Baking a Coconut Cake for John Egerton

My Southern Foodways class culminated this evening with a class dinner at the lovely home of one of my professors [writer Alice Randall–read her new book, Rebel Yell! :)].  Our honorary guest was Southern food writer and scholar John Egerton.  We read his Southern Food for class, so it was great opportunity meeting him.  My professors asked me to bake my coconut cake, which is a recipe adapted from Consuming Passions: A Food Obsessed Life by Michael Lee West, one of my mom’s favorite books.  I make it with local and organic/natural ingredients and tweak a few things here and there.  It was a big hit when I baked it for my class earlier in the semester, but I was nervous about making it for THE John Egerton.

My coconut cake was only a small part of a wonderful vegetarian “locavore” Southern meal that my professors put together.  First of all, the dining room was decorated beautifully.  I felt like I was in a magazine.  We started with three little bread crackers that were spread with three different local pepper jellies.

The main course was a hearty soup of collard greens, black-eyed peas, and more, swimming in Alice’s special sweet potato broth. (It’s so difficult to photograph soup in an appetizing way, but I can assure you it was delicious!)  A cornbread madeleine accompanied the soup. (You can see it on the plate in the picture above.)

Afterward, we had pears poached in a local wine, along with local goat cheese and honey.  The pears looked like jewels and were absolutely delicious.  I am definitely going to try making this sometime because it’s so simple and elegant.

Finally, it was time for dessert, strawberries, caramel cake, and my coconut cake.  I cut the first slice for Mr. Egerton and to my delight he loved it!  He said it was gorgeous and delicious, and that his cake wasn’t as good as mine.  Needless to say, I was pretty ecstatic.  My classmates also enjoyed it; one guy exclaimed, “HOW DO YOU DO THIS? IT’S SO GOOD,” and one girl joked that she wanted to marry me.   One of my professors took a slice home to her husband so he would experience what she’d been raving about since the first time I baked it.

Egerton had lots of interesting stories, and he was so kind.  He even gave me the contact info for his son since he lives in Dallas, where I’ll be moving to in the summer.  So now I sit in my room, with inflated stomach and inflated ego.   Can’t think of a better way to finish a class.

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