Heartburn was announced as our book for this month back in April, a couple of months before author Nora Ephron passed away. The flood of obituaries that followed her death took Heartburn from a book that I had vaguely heard of, but was a little more familiar with as a movie, to a sort of cultural icon. There were articles on how it changed the dialogue about divorce and the background of her own marriage and divorce. Even more of the obituaries talked about Ephron's love of food. It made me very, very interested to finally read the book!
It's honestly not like anything I have read before. Very funny, even when describing heartbreak: for a story about the end of a marriage it was a very easy read. I didn't find any of the characters particularly sympathetic. Ephron managed to write a character based on herself without making herself particularly heroic or endearing.
One element I did like was the occasional line that Ephron used in later work. A rival is described as "Your basic nightmare", which is also how one of Sally's rivals is described in When Harry Met Sally, and there were other familiar turns of phrase.
Food runs throughout Heartburn, as Rachel is a cookery writer, but I didn't feel particularly inspired by any of those recipes. I decided to look into Ephron's work to a more ultimately optimistic view of relationships. At the end of When Harry Met Sally when they are describing how they fell in love, they talk about their wedding cake. An enormous coconut cake with a very rich chocolate sauce on the side.
So I decided to make a coconut cake with very rich chocolate icing. Not on the side, because picky eaters annoy me.
I used Dan Lepard's coconut milk layer cake recipe - making 2/3 of the quantity and baking it in a single 9" cake tin. I omitted the lime juice but sprinkled it liberally with rum. I frosted it generously with buttercream.
125g soft butter
2 tbs good cocoa
3 tbs rum or malibu
3 tbs coconut cream
Small slosh coconut essence (if not using malibu)
Up to 500g icing sugar
Beat together the butter and cocoa until fluffy and the cocoa is evenly mixed. Add the rum, coconut cream and coconut essence if using. Then gradually beat in sifted icing sugar until it is the consistency you want - I was just piling it on so I left it quite soft, would have added more if I'd intended to pipe it.
It's moist, it's rich and uses plenty of butter. Nora Ephron would have loved it.
|Rich, moist coconut cake topped with chocolate rum buttercream|