Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Coffee & Spice Pumpkin Cake with Coffee Caramel

Last Sunday I wanted to bake a cake. I’ve had this idea bouncing around in my head for a few days, since my sister mentioned it. Pumpkin and coffee and spice, like that famous latte. I made my way to the store, bought everything I needed and then sat down in front of my computer to try and work out the particulars of the recipe. I typed “Pumpkin Cake” and then closed my laptop.


Last fall I was walking through the grocery store when I saw a bottle of ginger beer. It’s label was bright orange with beautiful calligraphy. I put it in my cart and started formulating ideas. I could reduce it down and make a glaze! I could add some to a pot of soup and see how that would taste.

By the time I got home I’d talked myself out of creating anything new with that ginger beer. I stuck in a cabinet and forgot about it.

So goes the last 3 years of my life.


This is scary to talk about and it makes me feel vulnerable but here's the thing: I want to bake stuff and I want to share it again. So I need to share this first. The last three-nearly-four years have been thread through with anxiety and depression and grief.  It stripped me of my ability to create and some days even my ability to think clearly. It's darn near impossible for me to work up the energy to artfully drizzle caramel and photograph it when I feel bad. Lately though, the urge to return to this space has been stronger than ever.


I woke up this morning thinking about that cake again. I wanted to bake it and photograph it and share it with y’all. I started talking myself out of it again. No one reads blogs anymore! What if your pictures suck? Maybe you should just go back to bed. But I didn’t! I tied on my apron and got to work. I cut my finger twice on the can of pumpkin and I spilled sugar all over my kitchen floor but I baked this cake and it’s delicious. That feels a bit like a victory. They say you can't go home again but maybe you can blog again. I want to talk to you about recipes and the seasons and (feeling like) failing at being a cookbook author and plenty of other stuff. First, let's talk about this cake in particular.


It's a play on that old favorite, the pumpkin spice latte. I put some espresso powder in with the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and I made a coffee caramel sauce that I want to pour on absolutely everything from now on. I baked it in my fancy swirl bundt pan but I think it would make a really great layer cake frosted with spiced cream cheese and drizzled with the sauce too. 

Coffee & Spice Pumpkin Cake with Coffee Caramel Sauce

For the cake:  
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon espresso powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 cup bundt pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, espresso powder, baking powder, salt and spices.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, vegetable oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Stir in flour mixture until just combined.

Pour mixture into greased bundt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out and allowing to cool completely.

While the cake is baking, make the coffee caramel sauce:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter, softened
a pinch of salt

Warm the heavy cream slightly and stir in the espresso powder. Set aside.

In a heavy sauce pan, stir together the sugar and water. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring and bring to a boil. Allow to boil until it turns amber in color. Remove from heat and slowly pour in the warmed cream, stirring as you do. Be careful, it will bubble up! Stir in the butter until melted. Allow to cool slightly and pour over cake.

Monday, August 31, 2015

autumn, grace, peace.

There’s a hint of fall in the cool morning air. The tips of the leaves are turning golden and russet. I watched them fall around me as I sat down on the steps of the porch with my cup of PG tips.

As I sat there I keep thinking the same words, over and over: I’m not ready for this.


This year there’s been an inextricable sadness with each change of the season. The passage of time feels weighty. It’s a reminder I’m moving farther and farther away from the last days I had with her. This one, this saunter into autumn, her favorite season, has been tough. Considering making plans to do all her favorite things without her seems unfathomable. The thought that winter is coming and with it brings whole year without her sits at the back of my mind.


Learning to live without someone you love is strange. I’m feel like I’m constantly searching. Searching for my mom. Parts of her. Memories to hold onto. Other times I’m searching for myself. How do you figure out who you are without your mother, without a person you love and who loved you? Her guiding voice, so strong throughout my entire life, is gone and sometimes (most of the time) I feel lost without it. Who am I without her encouragement and her laughter and her love? In “A Grief Observed” CS Lewis says the death of a beloved is an amputation. It changes your way of life forever and it takes a long time to acclimate to that change. The struggle is woven into my every day. I haven’t got it figured out yet. But I’m trying. 


People said it would get easier, and it has, I guess. Easier feels like the wrong word most days, though. It’s different. Grief is an ever evolving thing. I’m learning to live with that evolution and accept the changes when they come. To accept the days when a memory can knock me over, breathless. And to also accept the days when those memories make me laugh until I cry. Honestly, sometimes that’s even more painful. I'm learning to pray for peace and accept it. To give myself grace when I need to wallow.

