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!



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! 



Orange Cardamom Honey Cake w/ @WigleWhiskey Landlocked Spiced

April 2015

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.

Whole Wheat Orange Honey Cake with @WigleWhiskey Landlocked Spiced // www.WithTheGrains.com

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.

Wigle Honey Cake by With The Grains 05

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.

Whole Wheat Orange Honey Cake with @WigleWhiskey Landlocked Spiced // www.WithTheGrains.com

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 Honey Cake by With The Grains 04

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.

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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.



Flourless Chocolate Honey Cake with @WigleWhiskey Mole Bitters

November 2014

The lunch table was a spread of pad thai, see yew, woon sen and more. My friend, whose wife consistently pulls him kicking and screaming to the zero level, took full advantage of her absence and had ordered a 10 on the spice scale. As he spooned up the flavorful thai food, a rouge color overtook his cheeks. His tear ducts drained. His nose ran. His brow glistened with sweat, and a crazed look overtook his eyes. He spoke nonsense and gesticulated wildly. He was in the throes of a spice high.

Flourless Choc Wigle Mole Cake copy

I’m no 10 on the spice scale. I’m a comfortable 6. I like a little kick here and there, but only as a flavor accent, not as a testament to my tolerance or a feat of strength. This cake is just that. Accented with Wigle Whiskey’s Organic Molé Bitters, this cake is a little kick here and there. I erred on the side of caution, adding a modest 3 teaspoons. I would suggest a bolder portion for even more of that molé flavor in each chocolaty bite. The use of raw wildflower honey as the sweetener added a floral note, and incidentally helps keep this cake moist and fresh for a while…if it lasts that long. The coconut topping toasts as the cake bakes, making for a nutty finish to this floral, spicy, chocolate cake. It’s full of nuances.



ShrubDown: A Shrub Competition at Wigle Whiskey + A Recipe

August 2014

“Have you got into drinking shrub yet?” I asked, and I immediately regretted the “yet” lingering pretentiously in the air.

I backtracked and attempted to erase the unintentional hipster tone I had assumed, while proceeding into what felt like a Portlandia skit. I explained to my friend, “Shrub is a syrup or concentrate made with sugar, vinegar and fruit infusions. The traditional beverage dates to colonial times when it was used as a fruit preservation method.” Luckily, my friend was a good sport because the more I spoke, the more “do you know the name of the chicken I am eating?” I seemed.

On that note, let’s talk about a gathering of shrub nerds . . !

Wigle Varieties

Sarah Walsh, owner of Caffe D’Amore Catering, is an avid shrub maker and drinker. She had the idea to bring other shrub nerds together for a tasting and friendly competition à la… a ShrubDown!

1947 Tavern
Jen from 1947 Tavern serving “shroda” and creating her competition cocktail.

We gathered at Wigle Whiskey, where we received a proper welcome in the form of a cocktail containing peach shrub, early grey tea, honey and Aged Wigle Wheat Whiskey. Set against the backdrop of whiskey barrels, was the “shroda bar,” where we sampled shrub (mixed with soda water) from local enthusiasts including Blackberry Meadows farm, Wild Purveyors, the Butterjoint, the Livermore, and 1947 Tavern. After adequate sampling time, the competition began.


Bartenders from said establishments shook, stirred and mixed at the designated bar before submitting their concoctions to the panel of judges. One critique of the event was the judges were the only official taste testers of the cocktails, but it pays to be friends with a competitor’s girlfriend and catch some of the extra sips. It’s all who you know!

Will's Cocktail
Will Groves of The Butterjoint
Shrub Jars
Various “shrodas”
Cavan and Abby
Cavan of Wild Purveyors and Abbie of The Livermore

Declaring the Winners

The panel of judges declared a first place tie- weak judging, says my competitive side, but congrats nonetheless to Abbie of the Livermore and Will of The Butterjoint on winning the first ever ShrubDown!

Winners Winners
ShrubDown organizer Sarah Walsh and the prize bottles of Wigle White Whiskey for the winners.

Good news for you local Pittsburgh shrub enthusiasts. There is another ShrubDown on the horizon! Mark your calendars for November 9th, and keep an eye open for more details. For you local and non-local shrub enthusiasts, here’s my own shrub recipe.

Photo by Adam Milliron.

I made the pictured shrub from local mint, fresh strawberries and a red wine vinegar when strawberries were bursting with local flavor. Pardon my blogging delay, and I might suggest using a more seasonal fruit if you’re making this during the fall or winter. I made another variety with lemon, rosemary and apple cider vinegar, which was for the more seasoned shrub palate, as it was far more tart and acidic.