Under the weight of a nerdy backpack, I would trek up three flights of split-level stairs, to the retreat that was the Arts & Architecture floor of the university’s library. Stocked to the brim with manifestos, colorful portfolios, comprehensive histories and magazines showcasing the modern, this floor simultaneously filled me with limitless inspiration and overwhelmed me with its magnitude.
I wanted to read every single book, but at times, I couldn’t even decide which book was a worthy starting point. How could my brain possibly contain a mere fraction of this treasure trove? I would need a lifetime!
I feel about flowers the way I felt about the Arts & Architecture floor of the library- inspired and overwhelmed! I’ve only recently begun to truly appreciate the brightening, bliss-making powers of flowers. Having once scoffed at the many wasteful practices surrounding floristry, I’ve been inspired by the flower farmer movements and the way flowers can transform an entire room.
I’ve begun to scratch the surface, and like pulling a volume from that library shelf, there are so many places to start. When it comes to flowers, I have so much to learn- there are common names, scientific names, growing practices, cutting tips, so on and so forth. In an effort not to lose myself to debilitating information overload, I’m simply trying to make more room for flowers in my life.
From the vase in my bedroom, to layer cakes, to a field at the farm, I’m making more space for blooms, branches and compositional experiments. I’m giving myself the freedom to be curious (trying to at least!), which after all, is what led me to baking (that and an insatiable sweet tooth). That curiosity is also what led me to use chia seeds instead of poppy seeds and to add turmeric to practically everything. If you need a nudge to follow your curiosity more, I suggest this video. If you need a nudge toward the kitchen, I suggest this cake!
p.s: This cake first appeared in TABLE Magazine, as part of my story, “Closed for the Holidays.”
Whole Wheat Citrus, Turmeric & Chia Seed Layer Cake with Orange Buttercream Frosting
About this Recipe: Turmeric yields a bright golden surface and an even brighter golden crumb! The chia seeds will pass for poppy seeds until you reveal your secret, healthy-baking weapon. The crumb is a little heartier, but the extra density works well for layering. Note: the flowers I used were not edible, merely for effect. Try an edible variety, or top with candied citrus or orange peel garnishes.
Whole Wheat Citrus, Turmeric & Chia Seed Layer Cake
3 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) organic, unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans
2 cups organic raw cane sugar
7 large eggs, at room temperature (organic/cage-free)
1 teaspoon organic almond extract
1 cup organic coconut milk, at room temperature (or organic whole milk)
zest from 2 organic lemons
zest from 2 organic navel oranges
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1/3 cup organic chia seeds
Orange buttercream frosting (Recipe below)
Heat oven to 350°F.
Butter two 7-inch, round springform cake pans. Set aside.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, turmeric and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-low speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar; beat until color has lightened, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium-low speed after each addition until batter is no longer slick but is smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop to scrape down bowl once or twice so batter will combine well.
Beat in almond extract on medium-low speed.
Reduce the mixer speed to low.
Alternately add reserved flour mixture and coconut milk, a little of each at a time, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula once or twice.
Beat in lemon zest, orange zest, ginger, and chia seeds.
Divide batter evenly among the prepared pans.
Bake 30 minutes, then rotate pans for even browning. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, 5 to 10 minutes more.
Transfer to wire racks to cool, 15 minutes. Release the springform pans, and remove the sides. Let cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting.
Once the cake has cooled, use a lazy susan and a long, serrated knife to cut each cake layer into two horizontal layers. Save best-looking layer for the top.
Place one layer on the serving platter. Dollop a generous portion of frosting over the top. Use an offset spatula to spread evenly. Repeat with remaining layers. Place reserved layer on top.
Chill cake until ready to serve to allow the frosting to set.
Orange Buttercream Frosting
4 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
2 8-ounce packages of organic cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) organic, unsalted butter, at room temperature
zest from 2 organic navel oranges
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Keep chilled until ready to use.