Giving Thanks {Pear & Pistachio Cake}

Wishing everyone who’s celebrating today a peaceful and bountiful Thanksgiving.

In our house, we have a tradition of going around the table before the Thanksgiving meal and sharing something for which we are thankful.  So, in the spirit of tradition, I thought I’d give a little thanks here, as well.

I’m thankful for family, near and far; for friends old and new, for a roof over my head and more than enough food on the table; for a job that I enjoy and colleagues who I respect; for a husband who is kind and patient; for children who are growing and thriving; for a mother who taught me in word and in action how to be a good parent and person; for health; for freedom; for love.  I’m truly blessed.

Oh, and I’m thankful for this cake.  It appeared in a piece by Cathy Barrow in the October/November issue of Garden & Gun, and it was love at first sight.  I’m turning 38 on Sunday, so I decided to bake it in celebration of Thanksgiving/being two years shy of 40.

Let’s just say that this cake is monumental.   With 12 sticks of butter in a recipe that yields 12 servings, you’re only going to want to make this for very special occasions.  But make no mistake – you’re going to want to make it.  

Conceived by Stella Parks, pastry chef at Table 310 in Lexington, KY, and the author of BraveTart, this cake is a riff on a classic carrot cake.  Sort of.  In the headnotes for the recipe in the magazine, Parks is quoted: “My parents live in a home built before George Washington was president,” she says. “There are gnarled old pear trees out back—winter pears. Way too hard to eat, but they make a great cake.”  With three pounds of pears in the cake, and more for the pear chip garnish, the cake really highlights this seasonal ingredient.  Paired (peared?) with the pound of brown butter and an equal measure of pistachios, the flavors combine to create a warm harmony that sings of autumn.

It’s a little time consuming, but it’s well worth it in the end.  I promise – it’ll be one more thing to add to your list of things to be thankful for.

Get the recipe here:  Stella Parks’ Brown Sugar, Pear & Pistachio Cake

Thinking of You {Molten Dulce de Leche Cakes}

I’d like to tell you I was thinking of you when I made this recipe.  I really would, because then, somehow, I could justify having eaten as many as I did.

The truth of the matter is, I haven’t thought about much of anything lately except these cakes. And maybe (perhaps?) the fall/Halloween festival at my son’s school which has (maybe?) consumed my entire world for the last month (or three).  But also these cakes.

And now?  That the fall festival has come and gone (and there was much rejoicing!)?  I can focus on you (ahem, I mean, these cakes).

Because holy molten deliciousness, Batman.  These are good.  No, not good.  No.  These are sinful.  Evil, really.  Mostly because they’re much too easy to make.  If they were difficult or time consuming, I might not be tempted to make them again.  And again.  And again.

And it only gets worse.  You can add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream for a truly ridiculous, over-the-top indulgence.  That’s how evil this really is.  But also?  Rich, and creamy, and gooey.  It’s really too good to pass up.  Terribly, awfully, sinfully good.

So see? I really was thinking of you after all.  You’re welcome.

This recipe entered my world via my Facebook newsfeed back at the beginning of the month.  It may have appeared in an earlier issue of Bon Appetit magazine, but I got it from   The ingredient list was comically short: 1 egg, 2 egg yolks, 2 1/2 Tablespoons of flour and a can of dulce de leche.  Mix and bake.

The only reason it took me almost a whole month to try it was I couldn’t find the canned dulce de leche they specified in the ingredient list (I wanted to try it exactly as written first – next time I’ll try making my own caramel).  I finally decided to check our local Wal-Mart of all places, and voila!  There, nestled on the top shelf, next to a variety of cans of la lechera, was a small collection of Nestle-brand dulce de leche.  I snatched up four, and scurried home to fulfill my month-long desire for these cakes.

You can find the recipe here.  I followed it to the letter, only deviating to add a pinch of salt to the batter before baking (next time I think I’ll add a bit more salt,  just because salted caramel is always better in my humble opinion).  I also didn’t have any 4-oz ramekins, so I used my 4-oz canning jars, and they worked like a charm.  We baked ours in a convection oven for 10 minutes, rather than the 12-14 the recipe specifies, and they were just right when they came out.  The whole thing only took 15 minutes start to finish, so you could easily whip these up at a dinner party (or just when you’re craving something sweet.  Like, right now).  I did mine in a stand mixer, but you could use a hand-held mixer if you don’t want to lug out your Kitchen Aid.  I would say you could mix them by hand, but you’d need to whisk pretty vigorously in order to get your eggs to double in volume.

Which, come to think of it, might mean you’d burn off enough calories to justify eating more than one of these little babies.  Not that anyone would ever be that self-indulgent.  Especially not me.

Enjoy (and Happy Halloween)!

Let’s Talk About Running {And Fig Cake}

This title may seem incongruous at first glance.   And possibly at second glance, too.  The truth is, I don’t care.  I want to talk about both, and this here is my blog, so I’m gonna do what I want to do.

So there.

Back in January, I made a commitment publicly – right here in this space – to complete the Couch to 5K program.  I haven’t really talked about it much since then, but that’s not because I haven’t stuck with it.   I ran (sort of) my first (and only) 5K back in March.  And I did run the majority of it, but I was unable (unwilling? unmotivated?) to actually RUN the entire time.

Even now, six months later, I’m still struggling to run more that two miles continuously.  And the truth of the matter is, I’m really not sure if it’s a matter of ability, or just a matter of will.  Because honestly?  I still don’t really like it.  I do it, but I haven’t yet learned to enjoy it.

Please don’t misunderstand – I can definitely tell a difference.  Both in my endurance, and in my body.  And I like that part.

I’m thinking that maybe I need to add some strength training to my routine, because it’s not so much that I get winded, or that my heart-rate is too high; it’s more that my legs start to feel like they weigh about a ton.  And you know, a ton is a lot.  So maybe some strength training would benefit.

This morning I went for a run around our neighborhood.  It was around 10 AM, and the day was just starting to heat up.  I felt pretty good when I started, and I managed to get to about the one-and-a-half mile point before I felt like I needed to take a little break.  I walked for 30-seconds or so, and then picked up the pace again.  I finished it out at a good pace, only stopping to walk the last little bit to cool down.  The problem is, I had really planned to do three miles when I set out from the house. Somewhere along the way, I talked myself out of it and ended up only doing two.

Why do you think that is?  If you run, how do you stay motivated to keep going?  What kinds of strength training do you do?  Do share – maybe I’ll gather some inspiration and motivation from your suggestions.

As a thank you in advance, I’ll share this fig bundt cake with you.  Figs are good for you – especially for runners, as they contain high levels of potassium and fiber.  So, you know, this cake is kind of healthy.  Sort of.

As I was running yesterday, I was contemplating what to take as a dessert to a late lunch/early dinner (dunch?) at my in-laws’ house.  They had graciously kept our boys overnight on Saturday so we could have a grown-ups-only night with some friends and family.  I wanted to contribute a little something as a token of gratitude for their willingness to open their home to our two hooligans.

My mind kept settling on some figs I had put in the freezer back in June after spending an afternoon plucking them from our neighbor’s tree.  I decided on this simple bundt cake that uses fresh fig puree, and I was pleased with the outcome.  The texture was a little funny, more like a steamed pudding than a cake, but that’s probably more because I transported it almost directly from the oven in a cake carrier, so it sat in it’s own condensation for a while.  You won’t have the same problem if you allow it to cool completely before serving.  The flavor is delightfully figgy, and it’s not at all too sweet.  It would be especially nice for breakfast with a cup of coffee.

Fig Bundt Cake with Honey Butter Glaze (adapted from this recipe at Andrea Meyers’ Blog)

prep time: 15 minutes

bake time: 45-50 minutes

yields: 12-15 servings


Fig puree

  • 1 lb figs, destemmed and pureed in the food processor


  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 cups honey granules (can use granulated sugar)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups fig puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3  cups flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda


  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 Tablespoons butter

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 325F and greasing and flouring a 12-cup bundt pan
  2. Cream together the butter and honey granules using an electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment
  3. Add the eggs, one at the time
  4. Add the fig puree and the vanilla
  5. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda
  6. Add flour mixture slowly to the fig mixture
  7. Scrape batter into prepared pan
  8. Bake at 325F for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean
  9. Turn out and cool on a cooling rack
  10. Prepare glaze by placing the honey and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook until butter has melted and mixture is warm
  11. Glaze cake while it is still slightly warm
  12. Enjoy!

Honey, Cake {Honey Cake}

First, let me just say that we’re not big on terms of endearment in our house.  We don’t call each other Sweetheart or Babycakes or Darlin’.  Or, god forbid, Lover (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little). Sometimes I’ll call my husband stinky, but that’s mostly a descriptor and not so much a term of endearment.

But today’s his birthday, so I’m throwing caution to the wind.

Honey, this cake’s for you.

Happy Birthday, Loverboy.

I married a man whose ideal dessert is yellow cake with white icing, so sometimes I like to change things up a bit in the flavor department.  This year’s cake is a variation on a basic buttermilk cake, but it uses honey granules in place of granulated sugar, and raw honey and honey granules in the cream cheese frosting.  It’s a honey cake.  For my honey.

I think what I like most about honey is that it has a sort of savory quality.  It’s sweet, but also a little salty.  Or musky.  Or earthy.  Or something. It has a complex flavor profile is what I’m getting at.  It works well in this cake, playing against the sour tang of the buttermilk and the cream cheese, and adding a slightly salty note to the whole thing.  It’s almost like a salted caramel, without the caramel or the salt.

It’s tasty, and I think you’ll like it.

Honey Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
prep time: 30 minutes (total, cake and frosting)
bake time: 25 minutes
yields: 2 eight or nine-inch layers


  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered honey granules
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 2 1/3 cups sifted whole-wheat pastry flour (I used freshly milled here)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon real salt
  • 1 cup cultured buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup raw honey honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 oz. butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered honey granules

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour two eight-inch round cake pans
  2. Sift together your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside
  3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat 3/4 cups room temperature butter on high speed until light and fluffy
  4. Slowly add 1 1/2 cups of honey granules, beating on high speed for 3-5 minutes
  5. Beat the eggs together and slowly add, taking about 2 minutes
  6. Add 1/2 a scraped vanilla bean and mix to incorporate.
  7. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts – begin and end with flour.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans and bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes (mine were actually quite dark at the 24 minute mark).
  9. While cake is baking: combine 1/2 cup honey and scraped vanilla bean in a small saucepan.  Add a tablespoon of water and stir to combine.  Heat over low heat until it comes to a simmer.  Remove from heat and allow to cool
  10. Remove cake layers from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5-1o minutes.  Turn out onto a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
  11. Brush the tops of your cake layers with honey/vanilla mixture.  Reserve the remainder to add to the frosting.
  12. For the frosting: place the cream cheese and 4 oz. of butter in the bowl of your electric mixer.  Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
  13. On medium speed, slowly add the honey/vanilla mixture, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
  14. Add powdered honey granules with mixer running.  Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
  15. Frost cake layers as desired.
  16. Enjoy.

Unexpected Beauty And a Recipe For Apple Cake

There are places in this world that have become embedded in my soul.  Something about the history and atmosphere and architecture and general overall there-ness touches me and leaves a mark that can’t be erased.  They aren’t always grand or spectacular; sometimes – rather often actually –  they’re quiet and small and simple.

Christ Church, Frederica is one of those places.  An historic church in the Christ Church Parish of St. Simons Island, nestled among giant live oaks and old crepe myrtles festooned with spanish moss, there is something magical about the gothic-style building and the cemetery grounds surrounding it.  It’s quiet, peaceful, simple.  You can feel the weight of history there.

We stopped here on our way back from touring a golf course.  It was almost an afterthought – not a scheduled stop on our route.  In fact, we were late getting back because so many of us couldn’t tear ourselves away.  Our tour guide spoke to the abundance of churches on St. Simons Island, saying that he believed you couldn’t visit a place of such beauty and not believe in the existence of a higher power.  You feel that here.

When you walk through the weathered wooden gate, surrounded by moss-covered red brick, you are struck by the serenity of the place.  There are cars going by on the road just behind you, but somehow you are sheltered from all of that.  The light filtered through the trees falls just so, dancing haphazardly in the breeze.There is unexpected beauty here – dried brown leaves on the roof of the entry gate, dappled sunlight through moss-covered trees, gray-green shingles and heavy wooden beams.  Even the hint of a yellow leaf through the dried fronds of a fallen fern, with the bokeh created by the light coming through the trees above, takes my breath away.

As you walk among the tombs and gravestones, there are little tokens left by visitors.  Some might even make you chuckle quietly to yourself.  Rachel and I joked that Bo and Luke were laid to rest here.  Irreverent?  Maybe – but I don’t think we were the first to think it.

There are small surprises around every turn.  These soft pink camellias were nearly hidden from view behind a large oak heavily draped in moss.  Had I not been looking for treasures, I might not have spotted them.  Sometimes I think my camera seeks out these little gems – like it’s leading me to capture fleeting beauty.

The interior of the church is just as lovely as the surrounding landscape.  Every stained glass window is unique and the exposed-beam ceiling and warm-wood pews are a testament to the workmanship that must have gone into the construction of the building.  This is a church that is well loved and well used.  And it is still an active Episcopal church, with daily morning and evening prayer, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday Holy Eucharist services.As with many churches, The Episcopal Churchwomen of Christ Church put together a cookbook of their best loved recipes.  Being a lover of church cookbooks, I couldn’t resist purchasing one while I was there.  In many ways it is a typical church cookbook, with scads of casseroles, gelatin-based salads and more variations on brownies and pound cakes than you might think possible.  There are some hidden gems, though – I especially like the chapter at the end titled “Men Cook, Restaurants, Olde Time”.  There you’ll find a “Cure for Dysentery or Diarrhea” alongside “Martha Washington’s Boston Cream Pie.”

In determining which recipe to make first from the Christ Church cookbook, I knew I wanted something rather simple that would reflect the unexpected beauty found on the grounds and in the building.  I adapted this apple cake from a recipe for “Apple Dapple Cake” by Mary Jane Flint, but I changed quite a few things along the way.  The original sounds delicious, and it certainly inspired the cake you see above. But, if you want the original recipe, you’ll have to order a copy of the cookbook for yourself (all proceeds from the sale of the books go to help charitable organizations on St. Simons Island and worldwide).

Oatmeal Apple Cake
prep time: 10 minutes
bake time: 45 minutes
serves: 12-14


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple butter
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 cups apples, chopped
  1. Grease and flour a 10×18 inch pan and preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients
  3. Stir together the sugar, apple butter, butter and eggs
  4. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients
  5. Fold in the chopped apples
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Serve plain or topped with unsweetened cream, creme fraiche or yogurt.

I’ve actually eaten this for breakfast every morning this week.  With a cup of hot black coffee, it’s just what I want to start my day with.  Mildly sweet, moist, full of autumn apple flavor – it’s reminiscent of baked oatmeal, but all grown up.  There’s something really lovely about it – it’s beautiful in its simplicity.  Unexpectedly so.

Father, we thank you for this meal, for our lives, for other people, for beautiful things, for goodness, and for You.
~Christ Church Cookbook

A Marriage Cake

Eight years ago, I married my best friend.

What I remember most about that day, the thing that sticks most resiliently in my mind, is how adamantly I wanted to be married.  I was done with the pomp and circumstance of the wedding before the wedding had even begun.  And it wasn’t like we had a big wedding – it was very intimate, a day shared with our closest friends and family.  A rainy, October day on a beach in St. Augustine with a very casual reception afterward.  But as I stood in the bridal suite, having my corset laced and my picture taken, all I could think about was getting on with the marriage part of the deal.  The wedding was nice, but I wasn’t nearly as excited about that as I was about spending the rest of my life married to my best friend.  Maybe I’m weird.

And marriage hasn’t disappointed.  I mean, sure we’ve had our ups and downs.  It’s not perfect, but I never expected it to be.  I knew it would be work – in a Tim Gunn, “make it work” kind of way.  There are good days and there are bad days, but they are our days.  Our days to take on together, as a team.  The successes and the failures, the happy and the sad – we meet them all head on, a united front.

This year, our anniversary fell on a rainy, gray Tuesday.  He had to work, and I was home with our youngest all day.  We’d been out to a restaurant the Saturday prior – a kind of pre-Anniversary celebration since we had overnight child-care in the form of my husband’s parents (yay for in-town grandparents!).  But I wanted to do something, however small, to celebrate the actual day.

I had commented as we drove back from dinner on Saturday, discussing where we should stop in for dessert, that I wished we could find an 8-year-old wedding cake top tier.  Not that I think there should be a bakery that specializes in moldy old cake – that’s just gross.  But there is something nostalgic and fun in sitting down together to share that top tier of your wedding cake on your first anniversary.  In subsequent years, you just don’t have anything quite that special.

