One of the privileges of being a published author is the ability to make a magazine-style pun headline out of my own book. The fact that about 12 people in the world may get it, and I’m related to most of them, takes nothing away from the feeling that I have arrived.
So, the explanation behind the pun is a really lovely story. One of the sweetest people (no pun intended there) I’ve come to know via the book is Cookie Baker Lynn, who does a gorgeous website of all the great things she bakes. After visiting her site, I considered hanging up my baking sheets forever and just going back to doing whatever it was I did before I started baking things for The Hubbins to take to work. Until I remembered that what I did was buy pretty-but-manufactured crap or very-pretty-and-pretty-expensive bakery goods. Hm. So I turned that jealous frown upside down and figured I could be inspired by Lynn and her cookie-baking ways. Thus was I led to another on-ramp toward the happy path of destiny.
Lynn wrote an incredible review of Cherries in Winter, for which I am indebted to her many times over. Then she managed to trump that: On a day when I’d come across a review of CIW that was a little less than incredible–in fact, it was a tad more than unkind–I got a box in the mail. It was a package of Trader Joe’s Raisins, big fat juicy ones, and a beautiful card from Lynn.
As any cookie baker worth her pinch of salt can tell you, timing is everything, and the timing of this package couldn’t have been better for me. Instead of spending my morning wondering whether I was a worse baker or writer, I tore open that package of TJ’s raisins and baked a raisin spice cake in honor of Lynn and her support of baking-challenged writers like myself.
My base recipe comes from one of my other favorite bakers–Edward Espe Brown, the baking Zen Buddhist priest and author of the renowned Tassajara Bread Book, among other cookbooks. I’ve cited Edward as an inspiration in an article I wrote for O, the Oprah Magazine, and my lack of prowess is not his fault at all. In fact, he’d remind me that baking is a process, just like meditation.
So, thank you to Lynn and Edward, who inspire and support me and countless others; such is the power of baked goods.
Raisin Spice Cake
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2-3/4 cup (depending on your sweet tooth) blackstrap molasses or brown rice syrup
1 1/2 cups milk or soy milk or vanilla soymilk or even almond soymilk; go wild!
Generous 1/2 cup of raisins–black, gold, red, mixed, whatever
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine dry ingredients in one bowl.
In another bowl, mix up those wet ingredients.
Dry meets wet as east meets west–gently, mixing slowly. Expect a few lumps and you won’t be disappointed.
Fold in raisins.
Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan.
Bake spicy little raisin loaf for about 40 minutes. Set kitchen timer in case you’re meditating while baking. Test center for doneness; if toothpick or shish-kebab rod comes out clean, you’re done meditating. If not, five-ish more minutes or until test probe comes out clean. Cool and then perform eating meditation ritual with a cup of tea or java.