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 headspace, 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 spatial 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 rawer 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 that 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, the inspiration for something to share, and a brief moment of sweetness in spite of all that is bitter.

 

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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Peach Whiskey Spelt Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches

Several years ago, I stood in awe, taking in the brand newness of Wigle Whiskey in its infancy. “Try this!” the owner said, as he stood in front of the shimmering new copper still.  I dipped my finger under the slow drip and eagerly plunged my finger into my mouth, expecting that caramel-like, oak-aged flavor.

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

The wrongness of my false assumption hit me immediately. I tried to regain the composure I had surely lost.  Today, that clear liquid has character, a deep amber color and the oak notes that tickle the nose and throat with a little heat. Today it is whiskey, but then, it tasted like I had licked a raw grain like a popsicleWhiskey takes time, so much time and care.

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

I imagine parenting to be something like the smack of wheat that hit me when I was expecting maturity. A man might look at a baby bundle of little girl and expect his daughter to carry his belief systems, not to challenge him on everything, to grow up, choose a career path, follow that path and maybe settle down. But then reality hits like a drip from a still, and it’s dreadlocks, a tattoo, a wandering spirit, what some might call a restlessness and others would call curiosity. She’s opinionated, stubborn, a dreamer and a risk taker. 

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

I imagine parenting to be something like the smack of wheat that hit me when I was expecting amber, oaky flavor. The process requires time, patience and a good deal of faith. I’m eternally grateful my parents put trust in the process, allowing me to carve my own path, supporting me along the way.  

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

My dad is not a whiskey drinker, but I am. It’s just one of our many differences. However, the spirit is symbolic of our relationship. I was the surprise smack of wheat, but he was the one who aged well, who changed the most. He opened up, made himself vulnerable and supported me fully. When people say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” I grab a frisbee because my dad has changed more than anyone I know, and I am immensely proud of him for that.  

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m far away and belated (as always), but this is my Father’s Day dedication to my dad. Here’s to the man who placed me in front of a bull and believed I could herd that bull where I wanted him to go. Here’s to the man who handed me big ol’ truck keys long before the state would allow. Here’s to the man who cheered for me from every sideline and from every awards ceremony and then hauled me to my dream school. 

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

Here’s to the man who reads my articles on glorified tea parties because they are my articles on glorified tea parties. But above all, here’s to the man who has wept with me when I needed him to, who shed stereotypes to be sensitive, who tells me he is proud of me and loves me. He made me tough, but he made me sensitive too.

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

This whiskey cake was for the local dads- the one who raised my Urban Farmer and the one who made that father a grandfather. It’s a cake for the way they melt around the new grand baby, the way they rally to build deck steps, the way they show up and support everything farm related. Here’s a belated ode to my dad, my local dads and to those who act like dads everyday. It’s not an easy role. It’s full of smacks to the face, and not everyone steps up to the plate, but to those who do, I salute you in the only way I know how- through cake! 

Quelcy Signature


Peach Whiskey Spelt Cake

About this Recipe: The cake batter will be very wet, but it yields a moist cake with a rich molasses flavor and a hint of whiskey. While the cakes cool, prepare the caramelized peaches, then the caramel and then the whipped cream. The recipe looks intimidating because of the many steps, but the whole cake comes together rather quickly. The alcohol in the cake bakes out, but the whipped cream will maintain the alcohol content, so this cake is not for younger eaters.

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A Gluten Free @Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday

Grown ups have this silly habit of guessing kids’ trajectories. “Oh, he is kicking in the womb. I bet he’ll be an Olympic swimmer!” or “She loves to pull the dog’s tail. She is destined to be a veterinarian!” These projections are entertaining and optimistic, and at the root, is a wealth of good intention- a wish for a future filled with health, happiness and success. Who wouldn’t want their kid or their nephew to claim the gold in the butterfly? 

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Watching a kid go from a sleeping, eating, crying bundle of spit-up and poop, to a blabbering, gesticulating little person with personality and taste is a fascinating journey. A birthday is a good reminder to stop the college and career planning to simply enjoy that little personality exactly where he or she is because damn, if those years don’t fly!

