Thoughts from Friends: Beth Rudin DeWoody

Photo by Ysa Pérez

As a child, I attended the Rudolph Steiner School in New York City. I was there for eight years. Art making and crafts were a big part of my education as well as eurythmics and music. I knitted, sewed and did macramé; I made a bamboo recorder and carved wood. For every subject, we had to make a “good book,” with each page illustrated with colored pencils.

Photo by Firooz Zahedi

My love of art continued through the years. I took classes at the Arts Students League and The New School where my teacher was Benny Andrews. The first real piece of art that I got was a drawing by him when I was 17. In high school, I made art with Gaylord Flory and learned about contemporary art through Ed Buonagorio, both teachers at Riverdale Country School. Ed sent us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see Henry Geldzahler’s big contemporary show – New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940 to 1970. That show was a huge influence on me and began my deep love of contemporary art. But I also loved earlier art. I loved to go to all the museums in New York, especially the Whitney Museum of American Art where I always knew where to find my favorite works from the permanent collection.

I ended up marrying an artist and moving to TriBeCa in 1975. I met many artists, curators and collectors. I got involved with committees at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and the Whitney, whose board I joined in 1985. The next year, I joined the board of BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). I also love the performing arts. I collected and collected!! I traveled to art fairs and immersed myself in the art world and met incredible people. I love helping young artists by buying their work early on when it helps keep their practice going and started curating shows which I love.

I opened the Bunker Artspace in West Palm Beach four years ago, and it has given me the opportunity to curate from my own collection. I have two great curators, Maynard Monrow and Laura Migdon Dvorkin, and guest curators each year. I have two children, Kyle and Carlton, who are both involved in the art world and my husband Firooz Zahedi who is a prominent photographer. So you can say my world and passion are art-centric. It has been the joy of my life. The work shown here are some examples of art related to the botanical world.

Post by Beth Rudin DeWoody
Friends of Robinson Gardens Patron Member


Victoria Kastner’s Coconut Cake

Victoria Kastner fell in love with the Virginia Robinson Gardens as soon as she saw it, many years ago. She has had the honor of lecturing there several times--on Hearst Castle; on the Castle's remarkable architect, Julia Morgan; and on Virginia Robinson's frequent guest and dear friend, Fred Astaire. This coconut cake is a vintage recipe from the 1930s--and would have been the perfect dessert for one of Virginia's famous dinner parties. Victoria's new book, Julia Morgan: An Intimate Portrait of the Trailblazing Architect, will be published by Chronicle Books in October 2021.

 Victoria Kastner’s Coconut Cake

Makes one two-layer 9” cake, serving 10-12


  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. table salt (not kosher salt)
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sweetened cream of coconut (Coco Lopez brand, found in the liquor aisle—you’ll also use some of it in the frosting)
  • 4 large eggs, separated—at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two nine-inch cake pans, put parchment in the bottom, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour. (You can also use four 6-inch pans for this quantity of batter.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and table salt.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and cream of coconut until fluffy and lightened in color. Mix in the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in the vanilla extract. Mixing on low speed, add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk alternately in thirds. Mix just until combined. Scrape the batter into a large bowl and set it aside.

In a clean mixing bowl, blend the egg whites and cream of tartar at slow-medium speed, until large bubbles appear. Then turn the mixer to high and mix to stiff peaks. Do not overbeat.

Fold ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Then fold in the rest of the egg whites, mixing just until combined.

Divide the batter between the baking pans. Give each pan a single sharp rap on the counter to break up any large bubbles, then set the pans side by side on an upper-level rack in the preheated oven. Switch the pans around midway through. Bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (This could take anywhere from 30—40 minutes, depending on your oven, for the 9-inch pans, and 17-22 minutes for the 6-inch pans.) Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Spray cooling racks with Pam, then invert the cakes onto the racks and peel off the parchment. Turn the cakes right side up and cool them completely. Just before frosting, cut each 9-inch layer in half with a serrated knife. (Do not cut the four 6-inch layers.)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 8-oz. packages Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup Coco Lopez brand sweetened cream of coconut
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup – 1+ cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 14-oz. package Baker’s Angel Flake sweetened shredded coconut (for garnish)

Blend all the ingredients except the powdered sugar in a food processor until thoroughly combined. Then add the ¾ cup of sifted powdered sugar and blend thoroughly. Add more powdered sugar if necessary—it should taste barely sweet (since it will be covered with sweetened coconut). Chill until the frosting has firmed up.

To assemble:

Apply the frosting in a shallow layer rather than a thick one. If necessary, briefly chill the cake, the icing, or both before proceeding. Break up any clumps of Baker’s coconut into shreds, and apply it to the cake (this should take approximately 2/3 of the package). Chill the cake thoroughly. Allow it to come to room temperature before serving.

