On many cold mornings, Ryan is known to wake up, clean the kitchen and start a pot of coffee. He comes back into our bedroom, gently presses his lips against my forehead, and then speaks gently to coax me out of sleep. I've found no better way to wake up.
We cook together. He takes our knives to the broccoli, the cauliflower, the Brussels sprouts we both adore. Meanwhile I throw on water for pasta or set fish down in a skillet to saute. We often talk about what we heard on NPR. Yes, we are that couple.
As we sit at our newly stained table, we take a few minutes before every meal to hold hands and to share with one another what brings joy to our lives...and often, these responses involve the love and care of the other.
But as any veteran couple will attest to, relationships are not always roses. We have many moments of blissful admiration, but there are still times when we look at each other with a measure of disgust . Over the past five days, I've been working through some issues (forgive my ambiguity). And due to these "issues", I've been a difficult person to live with--grumpy, emotional and at times, completely unfair.
As we all know, these moods tend to provoke some unpleasant interaction with those that you love. Ryan and I have been fighting more than usual. We're not in a fairytale after all.
Yet this realization--this acknowledgment that relationships get messy is freeing. Because despite my failings and despite Ryan's, we are still madly and deeply in love. At times, the outplay of our bond gets fiery and intense. I have felt like smashing china, and I'm sure Ryan has wanted to punch a few holes in our walls. But at the end of the day, we are committed. We are joined together with a bond that feels as inseparable as the human heart and the body. Tonight, we're going to sip on tea and sit on our loveseat, and draw shapes on each others' forearms. We like to do things like that, and I know we always will.
When you consider the spices that go into this cake, you're never tempted to sit down with a jar of cloves or cinnamon. Instead, you take a choice amount and sprinkle it into your batter, knowing that a bit of spice can add just the right amount complexity to make this cake worth eating.
I spent many hours trying to find the perfect spice cake recipe. Throughout my life, I've enjoyed quite a few samplings, and that moist and spicy cake melded with a thick cream cheese frosting is a pleasure I long to experience again and again. This recipe provides just what I crave. I know that you will enjoy the complexity of flavor and the creaminess of the frosting. I hope that when you take your first bite of this cake you are reminded of how the joy most often overwhelms the pain of being in human relationships. Then again, if you only smile because this cake tastes heavenly...I'll be happy about that too.
*Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light molasses
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13 by 9 inch baking pan or two 9 inch cake pans (line the bottom of round pans with parchment paper) or two cupcake pans...the choice is yours!
2. Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a skillet until melted. Continue to cook until butter is light brown and has a faint nutty aroma, 2 to 4 minutes. Add your spices and stir constantly for about 15 seconds. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In a small bowl, gently whisk eggs, yolks, and vanilla until combined.
4. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream remaining 12 tablespoons of butter with sugar and molasses until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce to medium speed and add cooled butter and spice mixture, ginger, and half of the egg mixture; mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.
5. Reduce to low speed and add about one-third flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk, mixing until just incorporated, about 5 seconds. Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk. Scrape bowl and add the last of your flour mixture; mix at medium speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.
6. Transfer batter to prepared pans. Lightly tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any large air bubbles; smooth surface with spatula.
7. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours. If using cake rounds, carefully remove cakes from pans after fully cooled. Peel off parchment paper.
8. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and beat thoroughly. Add vanilla and mix until no lumps remain, about 30 seconds.
9. Spread your frosting over your cake. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios if so desired. Yield: 12 to 16 servings.
Anecdotes and Apple Cores