If you have read this blog for a little bit, you know my love for theme parties. I can whip out a menu for a theme party faster than you can say, "why don't we just keep it simple?" I hold out hope that someone will honor my life well and give me a themed funeral. Morbid? Maybe a little. Or maybe it's AWESOME.
So when we decided (I don't know what term to use here- agreed? Followed the call? Were anesthetized and taken to?) to move to Katy, the most rational next step in my mind was to have my people over for a backyard movie party. In the middle of January. On the night of some big football playoff game. Because PRIORITIES.
I'd wanted to have this specific party for a while, a Walter Mitty movie party with clementine cake, but there never seemed to be time for it. When I knew we would be leaving I started planning that party with a quickness- for my own weird coping mechanism, for the sake of theme parties everywhere, and for the love of my house.
We nicknamed our house The Bethany House shortly after we moved in, after the town where Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, because our prayer was for it to be a place of healing and resurrection. It was also one of the places Jesus repeatedly visited, to rest and receive Mary and Martha's hospitality. Our house was built (at least) in the 1940's and is small enough for a realtor to call it a bungalow, or a realist to call it an animal cracker box. I get weepy when I think of how many people came through those doors and sat at our table on mismatched chairs, how many times we stayed up late talking around the fire pit, how our prayer for that house was answered time and time again, in other people and in us. I think of the way even the chore of washing dishes became meditative, because of the way the light filtered through the leaves of our Chinese tallow tree and made patterns on the kitchen floor. That light through the windows inspired in me a daily response of thankfulness. There is no more perfect light in the world than in that kitchen.
Our house has a separate garage with a white wall that doubles as the perfect movie projector screen, and leaves plenty of space for blankets and lawn chairs between it and the fence. It's like it was designed for backyard movie parties. It's like the Lord predestined the movie party house for me. So that Monday as the sun sank behind the church across the street, we spread out blankets and hung twinkle lights. I improvised a table from the half-wine barrel we used at our wedding and a large shutter my uncle made us and set vases of tulips on it. We put an oversized bowl of popcorn in our vintage yellow suitcase and filled a galvanized tub with ice and drinks. My mom brought queso because Texas and comfort food and we enjoy being Good At Life.
We talked. We watched the movie. We ate clementine cake. And I tried to soak in every bit of that scene. The lights and the friends and the way our house was always at its finest when it had people we loved in it. And I wondered how anyone else could ever live in that house as well as we did. How anyone could ever live there with all our memories still echoing off the walls. But someone will. And we'll live here in this apartment with a dishwasher and two bathrooms and a washing machine that doesnt have a 'launch sequence.' And there will be new memories to make and new parties to throw and new cakes to bake, but this particular clementine cake and the memory that goes with it will always be so dear.
clementine upside down cakes
slightly adapted from Drizzle & Dip
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 2 Tbsp baking powder
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- finely grated zest of 2 clementines
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar per cake (yum)
- 15 slices of peeled clementines
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and very smooth. Add the eggs- beating after each addition- and clementine zest.
3. Sift flour and baking powder into the butter mixture and stir until combined.
4. Slice clementines so that you have 15 slices. I'm assuming you could leave the peels on, but I chose not to. Here's a helpful tutorial on how to supreme an orange which I think is the easiest way to slice them. Rather than cutting the segments though, just slice them into rounds.
5. Grease/butter a cupcake pan and sprinkle about a teaspoon of brown sugar into each cup, and top with a clementine slice. Fill each about 2/3 of the way full with batter.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and the center springs back to the touch.
6. Let cool for just a couple minutes, then loosen with a rubber spatula and let fully cool on a rack or a plate. They're loooovelyyyy warm, and I'm sure a little melty vanilla ice cream on top would be, you know, just terrible.
In the original recipe, she makes a simple syrup with clementine zest to drizzle over the cakes. While I'm sure that is beyond lovely, I just wanted a dense, not-too-sweet cake that we could eat with our hands, and this was perfectly that.
*these can also be traded for passage into the Himalayas.*