cake

Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Walnut Praline Topping


Right now I am lying on my bed with my shoes on. 
White sunlight coming in through the window. 
Two nights ago, I saw a band called Chipper Jones play. 
Of course the beauty of music, and the particular beauty of live music, is that it brings you into NOW.
Watching the drummer play, I thought he was so graceful. Even though I’m still not totally sure what “grace” really even IS. Internal peace? Quiet? Silent passion? 

So much of my time these past few years has been me struggling to find a rhythm that makes sense— trying to find the grace in motion. 
Like the kind of grace I thought that drummer showed, even if only for a moment. 

I don’t know. 


I realized the other day that from here on out, with only one semester of college to go, not that it hasn’t been real— but that the planned time is mostly ending. 
It’s like the feeling I get when I think about how old I’ll be in ten years. 
Or how I felt when I first realized that in the next few years many of my friends will get married, someone is going to have a baby, everyone falling in and out of love across time zones, working working working on their New Year’s resolutions for the rest of forever until 
The End. 
Of course, this is the beginning of the rest of forever.

I made a cake the other day. 



A buttermilk skillet cake with a walnut praline topping because I like it when things are tangible. Because making things gives rhythm to days that pass so quick/slow. 
And making things feels like grace. 

This year, I want to make things. 

One of my favorite people in the entire world sent me a mostly incoherent, very drunk email on January 1st. At the end of the message he said, “all my love. from a lost yet broken yet wonderfull soul.” 

“Lost yet broken yet wonderfull.” 

Somehow, I feel that this really sums it up. 

"Yet wonderfull." 

I love you I love you I love you. 


xoxo
m


Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Walnut Praline Topping
from The Joy the Baker Cookbook

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
For the praline topping:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
generous pinch salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 375F/ 190C, positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven.
Butter and flour the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9-inch cast-iron skillet (or a 9-inch cake pan).
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until blended and lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Add egg and yolk, beating for a minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
Turn the speed to low, and add half of the flour mixture. Next, add the buttermilk, and when the flour is just combined, add the remaining flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and gently finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula, taking care not to overmix. Spoon the batter into prepared skillet or pan, spreading evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake bakes, make the praline topping: in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, cream and salt. Bring the mixture to a soft boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and nuts. Inhale.
Let the mixture rest in the pan for 20 minutes, to firm up. Once it has rested, and the cake has been removed from the oven, pour the praline mixture over the warm cake, spreading evenly. (If you chose to bake this in a cake pan instead of a skillet, remove the cake from the pan and place it on a cake plate, before pouring the topping over the cake.) Serve immediately, or at room temperature.
Cake will keep, well wrapped and at room temperature, for up to 4 days.

Best Ever Yellow Birthday Cake with Best Ever Chocolate Frosting (and raspberries)



I first baked this cake on graduating high school. 
I baked it in two layers, frosted them as individual cakes for a party, drank a glass of champagne, went swimming, and then promptly went to college. 

I hadn’t made this cake since then. 
Recently, I made it for my father’s birthday. 
Here he is, looking mildly pleased. 

 

What I can’t get over, is how much has changed between then and now. 

My last year of university is about to begin. “Season four begins.” My friends and I joke, because somehow, the entire three, now four years, has managed to feel like a bizarre, high drama miniseries, or at least, one that’s heavy on the taco-eating/beer-drinking/library-gossiping side of life. 

Since I was a child, college has always the goal and the next “next thing.” Somehow, I’m now facing the beginning of the end of it, and panicking a little about what my next “next thing” is going to be. 

I’m hopeful that I’ll bake this cake again soon, because it’s such a perfect, perfect cake. But also, I’m hopeful that I’ll bake it again soon because I really want to celebrate all the tiny victories and birthdays and half-birthdays and weekends and Monday nights and people. Mostly I want to celebrate all the people. 

Everything is going by so fast. 

There’s a bizarre musical called Auntie Mame. The best and only memorable line from the whole show is when Mame shouts, “Life is a banquet! And most poor suckers are starving to death!” And then she throws on a different wig and dances on the table, surrounded by multitudes of her tap-dancing lovers. Or at least, that’s how I remember it. 


When I think about goals or dreams for the upcoming months, of course I want to work hard and study and graduate-- but more than any of this, I really want to bake this cake, throw on the wig, dance on the table, just for the hell of it. 
Because life is a banquet. 
Because it’s the beginning of the end, which means it’s a new beginning all over again. 
And I want to celebrate. 
Because I’m so excited.
I’m so wildly excited. 

Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame

XOXO


Best Yellow Layer Cake
from SmittenKitchen.com 

In all sincerity, this one of the simplest and absolute best cakes you could ever wish that someone else would bake you for your birthday. 

Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake (I have yet to audition the cupcakes, shame on me)
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 to 530 grams, see explanation) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.


Go-to Chocolate Frosting
from Allrecipes.com

Also this frosting makes me the happiest. It is so good. So so soooo good. 

1 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in confectioners sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.



Carrot Cake




Dear One, 

I haven’t been sleeping very well for the past few days. 
I’m anxious about what’s going to happen. 
Whatever it is that's coming next. 
The unexpectedness of life is overwhelming. 
Helen Mirren told Esquire Magazine that “The hardest period in life is one’s twenties. It’s a shame because you’re your most gorgeous, and you’re physically in peak condition. But it’s actually when you’re most insecure and full of self-doubt. When you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s frightening.”

So I don’t know what’s going to happen. 
And it’s got me a little frightened. 
But it’s ok. 

It’s really ok. 


I keep thinking about the past couple of years. 
And all these strangers who have become friends. 
And then I think about all the strangers I don’t know yet, who will someday be beloved. 
And all the things that have happened I could never have predicted. 
It’s overwhelming. 

But it’s been ok. 
Magical, even. 

For instance. 

This blog is five years old.
Five. Years. Old. 
And I only just realized. 
I never dreamed that it would last this long.
So I baked to carrot cake to celebrate. 

And on another note-- how the fuck did carrot cake happen? 
I mean, who decided to put carrots in a cake?
What a perfect example of something so surprisingly and unexpectedly dreamy. 


So for all the unanticipated collisions of wonder and pain and delight I have yet to have, for all the future stranger/friends I have yet to meet, for all the cakes I’ve yet to bake. 

I can’t wait. 
I really can’t wait. 

XOXO


Carrot Cake
from Stir-Ups
This is actually an heirloom recipe from an Oklahoman cookbook called Stir-Ups. From the 60's maybe? I don't know. It's really, truly grand and very, very simple.  And very, very worth your time. 
xo

For Cake:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
3 cups shredded carrot
1 teaspoon vanilla

For Icing:
1 stick butter
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 box powdered sugar*
best quality maple syrup, to taste

Combine flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon, salt and oil. Beat in carrots and vanilla. Beat in eggs. Pour into two greatsed 9" cake pans, or a 9x13 inch loaf pan. Bake 9" ones at 350F for 30 minutes. Bake 1 hour when using loaf pan. Cool completely.
Icing: Cream butter with cream cheese. Add sugar, vanilla and several tablespoons maple syrup to taste. Beat until well blended. Slather cake. Eat. Immediately.

Blueberry Picnic Cake




Dear Beloveds, 

I believe in going out to lunch: it’s more casual than dinner, not too long, not too short, and it’s nice
Lunch is always nice
Over lunch is the best way to talk to people. 
And I love talking to people. 
So the locations are always changing, the people are always changing. 
But the interesting thing is that the talk rarely does: It’s always love or god or family or school or work or the future or the past or what-should-I-order. The characters and situations might change, but the bewilderment never really does. 
And I don’t know if this changes with adulthood/time-- but so many people my age talk about loneliness. 
They are lonely on the insides. 
Lonely on the outsides. 
And there are people in your phone but frequently it feels like all the communication done and information garnered via facebook doesn’t translate into the real world.



All so lonely. 

So I don’t know who you are. 

Maybe I don’t even know you. 

But please know this. 

I get lonely. 

Maybe you do too. 

So call someone. 
Or sit in the sun till the ache inside gets a little better. 
Or bake this cake. Just because it is good. 

And know, that somehow, someone, somewhere, is maybe thinking about you. 
And wishing you only the sweet things. 

I’m only wishing you sweet things. 

xoxo

p.s. I will be traveling for a while with poor internet access and no kitchen. So we'll probably speak again late August. Love love love. 
p.p.s. This is yet another blueberry cake recipe. I'm not sorry. 



Blueberry Picnic Cake

My cousin Claire told me to make this from our family cookbook. She was not kidding when she said it was worth my time. Claire is pretty rad. So is this cake. And with a smudge of ice cream: heaven.  xo


4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour 
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup milk 

2 pints fresh blueberries, washed, dried and dusted with 1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar

Grease 13x9x3 inch baking pan. 
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat until well-blended. 
In a large bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Add salt and vanilla. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups sugar and beat until blended. 
Add egg yolks and beat until light and creamy. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, baking powder and milk. Mix throughly. Fold in the reserved beaten egg whites. 
Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. Spread evenly in prepared ban. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. 
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.