For a substantial period of my life, I had my mom photograph my daily outfit before “ootd” was a quotidian acronym. More specifically, I had my mom take a film photograph of my daily ensembles. This tells you two things: 1) My mom obviously loved me and supported my creative whims- enough to pay for film processing, and 2) I obviously cared a lot about clothing (I did have three significantly older sisters who loved to style me from day one, so this fascination was inevitable). Without latching onto the industry or specific names, fashion has always captivated me.
In middle school, I would write down my outfits on my homework agenda as a way to avoid repetition. In high school, I designed my prom dresses, which my mom patiently sewed while enduring my designer outbursts and tantrums [I’m sorry mom!]. College was a sea of inspiration. Surrounded by artistic nerds, I explored a wide variety of looks. Whilst in the throes of post-graduation, looming life questions, I even considered applying to FIT. Instead, I fled to France to iron a toddler’s pajamas and to gain a new appreciation for all-black ensembles, quality versus quantity, and form-flattering silhouettes. In one form or another though, fashion was always there.
Recently, a tattered page fell from one of my old notebooks. On it, I had transcribed a quote from the film Bill Cunningham New York about the namesake trailblazing, street-fashion photographer. In the film, he said,
“The wider world perceives fashion as a frivolity that should be done away with in the face of social upheavals and problems that are enormous. The point is, in fact, fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It’d be like doing away with civilization.”
If we let it, a love of fashion can feel petty or vain, but Cunningham distilled a humanity from our outer layers. Arguably, he was praising beauty- in all its wild forms. It’s why his photography is so compelling. His shutter is not constrained to trends, rules or condescension. He captures the bold, the unique, the simple details a million others might miss in their rush. He weaves themes and stories in the passing of commuters and daily lives.
As the season shifts to spring breezes, and rays of warm sunshine return, I find myself re-inspired by my own outer construct. Winter was often a helpless heaping of layers in an attempt to stay almost warm, but like the blossoming bulbs, I am ready to reinvent myself. I am ready to emerge from winter’s dark palette and wear bright hues and bold new patterns. I am ready for new looks and a new version of myself. As Cunningham said recently, “You can put fashion down and say it doesn’t mean anything, but it does because each morning when you get dressed, when you go out, it just lifts your spirits.” By extension, one could say the same about many design based fields. These spirit-lifting details drive so much of what I do- from interiors, to events, to food, these elements of style have meaning and significance. Beautiful details have the potential to inspire stories and smiles and memories.
This cake was a birthday cake for a fashion maven, also known as The Seam Ripper. Rachel is a new friend of mine, and she is the type of woman you like instantly. She is smart, witty, comical, driven, and she believes beauty and style exist in all shapes and sizes. She also loves beets, so this cake was all about beauty and beets. Here’s to spring! Here’s to fashion and beauty and details! Here’s to cake!
Bon Appétit, You Beauties!
Whole Wheat Vanilla Almond Cake with Roasted Beet Frosting
About This Recipe: I used an organic lemon extract in this spongey cake recipe, which was slightly overpowered by the almond extract. I recommend using fresh zest if you want to enhance the lemon flavor. Since I don’t have an arsenal of cake pans, I used one 7-inch springform pan to make a very tall cake, and then cut layers from that. If you have multiples, bake individual layers, but you’ll have to adjust baking times accordingly. For an extra special touch, I garnished this cake with dried roses with special instructions not to eat them. You could use an edible fresh flower, berries or whatever inspires you!
Whole Wheat Vanilla Almond Cake
1 cup organic Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons organic vanilla extract
2 teaspoons organic lemon extract (or fresh zest)
2 teaspoons organic almond extract
2 1/4 cups organic whole-wheat pastry flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) organic, unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 1/4 cups organic turbinado raw cane sugar
3 large eggs, plus 3 large egg whites (organic/cage-free)
organic powdered sugar for dusting
For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 7-inch round, springform cake pan.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the yogurt and extracts.
In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs and whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
Beat in yogurt mixture.
Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture until just combined.
Transfer to pan, and smooth top.
Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool while you prepare the frosting. (Cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature overnight.)
Roasted Beet Frosting
4 small roasted beets, peeled and pureed
2 Tablespoons coconut milk, chilled (the solid cream part)
1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until combined.
Run a knife along the edge of the cake pan before releasing. Use a serrated bread knife to remove the bottom of the cake pan. Using a lazy-susan and the bread knife, cut the cake into three even layers. Transfer the bottom layer to a serving plate. Use an offset spatula to frost the cake. Repeat with the remaining layers. Dust the top with powdered sugar, and garnish with flowers or berries (optional).