Friday, April 27, 2012

armenian nutmeg cake [and a breather]

It has been an arduously long month, April. I can't deny that I'm happy to see it go, despite the unnerving reminder that the year is flying by whenever it comes time to post another DB challenge. A string of disappointments in regards to missed summer opportunities, though, has left me feeling hollow and inadequate these past few weeks. A terrible quality to have when coupled with particular academic shortcomings dispersed in between. I'm positive I've been quite the debbie-downer to behold for those around me as of late, and thus have spent the majority of my time, while not in class, sitting at home pouring over papers to scrape together decent term paper theses and assuring myself that the spring semester has not, in fact, gone totally to waste.

Nevertheless, sitting here in the comfort of a cozy coffee shop, warm mug of bottomless French roast in front of me [to which the barista grinned knowingly when I told him, under no uncertain terms, "give me the strongest you've got"], and small stack of philosophy texts by my side, I'm feeling settled. It's not currently the 27th, as is unsurprising since I rarely write these up on post dates, but after sitting in my room, distractedly alternating between John Rawls and Pottermore [unsurprisingly, Pottermore won out], and chancing a glance outside the window, I figured it was high time I got out of the house and back into some semblance of familiarity.

Staying cooped up in the apartment, lovely as it is, can be suffocating. A fact I discovered yesterday when Noosh and I took a drive Downtown to stroll through used bookshops, local boutiques, and cups of gelato [we both still deeply lament not purchasing a pint of goat cheese and fig ice cream while there], returning home feeling the most clear-headed I'd felt in weeks. So when I woke up to overcast skies and spent a few moments watching slow rain patter gently against my window, I realized I needed to get out.

I'm much less inclined to surf Pottermore in public, after all.

My coffee shop excursions were a constant last semester [as a means to get work done away from the distractions of my apartment], since I spent my Saturday mornings volunteering off grounds and easily drove myself to the nearest shop afterward, car on hand. This semester, though, aside from Monday night teaching sessions, my car stays stationed at the apartment and I find myself unnervingly dependent on the shuttle to get me to and from grounds.

Meaning, no caffeine IVs to help clear my head.

Today, however, a beautifully melancholy Sunday afternoon seemed the perfect time to take a step back, caffeinate, and make some real progress on work.

[Though, a small distraction for blog-writing seemed acceptable, particularly now that I've finally finished with Mr Rawls.]

A little chat with mom is also always enough to turn my mood right around.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake
Adapted from the April Daring Baker's Challenge

You'll need:

  • 1  cup milk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup [1 1/2 sticks] butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1 - 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan. In a small bowl, combine milk and baking soda and let sit. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and brown sugar. Cut in the cold butter, either in a food processor or in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, until mixture comes together as a crumbly dough. Take half the dough and press it on the bottom on the prepared pan.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg and nutmeg until light and frothy, about 1 min using a stand mixer or 2-3 mins using a hand whisk. Pour in the milk and baking soda mixture and whisk until uniform. Pour wet ingredients into the remaining dough mixture and mix until blended. Pour the remaining batter on top of the base in the pan. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top of the batter.

Bake for 35-40 mins, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 mins before removing. Enjoy plain, or serve with fruit jam or sweetened cream.

Being at uni, away from home, living at the apartment and met with familiar sights day in and day out, having adjusted to an unsatisfying routine of classes, part time job #1, and part time job's easy to forget that there is more to the world than just my limited bubble of activity. I took each rejection in stride, on the surface, though inside felt like each blow was a few steps thrown down an already-delicate ladder of self-worth.

This isn't meant to be some sob-story, though; it's meant as a reminder to myself that nothing is ever as bad as my often narrow-minded self makes it out to be. A shock when this reminder came, not from me, but from my mother. I had called her up after yet another rejection, weary and exhausted, and all she responded with was along the following:

"It's alright. Keep applying, keep trying, keep putting yourself out there. And if it doesn't work out, take the summer to relax. Can jams, read, make some money, get some thesis research done, enjoy the time."

Perhaps not verbatim, but the words were laced under her reassurances, under the 'don't worry, it'll be okay, it's the last 'summer break' you'll be having for quite some time, after all, so no need to spend it lamenting over what could have been.' Simple, obvious, startling.

And yet, true. Things will work out the way they're meant to, after all. It's a motto I've always lived by, though it is, admittedly, hard to remember when you're on the receiving end of life's disappointments.

Though, I suppose, the disappointments are only as big as you make them out to be, in the end.

So I'll take what I've gotten. Write these term papers with calculated efficiency, submit more cover letters, finish up these next two weeks with optimism, power through finals and let go of a stressful semester, cherish small miracles like 21st birthdays [Nora, Liz, Tommy, Nathaniel - my heart goes out to all of you in congratulations and love], look forward to being able to turn to JRR Martin instead of JS Mill, bookmark recipes for blackberry-lemon preserve, and just take a breather.

Life's too short to linger on the disappointments, after all. There's too much else to look forward to.


  1. Sorry that April has been a lame month for you, hopefully May will be much better! Take heart in the fact that you can bake a mean cake and take gorgeous pictures!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Korena :) Your compliments have brought a smile to my face. Hope your May is is just as lovely!

  2. I second Korena - and your mother :)) There's plenty of time, enjoy a break, you know life happens in between..You have a gorgeous cake and great photos. Well done on the challenge and a much better May.

    1. Thank you, sweetie :) Life is certainly never as bad as you'd think, if you remember that there's always time to enjoy it. Here's to wishing you a wonderful May as well!

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