A snapshot of my working life (because I don’t do snapchat):
Quelcy parks nefariously (after circling the block to avoid a fire truck and a police car in the illegal parking zone…suspicious, to say the least!), then walks briskly to the park’s edge, where the most brilliantly colored maple trees hang low enough to reach from the slope of the hill. She proceeds to cut the low-hanging branches quickly, with a feigned authority in case anyone is watching (which they definitely do in this neighborhood. The old people don’t have anything better to do besides watch the younger generation of crazies). She then squats, like a hungry peasant child, and brushes the fallen leaves into a trash bag as if they are food scraps from the delicatessen. She returns to her car with a sizable bundle of foliage and a trash bag of leaf debris.
How was your day?
So “why” is probably the question you have after reading that. Oh you know, just your average day in the life of a frugal, “nature-inspired” stylist en route to styling a wedding vow renewal ceremony in a building with enough chipped paint and industrial surfaces to make my eyes glaze over happily. In other words, “I was really feeling fall.”
When I told the Urban Farmer I had to scavenge leaves for the shoot, he said, “you should take the neighbor’s leaves. Their color is so beautiful.” He said it without pause, without having to rack his mind for the beauty of fall. I had almost missed those leaves, their deep burgundy color fading to my periphery. I loved him so much in that moment, when I saw how thoughtfully he approached nature, taking the time to catalog the wild brush strokes of the season, even the ones in the more understated, moody tones.
While my own approach to channeling the season may be a little over the top, maybe even a little illegal (or in the least, frowned upon), his was so pure, so poetic- it’s fall, take in the colors on the path you walk daily. There’s a deep beauty in the simplicity of the everyday. This cake is a little like the neighbor’s leaves. It’s not too complicated, but it’s a way to enjoy fall to the fullest.
Whole Grain Apple Chai Cake
About this Recipe: It’s the time of year for tea and spices, and this cake has both! The real beauty comes from the apple design, so express yourself. Experiment with varying apple peel colors too.
1-1/2 cups (3 medium) gala apples, cored and coarsely grated
2 cups organic white whole wheat flour (King Arthur Flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tulsi Rooibos Chai teabags (such as these)
1 cup (2 sticks) organic unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
2 cups organic light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature (organic/free-range)
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
3 organic granny smith apples, thinly sliced
Organic light brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 11×17 sheet pan. Set aside.
Place a paper towel or cotton dish towel on a sheet pan or large tray. Grate the apples, then spread over the paper/dish towel to soak up some of the moisture. Set aside.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and contents of the Chai tea bags together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Set aside.
Cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract,and cream in a large mixing bowl.
Gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
Fold in the grated apples.
Pour the cake batter into the sheet pan, making sure it’s even.
Add the sliced apples in the design of your choice. Sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar to taste.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes.