Turnpike Days and Mini Orange Cornmeal Cakes

Mini Orange Cornmeal Cakes

I drove the Turnpike twice this week. I twisted and turned. The knots in my stomach after saying goodbye folding over themselves like the Laurel Highlands that my car cuts through. A sign marks the end of the Cheseapeake Bay Watershed. Another two signs beyond that quote John the Apostle. Land like this needs a reminder of grace. The Somerset valley, a tundra in the waning March winter, feels more like purgatory than paradise. Most of my friends were baptized in school. I'm one of the lucky ones, I guess.

For twelve dollars I can leave town and go back to my old college. Back to a city of bridges and boys who stopped answering my calls when I said, "I love you" one too many times. I went to a bookstore once in Pittsburgh. It had a spiral staircase cut in the middle of the floor. I asked for a book that would help me find myself, said I was lost. Explained I was lonely and looking for meaning. The woman handed me a business card to her palm reader instead of selling me anything. I kept the card in my wallet for three years until I didn't have enough money in my bank account to necessitate a wallet anymore. After law school, when California still seemed like a dream world. When love still seemed possible. When I would stay up at night, high on downers and sleeping pills, and wonder when the state would break off. I felt the fault lines in my palms and scratched them when I was distracted. Cat on windowsills and rabbits eat their young for the same reasons.

Mini Orange Cornmeal Cakes

Now I drive the Turnpike and dump empty coffee cups in the gas station trash cans. Coffee cups stained maroon from my mother's lipstick. A napkin shoved into the cup holder, too. She ate a hot dog from a gas station when we stopped outside West Virginia on a road trip last week. I got a speeding ticket twenty minutes later. She called both those things mistakes. 

I don't think I'll ever leave her side for long. She fed my dog a jelly bean when she though I wasn't looking in the rearview mirror. She held my hand when we talked about how sorry she was she had to work so many hours when I was growing up. We shared a Kit-Kat somewhere outside of Raleigh and she said, "Fuck" when she dropped her nail file between the seat and the door. I don't think i'll leave her side for long anymore, seven years was long enough. I'll use the Turnpike as a tether to remind me of home now. Think of it as more of an umbilicus rather than leash. A reason to stay rather than a reason to scream, kick the walls of my good fortune. I know it's all made of drywall. I'm okay with that now. I understand it all now.

Mini Orange Cornmeal Cakes

I understand that the wrinkles around my mother's knuckles mean. What it means to drink coffee with her at a diner at ten o'clock one night. How it feels to know she's proud of me and how proud I am of her. How she shows me pictures of haircuts and asks my opinions. How she never comes out and says she loves me, but she told me four times to be careful this morning when I called her on my way to the airport.

Twelve dollars to leave on the turnpike to anywhere I want to go in the world. I'm happy to stay here for a bit. If only for a month or two.

Orange Cornmeal Cakes

Mini Orange Cornmeal Cakes

Using either a Lodge mini cake pan or a 6" cake pan, make these beautiful and sweet cornmeal cakes, made with orange marmalade and covered in marzipan rounds.


  • 1 ½ cup cornmeal
  • ½ cup AP flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 TB butter, melted
  • ½ cup orange marmalade
  • 8 oz marzipa


  1. Prepare either a 6-inch pan or a Lodge mini cake pan with butter and parchment
  2. Preheat oven to 415*F
  3. In a large mixing bowl, sift all dry ingredients (except marzipan) together. Mix a few times with a fork
  4. In a measuring cup, measure all wet ingredients until fully combined
  5. Create a well in the dry ingredients and slowly pour wet ingredients into the middle of the well. Stir gently with a rubber spatula and mix gently
  6. Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Due to the higher sugar content in the marmalade, it may brown at such a high temperature and you can cover with foil to prevent further browning. Cakes are done with a toothpick comes out clean
  7. While cakes are cooling, roll out marzipan to ¼” and cut out seven small circles or one large one (depending on pan used). Place on top of cake when still slightly warmed to soften marzipan in lieu of icing
  8. Enjoy!
Mini Orange Cornmeal Cakes

This is a preview of an upcoming and exciting partnership with Lodge. Rolling pin from my favorite artist, Aron over at Facture Goods.