Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Sweet Potato Ricotta Frosting

What would you make with two hours’ notice?

It would have been easy to punch the on-hand ingredients into google, but instead, my mom scanned through recipe clippings and a pile of magazines with an intense fervor. As the clock counted down the two hours, she scurried around the kitchen, grating with all her might, mixing and multitasking. Like a reality cooking show challenge, she revealed the final spread with but minutes to spare. Then the mayhem descended.

Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Sweet Potato Ricotta Frosting // www.WithTheGrains.com

Six adults and six children arrived with appetites, their chaotic energy swarming around them like dirt around Pig Pen. Their focus was on the general nonsense that accompanies a gaggle of children gathered around a dinner table and on the pizza bake before them (a deep-dish, lasagna-like pizza bake with cheese and potatoes and saucy goodness!).  In the chaos, one child lingered rather awkwardly.

Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Sweet Potato Ricotta Frosting // www.WithTheGrains.com

A friend of a nephew, he lacked the aggressive swarm factor of my family members. My mom’s gaze oscillated between the food spread and the boy with equal concern. She approached him quietly and asked if he needed a plate. No one noticed but me. but I sat quietly appreciating this woman, my mother, who has always been a shining example of thoughtfulness, selflessness and hospitality. My mom is the reason I bake for others. She’s the reason I believe in making others feel special, especially when it comes to birthdays. Birthdays and celebrations call for Sweet Potato Layer Cakes! Who will you celebrate?

Quelcy Signature

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Layer Cake

About This Recipe: Light and spongey, this layer cake has sweet potato and spices in the cake, in a syrup infusion and in a lightly sweetened frosting. Graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon sticks easily add a special touch to the layers. To make the sweet potato puree, simply boil sweet potato chunks until soft, then blend until smooth in a food processor. Alternately, you can use an organic canned version.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Ginger & Spice Oat Crust (Gluten Free)

My mother taught me to appreciate the beauty in the old, the stories in the vintage, and the potential in the castaway items. However, over time, I allowed too many of these stories and collections to gather around me rather indiscriminately. Clearing space, both physical and mental, took on a daily, Sisyphean feel.  

Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Gluten Free Ginger & Spice Oat Crust // www.WithTheGrains.com

In need of a compass, I turned to an expert. I began reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and immediately, I felt a shift in my thinking. Many magazines and well meaning folks will advise to divide one’s abundance into piles based on the last time an object came into use. If it was more than a year, pitch it. However Marie Kondo, the book’s author, poses this question, “Does this ______ bring me joy?” In the end, this pursuit of tidiness and clarity is really the pursuit of happiness.

Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Gluten Free Ginger & Spice Oat Crust // www.WithTheGrains.com

If the sweater or the jeans or the book no longer brings (or never brought) joy, send it to a new life, but send it with gratitude. This last bit, the gratitude, has made all the difference in my process towards less. Thank you handmade shirt sewn by my mom. Thank you mom, for creating with your hands when I was an impressionable child, for showing me the value and joy of making something from scratch. 

Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Gluten Free Ginger & Spice Oat Crust // www.WithTheGrains.com

Perhaps this is why I gravitated toward baking. Cakes, pies, breads, all made with care and intention, are but temporal objects in our hands. Yet the gatherings, the vague memory of a flavor, the way a room smells when an oven is warm… we carry these memories and cherish the sentiments long after the plates have been cleared.

Here’s a recipe for sharing joy and gratitude deliciously, just in time for Thanksgiving!

Single-Grain

Quelcy

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger Oat Crust

About This Recipe: Oats, spices, ginger and dates combine to make a wholesomely sweet crust, and each layer of this cheesecake is laced with Wigle’s Landlocked Spiced. Made with local, buckwheat honey, Landlocked Spiced is the distillery’s interpretation of rum and a flavorful ode to Pennsylvania’s many apiaries. If you’re landlocked and can’t get a bottle, substitute your favorite spiced rum, and enjoy!

Disclaimer: I did receive product in exchange for this post, but all opinions are my own! I love a brand that supports the honeybees! 

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Brown Butter Apple Cake with Scotch Caramel

Before Siri, before GPS, before smart phones and even before flip phones, our adventure began with an idea and a map. Yet, like so many adventures with my oldest sister, these adventures often went awry.  Our idea had been to picnic at a nearby lake, flanked by fiery trees blazing with autumn’s robust palette. There was one snag- our horrible sense of direction.

