Even as recently as high school, I recall taking it for granted that my mom’s identity was somehow singularly defined by motherhood – that, according to some unwritten and tacitly understood code of universal maternity, mothers were defined not by the lives they had led up to the moment of our births, but rather by their relationship to us, their children.
To me, my mom – my smart, sharp, wonderful, supportive mom – was therefore first and foremost a mother. Any other role she happened to inhabit – worker, wife, daughter, aunt, friend, sister – was incidental, almost like an afterthought meant to amplify her ability to continue to be, in my mind, the best mom in the world.
It really wasn’t until grad school, a period when I finally started coming into my own and following some of the paths I had laid out for myself, that I learned the most valuable lesson about her: not only is she more than a supporting actor – she’s a dreamer, a visionary, an enabler, and one heck of a strong woman in her own right.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m not surprised it took me so long to realize this. Growing up, I distinctly remember telling my mom that I would one day become a famous actress, to which she replied: “It’s fine to think about – but don’t get your hopes up.” Never one to mince words or sugarcoat the truth, my mom was (and still is) undoubtedly a realist, and this fact made it difficult for me to perceive how, at the core, she was also the greatest dreamer I have ever known.
So when I started blogging three years ago, the hobby concerned her: did I have enough time to study? Were there enough hours in the day? Was this an endeavor I meant to take seriously? I think it was only when I fully convinced her of my resolve to take blogging seriously last year that she switched gears (and, as with everything she does, she did it promptly): did I know that she had shared my blog with her coworkers today, and they had loved it? When was I going to bake next? Why didn’t I try working with more companies and networking?
Underneath all of these questions, she was asking me one core question, the most important one of all: Was I following my dreams?
A few months ago, when I landed a gig that I had been working toward for quite some time, I called my mom right away and I could instantly tell how overjoyed she was to hear the news. “Good. Good,” she said. “You’re finally getting somewhere, it’s good that you’re so happy about this and what you’re doing.” Then she added: “You know, you’re like your mom. I always had big dreams about what I was going to do and all of the things I wanted to accomplish.”
Reflecting on my mom’s life, as well as all of the circumstances leading up to that fateful moment twenty-odd years ago when she became “my mother,” I suddenly realized how much more I could value and respect her as an individual if I could get over the fact that she was “just” my mom. Yes, we are indelibly connected to one another biologically. But she is so much more than that connection.
She is not an amazing person because she is an amazing mother.
She is an amazing mother because she is an amazing, incredible, unparalleled person, one who deserves every happiness life has to offer.
I think this is something I have struggled to convey to her because, in some ways, I’m not sure I had articulated the thoughts very clearly in my own head up until now. I respect her for her dreams, come true or not; I admire her for her ability to triumph over circumstance, her willingness to find joy vicariously through my successes and keep me grounded at the same time. I appreciate her for her vivacity and unceasing energy, and most of all I love her for her unconditional ability to love.
So, if you’re reading this, Mom (and I know you will be!), know that when I call to say “Happy Mother’s Day!” today,. I mean all of the things that I have not been able to say out loud but have wanted to write here for such a long time. I love you so much!
While I couldn’t send this cake to her, obviously, I made it knowing that she would love it, not least of all because of my latest accomplishment via this unique cake idea: Folks, I am officially a finalist in the annual California Strawberry Festival! I will be bringing a version of this cake (not exactly this one–don’t want to spoil the surprise just yet!) next weekend to Oxnard, where myself and one other finalist will be cooking off in a one-hour contest for the grand prize in front of a panel of judges and (eeps!) hundreds of spectactors. They’ll be putting a mic and training cameras on me and the whole nine yards! You can read more coverage about the event here and here. Please send your best wishes my way, I’m super psyched (and maybe just a little bit nervous)! (More updates on that next week…)
Needless to say, my mom was INSANELY happy when she heard about this latest development, and her reaction just reaffirmed my sense that she has got to be one of the most generous people I have ever known.
Happy More-than-just-a-Mother’s Day, Mom!!
Who’s the more-than-just-a-mom in your life? Let me know in the comments!
- 4 eggs, room temeprature
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 (12 oz.) can cream of coconut (not coconut milk!)
- Toppings: strawberries, whipped cream, toasted shredded coconut
- Place a steaming rack inside a large (wide) pot and fill pot with water until rack is just covered. Cover pot and place over medium heat on stovetop; allow water to come to a slow boil while you prepare the cake.
