They say everything changes when you have a baby. In some ways, this is true. Since the birth of my twins last year, I’ve discovered a few things. For one, there is no such thing as a “quick trip” to Publix. And two, I no longer have any expectation of privacy. (What? You mean I used to be able to go to the bathroom by myself? That seems like a foggy memory of days long since passed.)
Despite all this, not everything has changed. With time at a premium, my true passions have come into greater focus: running, travel, food, writing, and of course…books.
These things have not changed and I assume never will.
So, when my sister-in-law, Diana (a recent graduate of Oregon State University) got me a present a few months ago I couldn’t have been more excited to see that it was a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, I’ll Take you There. She lucked out…it was one I hadn’t read. But this was no ordinary copy. Diana had Ms. Oates personally sign it for me, a fact that literally thrilled me beyond words!
The unnamed protagonist in I’ll Take you There, though a bibliophile in her own rite, sadly, never experiences the type of joy that I did at the receipt of this gift. She is “too smart for her own good” and the outcast of her college sorority (and family, too, for that matter). Her passion for philosophy culminates into an obsessive relationship with a fellow student, named Vernor, a Black man (of course, this is taboo for upstate New York in the 1960s) to whom she’s drawn based on his remarks in a lecture hall. Though she doesn’t know it initially, but Vernor spotted her some weeks prior during her ritual of scrounging for food out of the trash cans: “it was the caterers’ cartons that caught my eye in the trash, the aftermath of Saturday night parties, leftover canapés, caviar jars where always some caviar remained, even deviled eggs, or parts of eggs, bread sticks, even, once, a sizeable portion of an angel’s food wedding cake” (60).
While I, of course, cannot condone the practice of eating garbage—you have to admit—the girl clearly has a refined palate. If you’re going to do something, do it well, I always say. With that said, why eat a regular old angel’s food cake (bor-ring!) when you could have a delectable, sumptuous pecan praline angel food cake? This cake is rich and delicious and so worth digging through the garbage for.
Pecan Praline Angel Food Cake
10 egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
2 cups brown sugar, packed and divided
1 ¼ cups cake flour
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup butter
¼ cup whipped cream
½ cup pecans, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350
Place egg whites and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and salt and beat until soft peaks form. Break up 1 cup of brown sugar and sprinkle into the mixture. Whip until stiff peaks form.
Meanwhile, add the remaining 1 cup of brown sugar, pecans, and flour in a separate bowl and mix well.
Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg whites a little at a time. Pour into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan. Back at 350 for 50 minutes or until cake is springy.
Invert pan and cool completely. Loosen cake from the sides with a thin knife and then turn cooled cake upright on a serving platter. Pour glaze over the top, spreading to even out. Allow it to run down the sides of the cake.
Combine brown sugar, sugar, butter, and whipping cream in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until just boiling. Cook and stir until mixtures researches the soft ball stage (238 degrees). Remove from heat and stir in pecans. Pour over cake.