Music has really been digging into my brain lately. I’m one of those who manages to connect to lyrics, with whatever is going on in my life, a trait that only gets more pronounced the longer I listen to show tunes and indie rock. I don’t know how much music I was listening to in December 2007, but if it had tipped the scales toward the emo side of my life I might not have made it through.
Back then I was in the throes of maternity leave, spending a lot of time watching daytime television in between nursings, naps, and nappies. Despite the new life I had brought into the world, I felt completely alone. I couldn’t wait to get back to work. To be among people who could hold conversations again. It’s strange how you think nothing of day to day interactions – a passing word at the coffee pot, a debate about language, even just gossiping about the latest Top Chef results – until you’re trying to engage an 8-week-old baby on why putting Cap’n Crunch in a milkshake is so over. He doesn’t know. His palate only knows breastmilk, which, if you think too hard about it, is probably similar in taste to a Cap’n Crunch milkshake.
This is why I pranced back to work at the end of those three months. And yet…
Friday is the last day I’ll spend in my gray and tan cubicle. I am relieved and yet terrified. I’ve been working since I was 14. Quitting my job feels like a period. Full stop.
When I gave notice I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. In the days since then I’ve had nagging anxiety, stress-induced migraines, and what I can only assume is a panic attack. When you’re working on changing your life story, sailing into it on calm waters is an impractical dream. I’ve been trying to plan out what the next month or so will entail, but I can’t even seem to catch my breath these days. I need to start slow. Too much too soon, and we’ll be right where we started, but in a more comfortably decorated location. To answer the question of what I’ll be doing, I’ll be freelancing, working on a few projects, and taking care of my son. But right now? I’m just trying to take some moments to sit and calmly be.
Everyone deserves a chance to fly.
In the grand tradition of job quitting, I made a cake. Cake always factors in at work, whether you’re getting married or diving into an unfamiliar sea of unemployment. My cake-rocking friends left the job months ago, and I knew that if I wanted cake, I should make it myself.
This cake was inspired by two women I’m in awe of. By making it, I’m hoping to channel some of their strength and wisdom. Because that’s how cake works, right?
The basis of the cake is brought on by Ruth Reichl, and Garlic and Sapphires. While her (some say dream) job at the Times can barely be compared with my days copyediting assessment tests, the end result has both of us itching for more time in the kitchen and with our families. It seemed fitting to use Nicky’s Vanilla Cake as my base – the cake that brought Reichl back home.
But with how much I’m missing true autumn, I also turned to Stephanie of confituras. Specifically, her salted caramel pear butter, a conserve that those of us in the know hoard all winter. Stephanie has had her jam business for a little more than a year, but it has already blown up all over town, and she recently quit her regular job to jam full time. Can I be as successful as Stephanie in my post-9-to-5 life? I won’t know until I know, and I won’t know until I try.
Fluffy, moist, and stuffed full of pears, this cake can pull double duty. Serve it with the butterscotch sauce as dessert one night, and unadorned at breakfast the next morning.
Spiced Pear Cake
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups diced pears
Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a bundt cake pan or cupcake tin.
Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices, then stir into batter.
Stir in yogurt and vanilla until well combined and no white streaks remain. The batter will be very thick. Fold in pears.
Spoon into cake pan. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
1 batch salted butterscotch sauce
Slice cake while still slightly warm and spoon a bit of sauce over each piece. The cake will absorb the butterscotch hungrily.
By the by, I’ll be making up a cupcake version of this for Austin Bakes for Bastrop, along with cappucino muffins and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. Austin Bakes for Bastrop is a citywide bake sale benefitting those who were affected by the recent Central Texas wildfires. The same group brought in more than $11,000 with Austin Bakes for Japan, and we’re hoping to raise at least that for our local neighbors.
Central Austin: Foreign & Domestic
306 E. 53rd Street, 78751
Central Austin: The Flying Saucer at The Triangle
815 W. 47th Street, 78751
Downtown Austin: Whole Foods Market Lamar
525 North Lamar Boulevard, 78703
Northwest Austin: Whole Foods Market Gateway
9607 Research Boulevard, #300, 78759
Round Rock: Old Settler’s Park
3300 E. Palm Valley Boulevard, 78665
South Congress: Hotel San Jose
1511 South Congress Ave., 78704
Sunset Valley: Community Renaissance Market
6800 Westgate Boulevard, 78745
If you’re going to be in the Austin area on Saturday, please stop by and pick up a few goodies. If you’re not local, consider donating to the cause over at our FirstGiving page. Thank you!