Whole Wheat Citrus, Turmeric & Chia Seed Layer Cake

Under the weight of a nerdy backpack, I would trek up three flights of split-level stairs, to the retreat that was the Arts & Architecture floor of the university’s library. Stocked to the brim with manifestos, colorful portfolios, comprehensive histories and magazines showcasing the modern, this floor simultaneously filled me with limitless inspiration and overwhelmed me with its magnitude.

Whole Wheat Citrus, Turmeric & Chia Seed Layer Cake with Orange Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

I wanted to read every single book, but at times, I couldn’t even decide which book was a worthy starting point. How could my brain possibly contain a mere fraction of this treasure trove? I would need a lifetime!

Whole Wheat Citrus, Turmeric & Chia Seed Layer Cake with Orange Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

I feel about flowers the way I felt about the Arts & Architecture floor of the library- inspired and overwhelmed! I’ve only recently begun to truly appreciate the brightening, bliss-making powers of flowers. Having once scoffed at the many wasteful practices surrounding floristry, I’ve been inspired by the flower farmer movements and the way flowers can transform an entire room.

Whole Wheat Citrus, Turmeric & Chia Seed Layer Cake with Orange Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’ve begun to scratch the surface, and like pulling a volume from that library shelf, there are so many places to start. When it comes to flowers, I have so much to learn- there are common names, scientific names, growing practices, cutting tips, so on and so forth. In an effort not to lose myself to debilitating information overload, I’m simply trying to make more room for flowers in my life.

Whole Wheat Citrus, Turmeric & Chia Seed Layer Cake with Orange Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

From the vase in my bedroom, to layer cakes, to a field at the farm, I’m making more space for blooms, branches and compositional experiments. I’m giving myself the freedom to be curious (trying to at least!), which after all, is what led me to baking (that and an insatiable sweet tooth). That curiosity is also what led me to use chia seeds instead of poppy seeds and to add turmeric to practically everything. If you need a nudge to follow your curiosity more, I suggest this video. If you need a nudge toward the kitchen, I suggest this cake!

By Quelcy

p.s: This cake first appeared in TABLE Magazine, as part of my story, “Closed for the Holidays.”

Whole Wheat Citrus, Turmeric & Chia Seed Layer Cake with Orange Buttercream Frosting

About this Recipe: Turmeric yields a bright golden surface and an even brighter golden crumb! The chia seeds will pass for poppy seeds until you reveal your secret, healthy-baking weapon. The crumb is a little heartier, but the extra density works well for layering. Note: the flowers I used were not edible, merely for effect. Try an edible variety, or top with candied citrus or orange peel garnishes. 



Whole Wheat Chocolate Gingerbread Layer Cake

December 2014

It had been too long, and he had missed making music, so the Urban Farmer strummed his guitar at the dining room table, where I worked on something far less poetic. His fingers and his voice learned their way through the latest Billy Bragg song. My Farmer’s smoother voice joined the deeper, raspier words of the recording. He played and repeated, played and repeated, but the poignant lyrics merited the repetition:

Deep down in the underground, atoms spinning round and round. Scientists monitor readings. Searching for the Holy Grail, the particle or at least the tale of the one who gives the universe its meaning. But what if there’s nothing, no big answer to find? What if we’re just passing through time?

Whole Wheat Chocolate Gingerbread Layer Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Aside from a stint of piano lessons and a brief spell in the middle school orchestra, the only music these hands play is on Spotify. I’ve always been fascinated by words, writing and literature. Guiding a thought from mind to paper in a compelling way is challenging enough. These minds, who combine thought-provoking concepts with pleasing rhythms, harmonies and all the finer details of music making that escape me, these brilliant minds leave me awed and inspired like a child watching a magic routine for the very first time. A lack of technical understanding and raw talent might explain why many attribute these music maker’s talents to a higher power. Magic. God. Gumption. Who knows? It all leaves me pleasantly transfixed and inspired.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Gingerbread Layer Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Music may not be my conduit for expression, but the baking and sharing of food is one of the ways I translate the stories in my head into something real. Some people regard baking as I regard music. It seems magical, daunting, impossible, the equivalent of a chemistry experiment, or maybe even divinely inspired. There is a lot of magic to this process of transforming disparate pantry items into inspired layers of wholesome decadence, but at a fundamental level, music and baking stem from a willingness to try.

Time and technique are required for full mastery, but to start, if you can reach the pedals or read the directions, you can make the layer cake. Whereas early tinkering might make for unpleasant melodies, a baking mistake here and there can still yield deliciousness. I may never find my voice through song, or strings, or keys. However, sharing these sentiments, these food inspired stories, and these images is the way I share my voice, and this tale tastes of chocolate, gingerbread and the most memorable moments of the holidays.