I'll never forget the look on the the Urban Farmer's face that one particular night when I asked about his bees. His flannel shirt wrinkled as he slumped into the chair.…
The light rain saturated the sky like watercolors bleeding onto paper fibers- gradations from grays to bright blues seeped into the clouds. Below, branches swayed back and forth, growing fuller by the day with a captivating chartreuse. Inside, the curtains billowed and floated in the flicker of the returning sunlight. The cool air breezed through the fine mesh of the screen. Its worn, frayed holes caught flecks of light like tiny prisms on the periphery, and I listened to a rosined bow glide purposefully across four strings.
The lyrics, the light, the corner chair… it was that precise moment when the sun is warm, but the air is crisp, cool, and carries the scent of fresh rain. It’s not too hot, not too cold; not too damp, not too dry… it’s the perfect cusp, teetering on the edge of tan lines and summer wanderlust. The shadows and rays teased one another through water droplets on weathered wood, and the window framed the moment, like a long, slow detail in a film. These cusps call for deep breaths, far off gazes, closed mouths, quiet pauses, quiet thoughts and meandering minds. That window, that corner, and that chair is the best part of my day. It’s my corner of spring.
From my quiet perch, the distant traffic became a wave crashing on a shoreline. The neighborhood had yet to emerge fully from winter’s dormancy, and the lull allowed the birds their due spotlight. They sang their return from every corner, and every now and then, there was a faint hum of a little bee at work.
I made this cake for the keepers of bees (the Urban Farmer amongst them). The apiarists gathered in a beautiful barn, where flowers hung from aged beams to dry. These men and women gathered to share the many lessons they had learned in their quests for liquid gold. If ever a spoonful could evoke what my spring corner embraces, it would be a spoonful of honey. This cake was an ode to the way a taste of honey distills a season into amber sweetness, with notes of a region’s beauty, so I featured a liquor that’s an ode to the region’s apiaries.
Wigle Whiskey is a local distillery on a mission to restore Pennsylvania’s whiskey history, a mission I salute! Their playful approach to craft spirits always has them exploring and experimenting. One of their curious pursuits led them to create a Pennsylvania interpretation of Rum in celebration of our region’s prolific apiaries.
Made from scratch and pot-distilled from Pennsylvania buckwheat honey, this distilled mead is a uniquely inland approach to island spirits with whole, organic botanicals–roasted orange peel, cocoa nibs, whole vanilla beans and cinnamon–to complement the buckwheat honey’s distinctive character. Simply put, Wigle’s Landlocked Spiced is just the right touch for a beekeeper’s cake (and for a beekeeper’s glass too!).
To spring, bees & landlocked libations!
Whole Wheat Orange Cardamom Honey Cake with Honey Candied Oranges & Whipped Cream featuring Wigle Whiskey Landlocked Spiced
About This Recipe: This recipe starts by candying oranges with honey, instead of the traditional sugar approach, which yields a more complex flavor. The remaining syrup finds its way into each element of the dessert. Add a Tablespoon or two to the whipped cream, and use the remaining syrup to seep into the cake when it’s fresh from the oven. Be sure to use a local, raw honey for the most flavor and to support your local beekeepers. If you’re not in Wigle’s shipping range, you can road trip to Pittsburgh, or substitute your favorite rum or mead. For a simple cocktail, add one of the honey candied orange slices to a glass of Landlocked Spiced on the rocks, and sip slowly.
This cake makes me think of the proper white fences, bright green grasses and rose crowns of the Kentucky Derby. Much like the horses fighting to be the fastest, my mind has been racing lately. My eyes have been bigger than my stomach when it comes to piling ambitions on my to-do lists and then I chide myself for falling short of my expectations. In reality, I find myself closer to certain goals than I have ever been, but it’s all too easy to miss the individual markers when sprinting in circles.
These are the times when adages will advise the overwhelmed, the anxious, the uninspired and the rushing masses to stop and smell the roses. However, recently I have found more relief in watching the creatures surrounding the roses- the bees.
The ceremony may have paled in comparison to the processions of real royalty, but watching The Urban Farmer release his Queen Bee felt momentous nonetheless. He had sequestered her from her subjects, allowing them time to accept her and her role. Cloaked in a mesh veil and long sleeves, The Urban Farmer opened the hives and released her from her special chamber. Her new kingdom accepted her, and all was well.
The worker bees feasted on sugar water and continued about their business, buzzing and crowding the door to their new home. Steadily, bees entered and exited the pencil-eraser-sized opening in the wooden box. Some ventured into the woods, while others returned, their legs fat and laden with yellow pollen. Sitting amongst a swarm of bees requires a certain stillness, but I found, they also inspire a certain stillness. Their buzzing patterns were mesmerizing and noticeably calming.
The Urban Farmer recently joked, “I didn’t become a farmer because I like people.” Whether farming, beekeeping, tapping maple trees or butchering a hog, these time honored traditions require just that- time and honor. We rushed and rushed to mechanize and streamline, but perhaps like energy, the rush can neither be created nor destroyed, simply transferred. After all our advancements, it seems all the rush went straight to our minds. While I’m not so deep in affectation as to shun all of our modern conveniences, I am grateful to have found this farmer who lends his peacefulness to my galloping thoughts. You can’t rush a bee, you can’t rush a seed, and you surely can’t rush a cheesecake. Nor should you rush eating it.
p.s: Learn more about beekeeping in this post.
Roasted Carrot Cheesecake with Gluten Free Ginger Oat Crust
About This Recipe: Roasting enhances the natural sweetness of carrots, which inspired me to feature carrots in a dessert. Start with this Roasted Carrot Recipe, and then use a food processor to puree. The combination of spices yields a flavor very similar to a pumpkin cheesecake. Play with the spice combination if you want to emphasize the carrot flavor profile more.