full cake

Change is difficult for us to manage. A new boss breezes into an office ready to innovate and is met with skepticism and distrust because things will be different for employees. A spouse walks through the front door and is upset to find the living room rearranged. Despite the fact that the room looks better, he or she wasn’t consulted and as a result, doesn’t feel comfortable in the new space. On a cool, rainy night you sit down at your favorite restaurant and order your usual meal. Instead of enjoying the meal, you discover the chef changed the recipe and it’s just not as enjoyable as usual.
Change is hard when it’s thrust upon us because it takes us out of comfort zone and strips us of our perceived control. Even self-inflicted change presents challenges.  Anyone who has tried to lose weight, quit a bad habit or improve their self-esteem knows how hard it is to modify personal thoughts and behaviors.
Change is a process. We need time to adjust.

autumn leaf
leaf in grass

As you’re well aware, our friends and neighbors on the East Coast of the United States were hit with a devastating storm earlier this week. On Monday people had heat, water and electricity. On Monday night, there was none. On Monday morning people woke up in their homes. By the end of the day, many of their homes were gone. The change from the known to the unknown was sudden, jarring and painful. Please know that all of you who bore the brunt of storm are in our thoughts and prayers.

We were in the path of the storm but comparatively speaking, our community was spared from the hurricane’s impact. Despite this, we felt the need to walk around our town after the storm to see if anything was different. We felt the need to drive to the places we know and love to make sure they’re still standing. This weekend, in fact, we’ll drive to the seashore to see the damage, simply because we need wrap our minds around what happened. It amazes me how much we define ourselves by the spaces in which we live and how unsettling it is to see those spaces and places altered and changed.

olmstead tree
fall collage

I suppose this is why we’re drawn to old, historic places. They’re stable. They endure. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Trustees of the Reservations but their properties are among some of our favorite places to visit in New England. Their mission is to preserve and protect the irreplaceable and natural treasures of Massachusetts and protect they do. They have 25,000 acres of some of the most beautiful and historic properties in the New England area. All are open to the public. I highly recommend spending time at their locations.

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to attend the Trustees open-house at Moraine Farm in Beverly, Massachusetts, a 275 acre country estate designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. It’s such a beautiful place to explore. The farmland has been in continous operation since the 1800’s and it’s gorgeous. I especially loved the sweeping walkways and grand old trees. Old places like Moraine Farm bring a feeling of stability, a feeling of comfort, a feeling of forever – something we all need right now.

tree and leaves
dock to lake
collage 3

On the way home we stopped at an orchard and picked up some fall plums. I wanted to make a spice cake with my antique cake mold and thought the plums would be a perfect accompaniment. I was right.

cake in pan horizontal
cinnamon spoons
open house at Moraine Farm
fenced in
autumn tree
Before the storm, I wrapped up the work on the main page of my blog re-design. I haven’t finished every page but I decided to share it with you today because this particular change is constructive and positive. I hope you like it as much as I do.

slice of spice

When you settle in to make this spice cake, which I know you will love, think about what we can do together to help the our friends and neighbors who have lost so much this week. It’s true, North-Easterners tend to be determined and resourceful but hurricane devastation of this magnitude takes its toll on even the most resilient among us. The East coast will rebound but change takes time and a lot of patience.

It would also help if you could join me in making a donation to one of the following organizations:

The Red Cross

Feeding America

Thanks, as always, for stopping by. It’s wonderful to have you here again.

Buttermilk Spice Cake (from The Culinary Craft, 1984)

1/2 c (112 g) butter, softened
2 1/2 c (270 g) cake flour, sifted

1 tsp (5 g) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (3 g) ginger
1/2 tsp (3 g) cloves
1/4 tsp (1 g) nutmeg
1 tsp (5 g)  baking powder
1 tsp (5 g) baking soda
1/2 tsp (3 g) salt
1 c (188 g) granulated sugar
1/2 c (80 g) brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp (4 g) vanilla
1 1/4 c buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans, several mini-pans or one specialty cake pan.

Sift the cake flour and then measure the cake flour. Add the spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift again. It’s necessary to sift it twice or the cake will be too dense and heavy. Combine with fork.

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the granulated sugar until fluffy and lemon colored. Beat in the brown sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each edition. Mix in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, add one third of the dry ingredients to the mixture. Alternate with 1/3 of the buttermilk until both are completely incorporated.

Pour into prepared pans and bake 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the layers comes out clean. Baking time will vary depending on your oven and the size of the pans you use. Cool completely and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Decorative Sugar Plums (Optional)

Lightly brush the lower half of fresh plums with a bit of corn syrup and roll in sugar. Place around cake.

Brown Sugar Frosting (Optional)

We haven’t tried frosting on this cake. We simply dusted with powdered sugar. We’re including the frosting recipe that came with the cake in case you’re interested in giving it a go.

1/3 c cold water

1 tbs light corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla

2 large egg whites, unbeaten

1 1/2 c light brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

In the top container of a double boiler, combine the ingredients in the order given. Beat 1 min. at high speed.

Place over rapidly boiling water, beating continuously. Continue to beat for 7 minutes or until the frosting becomes stiff and well-defined peaks form. Remove the top container and wipe the bottom. Apply frosting immediately to a cool cake.

