Tastings and Truth Telling

House tidied up, CHECK. Music playing, CHECK. Candles lit, CHECK.

Am I waiting for a date to arrive or a wedding cake tasting client? That’s when it hit me… my story has brought me here; my imperfect past, disappointing failures, and quizzical stints of random hobbies have all perfectly aligned to make me excel in this industry!

When I invite a couple into my home for a tasting, it’s less about flavors and more about gaining a better understanding of who they are and what their vision is for the big day. I make it clear that flavors can be altered and textures can be changed. They think the tasting is about the cake, but I’ll share a secret with you… it’s not. The most important thing for me is the inside scoop I get when I see how they interact with each other, the subtle glances they give each other when making a decision together, the genuine smile when I hit the nail on the head with a cake that matches their personality and style. Suddenly, this couple who I’ve never met before starts to shift from stranger to friend.  It’s now more of a relationship rather than just another baking order… and my BEST work comes out when it is for those I know and love!

It wasn’t alway this way, I used to be terrified of wedding tastings… I know, odd considering I LOVE the actual wedding day itself. I think the reason tastings scared me so much is because I was nervous of what the couple would say; it was just me, this couple I didn’t know, and their raw approval of my baking skills. How terrifying is that?! The anxiety would build and the tasting would never go the way I had imagined, due to my stupid nerves and desire to be accepted as a REAL baker.

The truth is that I graduated with a psychology degree. I didn’t go to culinary school. I didn’t spend a semester in France learning how to bake classic French desserts. No, in my eyes I was a freud. I did my best to seem professional, to look like the real deal, but was always afraid that my secret would be discovered, after all… who we perceive ourselves to be will eventually be projected onto those around us. When friends would tell me how delicious my pies were or how talented I was… I would smile and say my “thank you’s” in politeness, but would never truly accept the compliment. I knew the truth. But there was a truer truth God was waiting to reveal to me…

I am LOVING the Jenna Kutcher “Goal Digger” podcast… if you haven’t checked it out… you should definitely get on that! She is not only successful and inspiring, but authentic and true to who she is and what her WHY is.  And guess what? She felt like a fraud in the beginning too! I thought I was alone in this, but am realizing that nowadays, so many of us young entrepreneurs are excelling at careers we never went to school for. The truth is in your work, not a piece of paper saying you are now qualified to do the work. God will work everything for His glory… even my seemingly useless degree in psychology.

Who am I, and what is my WHY? My WHY is not merely baking tasty treats. Those are the lure for my WHY… and let me tell you, they work like a charm. It’s about the people, the relationships that are forged over a late-night session of milk and cookies when you’re exhausted from being up all night because the baby won’t sleep or the toilet overflowed. It’s the chance to be a good and honorable person in an industry that can take advantage of a couple at the first sound of that magic work… WEDDING (we all know that prices go up the moment that bomb is dropped). It’s the opportunity to teach a skill to someone who didn’t grow up learning how to pack brown sugar the correct way, and the deeper relationship that can stem from that. It’s not really about the baking; although, yes, the baking is important. It’s about the people, and guess what… that’s what I got a degree in… understanding people!

You see, God has tailor-made each one of us to fulfill a certain purpose. Things in my past that seemed like failures at the time circle back and peek their head through in moments of clarity. God’s truer truth for my life is much more than a psycho-wanna be-baker; although that does sound like a great working title for my memoir! His truer truth is beautiful and alway evolving me into the person He created me to be… a woman of God, a woman who is capable and kind, who’s all about family (biologically and forged through friendships), loves nature, design, whiskey, musicals, Jesus, and lives to glorify His name… oh, and has a slight obsession with trying to find the best burger joint out there… so far, Oinkster takes the cake!

I encourage you to revisit those moments or seasons that seemed pointless or disappointing in the moment… you never know when they will be redeemed.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” -Philippians 1:6 (the Message)

When Life Gives You Blood Oranges…

When Life Gives you Blood Oranges...When trying to decide what to write about today, my mind went a million different directions… honestly, a lot of them were bleak.  It took a few minutes of stillness to refocus, remove the negativity, and replace it with something uplifting.  Let’s be real, this world is broken and dark; it’s what we choose to do in the moments of darkness that define us.