 Grace & Peace. That's all we can ask for.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Honey & Jam: Seasonal Baking from My Kitchen in the Mountains

honey and jam

In a little under a month, my first cookbook will be on book shelves. Actual book shelves in actual bookstores. I can’t say how crazy that is to me. This book, filled with recipes created in my kitchen and photos taken on my little table by the window, will soon be in your hands.

honey and jam seasonal baking from my kitchen in the mountains

Mostly, I feel thankful. Thankful that I got this opportunity. That I got to create recipes I love, and take pictures of the place I love, and now I get to share them with you. The book is a personal one, it's not only a baking book, but also a love letter to the southern Appalachians, the place that inspires me. We tried to include as many photos as possible, and I'm so happy with how it came together.

honey and jam seasonal baking from my kitchen in the mountains

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how this came to be - I want to go back to 2008 and pat my 18 year old self on the head and tell her it’ll be okay. That this little website you are creating will one day lead you to something you never thought you’d be able to do. 

I’m excited (and nervous!) to share this with you - I hope it brings a some goodness into your day and leaves you with a kitchen full of cake and a little taste of my home.

honey and jam seasonal baking from my kitchen in the mountains

If you’d like to preorder, here a few of ways of going about that:


barnes and noble

honey and jam seasonal baking from my kitchen in the mountains

Honey & Jam: Seasonal Baking from My Kitchen in the Mountains will be available in bookstores May 12th.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

love & loss

March 3rd.

Six weeks ago my mom passed away. I’ve been trying to think of a more eloquent way to start this, but that’s all I’ve got. It’s the overwhelming truth that has defined each and every day since. My mama is gone and I’m not sure how to start. It’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up and the last thing I think of before I fall asleep. My mom, my anchor, my best friend isn’t here with me anymore. One day I was eating pizza with her and the next she was gone.

There’s so much I want to say about her. I don’t know how. I don’t know how to convey her spirit to you. Anything less seems not enough. I wish I could share with you her laugh, a laugh so loud it’s how I found her in the grocery store as a kid. I can’t seem to talk about her to anyone yet, other than my family. And most of the time, it’s just whispers of memories and tears and nodding our heads in understanding. One day I’ll be able to share more, but for know, let me say this: There was nothing better than being loved by her. 

January 22nd.
Her favorite place to be in the summertime.

The one thing I can talk about - need to talk about, is grief. It’s something I knew nothing of. I don’t have a big extended family and I lost both my grandmothers and my mom’s father before I was born or before I could understand. I had no idea what was coming.

I didn’t know, as CS Lewis said, that grief would feel so much like fear. Or even more so, that it's not a singular feeling at all. It's not just sadness because someone's gone. It's multifaceted in the worst way. You feel it in everything you do. It's anxiousness and loneliness and fear and longing for someone so much your body actually aches and so much more.

It feels like a curtain that separates you from the normal world. Last week I was checking out at the grocery store and the nice older man at the register smiled at me, commented on how beautiful the day was and asked me how I was doing. I felt so irrationally angry and confused. How can people be happy? I thought. How is it possible that the world is still spinning? Each new day spins me farther and farther away from her and that feels impossibly cruel.

There are moments it still makes no sense to me. How is it that the woman I love so much, who was so full of love and strength and opinions and humor and intelligence is no longer here? How is she not around to bug me about updating this blog and make really bad pie and plant pansies in her garden? How can it be that my dad is without his wife and my brother and sister their mother? Sometimes the weight of it is so overwhelming I feel my body physically can't take it. 

A last Christmas gift from her.

The other day, someone said to me that mourning was beautiful because it's about love. I spent the afternoon thinking that over and getting more and more angry. How can you say this is beautiful? It’s crying so hard you can't breathe. It's spending hours and days in bed and feeling like you'll never be okay again. It's begging God to make it better. To change it. But then there are these moments when I see her in myself. Her strength. All that she poured into me for 24 years. I remember the hours and hours we spent talking. The hours she spent praying for me. I see her in my dad and my brother and sister. Those moments are beautiful. And that makes me so incredibly grateful that God gave me her.

  There's a passage in one of my favorite books, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver that says "I thought I wouldn't live through it. But you do. You learn to love the place somebody leaves behind for you.”. I don't know if that's true yet, but I see glimmers of it. She left me a very good place.

"Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes o'erflow;
"'Tis grace has kept me to this day,
And will not let me go."

I have plans to be around a lot more in 2015. My mom was honey & jam's biggest fan and would be so mad if I didn't continue writing here. I have lots of things I want to tell you about - the biggest being that cookbook I have coming out in May. I'll be back soon.