There is Always too Much Space Around Me

We arrived in Seattle in the late afternoon September 1st after being in transit for what seemed like forever, despite my constant referring to the flight as "only 10.5 hours". The dogs had been picked up and taken to the airport many hours before us and we left our apartment earlier than was strictly necessary to head to the airport ourselves. I was angry and done. Our last interaction in Korea was being told a significant part of our deposit was going to be kept because the oven was too dirty and would be impossible to clean and that a screen door with a hole in it would need to be replaced despite there being a hole when we moved in. We had been living with our ceiling leaking copious amounts of water for 2.5 weeks and our super telling us to just put a bucket under it because he didn't want to fix it before we left. I had had argument after argument about whether or not it was just the central air leaking buckets of brown water and simply been told not to use the air conditioning. By the time the dogs were gone and we sat on our floor surrounded by our four suitcases to get us through our first few months back in the US while the rest of our possessions made their way slowly across the ocean, I was so done with Korea, I would rather spend my last few hours at the airport than spend a minute longer in the place I had worked hard to make our home for the previous two years.

We got lunch in a haze and then drove to the airbnb where we'd be living for a month while we settled in. Due to a miscommunication we were spending our first night upstairs with the homeowners instead of in our own basement apartment. Seattle felt frigid after the heat of Seoul's Summer but we lay on the bed upstairs with the window cracked open over the garden and I relaxed into myself thinking "oh, home". I'd never even been to Seattle before that day but the breeze coming through the window was the familiar scent of the pacific ocean mingled with evergreens and bay laurel.

The next few days we walked our dogs through the neighborhood and my body became reacquainted with how it could be normal to be too cold in the shade but too hot in the sun. I remembered layers for when the temperature dropped from 70 during the day to 50 as soon as the sun went down. My bones remembered the damp chill of my childhood, the way it settles into you and can only be gotten out with a cat nap in direct sunlight or soak in a hot tub. I marveled at the way the houses in Ballard could've just as easily been in North Berkeley. Set back from the sidewalk, raised yards "rewilded" with rosemary growing over my head and lavender spilling over onto the sidewalk. Wild thyme pushed its way through cracks and patches of mint grew in the untended strips of grass by the curb. Momentarily I understand why people not from these places are so charmed by them. Clean sea air and the smell of fresh herbs while walking through a city.

Excited to speak English without slowing down my speech or thinking carefully about what words to best use so I'd be understood, I ordered coffee in a rush " CanIGetTwoColdBrews?" and was met with a blank stare. I had forgotten that ordering quickly was the courtesy of a New Yorker, that "canIgeta..." or "gimme a..." are not how we start sentences on this coast, that first I must make eye contact and small talk and pretend I want to talk about my dog instead of get this over with as quickly as possible while he howls and cries outside, not yet over the separation anxiety that came with the long flight. I walk out with two coffees, more overwhelmed than I would've been stumbling through my order in Korean or pointing and miming in China or Japan.

The grocery store is also surprisingly confusing. Despite having gone back and forth between the two coasts my whole life, my brain decided to make a permanent switch when I moved to New York. Best Foods was Hellman's, non-fat milk became skim, sugar was Domino not C&H, but here I was back in a Safeway trying to buy mayonnaise and feeling like I had returned not from two and a half years abroad but that maybe I had just been living in a very slightly different parallel universe.

Objectively I know Seattle is a growing city and I guess I can understand why natives now find it crowded but after 3 years in New York and 2 years in Asia, it feels like a ghost town. There are so many homes and so much new construction but where are the people. How can I get on a bus at mid day and be the only passenger? Why can I walk blocks and blocks through the city and often not pass more the 2 or 3 other walkers?

There is always too much space around me.

Dan says our time in Korea doesn't feel real but I've been here in Seattle 4 months now and it has passed in a dreamlike haze. I try to pay attention and focus, to find the small things that will make me fall in love with the city but instead I'm usually lost in my own thoughts, thinking of the places I've been or could be, unable to ground myself in the place where I am.

