The passage of Labor Day inevitably invokes a debate about whether or not it’s appropriate to continue wearing white. As someone who wears far more black than she should, during these conversations I find my focus drifting to somewhere the color white is always in fashion — the Getty Center.
Seated on 750 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains and opened in 1997, the Getty Center is one of two branches of the J. Paul Getty Museum and a campus for the J. Paul Getty Trust. Though it’s right off the 405,
all it takes is a 5-minute ride, 3/4 of a mile up on the tram,
and a walk through the rotunda building
to feel far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Richard Meier, the Manhattan architect chosen to design the center in 1984, wanted the structure and site, Los Angeles, to be one and for the city to be always in view.
Meier used a deceptively simple combination of squares and circles on the buildings; walls, windows, and floors are organized in a grid comprised of 30-inch squares. Each building is covered in Italian travertine, and even the feature stones
stunningly reflect the sunlight.
The precision of the buildings is extended to grounds, always planted in such a way as to draw the visitor’s eye to another element or section of the design.
In fact, the color
and texture of gardens and landscaping are the perfect complement to the light-colored stone buildings.
Nowhere on the complex is this counterpoint more striking than in the Central Garden, designed by Robert Irwin as a form of sculpture. Beginning with a reflecting pool and maze of 400 azalea plants,
the surrounding specialty gardens have over 500 varieties of plants that change seasonally and are never repeated.
I’m told there are art galleries inside the Getty with some pretty impressive paintings, manuscripts, and antiquities; but I was so moved by the works of art I saw in the architecture and gardens that I never went inside! And I certainly wasn’t surprised to learn that the average time spent at the Getty is 5 hours, double the average time spent at other U.S. museums.
Back on the East Coast, wearing my black, I thought of another thing that always looks good in white regardless of the season — Coconut Cake! With fresh lemon curd and shredded coconut complementing the cake with their color and texture, this cake is the perfect reminder of the Getty.
- 2 3/4 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup canned cream of coconut
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Pinch of salt
For the Filling
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
For the Frosting
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 egg whites
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Shredded coconut
For the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar, butter, and cream of coconut until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. On low speed, beat in flour mixture and then buttermilk, each until just blended.
- In a separate large bowl, beat egg whites and pinch of salt until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter.
- Divide batter between prepared pans; bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, approximately 35 minutes.
- Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, run a small knife around pan sides, and transfer cakes to wire racks to cool completely.
For the Filling
- In a saucepan over low heat, whisk eggs, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir constantly until mixture becomes thickness of sour cream, approximately 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and whisk in small pieces of butter. Add lemon zest. Let cool.
- Note: Lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Can be made several days in advance.
For the Frosting
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, beat sugar, cream of tartar, salt, water, and egg whites with a hand-held electric mixer on high speed for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
Putting It Together
- Place one cake layer on cake plate. Spread lemon curd over cake and sprinkle with shredded coconut. Top with second cake layer. Spread frosting over cake. Press shredded coconut over cake, pressing gently to adhere.
DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO LOS ANGELES: 2401 miles