New Cake and Old Friends

It’s been a long weekend. Not long like ‘yay, it’s a holiday’ long. More like ‘hours piling onto hours piling onto more hours’ long. I’m pretty firm about this remaining a food blog, so I won’t bore you with the details of what’s been going on in my life. But let’s just say I’m cooking more for one now than for two. Moving has a way of highlighting problems rather than solving them. So after twelve years of comfort, stability, laughs, road trips, cups of coffee, holidays, birthdays together, apartments spanning the country–I’ll be spending a bit more time alone. I’ve actually written this paragraph many times trying to just come out and say it. So there it is. And I’ve had enough sleepless nights, tears,  and a rather lousy appetite because of it. So hell. Today it was time to bake a cake.

This cake actually took two tries. I accidentally mixed in two sticks of butter the first time around instead of one as the recipe instructed. I don’t recommend that. It gets pretty messy.  So instead of jumping right into Round #2, I decided to take a break and go to yoga. The class itself was overcrowded, overpriced, and a little overrated.  But it turned my day upside down and gave me a little perspective. At the end of class, the  instructor started talking about being thankful for our blessings, seen and unseen. Unseen blessings. It’s a nice notion when you’re feeling a little sorry for yourself, isn’t it? We all probably count our obvious blessings; for me those are family, good health, friends, and relative financial stability. But what about your unseen blessings?

I like thinking about that notion–thinking that there are blessings out there waiting to be had. More laughter and more cups of coffee. More unspoken understandings and inside jokes. More love. So this weekend, I made a point to keep busy and had the chance to catch up with some very old friends over scorpion bowls (ouch), tea, walks around the block, and tearful phone calls (no, this wasn’t all at once although that would be quite a sight). I haven’t seen some of these friends in ten years. I can’t believe it’s been that long. I want to bake each one of them a cake to say I’m so sorry we lost touch. But the great thing about old friends is there’s no need. They’re still there to listen and smile and give big, long hugs. So thank you, guys. You know who you are. Now get over here and have a slice of cake.

Round #2 shaped up beautifully. This cake is so incredibly moist due to the buttermilk and the “secret” ingredient: butternut squash. The crumb is unbelievably delicate and the flavor is warm and buttery with subtle hints of vanilla, nutmeg, and ginger. For at least a brief few moments while you’re eating this cake, all is right with the world. Really.

And while we’re speaking of blessings, thank you all so much for stopping by, for commenting occasionally, and for your inquisitive and entertaining emails. I need that. I never realized how much direction and sense of purpose this blog would give me. I never anticipated the friendships I’d make with other bloggers.  So while I no longer have someone directly across the table to share this with,  I know I’ve got some amazing old friends. And I’ve got you. I feel blessed for that alone.

 

Buttermilk Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing

Buttermilk Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing

  • Yield: 10-12
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cook time: 1 hr
  • Inactive time: 30 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr 40 mins

This cake can be made a day or two in advance. After the icing has set, wrap the cake in plastic and refrigerate. Let come to room temperature before serving.

From: Fine Cooking Magazine

Ingredients

For the Cake:

4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
13 1/2 oz. (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups peeled and grated butternut squash (about 8 0z.)

For the Icing:

9 oz. (2 1/4 cups) confectioners sugar
3 Tbsp. buttermilk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup fine chopped crystallized ginger (for top)

Instructions

For the cake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325 F. Butter and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan; tap out excess flour. In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the oil and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well on low speed. Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix again until just combined. Then add half of the flour and the baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg, mixing on low speed until just combined. Add half of the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk.

Stir the squash into the batter with a wooden spoon or spatula. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and smooth top with spatula. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the icing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt until smooth. Add more buttermilk, a few drops at a time, as needed, until the icing is pourable but still quite thick. Pour back and forth in thick ribbons over the cooled cake. Sprinkle the ginger on top. Let the icing set at room temperature, about 45 minutes, before serving.

Cool the cake on wire rack for 30 minutes; then carefully invert cake onto rack and remove pan. When the cake’s completely cool, transfer it to a serving plate.


Comments

  1. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    Oh Megan - I am sorry to hear what's been going on in your life and feel free to DM me or email me anytime should you need to "get it out there".

    I love your perspective on things though and wish I could have that when things go pear-shaped in my own life. Perhaps I need to bake more cakes.

    xoxo

  2. Sanura

    I made my father's favorite recipe, an orange sweet potato cake, this weekend and made a major mistake with the batter. That "mistake" made a moister cake. Not saying the choices we make in life are mistakes, but it's always difficult to embrace the changes around us. Changes in life is what makes us stronger and better. Sugar it up and live well!

