Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby’s First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free)

A letter to my niece, Remi June, to be opened on her 18th birthday:

Dear Remi June,

They say “you can’t choose your family,” but I was lucky in that I chose yours. I fell for a handsome Urban Farmer with a big heart, deep convictions and one of the best laughs I have ever heard. (I think it comes from your Pappy!) Lucky for me, he was the complete package because he came with a family I adored- your family.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

I entered the Pattison story shortly after your big brother did, but I was there for your entire journey. From the moment you were announced, the love and pride beamed in everyone’s eyes. You Remi June, were well loved before the start.

From the beginning, your parents shaped their entire lives around your health and well being, but they’re also the type to look out for the health and well being of complete strangers. They’re good people. Don’t forget that. As you venture into the world on your own, to forge your own path, you have a support system with the strength of the steel that built this rusty city.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Above all Remi June, I would encourage you to make your own mistakes.

Many will try to spare you from failures and heartbreaks, and though these lows will hurt, the ability to scoop ourselves up tests who we really are and in the end, usually provides us with a path better than we ever could have imagined. Nonetheless, what kind of “adult” would I be if I didn’t offer you a few of the lessons I learned the hard way?

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Don’t be afraid to quit. Change directions.

Too much of life is spent in pursuit of pleasing some elusive panel of judges. Life is full of “shoulds” and justifications for choices that don’t please our hearts, whether they be the job that looks good on paper or finishing a degree we don’t really want, or committing to a partner who isn’t the best fit. Never stop asking your heart what it wants, and don’t be ashamed to follow it. You only have one wild ride on this life coaster.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Past paths are not wasted. We glean from the journey.

When your heart tells you to redirect, do not fret about the miles behind you. Life has a funny way of collecting valuable souvenirs from all our routes, tokens that become so useful when we find ourselves following our internal compasses.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

You are every bit as capable as a man.

Right now, women are angry and stepping into the light. We thought your very first president would be a female, a beacon of a narrowing gap, but we were wrong. In this misstep, we realized that we owe more to our foremothers who fought so hard to bridge so many gaps, and we owe more to the future generations who deserve better.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

From the start, I watched people treat you like a girl. Pink appeared. Tones changed when speaking to you, and there was a gentler approach to you, but you, little tiny you, displayed a quickness, a curious spirit, an early grasp of words. You exhibited an innate strength, a resoluteness, a voice. Don’t forget that these qualities are in you. You deserve the education, career and life you want.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

See the good. Fight for the good.

As I am writing this, we are entering a very uncertain time- a new president who has enabled a resurgence of hate and fear. It’s all too easy to retreat, to feel buried in the mire, but I look to people like your father and your uncle, people who cling to what is right, fight for it and work every single day to make the world a better place for your generation and beyond. I am learning to stand stronger because of their influence and to take more responsibility.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

The big, loud protests are noble and good, but adding positivity to the everyday is just as admirable. Be kind. Be grateful, and be of service. You were born into a healthy, loving home. Never forget the advantages you were given, but stand against the disadvantages. The road is yours Remi June, and I can’t wait to watch where you drive!

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

I hope you’re reading this after a big ol’ slice of birthday cake (and I hope I made it!) because above all, your 18th year is cause for celebration. It was my honor and pleasure to make your very first birthday cake and watch you seize the day.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Love,

P.S: Take your vitamins. I’m pretty sure your dad would want me to say that. And thank your mom because this was a pretty special idea. She’s a giver, and she has a way of making everyone feel special!


Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby’s First Birthday
(Refined Sugar Free & Gluten Free)

yield: 9 x 13 pan

About this Recipe: Sweetened with pure maple syrup and made from coconut flour, this light, spongy cake is easy for young tummies to digest and won’t send them on a sugar crash. For whipping the egg whites, be sure your mixing bowl is clean, the egg whites are at room temperature and avoid any yolk spilling into the mixture. The recipe yields a 9 x 13 cake, but I used a 5-inch biscuit cutter to create the round layers for this layered version (and snacked on the rest). The frosting was colored with India Tree natural dyes.

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Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake with Whipped Topping (Gluten Free)

I hung my head in disgust and shame despite the fresh baked smell of chocolate and peppermint. Every attempt to salvage the ugliness before me had failed. The expensive, pink artisanal marshmallows looked like melted mozzarella- good on a pizza, bad on a brownie, and the chocolate drizzle was more like a chocolate drench, muddying the already mystifying marshmallows.

Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

The last feeble attempt- all natural sprinkles, as green as the many dollars needed to buy them, merely sank into the chocolate puddles. So alas, I left the warm brownies on the table, wrapped a bottle of wine and off we went to the Christmas Eve festivities. Failure has a way of kicking its boots around the kitchen every now and then. 

Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

This cake, however, was the redemption- a recipe seemingly designed to fail! How many times have I returned to the cooling rack in despair to see a sunken cake intended for layered glory. This chocolate cake recipe replies, “well, if there’s a chance it’s going to fall, why not just let it fall in the first place?” In general, this attitude might be a tad defeatist, but if you need an upswing, this might be the glass-half-full cake.

Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

So nestle into those p.j.’s, ignore the cake on the cooling rack, and let those rich, chocolate layers just sink into crackly goodness. This was my sweet, chocolate redemption that turned Christmas Eve failure into Christmas Day success. The many happy mouths, with chocolate and jam still sticking to their lips, said this was my best cake to date!

Go out and fail!

Flourless Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake with Whipped Neufchâtel Topping
Adapted from Bon Appetit

About this Recipe: Cake can be made 1 day ahead. Cover in pan and store airtight at room temperature. The original recipe calls for a 9-inch springform pan. To make the layered version, I used a 6 and 7-inch pan. The 6-inch cake will require less baking time (~25-30 minutes), so keep an eye on it as it bakes.

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A Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake Forest (Gluten Free)

The truck inched around the tight bend of the parking garage. It seemed to have swallowed several other trucks in the process, making each maneuver hinge on the impossible. Valets attempted to corral drivers who wouldn’t be able to handle parking lots on a slow day.

A Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake Forest (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Once inside the grocery store, darting from one aisle to the other felt like a video game with constant obstacles- a rogue cart, an unaware shopper, an oblivious person fixated on a recipe printout while the employees did their best to maintain.

‘Tis the season!

A Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake Forest (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Yet within that chaos, a man in a Santa hat played “Away in A Manger” on his violin. He wasn’t a member of the city’s symphony or a student from the local university’s esteemed music program. It was simple and heartfelt. The song could be heard throughout the jams of people, carts and kids grabbing at everything while their parents did their best to survive. A few shoppers took the time to sit in the cafe and really listen, tucking tips into the simple plastic cup on the table.

A Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake Forest (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Up a level on the parking garage and on to the wine store, where human bodies nearly outnumbered the inventory. A dreaded sound emerged- that of falling, clanking glass. The cashier froze in anticipation of an even worse sound- shattering glass, but miraculously, the bottles survived fully intact. Her fellow coworkers burst into a round of applause, shouting, “It’s a Christmas Miracle!” Customers joined in the celebratory cheers.

A Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake Forest (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

All this is to say, maybe the Christmas spirit really does exist? In any case, here’s to finding the joys among the stresses, and may that sentiment continue into the New Year. 

Merry Christmas Eve!

Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake (Gluten Free)
adapted from Brooklyn Homemaker
Servings: 12 to 20

About this Recipe: Classic holiday spices combine and a hint of whiskey combine in a moist apple cake with a dark chocolate frosting. It’s gluten free to please a holiday crowd. This cake was part of my “Wrap Party” story, so I went really festive on the garnishes, but the cake stands on its own if you’re not feeling so ornate.

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Rose Water Chocolate Chunk Layer Cake with Rose Water Frosting & Rose Macarons

I made this cake for two sweethearts, their love and youth as effortlessly balanced as her hand in his. Her champagne colored dress, a rare standout in the sea of white, sparkled and shined in contrast to his stately navy. They circled and swayed as the record player spun with just the right crackles and scratches. “Hold me close and hold me fast, the magic spell you cast. This is la vie en rose.”  

Rose Water Chocolate Chunk Layer Cake with Rose Water Frosting & Rose Macarons // www.WithTheGrains.com

The piano keys flickered with the candlelight, the brassy trumpet and raspy voice slowed time, and I felt purely at ease, for a moment, the high we makers chase was firmly in my grasp. Romance has that effect on me.   

Rose Water Chocolate Chunk Layer Cake with Rose Water Frosting & Rose Macarons // www.WithTheGrains.com

Inspired by young love, by their song, this is the Cake en Rose, or Le Gâteau en Rose, if you will. 

Rose Water Chocolate Chunk Layer Cake with Rose Water Frosting & Rose Macarons // www.WithTheGrains.com

“When you press me to your heart
I’m in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak, angels sing from above
Everyday words seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be la vie en rose.”

To all you hopeless romantics out there!

xoxo,

Quelcy Signature

p.s: Eventually, you’ll be able to see all the wedding details I created for Les and Brittni on my portfolio site, so stay tuned. 


