Now, more than ever, I'm reminded how important it is to keep close the people I love. My maternal grandparents Dottie and Eddie—or Mom-mom and Pop-pop, as I call them—are still with us today and for that, I'm so blessed. If you could meet them yourself, stay for dinner and hear their stories of a Life lived together, you'd know immediately the gifts they've passed onto me. From Pop-pop, a horticulturist for an estate in Greenwich, I learned to appreciate the beauty of flowers. And from Mom-mom, a homemaker in the purest, more inspiring sense of the word, I learned to cook, to bake and to take pride in creating a beautiful home.
In her prime, Dottie loved to entertain, gathering friends and family every chance she got. She was a collector, too, of beautiful things for the table and used them often. Growing up, there was always one particular collection I loved, a set of pink swirl dishes from Anchorglass, a gift at her engagement party 60 years ago—and a gift she has since passed onto me.
Now these were Dottie's everyday dishes, so with time—and countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—they've since faded, their pink hue growing paler and more beautiful every year. But that's why I love them so much and continue to use them myself. 60 years they've been together, growing closer every year, so what better way to celebrate than by setting a joyful, summery table with the dishes she received so long ago? To start, there would have to be a big, beautiful cake with buttercream frosting made from farm stand eggs and local, homemade butter.
After baking and refrigerating overnight each of the four layers, I cut the crusts off from every side, leaving nice, even layers of yellow cake, ready to be frosted. Be sure to save the crusts for a toasted crumble over ice cream!
Mom-mom and Pop-pop share a favorite layered cake—buttercream on the outside with a lemon custard filling.
Here's the first coat of icing I did to hold in the crumbs, then let refrigerate until hard.
The final coat is much smoother, tinted pink like Dottie's dishes.
Next, using a pastry tip, I gave the cake a simple pearl edge of buttercream.
Then I went into the garden, gathering pink strawberry blossoms and pretty white roses inspired by vintage kitchen curtains from a thrift shop in New Orleans.
I layered them like runners, topped with miniature strawberry arrangements in slag glass flower pots.
The finished cake I'd serve on Dottie's pink swirl plates, a perfect pairing to celebrate their 60 years.
But first, I thought I'd do a casual buffet on the porch of some of their favorite summer foods, served on vintage jadeite servingware at varying heights on the table.
Of course, everything I'd planned ahead of time, including another gift from Dottie—vintage red Bakelite flatware in a slag glass pot from a flea market in Lambertville.
The macaroni salad was Dottie's own recipe—her secret is chicken bullion—while the BLTs I made with peppered bacon, together with lettuce and tomatoes from the garden.
To make them feel more special, I cut the bread out with a biscuit cutter, brushed the pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper, toasted them in the oven, then rubbed them with garlic. It's an unexpected touch to an everyday meal just about anyone can do!
And finally, the best part of the day—Mom-mom and Pop-pop's favorite lemon buttercream cake, celebrating 60 years of marriage on the very same plates that started it all.
Life can change in an instant, but it's the memories we create that live on forever…