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer’s nephew, Knox, was a little bundle when I entered the scene. He had skinny Kermit-the-frog legs that could barely hold up baby socks, big blue eyes and a constant flock of family ready and waiting to hold him. That same family welcomed me with open arms and a new title- “Aunt Q.” They’re good people, and I fell for the whole lot of them like I fell for the Urban Farmer. They’re the best package deal a girl could ask for!

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’ve been along for the ride ever since, watching those little Kermie legs transition to an impressively swift army crawl, a teetering balancing act and now, an exaggerated run with arms swinging and chubby legs doing their best.  

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Somehow, all those transitions have added up to two years! For two years, I’ve watched this little bundle develop a love, nay, a LOVE!!!! for food, and not the expected rotation of fruit snacks and brightly colored “fruit drinks.” This kid LOVES avocados, peas, sweet potatoes, eggs, power-green smoothies and QUINOA! He’s proof that kids will eat well if you train them well. He is happy and healthy and if you so much as try to take away his veggies, so help you, you will hear about it!

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Second only to his love of food, is his unwavering love for “pappy,” both the person, and his grandfather’s vehicle. The kid is obsessed with Jeeps (though not obsessed enough to identify the vehicles by their make… words kind of bore him, but “pappy” is a more endearing name than Jeep anyway)! 

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

So here we are, two years old, passionate for food and jeeps, or food and “pappies,” accompanied by “woof woofs” and trailed by a “sissy,” surrounded by a family who couldn’t be more in love with those cheeks or more concerned with his wellbeing. I had the extreme privilege of baking the kiddo’s birthday cake (for the second time)! I had another chance to prove that a kid can be healthy and have his cake too because birthdays are worth celebrating!

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com
The Urban Farmer and his nephew. The only type of dirt he likes is edible chocolate quinoa cake dirt.
A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com
Those Pattison boys, am I right?!?

Kudos to these parents, Jena and Alex because not enough parents prioritize their kids the way these two do, and beyond that, they’re just selfless folks. They make one beautiful family inside and out…

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

While I’m trying hard to appreciate the here and now of Knox, Remi June and life in general, I’m secretly hoping Knox’s passion for food continues to flourish. Once he has words, we’ll have so much to talk about, and I could use an assistant!

For now, at least, we both agree, life without cake be like…

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com
It was his party, after all.

Happy Birthday Lil’ Knox. Your birthday is one of my favorite cake assignments each year, and I’m grateful to be along for the ride!

Quelcy Signature

aka, “Aunt Q.”

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com
“Happy Trails!” Knox’s mom added so many Jeep details to make his day extra special!

Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake (gluten-free) w/ Whipped Chocolate Coconut Frosting
Adapted from Making Thyme for Health

About this Recipe: No one will know there is quinoa in each bite until you tell them. You can make the quinoa ahead of time. The recipe yields a 9×13 rectangular cake or (2) 8-inch round layers. To create the Jeep themed cake, I doubled the recipe and baked larger sheet cakes and sculpted them together with the frosting. The larger sheet cakes bake for less time, 20-25 minutes. The coconut milk for the frosting should ideally be chilled overnight. I recommend So Delicious brand culinary milk because it has more of the cream.

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A Desert-Inspired Lemon Ginger Turmeric Layer Cake

Bake and Bakery.

The words are mere letters apart, but off paper, the words may as well have a Grand-Canyon-sized expanse between them. To own and manage a bakery and bake professionally is more akin to running a manufacturing facility than it is to casually grabbing a mixing bowl and satisfying a craving. There’s an economy to repetition, to consistency and precision. Without judgement for those who pursue the bakery route as a means of sharing their creations with the world (with immense gratitude in fact!), I can say hands down, I do not want my own bakery. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

As a home baker, I can be wildly impractical, intensely specific to my eaters and astronomically over budget (what budget?!?). I can choose my recipients. I can have a furry dog running around the kitchen and assign her the title of “Baking Assistant.” I can bake a recipe and never repeat it. I can serve a cake with a living plant planted within the lemony crumbs. I know my place in the baking world, and I revel in it. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

