Just FYI, The Road Is Lined With Peach Cake With Pecan Crumble

I have made Peach Cake With Pecan Crumble this morning for breakfast and am now listening to the rain and waiting for it to cool. It is the kind of rain that is the harbinger of a change in the weather, and I am ready for fall.

August always seems to be this way: a headlong rush and flurry of busy-ness that only begins to calm down as the mercury drops and the sun dips below the horizon a few minutes earlier every night. I don’t subscribe to the status-seeking cult of busy-ness (also known as the “busy trap”) that surrounds people in the U.S., and yet I have a distinctly difficult time actually relaxing. It is hard for me to sit and just be.

Even as I put a period at the end of that last sentence I was rising to get a slice of still-warm cake because I just couldn’t wait anymore.

I have also, in the time that it has taken to write this little bit, texted with a friend and checked my calendar to see if there is anything pressing this week.

What happened to me?

Growing up, bored and lonely on the side of a mountain in western Maryland, I used to while the days away reading, making art, walking in the woods, and writing. My brother and I were not especially close, and when we were it was often because I was receiving a punch for some unknown transgression (or perhaps because he was, himself, bored and lonely and without any particular outlet, and I happened to be handy). I learned early not to approach him unless I was so bored that it was worth the gamble of a blow or a game.

We didn’t have a TV until I was older, and even then it was a black-and-white set with rabbit ears wrapped in tinfoil perched on top, so reception (and even just plain old power) was sketchy at best. We had animals and chores and two parents who worked, so I was left to my own devices more often than not. There was nothing much to do and an endless amount of time to get it done.

After many years of busy doing, I find myself now in a position where I can take my time to do what it is that I am doing. I have mercenary writing that people pay me to do, and then I have my own (which pays nothing but is one of those things like breathing that is necessary and reflexive and vital, even when words don’t make it onto the page. But I digress.). I have yoga teaching and a new job as the assistant manager at my lovely studio, both of which do not take much time either.

So I find myself at loose ends, again, as the calendar and the weather indicate that it is, indeed, decorative gourd season, motherfuckers.

What to do? How to fill the days?

Technically, I have completed all of the duties of a productive member of society: I have (nearly) raised a child to adulthood (a good one, I think); I have started a school and taught over a thousand children; I have been married to a man I loved and lost; I have been lucky enough to love another man in a way that is breath-taking to me – we are building a life together that I could not imagine in the years following the death of my husband.

I have volunteered my time, donated my money, rescued animals, helped others. I have paid taxes.

But what is it about my need to feel like I am doing something? Who cares what I am doing? Who cares how fast it gets done?

Lots of folks, turns out. I have been the recipient of some judgy looks and comments, for sure, about my lack of “busy” on a daily basis. On many days my presence is not required anywhere. I can sit with two dogs at my feet and a cat lazily twining in and around my ankles until I am damn good and ready to do whatever it is that I feel like doing (or whatever it is I have put on my calendar; I am an inveterate procrastinator, but I have not missed a single deadline, and my written calendar is the reason why). This seems to be offensive to some. If I am not worn out by work I don’t enjoy and shopping with the madding crowd every Saturday morning, my life is something of a millennial’s, and perhaps I should grow up.

We are conditioned from birth to do, go, and be. We are to be productive members of society. We are to graduate from schooling (and childhood) and earn money to buy All Of The Things, and we are to have a career or something that we do for 40 hours a week. We are selfish if we choose to art or write or travel or bake or otherwise defy the American Dream (which has itself become a nightmare).

In my graduating class at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, there were two philosophy majors who matriculated with the whole class of several thousand. I still remember wondering what, exactly, that degree would translate into as far as employment goes. Even when I got my English degree, the first question was always if I was planning on teaching. What would I DO with my degree?

Side note before I continue my white-privileged exploration: I am well aware that the color of my skin has allowed me to even think about not doing, going, and being. It is a source of much trouble in my mind and in my writing that I get to write from a place that many people (women) of color will not be able to experience. It is also true that I am exploring ways to support people of color in my work and in theirs. 

Side note, part two: I would not be able to indulge in this type of under-employment were it not for a few life-changing events, specifically the death of my husband in 2013, which put the process of living into perspective, and the closure of my school, HoneyFern, shortly thereafter. 

But here I am now, scoffing at my own self a bit, just as if I was one of the philosophy majors who has no real prospects for gainful employment.

I am trying to make peace with the fact that I there is no earthly requirement (or heavenly one for that matter) that I be constantly and consistently on a path of someone else’s design.