Brown Butter Apple Cake with Scotch Caramel // www.WithTheGrains.com

Yet, like so many routed plans gone awry, our failure to navigate led to something far more endearing- the discovery of an old church/schoolhouse and a playground covered in fall’s leaves. It wasn’t the new sort of playground, with bright, shiny plastics and padding at every possible fall. It was the death-trap sort with metal, concrete and chain links, a remnant of the old schoolhouse. I was still a child at the time, and the monkey bars made me forget the abandoned lake goals.

Brown Butter Apple Cake with Scotch Caramel // www.WithTheGrains.com

The ground was a lake of its own- with thick piles of fallen leaves. Every footstep was accompanied by a swooshing noise and a feeling reminiscent of walking through sand. These leaves swirled and gathered by the graves of the church’s old cemetery. The neat rows were now wonky, and time had chipped away at the crisp stone. We were surrounded by stories, and in the absence of other human beings, the whole place seemed to exist just for us.

Brown Butter Apple Cake with Scotch Caramel // www.WithTheGrains.com

We eventually discovered the lake, with its blue waters and sailboats gently floating on the horizon, but by then, our interest had shifted. We returned again and again to the schoolhouse. It became our “secret place.” Our other sisters pestered and pried, trying to disclose the location, but my lips were sealed, as if protecting a key to a magical kingdom.

Brown Butter Apple Cake with Scotch Caramel // www.WithTheGrains.com

The serendipity of the discovery of our secret place made it all the more special. The quiet of that park and the way the leaves would blanket the earth came to epitomize fall. Even though distance and the years now separate me from that secret place, I still travel back there in my mind with each autumn’s passing. This cake, like my secret place, is an ode to embracing fall.

Single-Grain

Happy Autumn!
-Quelcy

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Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart with Fruit Sweetened Whipped Cream

Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart // www.WithTheGrains.com

There are nights when the pending evening pushes bursts of fire just beyond the city and its sky-carving lines. On these nights, the steeples, the songs and even the speed bumps are complicit in the sky’s vanity. Sentences digress and escape, knowing they’re not needed. The radio participates, playing something slower, a more mesmerizing tune, and words find their role in melody and song.

Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart // www.WithTheGrains.com

Where chaos and ruptured infrastructure reigned by day, a shadow creeps in, vignetting the mundane frustrations and focusing the eye on the exquisite, the heavenly, the celestial painting the tortured artist will erase and recreate. Our praise and appreciation will never be enough, never satiate the infinite ego above. The meter slows, and at best, we mere mortals below ty to soak it in. Like a bite meant to be eaten immediately, the camera would never do the moment justice, and the intensity of the flavor would be lost in the attempt to preserve.

Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart // www.WithTheGrains.com

These fiery skies seem to pull and absorb summer’s last bursts- the tomatoes’ sweetness, the wispy blades of bright green grass, the heat swirling on the horizon, the cooling blue waters, the bronze of bare shoulders and the freedom of exposed toes. Combined, they will form the matted earth tones that will blanket us and prepare us for the quiet winter months.

Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart // www.WithTheGrains.com

Before the blanket is fully drawn, pay one more ode to the summer, to the peaches whose color feeds the sunset’s fiery palette, and then we shall be ready, to fully bask in the warmth of the earthen tones. This crumble tart was a celebration of the nectar flows. It was the very first time the Urban Farmer’s honey and my baking combined their sweet powers – a last summer embrace like a vibrant golden hour on the cusp of a new season!

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

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Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

An alarming crunching sound interrupted our late-night dinner preparations. We ran to the window, half expecting to see ruby red slippers pinned under a house. Instead, we discovered a battered and bruised car thrown into reverse. It began to zig and zag away from the parked car it had just launched a good six feet through impact. As if performing the role of a movie extra, the Urban Farmer exclaimed “He’s trying to get away!” and pointed to the ensuing action. The dog barked and jumped in a confused mix of excitement and alarm.

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

The neighbors flocked to the street immediately, like ripples in a puddle pierced by a droplet of rain. One brave soul waved his arms at the drunk driver, beseeching him to stop. Whether it was the presence of witnesses or the absence of all motor skills, the man swerved onto the sidewalk, hit a planter and a tree, and the getaway was over. Amidst a sea of obscenities and cigarette smoke, the neighbors managed to sequester the vapid and staggering man until the police arrived. Like the nosy neighbor I am, I watched the event unfurl from my third-floor window, my BLT growing colder as I pieced together the incoming evidence.

