’t heard of anything. Salem Town? Riverside Village? What do you mean there’s a restaurant with a bowling alley inside? After spending a few more nights outside of the comfort of my parents’ home that’s currently doubling as a praline factory, I know this much to be true: Nashville is full of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, even if the city has slowly but surely been infiltrated by hipsters from other major American cities during my absence. I really don’t know what to do about it besides let them eat the cake. You know what I mean?
me, jennie, katy, madeline
My sweet LA friends Christiana and Jonathan came through earlier this week, and I was super excited to tour them around the city. They were up for cakebarring when they landed, so after devouring some barbecue at Jim and Nick’s, we headed to Paradise Park downtown, my friend Cameron’s very favorite bar in Nashville. Paradise Park is on the main strip of Broadway, surrounded by honky tonks and boot stores. The bar has arcade games and live music and scratched up picnic tables, an oddly nostalgic mash up of decor. My precious friend/Nashville native Katy and her equally precious sister Jennie had stopped by to join us, in addition to my own sister and a bunch of her high school friends. Claire, who will one day run our country, was raring to go. “How does this work? Who should I talk to? Can we start?”
The music got louder and the crowd got bigger, with more and more of the bargoers turning out to be people I slowly recognized as my sister’s classmates, their child faces visible in their grown up bodies. Gosh, they grow up so fast… We met a guy who’d just moved to Nashville from Tuscaloosa, and another visiting from Miami who gave me a kiss on his way out. “I’d love to stay and hang out with you girls, but my cousins are making me go to Honky Tonk Central.” All of us kept asking our cake eaters if they were from Nashville, something I don’t think we were even conscious of; I guess we’re just always looking to catch other natives.
Jennie gets a gold star for her first and only cakebarring mission of 2013, cheerfully hacking away at the Mississippi mud cake I’d made from Southern Living, which while delicious proved extremely difficult to cut into with its crispy marshmallow layer. She performed surgery on almost the entire cake, with the last pieces going to the band.
nashville natives / cake eater friends
jonathan & christiana, relaying boy wisdom
cake surgeons jennie & katy
thumbs up from the band
Sunday’s cakebarring was planned as a kind of high school reunion with friends who ended up all coming down sick. My friend Meagan was the only healthy one who came through, powering through the cold and remnants of a cough to drive us to the Pinewood Social, where I had changed our reservation from 6 to 5 to 4 and then back to 5 after my sweet sister and our friends Hannah and Elizabeth said they would join us. The Pinewood Social just opened, a giant lofty lounge, bar, and restaurant designed for optimal socializing with a flipping bowling area in the back. The hosts, hostess, and waiting staff seemed friendly and flustered, vaguely available to us for all our needs, serving us poetic cocktails and cool appetizers that were explained upon delivery. We took in our options, the place quiet and calm at about half full. “That guy wants some cake,” said Meagan, as some dude in a sweater vest danced his way in. The group in the booth next to us looked like they were most definitely famous, and probably in a band. And now they were eyeing my bourbon brushed coconut cake, a super involved Southern Living masterpiece my aunt Pam had recommended to make my mom for her birthday. It is a gorgeous, airy, butter brimming cloud, just maybe the best cake I’ve made all year.
Would you like some of our cake?” we asked the rock stars. And then we were friends.
presumed rock stars
These folks weren’t actually in a band, but artists and aid workers who help Syrians in Jordan. “Are you a celebrity?” I asked one of the beautiful girls, who was sweet and smiling. “No, I’m no one. I mean, I’m someone, but I’m no one,” she said. She looked like an Urban Outfitters model but so much nicer. One of the guys, a friendly artist named Fancy with a black goatee and bleached blonde hair, shook my hand after I pitched the table my project. “I love you and what you’re about.”
I gave cake to a Vanderbilt grad student and his friend from Alabama while Hannah and Elizabeth made offers to the bachelor party near the bowling alley. I peeked into a tiny side area with an open curtain and made out two guys sitting with a blonde girl. “Should l offer cake to them?” I asked. “They’re sitting off to the side,” Madeline said. “I don’t think you should.” “But I’m offering cake to everyone,” I said back, and forgot about it as soon as our second order of fried cheese curds arrived. Meagan and I were making a circle around the bar when I ran into my dear friend Kelly, who I met in eighth grade when we were assigned to be piano duet partners. She and I had made plans to see each other that morning that had fallen through, so it was the loveliest surprise that she was suddenly participating in cakebarring. (Of the two of us, she’s the far superior baker; she actually does it for a living, which entails waking up at 4AM on a regular basis.)
“Did you see Ke$ha?” she asked. “She was in that room off to the side over there.”
YOU GUYS. I ALMOST OFFERED THE MUSICAL ARTIST KE$HA SOME OF MY COCONUT CAKE.
elizabeth, hannah, and madeline
me & meagan
tennessee state piano duet winners, 2005
don’t even worry about it