Trouble is getting myself to relax into a path of my own design. Or to even find a path. Or know how to start thinking about design.

We are most of us morons when it comes to listening to our own selves and shutting out all of the noise. It is challenging to find out if what we are doing is actually something we want to be doing or if we have been so corrupted by the influence of the world around us that we are just utterly convinced it was our own idea in the first place.

I am trying to shut up and listen to that little voice, not the Anti-Cheerleader, that raging bitch who insists I am unworthy and ask how dare I, but the voice that is still capable of awe and pure joy. The one that is unconnected to anything but itself. When I can shut up everything – The Facebook, Instagram, the people who would still treat me as if I were a child, the expectations of the world, my own doubt and anxiety and worry – I find moments and glimpses of the road ahead of me. And it’s a peaceful, gravel-lined walk that is meandering and has lots of benches with cushions lining it (I like a soft place to land).

For now, though, seems like I am still in the place of learning to unclench. The anxiety and worry that has gripped me this summer still squeezes me like a fist. It’s rainy days, with peach cake, that maybe help that ease up just a bit.

Peach Cake With Pecan Crumble

This is a breakfast cake, like coffee cake, only with fresh fruit, so technically a serving of fruit. 



2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar

1/4 cup almond meal


2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups fresh peach, peeled, pitted, and chopped small

Crumb topping:

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons melted butter

Optional: 1/2 cup pecans (or type of nuts like almonds or macadamia), chopped small


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a square glass baking dish (butter, oil, or cooking spray). You can also use mini bundt pans (see Recipe Notes).

In a large-ish bowl whisk together dry ingredients.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (I used a 2-cup measuring cup, adding the eggs last and beating them in).

In an even smaller bowl, whisk together crumb topping ingredients while you melt the butter.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add peaches and stir to combine.

Pour into glass baking dish.

Use a fork to add crumble ingredients to melted butter and mix to combine. It should be somewhat clumpy, which is what you want. Add pecans, if using. Spoon/pour/use your hands to distribute crumble on top of your cake.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out fairly clean or with maybe a crumb or two clinging to it.

Best cooled completely and then maybe warmed slightly. If using gluten-free flour especially, cool completely for the best texture.

Recipe Notes

If using mini bundt pans, press crumb topping gently into the top of the batter and reduce baking time to 20-25 minutes. This can also be baked in a large bundt pan, with the same guidelines and a longer baking time (watch carefully). Cool for ten minutes in bundt pan, and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.


Piecaken And The Art Of Vulnerability

Hiding a yummy little secret.
Hiding a yummy little secret.

When I initially started this recipe, I thought it was a revelation about taking time for yourself. How we often feel guilty for doing it, or how what we consider “self-care” is actually not really good for us (drinking, splurging on treats both edible and non-, etc.). I was coming off a week out of town, and the only thing I could bring myself to do was to bake. This, for me, was self-care.

I continued to think about this post this way as I carefully made the piecaken over two days. Two days of happy, humming baking, apron on (for real) and Florence + the Machine in the background. Two days of crossing my fingers because really, as with life, any stage of this piecaken could have taken the whole week completely off the rails.

But then I stumbled across this TED Talk. If you have never seen or heard of Marina Abramovic, go ahead and take a second and watch this.

I’ll wait.

Done? Because after I watched this video my whole week changed. Funny, that, how I started out making this weirdly named, #trending cake and then suddenly the whole thing became a metaphor. The fluffy outside, vanilla flavored and sweet-smelling, followed by the almost crusty exterior of the vanilla cake and finished with a sweet, tart, creamy pomegranate cheesecake (with a final bite of its sugar cookie crust).

This cake is like me. Like many of us, really. On the outside it is just a beautiful bit of cake, snow white with smooth, glossy frosting.

On the inside, things change. Get more complex. Marina Abramovic talks about vulnerability as the thing that connects us all. Our willingness to truly show ourselves is what brings us together, not our common hobbies or politics, the fluffy white frosting of life. Vulnerability is where real change lies, where the art is made. Our insides don’t always match our outsides. We hide behind The Facebook and a carefully cultivated online brand that has us posting only the happiest bits of ourselves.

’tis the season for the happy horseshit group Christmas letter where the ENTIRE FAMILY was EXCEPTIONAL this year.

But that’s not real.

Which is sometimes okay because I know I don’t always want an intimate relationship online. And not everyone needs to know my business.

