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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Spiced Apple Oat Bread & The Tale of The Urban Farmer (Invest in an Urban Farm)

November 2014

Earlier this fall, I asked the community, or Facebook as it were, to guide me to Fracking-free, local apples. Unfortunately, the natural gas industry has negated local farmers’ sacrifices to grow and harvest pure produce. To put it simply, it’s shitty. It’s really, really shitty.

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

Many of my friends responded with suggestions, but one of my dearest friends responded with an entire box of local, frack-free apples to fuel my baking. If anyone would scour to source a frack-free apple, it would be my friend Dana. She has fought tirelessly to defend the environment and the people who have lost access to clean water. What she has seen is truly harrowing.

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

During one of our coffee catch-ups, Dana’s anti-fracking accounts introduced (very purposefully) a new character. She had met a Pittsburgh area native who was also dedicated to protecting our natural resources and wanted to join her efforts. Being as deeply entrenched in this movement as she was, Dana sussed him out intensely. She was uninterested in another tag-along looking for a shocking story for a blog or social media. She was interested in a volunteer who would respect how difficult it had been to establish relationships with these victims, sympathize with them, and to assist her in standing up to the industry behemoths.

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

After just one day on the road with her, meeting families, photographing flaming drilling rigs, and listening to her emotional breakdown, this man had impressed her beyond her expectations. She saw the selfless, giving soul of a respectful man, who wanted to save the world. She took note, and her gears began to turn.

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

As Dana and I sat drinking coffee and catching up, I asked more about this man, who I had glimpsed briefly at their first meeting. As she responded, I sank dramatically in my chair. This dude couldn’t be real. Had I forgotten to lock and stow some youthful diary of mine? Had she found my naive musings of a dream man? Earth saver, photographer, wanderer, aspiring urban farmer, beekeeper, graphic designer… my eyes were glazed, and my head was spinning, but Dana’s head was on straight. She plotted and schemed, and before long, that dream fella and I were locking lips under a mulberry tree.

Swoon City. Population: Two!

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’ve alluded to “the Urban Farmer” or #theurbanfarmer here and there, but in light of recent strides, I wanted to share the full story. Kyle, as most people know him, launched his Kiva campaign to fund his vision for Hazelwood Farm. I’m asking you, dear readers, to join me and help support his efforts and his dreams. His heart is huge, his vision is commendable, and when I’m too busy to notice, he secretly waters my windowsill basil and keeps it alive. He deserves a farm because he’ll use that farm to make the world a better place, one CSA share at a time. Even Julep can’t help but smile when she imagines what these abandoned urban lots could become, and she is so ready to herd something… to herd anything!

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

Here’s the deal- my generous, selfless, supportive, handsome Urban Farmer is asking the community to help him help the community. Still following me? In other words, please consider investing in his Kiva Campaign, so he can launch his farm. Any size donation-from $1-$10,000 helps. While you’re at it, support someone who has grown local, frack-free apples, and make this bread. It’s good and good for you, just like an urban farm.

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