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The Next Next Adventure | Almond Rye Cake

Almond Rye Cake

I’m here today with cake and big news: Ben and I are moving to Chicago! It’s bittersweet and exciting and many other things—I’m full of all the feelings, and have been for months. I’ve lived not just in California but the Bay Area, Oakland and THIS apartment by Lake Merritt for seven years, years that have been full of so much life, good and bad and everything in between. We moved here freshly married, and we never had a plan as to whether we’d stay forever or just a short season. It became clear in what was a really challenging first year that it wouldn’t be the latter: we were going to stick it out, and we were going to make this work. Maybe we’d leave, but we wouldn’t leave defeated. We were going to create a life.

And so we did.

Grand Lake Theatre | Delightful Crumb
Lake Merritt | Delightful Crumb

Last fall, it felt like a switch flipped and we could consider, for the first time, the idea of moving. We wish we were closer to our families in Michigan; we’d long said maybe Chicago when people asked if we’d stay in the Bay—or, alternately, whether we’d be going “back home”—if only to have something to say. It’s wildly expensive here, as everyone knows. And while we love it, there’s also a way in which it never quite clicked.

And so, we started exploring the possibility of Chicago and of a summer move, and the path was winding to say the least. It seemed good, and then it didn’t, and then it did again. All of my feelings about the Bay Area seemed to coalesce—just as we considered leaving! We reflected on past decisions and sought wisdom on this one. I made pro/con lists. Ultimately, the answer we got to all of that discerning was that we should, or at least could, try and see what might happen. And when we did, the doors opened. I work remotely and can keep my job, which was a factor in considering this in the first place, and Ben ended up with a compelling offer at a great school. As painful as it felt to leave everything here, there were no barriers to pulling up our roots.

Even so, we had to decide. I realized, literally when we sat down with dinner and a bottle of wine to hash it all out, that I didn’t want it to be a decision. I wanted it to be clear: this or that, right or wrong, here or there. And yet. I don’t actually want to live in a world like that, and I don’t believe we do. Sometimes there’s a right answer, but often there is not. Rarely are things clear and easy, even if we look back and tell the story that way. I’d been saying to people that we were really confident about our move out here from Michigan, but while packing up my books, I found an article I wrote in 2013 for Remedy Quarterly in which I state that we moved to the Bay Area with an average of 75% certainty between us. So much for that memory!

And so, here we go, on to the next adventure. It’s bittersweet, but I’m incredibly grateful to love these things—this place, my community, the life we built here—enough that it’s hard to leave.

Certain seasons of life, I’ve found, are essentially about one thing—one lesson or specific focus or set of experiences. But these seven years were not like that. This was time enough for several seasons, with plenty of ups and downs and twists and turns. I can’t tie an easy bow on what this time has meant, and I’m not interested in doing so. It’s hard to even describe why we’re moving in a succinct and straightforward way. I have far more to say on my time in the Bay and this decision and the topic of transition, but I’ll save it for later, once I’m on the other side.

San Francisco Skyline
Ocean Beach

For now: cake!

This cake, which I didn’t make with plans to post (hence my super casual stoop photos!), was the last thing I baked in my kitchen before boxing up my pots and pans two weekends ago. I made it primarily to use up a lingering box of almond paste, but I left out the wrong pan in my early round of packing up kitchen equipment and ran out of all-purpose flour. I tossed in some rye flour instead and used a lemon rather than an orange. All told, I made a bunch of modifications and worried that this last cake on Wayne Ave would be a flop that I’d take it way too seriously and/or as a metaphor. But it didn’t, not at all, and I’ll take that as a reminder that things don’t always go wrong. This cake would go splendidly with any summer fruit and a big spoonful of whipped cream, or stand alone with coffee or tea.

I can’t wait to make it in my next kitchen.

Almond Rye Cardamom Cake

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh’s Sweet

The original recipe calls for a 9-inch Bundt pan and baking for 50 to 55 minutes. As my Bundt pan was packed away, I’ve not yet tried this. I’m sure it’s lovely, but I’ll also say that an 8-inch round yields a satisfyingly tall little number. The cake emerges with a golden top that has a slight, pleasant crackle, and it’s even got that delightful crumb.

Almond Rye Cake

7 oz (200 g) almond paste, broken into pieces

1 cup (200 g) cane sugar

1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (250 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional

Zest of 1 lemon

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

6 large eggs

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup (90 g) all-purpose flour, plus additional

1/2 cup (50 g) rye flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease and flour an 8-inch round pan with at least 2-inch sides. Place the almond paste in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Add the sugar and beat on medium-low speed for about 3 minutes, or until the almond paste breaks up. Add the butter, lemon zest and cardamom and continue to beat. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl from time to time. Add the almond extract and beat to combine.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add this to the creamed mixture slowly, beating on medium-low speed until the batter is just combined.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for about 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Keep an eye on the cake, and if it begins to brown, tent it with foil. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then tip the cake from the tin before letting it continue cooling.

Serve at room temperature, with fruit and/or cream if you like. The cake will keep well for several days, wrapped tightly with plastic, and also freezes well.

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