Rose Water Chocolate Chunk Layer Cake with Rose Water Frosting & Rose Macarons

About this Recipe: Because I wanted a smaller layer cake, I baked a 9×13 pan and used a 5” biscuit cutter to create the round layers. Alternately, you could use 3 6×2-inch round springform pans. Split them in halves horizontally if you want even more layers. The cake layers are separated by thin spreads of red currant jam. Overall, the cake is light, floral, and fruity with bites of dark chocolate and a hint of fall flavors.  (more…)

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Whole Grain Apple Sage Spice Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Lately, I’ve taken to the road, to long winding roads flanked by fall’s most brilliant palettes. Driving in this golden, seasonal light has offered complete freedom for my mind to wander, the miles multiplying in my head space, a simple luxury often sacrificed to to-do lists and frenzies. On the road, there is little choice but to sink into my head and lose myself to the landscape. I can sing at the top of my lungs or think about where I am, what I want and where I’m going. Aside from the occasional minivan sprouting roots in the passing lane, these drives have been peaceful ways to enjoy the season… at least until night falls. 

Whole Grain Apple Sage Cake with Caramel Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

When the darkness descends, my mind plays tricks on me. Every sound in my car feels catastrophic, as if my trusty Vibe will suddenly spit me onto the side of the road, leaving me vulnerable to the night (my imagination is a wild wild one). The other drivers on the road feel like threats, and I mistrust my own spacial awareness. It can feel impossible to see beyond the bend, to understand the twists and turns of the road (and in Pennsylvania, boy do those roads twist and turn!). The only thing to do is trust in the dashed lines, to focus, one after the other, and to move forward with caution and purpose. 

Whole Grain Apple Sage Cake with Caramel Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

This period in history feels a lot like the transition from day driving to night driving. There was a glimmer of hope, of unity, of progress, of a destination many thought they’d never live to see.  Minds ran wild with possibilities (even if many of the original possibilities had been shattered). Then the darkness hit. Fear crept in. The future felt (and feels) utterly uncertain, but we have to remember the white lines- one after the other. There are still beacons to seek. There are still high beams to shine into the darkest of nights. 

Whole Grain Apple Sage Cake with Caramel Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

I wish I had felt more passionately about the election, more trusting of a candidate. I felt passionate about a symbol- a female who had brushed off the most insulting, ignorant comments to achieve the ultimate power role. I felt passionate about the possibilities a female could pave, but I wish I had felt like independent thought, versus pep rally excitement, mattered, like America could be represented on a gradient instead of black versus white, us versus them. It’s a flawed system, but those flaws feel all the more raw in the current state of mourning. 

Whole Grain Apple Sage Cake with Caramel Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

But there are white lines to guide us through this darkness, and maybe the silver lining is we must ALL participate now. We cannot kick up our heels and rest on her laurels. One of the first white lines I focused on was an email from my Design*Sponge editor, urging us to push for a broader spectrum of stories, to showcase all walks of life, to celebrate those who work hard on our behalf, the activists whose battle cries we all too often ignore until we feel the effects all too deeply. I’m proud to be a part of a group who has begun to seek action, to shine the high beams and to continue to navigate toward the destination we originally envisioned so clearly, but I’m also turning inward. How will I take a bigger, broader stand?   

Whole Grain Apple Sage Cake with Caramel Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

In this grief stage, returning to normal passions is hard to navigate, but now more than ever, there’s a need to stand for our beliefs, our passions, the things we hold true. I believe in protecting this planet, in the seeds that carry hundreds of years of history, of acres of apple trees and fresh-picked herbs. I believe in sharing food, in passing plates and conversing. I believe in beauty and empathy, but at this point more than ever, I believe we need to push into uncomfortable places, into the seemingly unnavigable. 

Whole Grain Apple Sage Cake with Caramel Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

I recently stood in a room full of women, women who had surely rallied and cried, and yet, we didn’t make moves to talk to each other, to fully connect in person. We hid in our phones, in our social media accounts, then looked to other women to tell us how to connect (women who truly did inspire, don’t get me wrong). I’m guilty, but I’m also hungry, hungry for us to share, to converse, to exchange views and truly try to understand the “other.” We need each other, to help find that next white line that will lead us through the dark twists and turns of the road. In the meantime, here’s a dose of beauty, inspiration for something to share, and a brief moment of sweetness in spite of all that is bitter.

Quelcy Signature

Apple Sage Spice Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream

About This Recipe: Loaded with spices, apples and sage, this layer cake is a true celebration of fall, accented with homemade spiked caramel. If the apple garnish is too intimidating, serve cake slices with warm apples on the side.  (more…)

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Whole Grain Apple Chai Sheet Cake

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?

Whole Grain Apple Spice Sheet Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

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.”

Whole Grain Apple Spice Sheet Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

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. 

Whole Grain Apple Spice Sheet Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

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. 

Quelcy Signature


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. 

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