Old Notebooks & Cake Testing

Random photo of a slice of cake I ate at a bakery in Champaign, Illinois and not the cake I talk about in this post.

I have been working on a cake this week. Flavored with orange and saffron, it is a bundt I have been contemplating for years. Actually, that isn't entirely accurate. I dreamt up this cake about ten years ago and worked on it before setting it aside as my career in magazines took over.

This past weekend, I was poking through my old recipe notebooks, full of scribbles, recipes, and notes. I saw how immersed I was in the process back then, like a mad scientist, and remembered how much joy it brought. Admittedly, I wasn't as good a cook then as I am now. My baking skills? Minimal. In the last ten years, I have refined my style and have learned many valuable lessons that have served me well. But, my attention has been elsewhere and as important as food has always been to me, the process became somewhat insignificant and if I am honest, joyless due to what felt like hundred other things I always had to take care of.

What can I say, I'm not a great multi-tasker.

As I went through my notebooks, I noticed several things. The first, I really didn't have a cohesive style. I had some great ideas and some terrible ones, but good or bad, they were all over the map. Someday, I'll tell you all about my idiotic pho recipe (Omg, when I look back on it I am just beyond mortified). Food has always been my way to understand the world, but my understanding was still in its infancy. That isn't to say that I know it all now, but I have undoubtedly gained a bit of wisdom over the years. The tone of my recipes was much warmer. During my time at Mutineer, my Managing Editor (rad guy and a very good friend) broke me of my familiar style. I liked speaking to readers as individuals, but the style of the magazine didn't permit it. So, instead of keeping it privately, I simply left it behind.

But things have shifted in my world.

My daughter turned one a couple of months ago. She's a great eater and does it with gusto. Watching her eat the things I love to make, like roasted delicata squash with herbs, or ful medames with pools of olive oil, or even just seeing her lick tahini sauce off of her sticky little hands after a good meal makes me feel like my heart is going to explode. She has been eating people food for a few months now, and slowly but surely, I've been feeling that old spark again. The desire to just play in the kitchen is coming back and I owe it all to my little gal and the pure joy she takes in meals.

Saffron swimming around in fresh o.j. waiting to be added to the batter.

Over the past weekend, I decided to pick up where I left off on my Saffron and Orange Cake. So, I've started measuring and stirring and pouring, and baking. I've struggled with my bundt pan. I've gotten closer to a satisfying finished product. I've enjoyed the process. I've placed a hex on my bundt pan.

Today, I am planning to add a bit of orange zest to the mix to brighten things up a bit. Right now the finished product is pretty much all saffron, which I love, but I want that special something only orange zest brings to the party to compliment it. I'm also trying to achieve a lighter crumb and am weirdly having a bit of a time of it. I say weirdly, because I have tested other bundts (I have a prune and Armagnac one that will knock your socks off!) and have never encountered this issue. I've tried comparing recipes to no avail. I've also turned to the internet ... with mixed results.

Anyhoo, I will keep trying and hope to share the perfected recipe with you here in the future.

One other thing I discovered in my notebooks, was that I was really on my way to developing a writing style that current day me really loves. A writing style that I haven't displayed in quite a few years. I don't know if I can find it again, or even if I should. At the very least, it is an opportunity to look at my current writing and ask if it is my actual self and seeing if there is still room for that type of writing in my work.

Currently Reading: Norse Myths by Neil Gaiman and On Writing by Stephen King

I'll be sharing my thoughts on both of these books in the next week or so, toddler permitting. Have you read either of them? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


I have been immersed in the magazine world since 2009, getting my start as the Food Editor for the...



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