When I started Wandering Spice in 2011, I’d just moved to Australia. I was 25, fresh out of grad school in Europe and was starting a new life on the other side of the world, again. Six years later, here I am: married with a beautiful eight month old daughter. I’m still cooking daily, and still writing. As with any passage of time, however, my creative needs are different. My cooking needs are different. Most everything is.
I’ve grown. To do that, I needed to step away from this public space to take the next leap on my own. Most recently, that leap was the transition from womanhood to motherhood; from someone who nurtured herself, to someone who made, sustained and now nurtures someone else. It has been a deeply, philosophically thrilling undertaking for which I feel very fortunate. We all feel like we’re finally coming up for air.
The leaps never stop, though. The year ahead holds enormous changes for my family yet again; changes that will require willpower, patience and total trust in our decisions. (This is not a clandestine pregnancy announcement, by the way!) To make sense of it all, I will naturally resort to my most reliable, lifelong therapist: my kitchen. And, with that, the words will come. I can feel them again, peppery at my fingertips, ready to be recorded and shared.
Funny how we grow to know ourselves so well.
This really should be called “Everything Cake,” as a hat tip to my greatest lesson learned in parenting so far: that ‘success’ in baby-rearing is cobbling together whatever combination of intuition and sound advice you can, to survive. Not to prove anything, or to win a medal, but to get by in one piece. Babies grow so fiercely in this first year. What are we to do but get to know them, try to to support them as individuals, and – eventually – find confidence in the patchwork that suits us best?
And so, art imitates life. I had a variety of ingredients lying around, and one unifying vision:
sleep cake. The base is a dairy free cake recipe that I have relied upon for years, this version with half wholemeal flour, olive oil, spices, a little soy milk, pears and frozen berries. Fittingly, like our parenting, it came out just fine – beautifully, actually – in the end. It just needed a little trust in the process. A little bit of everything thrown in there.
As always, I encourage you to use whatever fruit and toppings you like best. Nuts, seeds, or crumble would all fit. You can use all whole wheat flour, too, if you’re happy with a denser cake. I love it both ways, equally.
It’s nice to be back here, making and writing. I look forward to seeing what our big year ahead nurtures in me, creatively, and sharing with you as it all unfolds.
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup light olive oil
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup plain flour (or, use 2 cups whole wheat flour for a denser cake)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Pinch each of nutmeg and cinnamon
- 2-3 tbsp soy milk (or cow's milk, almond milk, unsweetened applesauce or yogurt)
- 1 large pear, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 cup frozen berries or fresh fruit of choice
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Grease and line a standard 10" springform cake tin with baking paper.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the flours, baking powder and spices, whisking again until just combined. (If using all whole wheat flour, avoid over-mixing as the batter can get gluggy).
Fold in the soy milk (or preferred moistener). Scrape the thick batter into the prepared tin.
Arrange the pear slices and berries on top of the batter, then sprinkle with brown sugar.
Bake for 45 minutes. The cake is ready when a wooden skewer comes out clean, or with a few light crumbs attached.
Adding soy milk (or cow's milk, almond milk, unsweetened applesauce or yogurt) is optional but recommended to moisten this very thick batter.