Funfetti from Scratch

I first learned about the magic that is making funfetti from scratch when I was team leading a New York Care's cooking class in the Bronx. While my classes were ostensibly supposed to focus on healthy cooking, my Bronx class happened on the weekends and was three hours to create a whole meal including dessert (don't ever tell my East Harlem kids who met for one hour after school and only got to make desserts near the holidays). I tended to focus my classes on familiar foods for which I could buy all the ingredients at the local Pathmark but made from scratch. So, corn flake crusted baked chicken tenders, take out style fried rice and chow mein, mac and cheese, etc and then occasionally throw in something new, like kale chips. (Seriously, these kids loved kale chips, one semester we made them at least four times by request).

The first time I made funfetti cake, we made it using leftover ricotta from the lasagna that was our main course. Yep, I took a ricotta based cake, which sounds pretty adult and fancy and I funfettied it. Because it turns out, all you need to do to make a cake "funfetti" is add a cup (more or less) of sprinkles to whatever white or yellow cake you're making and you'll get those confetti dots inside when it bakes up.

Last week I got a freelance request for a friend's husbands birthday for a cake shaped like America. When I asked the flavor, my friend said "not chocolate-y and moist". At first I offered a vanilla and lemon curd cake but then I asked if she wanted to go all out American and have a funfetti cake. This cake was maybe one of the most ridiculous things I've ever made and a resounding success.

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 7 oz (1 3/4 stick) room temperature Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 4 Eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/3 cups AP Flour*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

Frosting:

  • 12 oz (3 sticks) Butter, softened
  • 5-7 cups Powdered Sugar (sifted)
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1/2 cup Rainbow Sprinkles

The Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9"x13" (quarter sheet sized) cake pan.
  2. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla extract and lemon juice. Mix in flour in two parts with the mixer on low and then mix on high for three minutes to aerate the batter. Fold in sprinkles.
  3. Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and just starting to pull away at the edges. Cool in pan for ten minutes on a wire rack and then invert directly onto the rack and cool completely before assembly.
  4. Yes, it really is that easy.

The Frosting

  1. Cream together butter, salt, vanilla and five cups of powdered sugar until smooth and fluffy add up to two cups more powdered sugar for your own personal consistency and taste. Mix in the sprinkles. You've just made funfetti frosting. Try not to make it every day now.

Assembly:

Of course, you have a couple of options here. You could just frost the outside of the cake and leave it at that or you could cut it in half and frost the middle and outsides, you could turn it in to one big U.S.A or you can make a smaller, double layered U.S.A. which is the option for which I'm writing instructions.

  1. Cut your cooled cake in half. Place one layer on a cakeboard and spread with a generous even layer of frosting, place the other half on top. Stick this in the fridge for fifteen minutes to firm up.
  2. Draw or print an outline of America (or any shape you want) that will fit within the dimensions of the cook hanging out in the fridge. Cut out the outline.
  3. Remove the cake from the fridge and place the outline on top, you can use a couple of dabs of frosting to hold it in place if you want. Use a paring knife to cut around the outline. Remember, you don't have to do this all in one go, use the picture in the upper right square as an example for how to cut parts of the coastline away.
  4. The sides of the cake are going to be pretty crumbly, so this is a time when it's pretty crucial to crumb coat your cake. Crumb coating is when you spread a thing layer of frosting over your entire cake to act as a base layer to seal in the crumbs so they don't mix in with the frosting. After you've crumb coated the cake, stick it back in the fridge for another fifteen to twenty minutes to set up.
  5. After your cake has set up, give it it's final, generous layer of frosting, on a cake this size, you're bound to lose some of the details of the coast (sorry, Puget Sound) try not to worry about it too much, I promise your guests (or client) won't care.
  6. This cake can be stored at room temperature if your house isn't too warm but in the Summer months I'd recommend sticking it in a sealed container in the fridge.