I must have been 10 or so when I first heard a song that inexplicably gave me pause.
I was sleeping over at my cousin’s apartment one warm summer night. I don’t remember what time it was. Time is insignificant to a child unless it’s “play time”; this wasn’t play time. It was bedtime on Saturday in Washington Heights.
Living in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in the late 80’s meant there was a party somewhere, everywhere. It was Saturday night, after all. The motto back in those days was: If there’s beer, loud music, and 4 people – There’s a party.
It was on this Saturday night when I heard it…
A music intro precedes the most romantically uttered words ever spoken in Cheo’s deep, silky smooth and soulful voice:
“Aaaaaamadaaaa Miiiiiiaaaa. Grata sorpresa la que me has dado…”
I can’t quite explain why the lyrics to this song resonated within my 10 year old soul, why it struck me so deeply. It spoke of love, of a man’s gratitude to finding his true love, a love that at 10 I had yet to experience. Yet with every word I knew: Someday this will be sung about me!
As I heard the needle scratch the record and the song repeat, my heart swelled. Some kindred spirit felt as I did, perhaps was at this very moment dancing along with a loved one. I hoped their love and the song would continue to play long after I fell asleep.
I didn’t hear the song again for 12 years. I came across it while glancing at a compilation salsa CD at Virgin Records (Do you remember Virgin Records? I’m so old…).
Today, 14 years following the night I reunited with Cheo’s “Amada Mia”, the song still shakes me to my very core. I melt when I hear the first two words of that beautifully composed Spanish slow jam:
Now… Let’s talk about this cake, one that unexpectedly shook me to my very core in a whole ‘nother, yet similar way.
You see, I offered to bake for a friend who was hosting a fundraiser. Her goal is to continuously raise awareness for kidney disease, a disease she struggles with on a day to day. I planned a variety of goods, but was sort of stuck on the very last one.
The morning of the fundraiser, while frantically rummaging my cabinets and fridge for inspiration, I found 2 jars of apple butter. I was already bringing bars and brownies; baking one more bar would have been sort of redundant. I thought, maybe a cream cheese pound cake with an apple butter swirl?
Honestly, I had no idea how this cake would turn out. Cream cheese pound cake by design has a great base: Butter, cream cheese, eggs, flour… Would I be improving or ruining it by adding spices and an apple butter swirl? Would I have enough time to bake something else should this cake fail?
The truth was I didn’t have a moment to spare. I took a gamble in my abilities to properly calculate a formula and went for it. I may have held my breath for 50 minutes… Once the cake cooled, I uttered a short prayer to the cake gods and whipped out my serrated knife. As I was cutting and packing a slice broke in half, which was good for 2 reasons:
- I was able to taste a piece
- I discovered the cake was real moist; a good thang…
I don’t ordinarily say “wow” when I taste something I bake. Really… I’m not that serious. But, yea, wow… The spices and apple butter worked perfectly with a cream cheese base. The cake was moist, resplendent in fall spices, apples, and what seems to be a bit of caramel flavor. Once this cake hits the tongue it will karate chop your taste buds, bringing a smile to your face. It gave me pause; a sure winner, and a hit at the fundraiser.
I have baked this cake six times since that fundraiser. Every time it gives me that same melting feeling; the feeling I was unable to explain at 10, but can explain now with two words: