Tuesday, November 19, 2013

simple autumn wedding cake

Alcohol often leads to a surge of confidence in people. So it's no surprise that I agreed to make a wedding cake for my friend Holly after a night at the bar. I woke up the next day with the sinking feeling of making a promise I couldn't keep. But I decided to stick to my word and go for it.

I'm incredibly fortunate to have laid back friends. Over the last few years, I've been in quite a few weddings and all of the brides have been wonderful. Rather than throw high-pressure, high-maintenance events, they've had simple, beautiful, non-traditional days that I will remember forever. So with no direction and knowing that any attempt would be appreciated I went forth. 

My first attempt was a ginger, carrot cake. Another girlfriend and I tried it out one Friday evening a few months before the wedding in her new house.

It was an utter disaster.

We made the cake and put it in the oven. Then we talked in the kitchen over a few glasses of wine while it was baking. At some point, I leaned back against the oven and the door fell off. We scrambled to keep it in place, at least as long as the cake was still baking and managed to rig it to stay on.

We managed to scrape through disaster number one only to find that the cake was super crumbly and fell apart when we removed it from the pan.

So we scratched that recipe.

My second attempt went far better. This one, a carrot apple cake, didn't break anything and stayed together wonderfully. I brought a taste to the bride and groom and they gave it the green light. So that was that.

I have been utterly in love with naked cakes lately. There's something so simple and natural looking about them and I prefer the sparse frosting. I made the cakes the day before. The morning of the wedding I frosted them and headed to Eastern Market to buy fresh flowers to decorate. The reception was at the Gaelic League, so I brought the cake there and threw some flowers on top.

It wasn't perfect looking, but it didn't have to be. Love is always a little flawed.

simple autumn wedding cake

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups granulated cane sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups grated granny smith apple
1 cup chopped raw walnuts

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans and coat in a light layer of flour. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Combine oil and eggs in a small bowl, then add to dry mixture. Add the carrots, apples, and walnuts until just mixed.

Divide the batter into the three pans and cook for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and then remove cakes from pan to cool completely.

*I frosted these cakes with a simple buttercream. The recipe will make a three layer cake. I made two batches to get four layers. I had no extra frosting, but two leftover layers of cake. Fortunately, this cake is still delicious without frosting.

Friday, November 8, 2013

where to begin?

When I moved to Michigan I thought all of the change was done. I was engaged and had a job and a tiny house with a garden. But life is never that easy. And I was miserable.

It took me far too long to realize it. I hurt people who didn't need to be hurt and made promises I couldn't keep. And when everything fell apart I had an overwhelming sense of guilt that seemed to crush my entire being.

But I'm not a villain. What I did was incredibly brave. It is often easier to just let life happen to us than to make the choices that will make us happy. I've finally realized that what other people think or feel about my choices doesn't mean a whole lot to me. They don't have to live my life. I do.

So I'm beginning again.

This time in Detroit proper. And I'm in love with this city.

I live in a tiny sparsely furnished flat with my cat. I can walk and bike anywhere I want to go. And the city has so many things to offer.

My favorites:

Exploring the labyrinth that is the main branch of the Detroit Public Library. Going in without a plan, getting completely lost in the stacks, and leaving with an armful of books I would never have planned to read.

Wandering the galleries of the DIA and being brought to tears by every painting of the moon.

Waking up early on Saturdays to get fresh produce, flowers, and coffee at Eastern Market. Having little girls there tell me I'm pretty and they like my flowers. Giving flowers to said little girls.

Late-night drunken fires and archery tournaments in backyards full of chickens and gardens.

It's lovely. It's perfect. It feels like home.