- In a large metal bowl, beat eggs with a hand mixer until quite light (at least 3 minutes), then add sugar and continue beating until very pale and fluffy (another 5-6 minutes). Add baking powder to flour, then gently fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just incorporated. Pour half of the batter into a 6-inch metal or ceramic (i.e. heat-safe) round tin--be careful not to fill it more than halfway up the sides of your tin, since the steamed cake will rise.
- Carefully place the tin on the steaming rack, taking care not to let the boiling water go too far up the sides. Cover pot with a lid and allow cake to steam for approximately 15 minutes, until the cake has risen and has achieved a fluffy, pale yellow consistency. A toothpick or chopstick inserted in center should come out completely clean, but you can also push up the bottom slightly with a fork to check that it is fully cooked as well. (It should not look eggy or dark yellow at all.)
- Quickly remove steamed cake from pot and poke holes all over it with a chopstick. In a separate bowl, combine condensed milk and cream of coconut, then pour this mixture a bit at a time over the poked cake. Use a brush to help the milk mixture soak fully into the cake--you will want to use about 1/3 of the milk mixture for this step.
- Repeat steaming and soaking process for second cake layer.
- To layer cake: place a soaked cake layer on plate, top with whipped cream, layer with strawberries; repeat the process, then top with toasted coconut if desired. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before cutting and serving!
Looking for more ways to make Mother’s Day an unforgettable occasion? Don’t miss recipes from the rest of the Sunday Supper crew!
Starters and Salads
- Cheese Bread by Ninja Baker
- Classic Basil Pesto Crostini by Cooking Chat
- Fennel and Radish Citrus Salad by Tasting Page
- Healthy Ham Salad Minis by Momma’s Meals
- Pate with Spiced Pears by The Joyful Foodie
- Pesto Pasta Salad by Peanut Butter and Peppers
- Super Sunny Dutch Oven Sourdough by What Smells So Good?
- Ginger Shandy by Nosh My Way
- La Vie en Rose by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Momma’s Mimosaby Our Good Life
- Blackberry Almond Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast by The Crumby Cupcake
- Broccoli and Cheddar Frittata with Roasted Tomatoes by The Wimpy Vegetarian
- Coriander Salmon with Capered Green Beans by Cosmopolitan Cornbread
- Chicken Tajine with Prunes and Almonds by The Petit Gourmet
- Dal Makhani by Sustainable Dad
- Dutch Baby Pancake by Curious Cuisiniere
- Goat Cheese Scrambled Eggs and Ramps in Puff Pastry by The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
- Mimosa Waffles by Sew You Think You Can Cook
- Mushroom and Manchego Filled Crepes by Lifestyle Food Artistry
- Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Arugula Salad by Casa de Crews
- Smoked Salmon & Shaved Asparagus Gruyere Quiche with a Pine Nut Crust by Simply Healthy Family
Treats and Sweets
- Angel Food Cake in a Jar by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Black Cow Cupcakes by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Blueberry Breakfast Cake by Noshing With The Nolands
- Bourbon Peach Frozen Yogurt by Food Lust People Love
- Cherry Cheesecake Pastry Braid by The Redhead Baker
- Chicken and Pepper Rice with Fried Egg by Family Foodie
- Chinese Baked Tapioca Pudding by gotta get baked
- Crustless Creamy Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake by Magnolia Days
- Deluxe Salted Caramel Turtle Sundae by The Weekend Gourmet
- Gluten Free Strawberries and Cream Cake by Cupcakes & Kale Chips
- Lemon Blackberry Mini Tarts by Life Tastes Good
- Lemon Brownies by Pies and Plots
- Lemon Sunshine Cake Pop Bouquet by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Lightened Peach Cheesecake by Food Done Light
- Mini Chocolate Marshmallow Bombe Soufflé by Nik Snacks
- Mini Lemon Almond Cupcakes by Caroline’s Cooking
- Nutella Cheesecake Shooters by Fantastical Sharing of Recipes
- Pavlova by The Freshman Cook
- Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Raspberry Mascarpone Mini Tarts by Palatable Pastime
- Rose Apple Custard Tart by Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
- Soft-Baked Lemon Coconut Cookies by One Sweet Mess
- Steamed Strawberry Coconut Poke Cake with Whipped Coconut Cream by Wallflour Girl
- Triple Chocolate Layer Cake by Take A Bite Out of Boca
5 Favorite Pancake Toppings by Sunday Supper