"When I got to France, I realized I didn't know very much about food at all. I'd never had a real cake. I'd had those cakes from cake mixes or the ones that have a lot of baking powder in them. A really good French cake doesn't have anything like that in it..." - Julia Child
The only kinds of cakes I knew growing up were ones that my mom whipped together from a box. I remember her banging each cake pan on the linoleum countertop, as I would wince while trying to sneak a peek at what she was making. She dropped them from what sounded like at least 2 feet in the air; supposedly getting rid of all of the air bubbles hiding in each layer before she would carefully place them in the oven.
I've never really liked conventional cake. Everything I always ate at birthday parties or celebrations was always too dry or there was too much frosting so I would tend to shy away from baking it in general. Until I got a little older and wiser, and realized that there were so many endless possibilities.
These cakes are my ode to that. Cake exploration at it's finest.
All photos taken by the lovely Grace Jones.
finding solace in food
Cy Twombly, a skilled artist, sculptor, and photographer, was known for large scale paintings using gestural and communicative handwork. I was drawn to it as a teenager reading through Art Forum Magazine after stumbling on a tribute article to commemorate him after his death. I became very curious about his work and started to explore the details and mass scale as to what he created. I remember seeing his work in the Musée Dorsé, and recall just staring in awe of these giants.
I recently came across a few of his works directed at natural history that I felt the desire to use as inspiration for a recent collaboration with a fellow artist.
The idea of finding peace amongst the chaos (specifically in nature), and based on the Twombly works that I was so attracted to, really spoke to me in light of everything going on in the world right now. This idea struck home both from a visual perspective, and especially relating directly to food, where so many of us seek comfort.
So I give you, Finding Solace in Food; a collaboration between myself and photographer Ryan Benyi.
All content was baked by Pook's Baked Goods, and captured by Ryan Benyi of Ryan Benyi Photography.
To truly dine; to taste and indulge yourself is true sensuality in the face of food.
The warmth of sweet flavors melting on the tip of your tongue. Drunken fruit making your lips pucker. Finishing your taste buds with supple sugars that make you exhale and collapse into yourself.
That's how I want dessert to feel. Guilt-ridden but too good to quit.
And when you finally set your fork down, you make sure to always remember this moment; forever engrained onto your palette.
Photos courtesy of Angela Fortin Studios.
I work best in the light of spontaneity.
I love creating on a whim, and when you have artist pals who love to do the same, it's a thing to be thankful for.
Creating what I feel as I feel it; planning dessert off the cuff; it's cathartic in a way; building a piece of work as you sketch it with your mind's eye.
So when Grace asked me what I was doing a few cold weekends ago, I immediately started brainstorming cakes to create based on some of my favorite oil paintings that I could incorporate with the millions of dried flowers I have hanging in the studio.
Painting cake is akin to my passion for oil painting. Palette knives have always been my tool of choice; blending colors to create a story, applying it to canvas (or cake), is more focused on the movement and texture than having a specific theme or subject.
As expected, when you have a specific idea in mind, sometimes it may not execute in the same way that you initially envisioned. But that can be okay!! I was told that this moody cake was reminiscent of Miss Havisham. I'd never heard of the story, so after going into the deep dark depths of Google, it seemed fitting that it was this dark ethereal tale of a woman forever wearing her wedding dress written by Charles Dickens.
Photos courtesy of Grace E. Jones photography
lauren + mark || june 2, 2018
When people who love art get together, it's a beautiful thing.
Lauren and Mark asked me to be apart of their brunch wedding this past summer. They are not only phenomena;l artists, but they're a pair of dear friends, (and avid fans of my almond cake).
Working with creative people is always such a dream because the process of designing a menu is just as enjoyable as seeing their faces cut the cake on their wedding day. We worked together to come up with desserts that would fit with their brunch-themed wedding in Frankfurt, Kentucky. The almond cake was on their checklist, but so was creating a magnificent crepe cake that we collaborated on; a delicious mocha crepe cake.
Being apart of this process is always a dream. And getting to see the end result of our hard work is a true joy.
I love being able to see into a person's personality by the way that they eat. Whether slow and particular, or blindly diving into the first bite, we all have a particular way of eating that I think is a window into our souls. And what a better way to see the true happiness of newlyweds than their first bite of cake?
Photos courtesy of Grace E. Jones photograpy.
Yellow - the color of sunshine, happiness and clarity.
It's the color that my friends and I chose to work with to create Opalescent; a photo series celebrating creativity bound solely by a single color.
Petite peach cakes surrounded lemon crinkle cookies and a tart lemon curd layer cake. Warm floral arrangements blanketed all of it and created a sweet wonderland in which to delve.
The sweetest fantasy.
Bright blooms, citrus, and serene smiles. These are the perfect sounds of summer that create the fondest notes of yellow.
Photo's courtesy of Grace E. Jones photography. Floral design created by Kirsten West of Bear Roots Floral.
the upside down
It's been about a year now since the women's march. Since women around the world were shaken by a storm we didn't anticipate, and the ground fell from under our feet.
I still don't have too many words about the day when those votes were counted. I do remember the morning after the announcement. I walked into work and sat at my desk; weighted down by the heavy sadness that loomed over us all. Everyone piled into the little conference room when our boss called for us, and we sat in silence for a minute. You can imagine the awkward stares; the half smiles trying to convince one another that this will all be okay.
But this is not ok.