I have a friend (who shall remain nameless but who will know clearly who I am talking about if he reads this) who was a raging asshole in his younger years, angry and obnoxious and crappy to pretty much everyone. We didn’t like each other much at first but somehow became close. I got to know him. He showed me his cheesecake-like insides.

Gross, I know. But it’s the cake metaphor, people. Keep up.

Once when we were both deeply in our cups and he had just finished being a total douche to someone, I told him that if he would stop being a dick maybe more people would realize he wasn’t, well, a dick. If he would just let them know the person I know.

He said (or yelled, really, because this was the kind of drunken argument that happens in full voice), “But I don’t WANT them to know me that way.”

And that’s where it is. And that is where the art lies. My friend is an artist (in a genre I will not name, again, for his protection), and in his art he is completely and totally himself. Absorbed. Dare I say…vulnerable. He shows his squishy places to the world if the world will just look and see.

This cake, and the writing about it, and the sharing of it, is my squishy place. As noted in a previous post, food, to me, equals love.  So I research it, I make it, I write about it, and I give it away.

And just as complex as we are as humans, this cake is also complex and time-consuming to create. But totally, utterly worth it.

Pomegranate Cheesecake With Sugar Cookie Crust Wrapped In A

Marshmallow-Frosted Vanilla Cake. You know, #PIECAKEN

Make these elements in this order. Read each recipe through before you begin.

Pomegranate Cheesecake



1 1/2 c. finely ground sugar cookies (I used gluten-free cookies, but graham crackers, Oreos, or any other crunchy cookie works)

4 T. melted butter


2 – 8 ounce bars of cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 c. sugar

1 t. cinnamon

2 eggs

1/4 c. heavy cream or half-and half

1/2 c. cooled pomegranate syrup (2 cups of pomegranate juice reduced to 1/2 cup. Apple cider works here, too)

1 t. vanilla extract


For the crust: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter the bottom of two 6″ springform pans and then line with parchment paper circle. You could also use a regular 6″ cake pan and line the whole pan with parchment.

In a food processor, crush cookies. Or put in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin until you get finely crumbled cookie. Add melted butter, and mix to combine. Divide between pans and press firmly. Bake at 300 for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely.

For the filling: In a food processor, thoroughly combine cream cheese, sugars, and spice. Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the heavy cream, pomegranate, and vanilla. Mix completely.

Pour into cooled pie crust and bake at 350 degrees until custard is completely set (about 35 to 40 minutes). Let cool completely. You can prepare these the night before you make the cake.

You could also make this in one regular spring form pan and stop here. But why would you?

Plain White Cake

a.k.a., possibly the best white cake you will ever put in your mouth

NOTE: You are making TWO of these. Make them one at a time. Do not double the recipe. Or give it a whirl and let me know how that goes.


350 grams (about 2 1/2 c.) gluten-free all-purpose flour mix (or cake flour if gluten isn’t an issue)

1 T. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1/2 c. butter (one stick), softened

1 t. vanilla extract

330 grams (about 1 1/2 c.) sugar

2 eggs

1 c. milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pan: butter bottom of 9″ cake pan, line with parchment circle, butter the entire pan and dust with flour. If you skimp on this step, your cake will stick and all your hard work will be for naught.

While you are making this cake, pop your cooled cheesecake out of the pan and into the freezer. This makes it easier to work with.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with hand mixer), cream butter with sugar and vanilla extract. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Add dry ingredients and milk, starting and ending with dry (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour).

Pour approximately 1/2″ of batter into prepared pan. Place one cheesecake into the batter, crust side facing up. Pour remaining batter over cheesecake and level the batter in the pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean (test on the sides and in the middle until it hits the cheesecake crust), between 40 and 50 minutes.

Cool in the pan for ten minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. You can cool on the rack in the ‘fridge.

Make second layer, and while it’s cooling, start on the frosting.

Marshmallow Frosting 


250 grams (approximately 2 c) powdered sugar

1/4 t. cream of tartar

2 t. light corn syrup

2 egg whites

1/4 c. water

1 t. vanilla extract


Combine ingredients in a metal bowl and whisk to combine. Place metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a hand mixer on medium until the mixture begins to thicken (like marshmallow Fluff). Continue to beat on high until mixture stiffens (stiff peaks). This whole process takes 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat and add vanilla. Continue to beat the frosting until it is completely cool.


Frost as you would a regular cake, with a generous hand. A rotating cake stand and offset spatula make the process easier but are not requirements.

Recipe notes:

This is a time-consuming affair, but the resulting cakes serves 16 people, easily, and is impressive as hell. Make it over two days to take the pressure off.