It’s easier to consider what your life could have been rather than what it is. You cleave to this idealized version of this life, swathe yourself in the fanciful and idyll. Scanning photos in sepia of a farm in the French countryside, replete with root vegetables ripped from the earth and displayed on a barn table teeming with life, with love that you get lost in it. You’ve tumbled into someone else’s version of the life you want to live, and much like the rabbit hole in Wonderland you look around and wonder how it is you got here and what will it take to return. Because this fiction went from a simple daydream to pass the time at work to a nightmare that smothers you, reminds you to wake up, wake up, this barn in the French countryside isn’t your home.
We play in this fiction frequently and it’s dangerous. We fawn over the clever types who artfully craft bon monts in 140 characters or less. Covet the wardrobe of that stylish girl in Rag & Bone skinnies who takes pictures of her latte in her apartment, calling it her work, and we desire the lovers who take up marriage like cross-stich, talking about a life lived with the one you adore. Their perfectly styled and architected dinner, a little messy to the eye, yet oddly perfect, is emblematic of this love. And we take out our rules, protractors and the like and start to compare.
Most days we feel sonnet small. Barely an inch on the stick.
And while I preach on and on about not comparing oneself to someone else, it’s hard not to do it. It’s hard not to grind your teeth after hearing the chorus of cries celebrating another engagement, difficult to not seethe when that lithe blogger, armed with a fancy camera makes everything look right, when that other friend uproots her life and pursues her vision so effortlessly — or so it seems. It’s hard to forget that they may be yard-sticking too; we can’t conceive that their home, their heart, could ever bear pain because they present this life, their best, edited selves, on a austere canvas and we’ve fallen into the depths of it. Got ourselves lost in it. How do we get out? How do we pursue the life we were meant to live without looking sideways at the noise, at everyone else?
You just breathe and do it. Every day until you’re closer to your vision.
Funny that I say this because the impetus for making this cake was an exploration of Hannah’s very beautiful space, Honey & Jam. For a moment I was crushed that my cake wasn’t as beautifully photographed as hers, wasn’t technically the level that was hers, but then I took a bite and my friends took a bite and we laughed and ate more and forgot all that had come before. I moved past that moment of envy because this lovely foodie had inspired me to create something that brought joy to someone else.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Honey & Jam, with considerable modifications
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup packed coconut palm sugar
1 cup grapeseed oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 pear, diced
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously brush a nonstick Bundt (or angel food) pan with oil. Whisk 1 cup boiling water, cocoa powder, in 2-cup glass measure. Whisk 2 cups flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat both sugars, 1 cup grapeseed oil, and 1 tablespoon vanilla in large bowl to blend. Add eggs; beat to blend. Beat mixture until smooth, about 30 seconds longer. Beat in half of flour mixture, then cocoa mixture. Add remaining flour mixture; beat to blend. Fold in pears and almonds. Transfer batter to prepared Bundt or angel food pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. In Hannah’s recipe, some folks commented on the pudding-like consistency. Since I’ve some sugars that are denser in nature and absorb more water, I did receive a consistency that was a softened cake, but not overly moist. Cool the cake 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack; cool 15 minutes longer.