  3. Bria

    I'm so sorry you're going through this right now. Hang in there. It sounds like you're doing a good job of taking care of yourself - keep making it a priority and the rest will fall into place as needed. I'm sending you big hugs and warm thoughts from LA.

  4. Jeb

    "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first."

    Here if you need anything... especially cake. :)

  5. Lucy

    They say that a problem shared is a problem halved, and I'm sure you will find lots of support through blogging/bloggers. I always find baking takes my mind of issues and hope this keeps you going strong! The cake looks totally sublime - love it and wish there was a slice in front of me now!

  6. Maria

    I love baking with buttermilk. I can't wait to try your cake!

  7. Naomi

    The cake looks and sounds divine. BTW-Your photos are beautiful.

  8. MomGordon

    And there are some of us out here who count YOU as a blessing! Are you bringing some of this cake over??!!

  9. Manggy

    Aw, it is my pleasure to come here. Honestly I was having difficulty concentrating because the cake looked so lovely :) Anyway, I do appreciate my blessings always - they are always visible and I am always cheerful for it :)

  10. Aunt V

    Grama always used to say that 'cake' was my middle name along with Jane of course, like you. So I guess we have a few things in common!
    As you know, this too shall pass..not the cake but the angst. Can't wait to turn Marjorie lose on this cake recipe.

  11. megang

    Mardi, Bria, Jeb, Manggy: You guys rock. Thanks so much for your comments and readership. It means a whole heck of a lot!

    Lucy: how are you so wise yet so young? Thank you so much for your sweet comment (I actually hadn't heard that before).

    Aunt V: You'll LOVE this cake. I'm sure of it. And mom: yes, I'm bringing some over tomorrow night :)

    To new commenters: Sanura, Lucy, Maria, Naomi: Thank you guys for stopping by!

  12. My Delicious Blog

    Definitely a time to bake a cake. And in fact, you aren't actually alone!

  13. Rachael

    Amidst my own sense of angst and urgency lately, we must have been on the same page. I am not as adventurous as you most often, but I did make Mom's amazing chocolate cake today! I didnt even let myself have one slice because I know how much better it will taste tomorrow. There ARE many of us that count you as one of OUR blessings, and there are many of us so thankful that we can be counted as one of yours. Wish I could be there for cake with mom and you. I miss you so much.

  14. Lisa

    Oh Megan, sigh...and yum!

  15. Aunt Jill

    You are very brave to share your feelings and to bake this cake twice!!
    You know it seems that when situations in our life get rocky we think about what we are going to loose instead of what we gain. How symbolic that the first cake didn't come out but the second try gave you perfection. Keep baking and sharing, love it!

  16. my little expat kitchen

    I like the look of this cake as well the ingredients. I've never eaten a cake with butternut squash. Sounds interesting.
    Magda

  17. Stephanie Miskew

    I am so sorry to hear about recent events that have left you feeling sad. I just have to say though, your blog is fabulous! I love your writing and your photos look like they are right out of a magazine. The cake looks heavenly as well. Thanks for sharing and hang in there - I look forward to reading more in the future:) Thanks, also for stopping by my blog - I greatly appreciate it.

  18. Carra young

    Oh shoot!

    Hugs hugs hugs!!

  19. my spatula

    love the use of butternut squash in this cake. simply gorgeous!

  20. Chez Us

    Doesn't sugar seem to make everything taste better?! I am sorry to hear you are going through a rough patch, I am assuming it is love? Remember a lost love is a love gained. Whenever I lost one a better one came along until the perfect one floated into my live. I always figured the pain would bring healing and only make me a better and stronger person! In the meantime, tea, cake and the occasional scorpin bowl help nicely!

  21. marla {family fresh cooking}

    You always have us! This cake looks fabulous. Amazing how much the creative blog world inspires and drives us to do our best. I love being held accountable to you guys. I can pretend that we are sipping coffee and sharing this cake together. Feel free to share your feelings with us.

  22. megang

    Thanks again for all your support Marla, Denise, Carra, Bianca, and Stephanie! And yes, Denise, it's love.

    Happy to have you guys around. I have a feeling there will be much more baking in the near future...

  23. d

    I thought it was carrot cake when I saw the pictures. Putternut squash sounds delicious!

    Nisrine

  24. Janice

    Well, shoot! I miss a couple of posts and find out your world is upside down via your tweet about a studio. I'm so sorry. It will get better; that much I can say from experience, although it's small comfort right now.

  25. ♥¸¸.•*¨Skip to Malou¨¨*•.¸¸♥¸

    Thanks for dropping by at my site because that led me to discover yours.
    great site, wonderful writing and stunning photos!
    and yeah im so sorry to hear that... but as they say things happen for a reason... be strong!
    take care now...

