Monday, October 31, 2011

A breath + a bite: Good friends know the song in your heart + {recipe} Plum Cake

A simple plum cake, dense, and moist. Perfect for a leisurely talk with a good friend.

A breath…
It's Sunday as I sit writing this. I like Sundays. It's usually my day to cook. And when I cook, I think. I contemplate. I meditate. I'm able to put the things going on in my life into some sort of perspective. Today, all I can think about is friendship – both our natural familial ones and those that we choose to cultivate.

I used to believe that it was just me against the world. That's a common belief, methinks, for someone like myself who has been virtually single their entire life. You start to believe that you are the lone blade in a sea of grass bending to and fro trying desperately to keep from breaking beyond your ability to mend.

And although I have family to help put me back together when I have indeed broken in two (or three or four), it's the friendships that we make that tend to be the ones who see it happening – or cause the break in the first place.

Funny thing, this growing older. There's a bit of clarity that comes with having life experiences behind you. With enough time between those major events in your life, almost anything can be put into perspective. There's also the ability to see patterns; to notice that some lessons are learned, and others keep repeating because we just haven't gotten it yet.

And many of those lessons – and reminders of lessons already learned – come in the form of friends.

Friends treat us the way we allow them to
You know those people who tend to only come around when life isn't treating them so well and disappear as soon as they've taken what they need from you to breathe again on their own without so much as a thank you? I have some friends like that and recently, I feel like the universe was testing me to see if I've learned the lesson yet.

The only way I know to deal with them is to keep the wall partially up while I dip my toe in to test the sincerity of their attempts at reconnection. My history has shown that just as quickly as any reconnection happens, it's as if someone yells out, "Full stop!" when someone better another distraction comes along for them.

These friendships always seem to make their way to the back burner, smoldering in the embers of memories and dashed hopes for new beginnings. The younger me would have been devastated with each loss. But this older, calmer, slightly wiser me I'm finding can finally acknowledge the growth that has transpired here in me. The lesson? History does not change so let it go and move forward.

'Life' friends are the best teachers
The universe also recently brought another person back into my daily life for a visit that put a spotlight on the glaring difference between life friends who are teachers and, well, the rest.

Immediately, energy, love and respect flowed back and forth as we spent as much time together as we could. In the brief week-and-a-half she was here, she truly was here: to listen without judgment and encourage without ulterior motive. We laughed, we shared, we teared up when the conversation got heavy and soul-bearing. And when she left, my soul was again singing with the possibilities of my life.

There is a saying about a good friend knowing the song of your heart and being able to sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words. That is a role she has always played in my life. I hope I can play it in hers.

I am open-hearted once again. I am able to allow blessings to flow back in and receive the energy from the people who play the important roles in my life like my awesome family and the handful of other life friends both old and new as they act at times as my teachers, cheerleaders, listeners, playmates, fellow students of life who lift me up, honestly and with open hearts themselves.

A bite…
I've been relying on those awesome family members and friends for rides a lot these last few weeks as I've dealt with one car issue after another. Friday, my car wouldn't start again and I had to trouble my Grams to drive me to work. Once at work, my friend Glo offered to give me a ride home when she found out that my car was dead – again. Without hesitation, every time my car has gone out, she's offered to help. And when she heard that I was towing my car back to the auto body shop near her on Saturday morning, she offered to pick me from the shop and take me to the Golden Hill Farmers Market before driving me home.

Wanting to go since I found out one started up in Golden Hill, I was excited to be going with her. We got there so early that it wasn't at all packed and we were able to leisurely stroll from stall to stall talking with venders and tasting, touching, smelling their wares.



I picked up these lovely plums.



They were huge. And delicious. So when I got home, I decided to bake with them.




I spent Saturday afternoon trying to figure out what it was I wanted to make today, Sunday, my cooking day.

This awesome crumble from The Cilantropist has been on my mind since Amanda posted it. But then there was this dimple cake or pie from Smitten Kitchen that looked promising. Oh, and this plum jam from Kitchen Corners caught my eye, too. There was also this great looking plum tart from Sprouted Kitchen to consider. Oh the possibilities!


Reality check: Not having been to the groceries in a while due to lack of transportation, I surveyed my pantry and decided the cake was the best option with what I had work with.

So I adapted the recipe and forged ahead.



I'm pleased with the results but already have ideas on how I'm going to tweak it in the future. That's just me though. I love to take what I know and turn it on it's side, just a bit.

Because, sometimes, things that look askew, are really just lessons waiting to be learned.


Plum Cake
adapted from smitten kitchen

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (original calls for flavorless but wanted to try it with the EVOO)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon (original calls for orange, but I only had lemons)
  • 2 large or four small plums, cut in wedges
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (see note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Butter an 8 inch square pan. Line with parchment paper so that two inches comes up on two of the sides (to be used as handles to lift the cake out of the pan). Butter the parchment. Set aside.
  2. Add room temperature butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until it's lighter in color. Use a small rubber spatula to scrape down sides of bowl if needed. Add sugar and beat on medium for about 3 minutes to cream the two together, using a spatula to scrape down sides if needed.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time stopping to beat for 3 minutes between each one and scrapping down the sides of the bowl. Add oil, vanilla and citrus zest. Beat for 3 more minutes. Batter will be smooth and satiny.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the flour and cinnamon until well incorporated. Bring mixer speed down to low and add the flour to the wet ingredients until just incorporated. Remove from stand and use a rubber spatula to incorporate any dry spots from the bottom or sides of the bowl.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Arrange the plum slices on top. Bake in center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark. Mine was done at 32 minutes.
  6. Once a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, remove cake from oven and set on a wire rack to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then, grabbing the parchment handles, lift the cake out and place on the rack. Allow to cool for 25 minutes. Carefully flip the cake over onto a plate, remove the parchment, place serving dish over the cake and carefully flip back so that the cake is plum side up.
  7. Cake will keep at room temperature for 2 days if covered well or keep in the refrigerator covered up to four days.

NOTE: The original recipe calls for the above measurement but of all-purpose flour and not self-rising. If you're using all-purpose, add 2 teaspoons backing powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. I have a lot of self-rising flour on hand left over from a previous photo shoot so that's what I used. Use above measurement if using all-purpose flour and combine them well in a separate bowl before adding to wet ingredients.

Until next time… be well, listen to your heart so that the lesson can present itself. 

Ani

4 comments:

  1. this is awesome i like it and love you friend.

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  2. Thank you for stopping by. Have an awesome week.

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  3. Great post. A friend once told me that I should only have room in my life for positive influences and since then I've had to let some things go, but I'm glad I kept the others. Everyday is a learning experience.

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  4. Thank you, Alyssa. And I love that! "Everyday is a learning experience." So very true! Thank you for stopping by and reading and commenting. :)

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