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

These neighbors of mine are far from perfect. A lot of them are loud. One is far too nosy and negative for her own good. They yell. They fight. They publicly air more grievances and dysfunction than I would ever care to display. However, I have neighbors who save treats for my dog, look out for our cat, wave to me from their cars, greet me at the local coffee spot and fill me with an unexpected sense of home and comfort. When it comes down to being neighbors, to defending another member of the block and looking out for the safety of the street, I prefer these folks to the quiet types who remain hidden behind closed doors.

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

This sentiment had been there, had been growing in me for quite some time, but it wasn’t until the accident that I began to appreciate what had been under my nose. Much like my neighbors, this chocolate bread is more than meets the eye. The lurking zucchini is easy to miss until someone or something points out the wholesome goodness waiting to surprise you.

‘Tis the time of year when zucchinis bombard us, so make this loaf and maybe make some to share with your neighbors too.

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

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Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan)

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

“You can do anything for 20 seconds,” he shouts while leaping up and down like a frog. His springiness is comical, but his ‘give your all’ approach triggers the reserves inside the three people leaping in front of him. I watch this video, over and over again, while I sit and twist my spine. It’s all part of my new chiropractic routine, but that physical trainer’s message started to echo in my head long after I left the doctor’s office.

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

As I write this, I’m snuggled in a flannel and sipping a hot coffee, but my skin is still bronzed, and the forecast insists there will be days of sweaty inactivity. However, these flagship fall temperatures lead to a lot of universal grumblings, “where did summer goooooo?” the protesters wine. “Ugh…. I’m not ready,” they say while wilting into a pile of defeat (myself sadly included). This is the moment, like that last 20 seconds of grueling physical exercise, when we have to dig deep, commit and eek out every last drop of summer we can!

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Summoning our last summer reserve might mean grilling more hamburgers, finally kayaking on the river, sleeping under a blanket of stars, taking a hike, or quite simply allowing more tan lines to form. It might mean the drive-in movie theater, a picnic on a sunny hillside, a last pencil-dive into the deep end or an impulse sunglasses purchase. Whatever it means for you, when you dig deep and truly try to appreciate this last leg of summer, I hope your plan includes popsicles.

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

In my zeal for homemade, healthified fudgesicles, I went a little overboard, overshooting the capacity of my popsicle molds. Since you can’t have too many fudgesicles, only not enough fudgesicle molds, experimentation mode commenced. Like a middle-aged lunching lady, I grabbed for the vodka bottle. The result is what happens when a Vegan Fudgesicle gets a little sloshy, but in a crowd-pleasing sort of way, not a “miss, we need you to leave” sort of way.

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the season begins to turn, let’s all commit to dig a little deeper and relish what’s left of summer. Let’s also agree to stretch our fudgesicle “batter” a little further.

Single-Grain

Here’s to Summer!
-Quelcy

Avocado Fudgesicles & Boyd & Blair Vodka Semifreddo (Vegan)

About This Recipe: I’ve separated the kid-friendly, non-boozy and the after-hours, boozy version into two recipes below for ease of making smaller batches. Essentially, the vodka version is the same, but poured into a loaf pan. You could pour the mixture into popsicle molds as well. I recommend Boyd & Blair Vodka. Not only is it made from high-quality ingredients, but it adds a sweet notes of vanilla. Plus, the vodka keeps the mixture just shy of frozen, resulting in a more spoonable, frozen treat!

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

Ideas hatch in my brain, leaving a chaotic scattering of shells. Long after I should be asleep, I stare at the dimly lit, bedroom ceiling and walls, with the orangish, city light filtering through the curtains. My racing mind schemes and plots- picnics, party ideas, flower garden dreams, how to acquire an historical home without a huge life’s savings, etc, etc, ETC! Some of these ideas are fleeting, and they fade into the dimly lit night, but others… Others are BIG! They burn with such an intensity, until the neurons fire signals to my heart, and before long, my whole being is set on an idea.

Peanut Butter Blondies with Chocolate Chips // www.WithTheGrains.com

As an “idea person (i.e.: an obsessive person),” I’m sorely in need of a structural counterpart in my life. He or she would line up the roadmap and the checkpoints to send me on my way to the end result I want so intensely. Luckily, for all my grandiose, time-intensive, layer cakes and sky-high dreams, there are blondies. These peanut buttery blondies, with their rich simplicity, are blank canvases for creativity in their own right. Yet, from the intense craving to the first, gooey bite, the commitment is minimal, leaving this girl to obsess over Scandinavian bungalows, vintage camper renovations, ice cream socials, farm dinners….etc, etc, etc!

Single-Grain

Here’s to the simpler ideas!
-Quelcy

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