Reality hadn't quite set in until my boss began to speak. There was sadness and cracking hope in his voice. There were silent tears and red faces among all of us while we were encourage to take time to process what had happened, as well as be with our loved ones. That we will continue to celebrate each other and treat one another with kindness.
There was a silent understanding that we all felt the same. Not many more words had to be said.
Then there was the women's march.
Again, not many words are appropriate aside from power. So much power.
I was not in Washington D.C. but I didn't have to be; power was everywhere.
I've never felt so connected with both the women in my community, and beyond. There's this communal passion, anger, and desire to defend ourselves and one another. I don't think I have to explain to you where that comes from.
There are pictures of donuts here because I made them for a women's creative group I'm so happy I'm apart of. It's one of the few places I've felt not only comfortable in my own skin, but proud and empowered to be a woman. Women supporting women is not just s cheesy Pinterest quote. When implemented, it's a strong action by way of love.
This group asked me if I could make these donuts for their "Stranger Things" website launch party. These photos have been sitting in my draft folder for a while because I've been debating on what to write about them.
I've found that people relate the "Upside Down" in the show to the horror we are living today. So it's fitting that this date, and these photos collide on my screen today. It's been a year since the march. It's been a year since the world stood still and we all had trouble catching our breath.
But today, we inhale.
We will get back to the "Right Side Up".
Photo's courtesy of Stef Streb.
Saturday morning is my favorite.
Around 7 or 8, I’ll go downstairs and open the blinds. The sun pours into the room and I get to close my eyes for a moment to soak in the warmth hitting my lashes.
When the sun is out like this, it streams onto our dining room table and saturates everything. The smallest folds in the linen cloth create these dramatic shadows that hug my mummified flowers.
These little things things create my calm.
When the sun trades places with the moon on those days, I’ll escape to class. Tonight, while incense burned, we crossed our legs, shut our eyes and thought about color.
What color represents me?
What color radiates from inside?
My first thought was peach.
It is warm. It is soft. It is tenderly sweet.
We were in the center of an open room at the center of the art museum. People were strolling through the halls on either side of us. Everything was in motion as we did our best to stay grounded.
The air was cool, but all I thought about were grilled peaches, honey and dollops of cream.
Peaches remind me of Saturday mornings when I open the blinds to welcome that orange glow.
And as I was lost in those thoughts of food and sunshine, I heard our instructor say,
love is frosting a cake
I don't believe in making New Years resolutions.
I've never been successful at committing to losing weight or inventing a consistent schedule to benefit my sanity, nor do I have the desire to do a juice cleanse for a month. I envy the people who have that drive, but I need to be honest with my capabilities.
I did however, spontaneously sign up for a yoga and meditation workshop on New Years Eve.
It was 8am and the sky had poured snow the night before. My "snow mobile" was inching along, hoping that what I was drifting on was actually the pavement. I slid in the parking lot, and stumbled out into the snow behind a few other women heading towards a snow covered garage; all of us bundled in our marshmallow coats.
The next hour and a half was both spiritual and emotional. The room was packed with warm smiles. Christmas lights strung around the inside of the garage softened the sounds of our heavy breathing while we dipped in and out of each flow. We all ignored the heater tucked into the ceiling that roared while we laid in savasana altogether.
The theme of the workshop was Awaken; to shed memories of the old year and look towards new possibilities. Within silence and stillness, creativity is born.
Our instructor encouraged us to focus within to cultivate love and empowerment. We acknowledge love in so many ways, but guiding it inward can be challenging.
The most personal and important piece of that morning came from one of our teachers during the practice guiding us through meditation;
"Love is frosting a cake."
Photography courtesy of Rachel Joy Barehl. See more of her work here.
People can have a way of impacting you regardless of how much time you've spent with them.
I met my husband's late grandmother about 8 years ago. I relish the few days I stayed at her home that spring; the first and last time we would ever see each other.
I remember sitting in the back seat driving up the winding hill to "The Ranch" through the jungle of tangelo trees. I sat on the floor stringing charms together to make wind chimes in Bobbi's tiny house. There were horses, gardens and so many sculptures. There was a bathtub of bears and a painting of naked ladies right above it. It was a bizarre and enchanting place.
Over the years, I was told that Bobbi took a certain liking to me. She sent me a fantasy story book, "Ariel," with a unicorn on the front; uncanny since it was tattooed on my skin a few years prior. Dan would get cards covered in a myriad of magazine clippings and doodles, sometimes with a little note wishing me well.
Dan's dad would travel back and forth to San Diego to see her before she passed. While she rested, he would bake there in her kitchen to stay busy. He used rind from the tangelos in the orchard to make oatmeal cookies with all of the trimmings. He still makes these cookies. Whenever he does, he'll tell me this story and about that time honing this recipe.
They're my absolute favorite thing to eat when Dan and I come home for Christmas. They're a constant reminder of her presence in my life. This year, I felt like I needed to make my own version.
In celebration of Bobbi.
Makes 18 cookies
Bake time: 15 minutes per baking sheet
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup quick oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Rind from 1 large orange (optional)
3/4 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together, including the oats, and set bowl aside.
3. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or using your handheld mixer), blend the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and orange rind on medium speed until light and fluffy.
4. Add the egg yolks and egg one at a time; beating each in until just combined, and then add the vanilla extract.
5. Slowly pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Then add the chopped chocolate.
6. Scoop cookie dough onto pan using an ice cream scoop and put 6 scoops onto your cookie sheet. Bake for 16 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer them to a cooling rack.