As I stood in the kitchen yesterday, laughing quietly to myself at the thought of a bakery with lighted glass display shelves lined with stale, moldy cake (the mind does tend to wonder), it came to me.  I’d bake a marriage cake.  A small, intimate 6-inch cake.  Nothing elaborate, just a simple everyday cake to celebrate our every day, all day, lifelong marriage.

To get the ratios for a single, six-inch layer, I turned to Dessert for Two, a blog dedicated to reducing dessert recipes to a quantity fit for two people to consume in one sitting.  I went with the cake recipe for her Better Than Sex Cake, subbing whole-wheat flour and honey granules for their more refined counterparts.  I didn’t have any pineapple, and my husband doesn’t care for shredded coconut, so I improvised on the topping.

I glazed the tiny cake with a mixture of buttermilk (1/2 cup), sucanat (1/4 cup) and rum (teaspoon) that I cooked together until the sucanat dissolved.  I then stirred in a tablespoon of cold butter to thicken and enrich the glaze.   Once the cake had cooled, I poked holes in the top and drizzled the glaze over top.

I frosted it with a cream-cheese based frosting: 4 oz. cream cheese, 2 tablespoons softened butter, 2 tablespoons honey granules, 1 tablespoon agave nectar, 1 teaspoon rum.

In a lot of ways, this was the perfect cake to eat on an 8th wedding anniversary.  It’s not terribly refined, it’s a little rough around the edges, and it’s got a little bit of a sour edge to it from the buttermilk and the cream cheese.  There is a bit of sweetness, though, and the sweetness has some depth to it, from the darker sucanat in the glaze and the honey granules in the frosting.  And there’s just a hint of something fun and flirty peeking through from the addition of the rum.

Despite its unrefined appearance, I served it up on some of our fine china.  And we shared it, just as we did that top tier seven years ago.

I think I’ll make this a tradition – baking a single tier for us to share on our anniversary.  I’m sure the cake will change, just as our marriage will change (for the better, I hope), but I love the idea of taking the time to share something sweet together and to reflect on the reasons we fell in love in the first place.

Marriage Cake
adapted from Dessert for Two’s Better than Sex Cake

  • 1/4 cup solid coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup honey granules
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon rum
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk


  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sucanat
  • 1 teaspoon rum
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cold


  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey granules
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon rum
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and grease and flour a six-inch round cake pan
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, using a handheld mixer, cream together the coconut oil, butter and honey granules until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the rum and mix to combine.
  4. Add the egg and beat to incorporate
  5. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt
  6. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, until just incorporated
  7. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean
  8. For the glaze, combine the buttermilk, sucanat and rum and cook over low heat until sucanat dissolves
  9. Off the heat, add the cold butter and whisk to incorporate – it should make the glaze a little thicker and shiny
  10. Once cake is done, allow to cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then turn it out and allow it to cool all the way before glazing
  11. Once cooled, poke holes in the cake and pour the glaze over top.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes
  12. For the frosting, combine the cream cheese, softened butter and honey granules.  Beat on high until light and fluffy and honey granules are dissolved.  Add the agave and the rum.
  13. Frost the cake.
  14. Enjoy!

One Day At a Time. And Today It’s Coconut Cake

Things kind of suck right now.

That’s the gist of my life these days.  I’ve been avoiding this space because I don’t really have much to talk about, and because I’m down.  Blue.  Sad.

I haven’t really wanted to write about it because it seems silly.  There are so many other truly terrible things in the world, and my little bout of self pity seems a little trite.  But, it’s my life – and that’s what this space is all about.  Life.  And sometimes life isn’t so great.

I think a big part of it is that I’m looking for work, and that process is always discouraging.  I’m a task-oriented kind of person, and lately I’ve been sorely lacking in the task department.  I need some meaning and direction.  And I need to figure out how to find it for myself, rather than waiting for someone else to find it for me.

And that scares me.

So, I’m taking it one day at a time.  I’m waking up in the morning, I’m getting up out of bed, and I’m living.  I’m caring for my children, and I’m keeping my house (sort of), and I’m looking for meaning in the little things.  And I’m grateful for distractions that take me out of my head.

I was particularly grateful the other day when my neighbor texted me with a challenge.  She and her husband had stopped on their way back from Cherokee, NC and purchased a coconut pound cake.  They liked it so much, they wanted me to try to replicate it.  She brought me a piece to sample, along with the ingredient list from the label.

It was very moist, and had been glazed with a very sweet coconut-flavored glaze.  The ingredient list for the cake read: flour, margarine, sugar, eggs, coconut, milk, shortening, flavorings; and for the glaze: sugar, coconut milk, margarine.

I knew right off that it wasn’t a traditional pound cake recipe – those usually consist of a pound of flour, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of eggs.  No milk, no shortening.  No levening.  Just flour, butter, sugar and eggs.  But, I wanted to try to stay as true to the ingredient list as possible, so I went in search of a recipe that seemed similar.

I landed on one from Bon Appetit, Y’all by Virginia Willis.  Hers used a combination of butter and shortening, as well as milk.  I decided to eliminate the shortening, since I don’t like using hydrogenated fats in my cooking (and I didn’t have any expeller pressed shortening on hand), but for the most part I stuck pretty close to the ratios in her recipe.  Of course, I had to adapt it somewhat to accommodate the coconut.

I wound up baking two versions – one that used sweetened flake coconut, and one that used fresh coconut.  I couldn’t tell from the inspiration cake’s ingredient list which the baker had used, so I wanted to try it with both.

I have these peel-and-stick blackboard panels on my refrigerator.  I use them to make notes about recipes as I’m working on them.  As you can see, I have the ingredients and amounts for the two different versions of the cake listed above.  This really comes in handy for note-taking – eliminates the need for paper on the counter (which gets messy), or running the risk of spilling something on my computer.

Coconut Cake – Version 1 (using sweetened flake coconut)

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup sweetened flake coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 325, and grease two loaf pans
  2. in the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the butter until light and fluffy
  3. slowly add the sugar to the butter and whip on high until light in color and increased in volume
  4. whisk together the milks, eggs, vanilla
  5. sift together the flour, baking powder and salt
  6. with the mixer on low, add the flour and liquid mixtures to the butter/sugar mixture, starting and ending with flour
  7. fold the coconut into the batter
  8. divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans
  9. bake at 325 for 55-65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Coconut Cake – Version 2 (using fresh coconut)

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup grated fresh coconut
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup grated fresh coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 325F and grease and flour two loaf pans
  2. Combine milk, 1 cup coconut and 1/2 vanilla bean (pod and seeds) in a sauce pan.  Heat to almost boiling.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Strain, reserving milk in one container and coconut in another.  Discard vanilla bean pod.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy.
  4. Slowly add the sugar to the butter, whipping until lighter in color and increased in volume
  5. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  6. Whisk together the cooled milk and eggs
  7. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk/egg mixture to the butter and sugar, starting and ending with flour
  8. Fold the second cup of fresh coconut into the batter
  9. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans
  10. Bake at 325F for 55-65 minutes

For the glaze (this is enough for four cakes):

Combine 1 cup coconut milk with 1/2 a stick of softened butter and 1 2/3 cup powdered sugar.  Whisk to combine and until smooth.  Pour glaze over cooled cakes.

I think both versions were successful, but I definitely liked the one with the fresh coconut better.  It was a little more moist, and I think it had more coconut flavor.  It wasn’t exactly like the one they brought back from Cherokee, but it was close.

And this task certainly provided a much needed distraction for me for a few hours yesterday.  And for that I’m thankful.

Vanilla Sour Cream Cake with Strawberry Jam

It’s easy these days to become bogged down in the day to day – worried about school schedules and job applications and how we’re going to ever afford to go on vacation again.  Sometimes it’s nice to throw myself into a project, shift my focus to something else for a change.  As I set out the ingredients for this cake yesterday, listening to the whine of the grain mill as it ground the flour, I was completely immersed in creating this celebratory gateau.  Nothing else mattered for a few hours, except making the perfect birthday cake.

You see, yesterday was my husband’s 37th birthday.

I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, and he told me yellow cake with white frosting.  It’s his favorite.  In fact, I shouldn’t have even had to ask, but I always feel compelled to do so.  Like maybe one year, he’ll choose something different.  But no, yellow cake with white frosting it was.  I chose to shake things up a bit by adding some strawberry jam to the mix, but ultimately it was still a yellow cake.  With white frosting.

There’s something sort of magical about taking raw ingredients and creating something beautiful and delicious.  Whole grains get ground into flour, then combined with leveners, fat, sugar, eggs and liquid, and suddenly you have cake.  It’s really an amazing process.  And then you take it a step further and layer it with homemade strawberry jam and thick and creamy cream cheese frosting, and you’ve got a masterpiece on your hands.

