Buttermilk Blackberry Cake (and Best Friends)

The great poet Beyonce Knowles once said, "Who run the world? Girls, girls."

And for those of us ladies with a badass best friend it feels all too possible. I met mine, Ashley, about 13 years ago when we were 20 and worked for Boys and Girls Clubs. I invited her to lunch with several other people and the rest is history made in sarcasm heaven.

We haven't always lived in the same place—in fact, we've lived apart more years than we've lived in the same city, but one thing is for sure—this woman gets me.

Most recently—in 2013—I convinced her to move from the big city to a tiny-ass town in Idaho, so we could start an adventure. We opened a catering company with a mobile wood-fired pizza oven, so we could bring beautiful, freshly prepared, local food to the masses. 

If anyone appreciates food as much as I do, it's Ashley. She's curious about how things are made, where they come from, and loves to watch people's faces as they enjoy the first bite of something we've made—it's a weird voyeuristic trait that I've noticed we both have. And she's an amazing cook and baker to boot. She's also insanely funny, wickedly witty, and has a B.S. meter unlike anyone I've ever met—so watch your back. 

We had our oven at farmers market, festivals, and catered weddings and parties. We worked with local farms, made our dough and sauces from scratch, and worked our asses off in front of an 800° oven (with the help of a lot of friends and family—what up free labor?!). We both worked full-time jobs on top of our catering business, and tried to figure out some other creative enterprise for ourselves in this fickle town, but ended up closing up shop and selling our oven.

Not long after moving here and starting our business, Ashley met Kyle and fell and in love. I love Kyle like a family member, not only because he's one of the most genuine people I've ever met, but because he loves my best friend so fully.

They've recently decided to move to Arizona for work and to be closer to Ashley's family—and while I'm happy for them and their new adventure—I'm also really selfish.  I've been without her before, but this time feels different. We're adults now. We know more about life and people and the way the world works—and how best friends don't just happen. 

This cake is from a party we recently had to celebrate Ashley and Kyle and the amazing mark they left on this community. It's a dense buttermilk cake, not too sweet, with roasted blackberries between the layers, and slightly sweetened whipped cream for frosting.

I wish I could fully express how much Ashley means to me, but there just isn't a way to do that. This recipe (and others that'll pop up from time to time) will hopefully convey my gratitude and love for her—and the hundreds (maybe thousands) of meals we've shared together.

TO MAKE THIS CAKE YOU WILL NEED:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

FOR THE BERRY FILLING:

2 cups blackberries
2 tablespoons honey

FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM:

1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon honey

First things first. Preheat your oven to 350 and grease two 8-inch cake pans. I also cut out parchment circles and place them in the bottom to avoid stuck cakes and tears of frustration. 

Second things second. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, soda, and salt. In the bowl of a mixer, lightly beat the two eggs. Add in the buttermilk, vinegar, oil, and vanilla. Mix on medium until combined.

Dry meets wet. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, being careful not to overmix. Divide batter evenly among the two pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in pans for ten minutes before removing cakes and letting cool on cooling racks.

Roast your berries. Turn your oven up to 425. Place berries on rimmed baking sheet. The rim is important otherwise you will have blackberry runoff in the bottom of your oven, causing your kitchen to fill with black smoke, and your cat's eyes to fill with fear. Drizzle with honey. Roast for 25-30 minutes. Place hot berries in a bowl and slightly mash.

Whip (and nay nay) your cream. Place cold cream and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, start slowly beating the cream and gradually increase the speed to medium high. Whisk until the cream has thickened, but stop before it turns to butter.

Build-a-cake. Assemble your cake with berries in between the two layers. You can either top your cake with the extra or serve them on the side. Cover cake in whipped cream.

 

 

Asparagus, Eggs + Parmesan

Every season is my favorite season.

I guess this happens when you grow up with two seasons: summer and summerer.

I lived in southern California until about age 11 and then lived in the Phoenix area until 22. I didn't experience snowfall until 23 when I moved to Colorado for graduate school. I remember hearing for about a week that it was going to snow—the anticipation was killing me. I was sitting in my office, looking out the window, when it happened.

I ran outside like a child, face up to the sky, mouth open—ready for someone to have men in white coats take me away. But I didn't care. It seemed so magical to me. It covered every dirty, unattractive blemish. It still seems that way to me—almost ten years later.

Since that first snow I've seen how harsh the seasons can be. I've experienced destructive lightning, rain, flooding, ice, and snow. And I'm never more amazed than when—each March—the soil gives way to new growth, the trees sport their new buds, and we see just how forgiving the earth can be—just like people.

When asparagus makes its first appearance at our local market, we know that warmer weather and longer days are around the corner—the earth forgives yet again. 

This recipe is simpler than simple—calling it a recipe at all feels a little over the top. It does, however, make a beautiful breakfast that celebrates the season. So, grab some eggs and get to crackin'. 

TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:

12 asparagus stalks (thick ones), woody ends removed
6 eggs
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt
pepper
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved

Prepare-agus... the asparagus. Using a vegetable peeler, start at the top of the stalk and peel ribbons all the way to the end. You'll be left with a thicker piece, which is ok. Toss asparagus with a tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt and pepper.

Arrange asparagus in the skillet. Create little dams with the asparagus ribbons, building up the walls so that the eggs will stay inside.

Cook your eggs. Heat your pan with the asparagus over low heat for several minutes. Add a small amount of olive oil to each open space. Heat for another minute. Crack an egg, being careful not break the yolks, in each open space and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are runny, about 4-5 minutes. 

Remove from heat. And top with more salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.