Spelt Birthday Layer Cake with Honey-Sweetened Raspberry Whipped Cream

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I AM WRITING THIS POST FROM MY DINING ROOM, alongside a giant piece of leftover cake. Tim’s gone at a meeting, and I’m facing a front window, from which I have now seen my neighbor add and take things from at least three different people’s trash bins this bright and sunny Trash Day, and everything’s as quiet as it is in the middle of the night. Actually, I take that last sentence back. The neighbor’s terrier just got loose, and a woman walking down the street with her dog just became the middle of a barking, frenzied confrontation. But, ah, the neighbor’s wife is coming out! The loose terrier is lolling in the grass and being rubbed! Now, all is quiet again.

Last night was my turn to host book club, the first time since we launched this monthly meetup back at the start of the year. There are nine of us in the group, ten if you count Emmie who got a job in Chattanooga this summer and now reads along with us from two hours away. When you host, you make snacks, and for Tim’s and my sakes, it’s probably good book club is always at the end of the month when it meets, because that way, when everyone comes over on the last Tuesday of August, I know not to spend a hundred dollars on food as the end-of-the-month food budget is noticeably smaller—but, for my book club’s sake, it’s also good my turn happened to fall in the month of August because I am the fresh recipient of my parents’ annual Whole Foods gift card as a birthday gift, and so yesterday afternoon Tim ran to the grocery after his meetings and came home bearing the makings of all the fresh vegetables, fruit, butter, flour and cream I could want.

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Before he’d left that morning, I’d seen a tall birthday cake on Pinterest and told him how I wanted to try one. It was a sort of ambitious just-before-guests-come project to take on, especially for a girl who would list layer cakes among her top five most scary things to bake (it’s the frosting! hand me a spatula with whipped cream and I freeze!), but when I’d finished my hours for the day and he came home with brown paper bags, he helped me mix and bake and assemble things. He also spread most of the frosting. Everything was going beautifully until I decided to pull out the parchment strips I’d criss-crossed underneath the cake (“So the cake plate will be pretty and frosting-free!”) and ended up breaking the cake apart. PANIC! The end result was a large, pink, dense, moist layer cake—smooshed back together and slightly tilted to one side, like a sort of Leaning Tower of Cake hidden beneath all that whipped cream. With spelt or other heavy flours, it’s hard to achieve the same lightness of crumb and fluffy texture that defined the cake mixes of our childhoods, so the cake wasn’t as tall as I’d hoped, despite its three layers. The frosting job wasn’t perfect. And in the process of assembling things, I’d managed to spread cake crumbs all over the kitchen, from the stove burners to the floor.

“Oh, well,” I said out loud to the kitchen after Tim had left again and my book club friends were on their ways. “It’s just another rustic.”

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Sparkling Raspberry Lemonade + Sam’s Club Book Giveaway

I’ve gone to bulk warehouses since I was a kid, tagging along with Dad while he ran errands. My dad worked a lot of nights when I was young, building the cleaning business that he and my mom had started just before I was born. The way they tell the story, in the early days, they mopped up apartments for a local university, my mom then heavy with child. They had me, then my brother, and meanwhile the company grew. By the time I was in elementary school, there were several accounts to keep up with, taking Dad away from us most nights. So to make up for it, he’d take me with him—to work and on errands, the two of us riding together into the night sky.

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My dad, who sports short, graying hair and a neatly trimmed moustache, stands 5’10”, which today is just two-and-a-half inches higher than me, but I’ve always had to jog to keep up with him. When we’d arrive at the almost-empty parking lot of a shiny office building, I’d be trotting behind his white sneakers, pumping my arms to keep up. Wearing the same pleated Dockers and collared shirts he still wears every day, whether it’s Monday morning or Saturday afternoon, he’d be talking with employees about sealants and floor polishers and machinery, and I’d be hanging behind, hunting for a vending machine.

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It was the same when we went shopping. In the beginning, I think we went for work supplies, but later, we went just as often for laundry detergent or water or something else my family was in the habit of buying in bulk. While he’d be on a mission to get the items on his list, I’d be scoping out cases of candy or granola or chips. I’ve always been able to count on Dad for snacks. It’s one of the main things we share, besides our dark skin and giant smiles and ability to talk in-depth for hours: we like keeping foods on hand that are easy to grab and eat. Cashews, almonds, dark chocolate, dried bananas. We could go to Sam’s Club for fabric softener, but we’d emerge with a bin of something tasty I’d be able to break into and eat fistfuls of in the car. I knew this as well as I knew my name.

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Today, living in Nashville, Tim and I have bulk memberships of our own. This feels as much a proof of our adulthood as voting or paying bills. When we walk up to our local warehouse, flashing cards with our pictures on them to gain entrance inside, we’re essentially announcing to the salesperson and our fellow shoppers and anyone who sees us that we are responsible. We plan for the future. We buy toilet paper in advance.

Never mind the fact that both our memberships have been gifted to us (the first as a birthday gift last August; the next, directly from Sam’s Club, who wants us to talk here about the warehouse shopping experience and a summer promotion they’ve got going on). From the first moment we walked those aisles together, calculating the savings on a giant bag of frozen organic fruit versus the 16-ounce bags from the grocery store, we were hooked. Generally speaking, we look to buy local and to support small business, but true confessions: if you show us a 12-ounce container of organic raspberries at Sam’s for $3.99 ($3.99!), we’re sold.

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A few weeks ago, we used our new membership to buy 24 ounces of fresh organic raspberries, a bag of lemons and a case of Pellegrino, which we took home and turned into this refreshing, sparkling summer drink. It’s part of Sam’s Club’s current “Fruit Cooler” challenge, wherein they’re inviting bloggers to create refreshing summer recipes based on produce from their stores.

As part of the project, they’re giving away one of their beautiful cookbooks, “Fresh, Fast and Fabulous,” to a commenter on this post (will be chosen Friday morning Congratulations, Kendra!). They’d also love you to try the challenge in your own home. The idea’s not that different from the way my dad and I have always shopped together: go into the store, hunt down what you like—although, I will grant, my preferences today lean more towards organic produce or cases of oranges than they do towards candy bars—take it home and, enjoy.

For more information on Sam’s Club produce, visit SamsClub.com/meals.

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