"So how did the parsnip recipe work this time?" asked my friend and cookbook partner, Stephanie.
"Not so good. The first was too rich. The second was tasted like nothing at all. The third actually set off the smoke alarm." I sighed. "Honestly, if this recipe goes any farther south I'll be cooking in Mexico. I am beyond stressed right now."
"Mexican Mac and Cheese? Hmm..."
"Oooh. Yes. Jot that down. But, anyways, Mutual Friend X keeps bugging me. He can't cook at all. At. All. He wants to help test and to be honest I don't think he can handle it."
"Mutual Friend X couldn't handle a shot of raspberry schnapps."
"HA! Awesome. But yeah, when you come up I want your help working on this one because I am about to seriously go apeshit with these parsnips and club a bitch in the throat with one. I highly doubt the publisher wants that sort of PR."
"All press is good press, right?"
"Unless you're a despot or being profiled in People magazine for stretch marks or something."
"Indeed," she concurred.
"Alright. Talk to ya' soon. I'm benching this and going out. Laters."
"Bye. Don't go near parsnips."
"Not ever. I'm stopping today. Totally. Lates."
The conversation made me feel better. A good bitching session usually does wonders for my mood, but I was damn frustrated with this recipe and needed some escape.
I generally have a tendency to keep working. All the time. No matter what. Even when I'm tired and realize that I should stop and take a break. It's the type A personalty in me. I demand productivity in all facets of my life.
Sometimes, however, I actually do take time to just stop.
I make sure there's a day with no appointments. No e-mails to Mutual Friend X. No talking with testers, cheesemongers, editors, co-workers, or anyone else. A day with the laptop firmly closed and stashed away.
These are the days you don't wake up and start answering e-mails before breakfast. Rather, you wake up, make toast and tea, and relax with your book at the breakfast table. You enjoy the fact that there's sunlight streaming through the window and you aren't panicking about your to-do list. There's a breeze outside and you can spend time listening to weave its way through the crackly fall leaves that still desperately cling to branches.
So what was my day like today?
I baked a cake.
A cake for a very special Christmas dinner with some very dear friends.
A well deserved rest and a chance to Just Stop.
So my advice to you in this rather simple post is this. Forget the people you need to get back to. Forget that recipe you need to test, report you need to write, errand you have to do, or whatever.
Take a breath.
Set some time aside.
Bake a cake.
You'll be happier with yourself.
Eggnog Upside-Down Fruit Cake
Note: You can use whatever fruit you have on-hand for this. No worries.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup cranberries - fresh or frozen
1/2 cup blackberries - fresh or frozen
1 fuyu persimmon, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup eggnog
1/3 cup of your favorite jam
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together the flour, spices, salt, and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
2. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and sprinkle in 6 tablespoons of the sugar and cook, stirring until it comes to a boil. Pour into a 8x2-inch circular pan. Scatter walnuts, blackberries, persimmon, and cranberries into the pan and press into place.
3. Beat butter on medium speed in a stand mixer for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for 30 seconds each, being sure to scrape down the sides and bottom. Add the vanilla extract and mix in for 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low and add 1/2 the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated, Add the eggnog and mix in. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Pour batter over fruit and level the top.
4. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until cake is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove it from the oven and run a kinfe around the sides. Carefully turn the cake out onto a plate. If some of the fruit or nuts stick to the pan scrape them out and place them on the cake.
5. Warm the jam on the stovetop and brush onto the cake. Serve.