Since I’m not a bakery, commissions are not part of my baking practice, but every once in a while, the right person comes along, who respects my non-commercial kitchen, adores the four-legged assistant and embraces my need for creative freedom. When that person comes along, I break the rules. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

Heather is one of the people for whom I break the rules. A huge supporter of my work, she ever so sweetly asked me last year if she could commission a birthday cake. When she requested the cake capture the flapper era instead of requesting a flavor, I agreed to bake her birthday cake, and the result was one of my favorites so far! 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

This May, Heather once again asked me if I would be able to bake her a birthday cake. “What’s the theme?” was my reply! She said she was feeling inspired by Native American patterns and artwork, and my brain began storming. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

The most I have experienced Native American culture was when I took a life-changing summer class called “Earth Works & Sacred Sites.” For 2+ very intense weeks, a small group of us road tripped through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. We hiked National and State Parks and explored earth art installations like Spiral Jetty and the Lightning Field. We explored historical Native American remnants like Mesa Verde and stood in awe of sacred structures. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

My personal ties to Native American culture are steeped in the deserts of the American Southwest, where sands change from bright golds to brick reds with the passing of miles, where I napped in a rock carved by a waterfall, where I soaked up the dry heat like a happy lizard. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

The desert was my inspiration for this cake, whose base was cornmeal, a nod to the Native American civilizations that venerated the vegetable/grain (unlike our modern day agricultural system). The internet is full of ideas for fondant succulents, but I’m morally opposed to fondant, as it seems like an “edible” play dough. Instead, I juiced a grapefruit to flavor the frosting, and then saved the grapefruit rind as a planter for a living succulent. In this way, the cake was a gift that kept on giving. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

Even the cake’s serving plate was a planter base, so Heather could find use for it in her plant collection after the last morsel of cake had disappeared. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m no bakery. I don’t churn out birthday cakes or daily batches of cookies, but for the right person, I am inclined to take on thematic birthday cake challenges.

Happy Birthday Heather! 

Cheers,

Quelcy Signature


Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake 
with Grapefruit Frosting & A Succulent Planter

About This Recipe: Forget fondant, and give the gift of a real succulent garnish with this desert inspired cake. By saving a grapefruit half, the succulent can be potted without having dirt contaminate the cake. 

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Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch for @BevBirthdays

For a brief stint of diligence, I had a gratitude journal. Daily, I would jot down three elements of my life for which I was grateful. Unfortunately, I fell into a rather lazy rotation of bullet points: my apartment, heat, employment, a roof over my head, etc. Of all the things I recorded, I never once thought to write “I am grateful to have had birthday parties to celebrate my place in this world.” 

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

I never thought to write down “birthday parties” in my gratitude journal because these were celebrations I had taken for granted. Of course I had birthday parties. I had a BIG family who relished my existence, and even when times were tight, we had the resources for my favorite flavors of cakes and thematic decor. My older sisters channeled their creativity to make thrilling scavenger hunts and party games that stick out in my memory to this day! It should have been obvious, but I discovered recently just how blessed I had been/am on the birthday front.

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch & a Naturally Dyed Mint Buttercream Frosting // www.WithTheGrains.com

It was this article that set me straight (and probably made me all misty-eyed too). In it I learned about Megan Yunn, who founded Beverly’s Birthdays. In 2011, Megan was volunteering at a local after-school program and helping 12-year-old Beverly with her homework. Discovering that Beverly never had a birthday party nagged at Megan and then eventually inspired her to start the organization that now provides birthday celebrations for homeless kids in the Pittsburgh region. 

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch & a Naturally Dyed Mint Buttercream Frosting // www.WithTheGrains.com

Imagine the effects of these parties! Reading through a few of the organization’s blog posts had me in tears. One child asked to keep a clean disposable birthday plate because he wanted to cherish the birthday party. He washed it and reused it. Another child just wanted her own bottled water- not even a fancy bottle of water, just one bottle. Another mother walked her three children to the party after a stressful day of doctor’s visits (to which she also walked) because she knew how important the celebration would be to her kids.  