I have been watching a TV show called “This is Us” recently… it is such a beautiful mess of a family that has their fair share of struggles.  Early on in the series, [and heads up, spoiler alert!] a young couple finds out they lost one of their triplets during childbirth.  In a sweet moment overlooking his two newborns, the doctor says to the father:

“I like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me talkin’ a young man’s ear off explainin’ to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, just maybe not the way you planned.”

The couple does in fact end up taking home three babies instead of two, by adopting a baby boy abandoned at a fire station that morning.  You see, they were always meant to have three children, they were destined to be “the Big Three”…  it’s amazing how a change in perspective can turn a situation around.

When Life Gives you Blood Oranges...What are the lemons life has given you and how can you take steps to turn them into something resembling lemonade? Personally, I love lemons and don’t see why they are always depicted so negatively… they are so yummy, sour, and the zest is superb for baking… but for the sake of the metaphor, I’ll allow the connotation.  One of the “lemons” in my life is this season of “middle” I am in… a season of transition, knowing I am headed in the right direction yet eager to JUST BE THERE ALREADY!  It takes everything in me to slow my role and be content with the fact that life is a journey.

Now, I know we’ve been talking a lot about lemons, but I just HAD to share some exciting news with y’all… that BLOOD ORANGES ARE IN SEASON!!! I was at the grocery store the other day and saw them sitting there, smiling back at me, just waiting to be included in an awesome recipe.  How could I resist? I promptly scoured through the Pinterest world for some inspiration and came up with this beautiful collaboration of a blood orange upside-down poppy seed cake with an earl grey glaze… the tartness of the blood oranges pairs lovely with the hint of earl grey, almost neutralizing it, and the poppy seeds add another dimension altogether!

When Life Gives you Blood Oranges...
Blood Orange Upside-Down Poppy Seed Cake with an Earl Grey Glaze

I wish my reaction toward the lemons of life was the same as my reaction to seeing blood oranges in the produce section… I can’t wait to bring them home and transform them into something beautiful and unique.  In that spirit, when faced with “lemons” in the future, I will see them in a different light, and instead, think to myself…

… when life gives you blood oranges, what will you make out of it?

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:13-16

Blood Orange upside down Poppy Seed cake with an Early Grey glazeWhen Life Gives You Blood Oranges...Makes 9″ Round

Ingredients

1 cup (230 g) Brown Sugar

¾ cup Oil

4 Eggs

1 ¾ cups (230 g) Flour

2 ¼ tsp Baking Powder

¾ tsp Salt

1 tsp Vanilla

2 Tbsp Poppy Seeds

Juice and Zest of 1 Blood Orange (plus more for slicing)

¾ cup Greek Yogurt (I use 0% Fage)

Butter and brown sugar for pan

Earl Grey Glaze

Earl Grey Teabag

1 cup Milk

2 cups Powdered Sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and prep your 9″ round pan by greasing it with melted butter, sprinkle a little bit of brown sugar over the butter and add slices of blood oranges in whatever design you prefer. OR if the whole “upside-down” concept is just a little too overwhelming for you, just grease your baking pan with crisco and dust with flour to make a normal cake.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar and oil till combined. Add eggs, blood orange juice, zest, and vanilla; stir till combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  4. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour. Mix till smooth, then add poppy seeds and stir till combined.
  5. Pour mixture over sliced blood oranges in 9″ round pan. Bake at 350° for about 45 minutes or till cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Let cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Trim the top of the cake if needed (to ensure the cake will be level once it is flipped over) and swiftly turn the cake upside-down onto a cooling rack.
  7. While cake is cooling, steep earl grey teabag in hot milk for about 5 minutes. Combine tea, one tablespoon at a time with powdered sugar in a small bowl. Note: you’ll want to mix till a glaze is created that is not too thick yet not too runny.
  8. Once cake has cooled, transfer to desired plate, cake stand etc. and spread glaze on top, letting it spill over edges slightly.  Use an offset spatula to spread the glaze (a spoon will work just fine too).
  9. Enjoy!

Happy Baking!!

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