Zinnias are among my favorite flowers, being colorful and unpretentious, and last Friday when Jim and I took a drive through some nearby country towns, we saw stands of glorious zinnias everywhere. They are often touted as being easy to grow, but I’ve heard enough tales of zinnia woe from fellow gardeners to know that they have their ins and outs. I think what can happen is that sometimes when they are sown in place, the emerging seedlings are eaten by rabbits. Also, they need full sun, and regular water, but not too much. So they do have their demands. Here are some of the zinnias I saw during my recent foray at Cantigny Park, in Winfield.
They create magic at Cantigny! The white zinnia is echoed with the white Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and then the pink of Celosia ‘Flamingo Feather’ is picked up by the ruby coleus. You could also pair the white zinnia with annual baby’s breath and choose your own third color.
A white zinnia shown with Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and Celosia ‘Flamingo Frost’.
Zinnia ‘Zahara Sunburst’ is bright but pretty at the same time. These low-growing zinnias are easy maintenance and drought resistant.
This is the white version–Zinnia ‘Zahara Starlight Rose’.
I loved these neon zinnias! They are grown here with a white angelonia.
An unnamed multi-colored zinnia.
A cheerful orange zinnia paired unexpectedly with a rich red coleus.
The gomphrena and zinnias make a striking combination. Why does it work? They both have underlying blue tones.
A butterfly enjoying some Verbena bonariensis nectar.
Meanwhile, I continue to riffle through my cookbooks and files–it’s a way of relaxing for me. The other day a yellowed newspaper clipping fell from an old cookbook, and I looked at it curiously. It was a recipe for “Filled Coffee Cake.” Somehow it called to me, challenging me. It didn’t have a pan size, a baking temperature, or a baking time, but I had to try it! Kind of to my surprise, it was absolutely delicious, with a vein of moist brown sugar and butter running through it. So here is my recipe for an Antique Coffee Cake, which must be at least 60 years old. (I know this because I did a little History Detective work. There was a cartoon on the reverse side of the clipping featuring “Granny Lou and Pap Henty.” This was from a cartoon called “Sunflower Street” that was discontinued in 1950.)
Antique Coffee Cake
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk or cream
Grease an 8″ round cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Make the filling by mixing one cup brown sugar, one teaspoon cinnamon, 3 tablespoons flour and 4 tablespoons butter. Mix until the butter is completely incorporated. Set aside.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut up the butter and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips until no lumps of butter remain. Add egg and milk and mix to make a soft dough. Scrape half the dough into the prepared pan and pat down. Cover with the brown sugar mixture. Flour your work surface, and scrape out the remaining dough onto it. Knead very briefly, and pat into an 8″ circle. (This only need be approximate.) Flour it very lightly, and fold in half. Place it on top of the brown sugar mixture, and unfold. Pat so it’s even. Place in preheated oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until brown.
Note: My only slight change in ingredients would be to add a teaspoon of vanilla to the batter along with the milk and egg. It would round out the flavor nicely. The coffee cake can be served directly from the pan, or, do as follows. Wait until the coffee cake is cooled, and run a knife around it. Place a plate over it, and upend. Immediately place the serving plate over it and upend again, so it’s right side up. This cake comes out from the pan easily. Then, sprinkle it with powdered sugar or drizzle with a powdered sugar icing.
The original recipe suggested also adding 1/4 cup raisins to the filling, along with 1/4 teaspoon grated orange rind. Sounds good! And, I suddenly have another thought–could baking cocoa be added?
Just took this picture of the swamp milkweed going to seed–sending out its little silk parachutes. Peace to you. Fran