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch & a Naturally Dyed Mint Buttercream Frosting // www.WithTheGrains.com

All these stories reiterated how much I have taken for granted. Theme parties and baking are two of my biggest passions, so I was so long overdue to contribute. I finally signed up and baked these cupcakes for a zoo-themed party. I chose this party in particular because it took place in the very neighborhood where The Urban Farmer started his farm. The community has welcomed him with such open arms, this felt like the least I could do to give back.

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch & a Naturally Dyed Mint Buttercream Frosting // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m not sharing these cupcakes to toot my own horn. My hope is this story will inspire you to find a similar outlet for your passions, whatever they may be. There are countless organizations that rely heavily on the work of volunteers, so whether you love knitting, power tools or cupcake making, there is probably an outlet for you. Also, these stories are worth sharing because they not only inspire us to give but to be grateful. I can’t applaud the folks at Beverly’s Birthdays enough, and I look forward to future themed baking!

Quelcy Signature

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch & Mint Buttercream Frosting

About This Recipe: These cupcakes may be green and feature traditional cookie flavors, but they are made from all natural and organic versions because playful party food can still have a wholesome spin to it. I used all-natural blue and yellow dyes (from India Tree) to create the green frosting. 

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Whole Grain Blood Orange & Rose Water Layer Cake

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

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.

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

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.  

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

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?  

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

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.

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

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. 

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

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. 

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

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.

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

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!

Quelcy Signature

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.

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Whole Wheat Carob Apricot Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Chocolate Ganache

“What do you want to do?” they asked, peering at me expectantly across the half-consumed cocktails and artisanal small plates. With only my “fancy” burger and tallow fat fries standing between me and this interrogation, I stared at them rather blankly, wishing for more layers of protection. Oh this question again! I felt young again- in a a bad way- all the anxieties and life questions of my mid-twenties emerging from some hidden recess of my body. I thought I had killed and buried those stressors? Apparently not!

Whole Wheat Carob Apricot Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Chocolate Ganache // www.WithTheGrains.com

What I want to do is “projects.” I want to change courses and follow whims and inspirations, but try explaining that to an esteemed film critic and a dedicated film festival director as they plead with you to devote your life to filmmaking! I was flattered and confused, surprised by how much the question left me stammering and surprised by how much that bothered me. 

Whole Wheat Carob Apricot Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Chocolate Ganache // www.WithTheGrains.com

In high school, our teachers taught us to rack up the extracurriculars, earn perfect grades and contribute to humanity in some generous way. The end goal was college acceptance and eventually, a good job and happiness (probably in the form of a 2-car garage and a family). The end goals didn’t work for me, but throwing myself into various activities did! ‘What I want to do’ may never be a question I can answer succinctly but who I want to be? Maybe that’s a starting point that won’t leave me stammering. 

Whole Wheat Carob Apricot Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Chocolate Ganache // www.WithTheGrains.com

Who I want to be is someone who pays it forward, who fills the world with beauty, who leaves a footprint- not the carbon kind, but the kind people commemorate. I want to be a person who feeds and nourishes people. I want to be a person who brightens days and helps those in need, who leaves a mark on friends, on my city, and hopefully, in a broader context. How do you relay that across an adult table of whiskey and patés?

Whole Wheat Carob Apricot Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Chocolate Ganache // www.WithTheGrains.com

If SEO weren’t a thing, the title of this post would be “The Pay It Forward Cake,” but then those creeping search engines would never bring humans to me. I baked this cake and gave it away. I can’t vouch for the flavor, the richness, the fruity notes of carob or the dark bittersweet bursts of ganache, but what I can vouch for is the way my friends’ eyes lit up when I appeared at their door with a surprise layered treat. I want to be the person who sweetens days and delivers surprises, so that’s what I’m doing for the moment. 

Quelcy Signature

Whole-Wheat Carob Apricot Cake

About this Recipe: For my layers, I used a 6″, 7″ and 9″ springform pans, but you could experiment with uniform layers. I used a soured whole milk for the cake as a way to waste less, but you can substitute regular whole milk or buttermilk. It’s helpful to have a lazy Susan for assembly but not necessary. If you’re newer to cake frosting, here’s a helpful tutorial from Martha Stewart.

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