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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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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