  26. Jessica

    Hang in there. And eat all of the cake yourself - every last bite. I think you deserve it. Looking for those unseen blessings is such a key to happiness. Focusing on what I have to be grateful for, rather than all of the crap is all that gets me through some days. The other days? Baking. Baking always does the trick.

  27. Girlfriend

    At 32, I found myself in your exact position. Now, at 39, I am a newlywed who's happier than ever. And though I can no longer rearrange the furniture or paint the walls exactly how I want to, I am happier than ever.

    Also, try Laughing Lotus on 16th Street for the best perspective-shifting yoga ever. Seriously.

  28. katie

    well, i don't know you, but you've got a lot of people behind you and your cake looks amazing if that's any consolation :)
    hang in there!
    p.s. i love the video on your biscuit recipe.

Join the Discussion

Summer Desserts

Whole Grain Any-Fruit Crisp

Whole Grain Any-Fruit Crisp

On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing. 

Read More
Thick and Creamy Cherry Almond Ice Cream

Thick and Creamy Cherry Almond Ice Cream

This past week we've had quite a heat wave in Seattle. I've been getting into the bakery early in the mornings so as to avoid the afternoon heat + hot oven combination, and it turns out the upstairs of our new house is quite a little hot box. I bought some aggressive blinds and a new fan and am hoping both will help cool things down a bit. The wool blanket is in the linen closet for the season, and Sam's been making iced tea like it's his job. Summer has arrived! A few nights ago, the thought of actually doing much real cooking seemed a bit overwhelming, so I figured it was time to dig out the ice cream maker and get to work. I'd wanted to do something with the beautiful strawberries we have in the markets right now, but it seems every time I get a little pint it's gone before I have the chance. They are just so incredibly sweet, and it seems a shame to do anything other than eat them right out of the container, preferably while sitting on the Moroccan picnic blanket you brought back from honeymoon on the lawn in your new backyard trying not to stress out about the incredible, insurmountable number of weeds. So. Many. Weeds. But cherries: somehow the bag of cherries made it safely through the weekend, so I set about to find a great cherry ice cream recipe. 

Read More
No-Fuss Hot Fudge Sauce

No-Fuss Hot Fudge Sauce

When you have an eight month old baby, making social plans can be hard. Especially in the evenings. When I was pregnant, I read Bringing up Bebe and one of the big premises of the book is how the French feel strongly that babies and children can fit into your lives and that you shouldn't have to change and alter everything to accommodate them. I remember reading the book and thinking: YES! Life will be just as it was, except we'll have a small baby in tow. Obviously a few things would likely be different, but I didn't want to change our routines, change the way we cooked or approached time off together, or see our friends any less. Well of course I'm the fool. Or at the very least, I'm not as French as I thought I was. Today, we very much schedule things around Oliver's nap schedule and bedtime, but thankfully we have a lot of other friends with kids who get it. Friends who make homemade cookies, own ice cream businesses, and have really great taste in music. Friends who host the kind of occasion that warrants homemade hot fudge sauce and eating dessert first.

Read More
Dating Yourself

Dating Yourself

We're back! After a restful few days in Lake George, I ended up flying home while Sam spent a little time with his family in New Jersey and a few days in New York City by himself before taking the train all the way back to Seattle (a solid four day journey). If you know Sam, this isn't surprising; he loves trains. When he's gone, I quickly revert back to my single gal days of eating veggie quesadillas for dinner (over and over) and staying up working later than I'd like. We would talk on the phone often as Sam would narrate his very full days in New York City and the stops and layovers he had while on the train. After a few days of me lamenting the fact that I wasn't there to experience it all with him, he encouraged me to ditch the quesadillas and do something special for dinner. See a movie. Go to the museum for just an hour. In short: I needed to get better at dating myself.

Read More
Sara’s Peach Derby Ice Cream

Sara’s Peach Derby Ice Cream

I received The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon cookbook in the mail not long before we moved to our new house, and I remember lying in bed and bookmarking pages I was excited to try but also feeling overwhelmed with where to start: the truth is that this summer has been a relatively low-inspiration / low energy time in the kitchen for me. I'd been chalking it up to pregnancy but when I think back and if I'm honest with myself, my cooking style tends to be very easy and produce-driven during these warmer months. I rarely break out complicated recipes, instead relying on fresh tomatoes and corn or zucchini and homemade pesto to guide me. But last night I cracked open Sara's book and pulled out a few peaches I've had sitting on the counter, fearing their season may be nearing its end. This morning as I was making coffee, I sliced up the peaches, toasted the pecans and churned away -- having a bite (or maybe two) before getting it into the freezer to firm up. 

Read More