There is a vulnerability to spring I hadn’t noticed until walking through the spindly branches and brown brush of my neighborhood. Winter had protected those same trees and littered ground like long hair protects an insecure girl, basking the earth in a security blanket of snow and a wash of grays. We do not scrutinize winter. We hide from it.
Spring, however, emerges to watchful eyes, like a debut role performed to an audience of critics. People pour into the streets in prematurely short sleeves with exposed legs and toes, demanding warmth, a gentle breeze, greens and blooms.
Meanwhile, seeds and seedlings leave farmers and gardeners guessing- will they or won’t they? Will they spring back from the freak snow? Will they be on schedule for transplanting? Will they emerge at all?
Yet somehow, the early buds prove resilient. The greens and pinks emerge, and if given a little time, they paint the most fabulous landscape. From barren to beautiful, the transition to full-force spring is a process worth observing, worth noting, worth taking to heart.
There are plenty of ugly moments and doubts en route to a masterpiece. Once those painterly strokes of genius appear, they are but brief and fleeting, so we better appreciate the messes and spindly branches along the way.
Like the season, I feel myself reemerging. I just wrapped a major project, a labor of love that consumed my early mornings and late nights and nearly every minute in between. I had to remind myself all along to enjoy the process. That process, like the spring blossoms, can pass so quickly leaving me to question whether the tree ever had blooms or if I had dreamt it.
This cake tastes like walking in the newness of spring, when fresh scents hit you, but you can’t quite locate the tiny buds emitting the perfume. The floral notes of the rose feel cleansing and purifying, like splashing your face with water.
Here’s to the vulnerabilities of spring, to the process of reemerging, and as always, to the sweetness of special desserts worth sharing with special people! This one was for The Urban Farmer’s mama because she is one of the loveliest!
Whole Grain Blood Orange & Rose Water Cake with Rose Water Frosting
About this Recipe: I used a 7-inch and a 6-inch springform pan to create two cake layers, which I then cut in halves to create more layers. Alternately, you could make 3 6×2-inch round cakes. If using fresh flowers as a garnish, be careful to protect the cake from any floral byproduct and caution eaters against eating the flowers (unless they are edible varieties of course). You can wrap the ends of stems in foil or floral tape as a cautionary measure.
Whole Grain Blood Orange & Rose Water Cake
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (such as King Arthur)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites (cage-free/organic), separated
1 cup organic unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups organic raw cane sugar
1/4 cup plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup organic whole milk
4 Tablespoons rose water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced into chunks (about 1 cup of chunks)
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Coat springform pans (see note in “About this Recipe”) with non-stick spray, and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites until frothy. Transfer to a separate container, and set aside.
In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light in color and smooth. Add the yogurt, milk, rose water and vanilla, and beat until smooth.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and egg whites into butter mixture until combined. Do not over mix.
Fold in the blood orange chunks, then divide batter evenly into the prepared cake pans and bake until golden, about 35-40 minutes.
Place the cakes on a cooling rack and let cool for ~10 minutes before removing from the pan. Let cool completely before frosting, about 1-hour.
Rose Water Frosting
1 cup organic heavy cream
1 Tablespoon organic powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons rose water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In the chilled bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to use.
If using two cakes, use a lazy Susan to cut each into two horizontal layers (a total of 4 layers of cake). If using three identical pans, leave the layers as is.
Place the base layer on the serving platter. Spread an even layer of frosting on the surface. Top with the second layer of cake, and press down gently. Repeat the process until the top layer.
Frost the sides with a thin layer, and use an offset spatula to smooth the surface.
Garnish with flowers and fresh fruit. Keep chilled until ready to serve.