Bon Appetit!

Fresh New England

Get inspired to love & support local food. We have some great ideas sprouting up so browse our site for more delicious finds.

  1. Where do I begin? This is so thoughtful. Beautiful. I have a lot of friends in NYC and CT and a few in NJ. I’m completely depressed out about what’s happened. They absolutely will get through it and they have our support. I ve donated but will probably make another. The blog looks amazing as does the cake and that farm!!! Thanks El, I needed this today.

  2. Instantly noticed the new look. Beautiful! True, change is a difficult but necessary part of life. There are those who will say “things happen for a reason”. The people in the wake of the storm who have suffered loss will not initially see it that way – or might not at all. It’s tragic, no doubt and only they can truly know the depths of their loss and hopefully find some comfort in the next chapter of their lives. Thank you for the beautiful photos, cake, and reminder that life is a precious gift.

  3. Lovely fall pictures. You live in a dreamlike place…

    This cake looks divine! A fabulous combination of flavors.

    What happened on the East Coast is terrible… Praying for the people who have lost everything.



  4. Your blog looks beautiful, love the change you made!!

    And the way you wrote about the hurricane was so touching – no big jelling drama, but a deep compassion for the tragic moment of hundreds and thousands of people. But as a swiss I feel that this is your american strength: you’re like the russian doll who always gets up, instantly.

    I love the cake and will try it soon, thanks for this post!

  5. Lovely photos, with a lovelier message to back it up. I’m glad you and yours are okay, but my heart goes out to those who have suddenly found themselves stranded and without basic amenities.

    I adore your header image by the way, it was (of course) the first thing I noticed:)

  6. Glad to hear you made it through the storm. We are doing okay in CT. Still do not have power, but we did not have any water or house damage. Eight houses in our city that are right on the beach were completely lost. I have to say people have really been coming together to help each other.
    Love your pictures. So serene!

  7. What a terrible thing. My heart goes out to all the people who were hit by the hurricane. I can’t imagine their devastation.

    Your blog has always been beautiful, El, but now it’s even more so. I love the new look and also this recipe. So fitting for this time of year.
    That antique cake mold looks so pretty. What a great find!

  8. One of the things we admire most about your country overseas is the way you keep going when you have a set back. Everyone feels terrible about the disaster. I love the east from top to bottom and I know you will recover because you have Obama and because you are strong. I adore your new blog look, the cake and can’t wait to visit the trustees on our next trip.

  9. I’m feeling for those affected by the storm. Change is hard but this cake and the lovely farm make it much easier to take!

  10. Lovely new look here, El! I am so happy that you faired the storm without injury or loss and yes, it is so tragic what others are going through and will continue to endue for quite some time.

    Gorgeous images that you’ve shared with us, as always, and your cake looks so moist and delicious!

    BTW, I finally got around so saying thank you for the maple syrup giveaway in my latest post 😉

  11. I love the new look of the blog! Can I ask who designed the logo? I’ve never seen anything like it. Yes, it’s a shame about what happened in NY.

  12. The new design is so pretty! I am horrible with change so I absolutely get what you’re saying here. I think I’d be a mess if I lived in New York right now. I’m glad they have so many services helping out.

    Gorgeous photos!

  13. What a beguiling post! From the enchanting new logo to the vibrant photos, just perfect! Your thoughts on change ring true. There is no escape and acceptance is as often tinged with sadness as it is with joy.

  14. Dear El,
    Somehow, some way, you manage to create a reprieve from the world within each of your posts. The photography is mesmerizing – so thoughtful and still… I adore antique moulds and love yours – and the sugared plums add such whimsy. I was thinking of you during this time of the storm… no tweeting time for me with my parents (now doing great – but thinking and hoping and praying – all the same. Your comment about the old items that have stood the test of time resonated with me. Love your new look! – I will explore now, as I am sure you did more than just change the look… (loved the old look, too) Did you do the artwork?

  15. This definitely rings true. I’m terrible with change. I like your sentiment here. I feel very badly for people who are recovering from the storm.

    On a lighter ntw, I love your blog design and this cake looks fantastic. I may make it for the holidays.What do you think?

  16. I’m so glad that you have this good change (beautiful blog design!) in the midst of so much loss and sadness. Your photos and recipes always warm my heart and make me feel glad to be in this world, no matter what is going on. 🙂

  17. Wow, El – first of all – seeing your photos of “fall” makes me yearn to live in a place that actually has seasons. 2nd – your cake looks like pure perfection!

  18. Beautiful shots and the recipe looks fab! Really puts me in the mood for planning for Thanksgiving with that fab Cake! Glad you stopped in over in Newport- we are so good here and SO lucky. My heart goes out to all of my family and friends in NYC and LI.

  19. I always enjoy your photos and I appreciated your comments on change. This last week was difficult even though I’m currently on the West Coast. My family back in Rhode Island is safe, despite Sandy, and I’m glad to hear you are too. Cheers to the new design.

  20. Awesome. The site looks beautiful The cake as beautiful as well. I haven’t been to any trustees properties but I definitely want to check them out after reading this.

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