new york crumb cake + a call for career questions!

The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough. — Ernest Hemingway (via Iris Blasi)

A few months ago, I wrote a note to someone who was embarking on a new path. For years, she slouched her way through her job, which was sufficient in the sense that it afforded her a lifestyle that one might, in certain circles, covet. Every morning she typed her way through hundreds of emails, and the greatest accomplishment of her days morphed into how many meetings she artfully dodged, how she achieved inbox zero. During this time, she fell in love because that’s what the books all tell you to do. Much like her job, this love was agreeable. Theirs was a home of compassionate compromise — she had her way with the walls, bedding and the closets, and he demanded a bathroom that was austere, borderline medicinal. Their furnishings never disturbed the order of things, as they ordered from Crate + Barrel, IKEA, with some select, “talkable” pieces from ABC Carpet + Home.

Theirs was a quite love of undisturbed sheets and the predictable squabbling over mutual friends and weekend plans. For years, I listened as she complained about nothing, and this made me wonder if the problem was everything. But I did the thing that friends ought to do, which is listen, offer enough so the conversations never veered toward the uncomfortable. I kept inching my foot into a pot of boiling water when I wanted to hurl the whole of my friend, in.

During this time, I was employed in a place in the business of subtraction. It was an office festooned with barnacles who caused minor, unremarkable cuts and lesions, but slowly, over time, I felt the life drain right out of me. My body had become a layer of skin I desperately wanted to shed, and I watched myself board planes, taxis and cars with the sort of dread I imagined one would feel walking toward their own death.

My friend and I met for dinner after months of silence, and I suddenly became dramatic in my protestations. It’s as if I have a gun to my head every day, and I keep pulling the trigger. My hand is on that gun; I keep clicking. My despair is mine alone, one of my own making. I can blame my creative atrophy and stress on everything from my boss to the minor politicking that only served to lengthen and darken the days, but I willingly walked into this and I can so easily walk out. I said all of this as we ate our way through the bread basket, and my friend turned to me and told me that she quit her job and kicked out her boyfriend.

After moments of stunned silence, we fell into former versions of ourselves minus all of the bad habits and dramatics. We hatched plans. We spoke of architecting our own lives. We will break ranks. We will not settle for anything less than extraordinary.

And more importantly, we will sing out all that we’ve learned like song, like sermon. She doesn’t have a virtual life, so she’s making the circuit within her network, while I’ve plans of my own. Because once you’ve been jolted awake, the first thing you want to do is shake everyone on whom you can lay your hands.

So this is me, slightly terrified, making a major leap on this space. Each week, I will publish a short video blog that will answer YOUR career questions. While I don’t talk much about my professional life on this space (and that has been a very deliberate decision), I’ve been a consumer marketer for the past 15 years (my LinkedIn profile), with an emphasis in digital + social. I’ve managed teams, have worked with some of the best and some of the certifiable insane. My career on client + agency-side has spanned industries such as retail, fashion, luxury, media, publishing and beauty/CPG. I’ve mentored dozens, have been mentored by a choice few, and have a lot to offer in terms of career growth, management, and even the ways in which you, akin to me, can embark on a second act.

While I don’t purport to know all of the answers, I think it’s only fair that I offer what I know to you. Also, I can definitely offer some insight into publishing a book and writing, for those folks who want insight on everything from process to marketing your book.

Feel free to leave your questions in the comment space below (or email me at felsull -at- gmail -dot- com).

{shivers, eats cake, hopes you’ll ask a question or two}.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis + Renalto Poliafito, with minor modifications
For the crumb topping
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (and still warm)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups coconut palm sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. A glass pan is recommended, but metal works too – your edges may be a little more crispy if you bake in metal.

To make the crumb topping: Whisk the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Add the melted butter and whisk to combine. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour – you’ll have to use a little elbow grease to work in the final bits.

To make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, letting the first incorporate fully before adding the second. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for an additional 30 seconds. Add the sour cream and vanilla to the mixer and beat until just incorporated. Finally, add the flour mixture in thirds, beating just until combined.

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan. The batter will be thick – just use a spatula to spread it evenly. Pick up the crumb topping by handfuls, and break off chunks, scattering them over the top of the batter. Use all of the topping – it will be a very thick layer!

Bake for 45-55 minutes (rotating the pan at 15 minute intervals), or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes before serving.


10 thoughts on “new york crumb cake + a call for career questions!

  1. Love watching your journey! I am the same as your friend; going from meeting to meeting, trying to clear my inbox, which currently totals 372 emails. They are read. I just need to DO something with them. Don’t judge.

    My question is simple. How much does one need in savings as an “eff it” fund, to be able to walk away from a steady income and face potential starvation?

    Also, my dream is to open a bakery. Everyone tells me my baked goods are delightful, but how do I KNOW that people would actually pay money for them? Of course they scoff them
    down when offered free at a meeting, but how do I know who is telling me the truth?

    You are the best Felicia!

    Thank you!


  2. So, I’ve been trying to work on my novel, to finally fill in the missing pieces of the draft, answer the questions I never resolved, consider issues I’ve neglected, and so on. Part of me wonders if the whole idea is crazy — if I’m just wasting more time on a project that might never see the light of day — but that’s not my question, because I know that isn’t something you can answer. Rather, my question is about having a long-term plan/strategy. I’ve really avoided thinking about the next steps (finding an agent and publisher, respectively). Do you think that’s okay? I feel like it’s pointless to even consider those tasks until I have a finished book, something that’s complete and polished. But part of me wonders if I’m sticking my head in the sand by not considering how daunting those tasks might be. What are your thoughts? (Thanks.)


  3. Well, lady, first of all, you have me craving coffee cake now. Jealous. Second of all, YAY! I have a bunch of questions and I don’t know if they’re too specific for the type of video you were envisioning, but I’m really interested in your personal career journey since I’ve always considered marketing as a field of interest.

    So I would ask…how did you get into consumer marketing? I was an English major and since there’s no real “set path” for an English major, I know a lot of people fall into careers kind of randomly. Did you consciously choose marketing and fall into consumer marketing? Did you just fall into marketing since you were a strong writer? Did you write creatively on the side while you did marketing (how did you write your book?)? I have a full-time job and I always told myself I would write once I’m out of school, but my motivation is so nearly non-existent right now.

    If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same career path? Do you have any strong thoughts on grad school (especially an MBA) + advancing a career? Some people say that grad school is the new college degree: agree or disagree?

    And on another note, what tips do you have for growing your network or social media presence?

    Sorry for the millions of questions! THANK YOU for offering up your knowledge to all of us!


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