garden cake with cashew-cream icing + the magic of a birth day

Birthdays are milestones in time, markers in our story. They are pin-pricks in our existence as a human, poking little light-holes (or dark spots) in the map of our life.

Depending on how our memories pan-out our childhood birthdays usually hold a monumental position in our psyche. Almost everyone will have a story of the best birthday or worst birthday. They will share whether birthdays represented joy or disappointment. I’m learning that perspective holds a lot of merit and circumstance is another chunk of the equation. When we’re grown up and have children of our own I’m certain forgiveness kicks into a new realm where we realize parents tried their best. And maybe their best didn’t cut it, but having compassion for the depth of responsibility every parent has and letting go of the perceived shortcomings will probably go a long way for your mental state. Forgiveness is unprecedentedly powerful.

I had magical birthdays. Not glamorous ones, but full of playful love and silly games and friends. They were filled with good food and momentous acts of generosity and kindness. My birthday made me feel like a special human. And I think regardless of anything else that is probably what all people of all ages desperately wish to feel: like a special human. Even if just for one day of the year. The people that know me on a personal level know about the balloon tree. There is a pear tree in my dad’s front yard. It’s been on its last legs for years but refuses to die. Each eve of my birthday in mid-May we would plant a balloon next to the trunk of the fruit tree and the next morning balloons were tied all over the tree. They grew there overnight. Magic. Pure childhood magic. And as I got older and demanded for the tradition to be kept they were filled with coins or on occasion a crisp money-bill. I would wake early and run to the south window to see my balloon tree. Secretly I wished a horse would be delicately tied to the tree. But that never happened. And I’m not sure I ever even said I hoped for a pony. But what little girl doesn’t?! I learned early on to be grateful for what I was given. I knew energy and effort was put into making this day unlike any other and I didn’t want to mess with that.

It’s one day in year that we want to feel content to exist on this planet. And we hope that the people around us are grateful we were born. Admit it or not, it’s primal in its emotional stance in our hearts. Each year we get to reflect on our journey around the sun and evaluate whether it was what we expected or hoped for.

This past year has been the most devastating and shocking of my life. I’ve been quiet on here since last summer. I’ve been quiet in general. I’ve been in survival mode and gained a quality of clarity and strength I never knew I’d have to muster up. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, I have. But I haven’t been documenting recipes and feeling the light-hearted mommy-centric space that I originally created. My world became heavy in a split second and I debate whether this is the medium for my current state of creativity. That said, birthdays and springtime bring a sense of renewal, so here I am.

Also, delicious cakes and celebrations bring a sense of joy. So I’m coming full circle and moving into pure gratitude. And with gratitude comes the desire to share and be open.

This past weekend we celebrated my son’s second birthday. We’ve literally been inseparable for his entire existence on the planet. He’s secure and happy and playful in a way I hope he never loses. I’m more conscious than ever that nurture isn’t the only factor, but I’m trying harder at this one thing than anything I’ve ever done in my life: to give him a happy life so he has all the foundations possible to grow into a confident, honest,  joyous person. When they say having a child gives you purpose they don’t explain the depth of what that responsibility means. It’s only when we begin to experience broken people that we understand the longevity of what it can do to someone to have anguish or abandonment or hurt as a child. I’m know without a doubt that I will fail him in some way, but I will die trying not to. I nourish in the way I know how: with piles of adoration, unconditional love and playing and cuddles…and cooking. I think that no matter what age and stage you’re at in life one of the most gracious things you can do for someone is to make (or bake!) them something. Creating something with your own two hands and precious time—what else is love if not that.

Given that this was a two year old birthday I still had it in my mind to keep the cake as healthy as possible; fit for a toddler but delicious enough for grown-ups. Bananas and raisins are still the sweetest thing in his world right now and I don’t know how much longer that will last! I didn’t want to dive into the world of chocolate yet so I made a cake that I call garden cake because it’s packed with vegetables. I am that mom. I know it. And I’m just going to own it. I iced it with cashew cream icing and it looked damn pretty, if I do say so myself. I also made a batch into cupcakes for the kids and they worked great. I imagine you could easily make a loaf out of it too. It does have eggs but is otherwise dairy free and sweetened with maple syrup. I made an extra batch of cupcakes with brown rice flour for my best-friends’ son who can’t eat gluten and they worked perfectly too so feel free to make a GF version if you prefer. It was a hit and everyone kept asking for the recipe. So, here you go guys!

Here’s how:

Garden Cake: 

  • 2 1/2 c spelt flour
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1 1/3 c grated carrots
  • 1 c grated zucchini
  • 1 c finely grated beets
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 c raisins
  • 1 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/3 c oil (mild tasting)
  • 4 eggs
  • coconut (or walnuts) to garnish

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a bunt pan or two 9′ cake pans. Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. In another bowl beat maple syrup and oil together until emulsified. Add mashed banana and eggs one at a time and whisk. Add flour mixture slowly stirring as you go. Gently fold in vegetables. Pour batter in pan(s) and bake for 25-35 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean). Cool 10 minutes at least before removing from pan. Cool to room temperature before frosting.

Cashew Icing: 

  • 3 c cashews (soak overnight, then drain water.)
  • 2 T coconut cream
  • 1/2-2/3 c maple syrup
  • vanilla bean or lemon zest

Blend all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. I use a Vitamix but a magic bullet or strong blender will work. Refrigerate 1-2 hours before icing cake.

Happy nourishing!

xx A

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3 thoughts on “garden cake with cashew-cream icing + the magic of a birth day

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