Serve atop a pool of Custard Sauce and Raspberry Sauce.

Custard Sauce

  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

In a thick-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat, just until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt.

Pour 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Once it is incorporated, pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, cook until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (4-8 minutes).

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and the butter. Pour into a bowl and press plastic wrap on top (to prevent a skin from forming). Chill thoroughly. Thin as necessary with additional milk to bring it to a pouring consistency.

Raspberry Sauce

  • 3 12-oz. packages unsweetened frozen raspberries
  • 2 tbsp. – 1/3 cup granulated sugar, to taste
  • ½ cup water

In a food processor, puree the raspberries and water. Add the sugar to taste—it should taste tart, not overly sweet—and mix thoroughly. Add enough water to ensure it is pourable and place the mixture in a strainer set over a large bowl. Using a soup ladle, force it through the strainer and discard the seeds.

The 9-inch cake serves 12-16. The 6-inch cake serves 6-8.

Thank you to our
Guardians of the Gardens
who contributed to the
“Gifts for Gardens”

Jack Anderson
Jeanne Anderson
Bonnie Arnold
Elgart Aster
Rachel Ault
Virginia Barnard
Maralee Beck
Jill Bernstein
Emily Boyle and Jon Biddle
Carolyn Bloom
Ellisa Bregman
Evelyn Carlson
Marilyn Fields
Kathy Choi
Emina Darakjy
Lynne Dills
Lynda Fadel
Tania Ferris
Cynthia Fields
Marilyn Fields
Adrienne Forst
Chava Gerber
Linda Gersh
Rhona Gewelber
Betty Rodriguez Goldstein
Maggi and David Gordon
Natalie Gordon
Burks Hamner
Sandra Harris
Marcia Hobbs
Lauri-Ann Hood
Kriege and Steven Janz
Donna Jett
Laurelle Johnson
Dorothy Kamins
Marge Karney
Cheryl and David Karton
Sandra Krause
Andrea Layne
Timothy Lindsay
Christine London
Katherine Marsano
Worthy McCartney
Mary and Britton McConnell
Linda Meadows
Sharon Messer
Margaret Miller
Sue Nega
Tania Norris
Susan Pearlstein
Arline Pepp
Dana Reston Lyons
Patti Reinstein
Patricia Elias Rosenfeld
Susan Rosenthal
Shelley Roth
Kerstin Royce
Marcella Ruble
Gabriele Safani
Miranda Hayes Schultz
Joan Selwyn
Keeley Smith
Elaine Stein
Susan and George Sugarman
Geneva Thornton
Brian Tichenor
Beatriz Torrado-Ridgley
Elinor Turner
Linda Tyrer
Phoebe Vaccaro
Stephanie Vahn
Clare Wagner
Paola Werstler
Lynn Whitaker
Wendy Wintrob
Laura Wyatt
In Memory Of:
Edwin Fields
Judy Gans
Nasrin Imani

Valentine Blooms at the Virginia Robinson Gardens

Photos by Josh Johnston

7 Responses

  1. Krista Everage
    | Reply

    Thank you Beth Rudin DeWoody for taking us along on your art journey! What a wonderful artistic life you lead: so full of color and delight.

  2. Erech Christ Nimrod
    | Reply

    Happy Valentine’s Day and lots of LOVE to you LOVEABLE Ladies of the Beautiful World Famous Robinson Gardens.

    Ecclesiasticus 11:15 “Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding of the law, are of the Lord: LOVE, and the way of Good Works, are from Him.” Peace.

  3. Clare
    | Reply

    Thanks Beth for sharing with us the brief history of your fabulous trip through your relationship with the art world and for the snippets of your incredible art collection.

  4. Kerstin Royce
    | Reply

    Thanks Beth and Victoria for brighten up my day. Have seen some of the art in the Bunker Artspace in Magazines and would love to have a chance one day to see it in person. And that cake sure is worth the calories..have had it. Yum!
    Always love to see the lovely pictures that Josh captures of VRG’ s treasures.

  5. Patti Reinstein
    | Reply

    Your photos are just beautiful!!!
    I so enjoyed a peek into Beth De Woody’s fabulous artistic life . I certainly hope that Victoria will speak to FRG sometime again soon.

  6. Roberta Tishman
    | Reply

    [email protected]

  7. Roberta Tishman
    | Reply

    Have not had the pleasure of going to the robinson garden but hope ot do so as soon as it reopens to the public. It was wonderful to learn about Virginia Robinson and her colorful life.

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