This cake comes together fairly quickly and easily, with little effort.  It does require you to separate your eggs, and whip the whites to soft peaks with cream of tartar, but for the most part, it doesn’t require much in the way of baking prowess.  It helps to have a stand mixer, but you could do it with a hand mixer and a couple of bowls.  I used freshly ground soft white wheat flour, so I imagine you could do this with a conventional white whole wheat, or even all-purpose and achieve the same results.

You’ll end up with a moist, rustic cake that soaks up all of the wonderful strawberry flavor from the jam and stands up nicely to the weight of the cream cheese frosting.  The tang from the yogurt and sour cream provide a nice balance for what could be an overly sweet cake, with all of the sugar in the frosting and the jam.  I imagine if you wanted something even more simple, you could leave the frosting off all together, and just give it a light dusting of powdered sugar.  Or, you could use fresh seasonal fruit in place of the jam (ooh, wouldn’t figs be lovely here?) and keep the frosting for some sweetness.  The possibilities are really limitless here.

Vanilla Sour Cream Cake
prep time: 10 minutes
bake time: 20 minutes
yields: 2 8-inch layers


  • 1 3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons butter
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (I used 4 oz. of yogurt and 4 oz. of sour cream)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup good quality strawberry jam
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 oz. softened butter
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F, and grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and vanilla seeds until creamy
  4. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy
  5. Beat in the egg yolks
  6. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the yogurt or sour cream in two parts, beating until smooth.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks.
  8. Fold one third of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites, taking care to deflate them as little as possible.
  9. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
  10. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly
  11. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely
  12. Once cooled, carefully cut each of the layers in half, creating a total of four layers
  13. to make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, softened butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on high to combine.
  14. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add the powdered sugar until completely combined.
  15. To construct the cake, place one layer on a cardboard cake round or cake plate.  Spread half the jam evenly across the layer.
  16. Add a second layer of cake, and spread frosting evenly across layer.
  17. Add a third layer, and add remaining strawberry jam, spreading evenly.
  18. Add the final layer, and frost with remaining cream cheese frosting.
  19. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.
  20. Enjoy!

Grilled Angel Food Cake (fat-free, but who cares?)

She was a freshman in college: a little overweight, introverted and shy. She was excited, but a little unsure of herself in this new situation.  As an only child, she had never really shared a room with anyone else, let alone a perfect stranger.  She wasn’t even sure she really liked people all that much (sometimes, she still feels that way – true confession).  All she knew was that she was glad to be out of high school, away from all that pressure – pressure to be liked, pressure to be thin, pressure to have a boyfriend.  A new place with new people might be just the thing.

Mill at Berry College - image courtesy of

Surprisingly, she made friends relatively quickly and easily – and the friends she met in those first weeks at school are still some of her best friends today (nearly 20 years later).

She was determined to buck the trend of the dreaded “freshman-15”.  She would go to the dining hall with her new friends, but she would eat off the salad bar or order turkey sandwiches on whole-wheat bread – hold the cheese and mayo.  The fat-free trend was in full swing (this was long before the idea of “good fat” vs. “bad fat” – all fat was bad, so you should avoid it altogether).  Occasionally she would nuke a potato in the microwave in her dorm room and slather it with fat-free sour cream and butter-flavored spread.

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Mother.  Mutti. Maman. Mum. Mom. Mama. Madre. Mommy. Mutter.

A female parent.

A woman in authority.

The source or origin.

Something that is an extreme or ultimate example of its kind.

To give birth to.

To give rise to.

To care for or protect.

What does the word “mother” mean to you?

In my mind, the word mother connotes strength, creation, tenacity, versatility, nurturing, warmth, intelligence, patience, and, most of all, LOVE.

My own mother embodies all of these words and more.  She has been my biggest champion and my staunchest supporter through the years.  Even now, she continues to do all that she can to make sure that I’m okay – that I’m healthy and happy.  And she cares for my children as though they’re her own.

Throughout this last month or so, I’ve been torn in a million different directions.  Between my professional life and my home life, I’ve struggled to find a balance that works for me.  I’ve found myself spread too thin and coming close to missing deadlines for very important things (like a Mother’s Day celebration at my son’s school).  At every turn, I’ve been fortunate that my own mother has been there to help me through.  She jumps in and helps where she can, and she offers perspective when I really need it.

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