I woke up this morning and was immediately struck with a rush of questions and uncertainties about my life. Being the control freak that I am, I wanted to find immediate answers to all of the internal questioning that was cycling through my mind, knowing how impractical and impossible that was going to be and knowing that waiting and being patient will reveal many of those answers with time.
"Where are we going to settle down and buy a house? Am I ever going to feel that I belong somewhere again? Am I doing all this right? What is considered "right"?"
I'm often told to let go and to focus on all the small things that I can control; to stop thinking so much about the big picture and to focus more on what is immediate. Because sometimes, they say, one must let life happen. I admit that I've been guilty of creating false expectations and unrealistic goals that I have tiredly chased for so many years. At the same time, I have worked towards a great deal of my goals and I'm happy to have accomplished a lot of them with time, but as soon as I mark a goal off the list, I immediately find something else to chase after. And so in the end, I end up feeling feeling like a tired and disoriented lab mouse. Will the chasing ever stop? I actually hope that it doesn't, because as tiring and discouraging as it feels at times, what else is there to work towards when the dreaming stops?
Dreaming is a tricky thing though, because as much as it may hurt when things may not go as you had hoped for, I imagine the idea of not acting on your dreams to be a numbing life that I can't imagine leading.
I'm slowly learning that dreaming is healthy and necessary for everyone, but that relying solely on those dreams to run and rule your life can be a dangerous path to walk, as you may be susceptible to a lot of hounding and scarring along the way. In my opinion, taking the chance is worth it.
That being said, I'm going to make a pledge right this moment to continue to dream, but to do so cautiously. I will try to tread guardedly with my fantasies and remember that that's just what they are: fantasies; and if they get out of hand, they will prevent me from enjoying the present. In the end, I must remember to not take things so seriously and to focus on the now.
Oh and by the way—speaking of dreams, goals, fantasies, and all that good stuff...this Strawberry-Thyme Cream Cake has the power to make you dream and make your mind drift away, but biting into it will pull you right back into the present and allow you to enjoy the current moment of delicious bliss to the fullest. That's why I love it.
Strawberry-Thyme Cream Cake
Makes one 6" cake. Cake will keep refridgerated for up to 4-5 days.
Three units are are offered for your convenience: grams, ounces, and volume units. Grams are the most exact units, followed by ounces, followed by volume units. You will need a scale if you choose to follow the recipe using grams or ounces, which I recommend.
Recommended tools for this recipe include: scale, large serrated knife, straight icing spatula, rotating turntable (or plate), 10" or 8" cake circle.
This cake is not a traditional vanilla-tasting cake. I use extra virgin olive oil for this recipe because I like the hint of bitterness, but if you prefer the olive oil to taste more subtle, you can use a lighter-tasting olive oil as well.
You can omit the fresh thyme from this recipe so that it becomes a strawberry cream cake and it will be super tasty that way as well.
To mince fresh thyme, remove thyme leaves form the stem by sliding your fingers up the stem until leaves become released. Gather thyme leaves and mince finely.
Due to the hight amount of sugar and the low amount of butter in this recipe, the batter for this particular cake may seem crumbly after adding all of the flour and milk, but it will bake fine. Sifting the dry ingredients and adding them slowly into the batter will help rectify that.
- 3 ounces butter (85 grams) (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons), room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, washed and finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 6 ounces sugar (172 grams) (3/4 cup)
- 2 ounces light brown sugar (58 grams) (1/4 cup)
- 2 1/2 ounces olive oil (72 grams) (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon)
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 ounces all-purpose flour (173 grams) (1 1/3 cups)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 ounces milk (170 grams) (3/4 cup), room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 F and grease and line two 6" cake pans with parchment paper. Set aside for later use.
Combine butter, minced fresh thyme, and lemon zest in a bowl and mix with paddle or hand-held mixer on medium-speed until butter is creamy. Slowly add sugar and light brown sugar while mixer is running and continue creaming on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of bowl.
Continue mixing on low-speed and add eggs and vanilla. Slowly stream in olive oil. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.
Combine all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together and sift them into a bowl, being sure not to let any ingredients get left behind in the sifter.
On very low speed, add about 1/3 of dry ingredients followed by 1/3 of milk. Repeat addition of dry and wet ingredients two more times until all dry and wet ingredients have been added to the bowl. Continue mixing on low just until batter comes together and all ingredients are well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Distribute cake batter evenly among cake pans, pouring or scooping about 1 1/2 cups of batter into each cake pan. Bake for about 32-36 minutes or until a cake tester that's been inserted in middle of the cake comes out clean. Take the cakes out of the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Place cake in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until cake is chilled and slightly firm. If you leave cakes in the freezer for longer time, be sure to thaw them before assembling cake.
Strawberry Thyme Whipped Cream:
- 16 ounces heavy cream (456 grams) (2 cups), cold
- 3 ounces strawberries (88 grams) (1/2 cup), washed, hulled, and roughly chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, washed and finely minced
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 ounces powdered sugar (51 grams) (1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons)
Combine heavy cream, chopped strawberries, thyme, and vanilla extract in the beaker of a blender and pulse just until well combined and all strawberries have been broken down completely. With a long spoon, stir the bottom of the blender and put the top back on. Pulse once more for a couple of seconds. Do not over-blend. Mixture should be smooth and in a thick liquid form.
Pour cream and strawberry mixture into a bowl and mix with whisk attachment on low speed while slowly adding the powdered sugar. Switch speed to medium and continue mixing until stiff peaks form. Do not over beat. Chill in the refrigerator until later use.
- two 6" cake pans
- strawberry-thyme whipped cream, cold
- 3-5 strawberries, washed and hulled
- fresh thyme, (optional)
Place cake circle over rotating turntable or plate, securing it with a small dab of whipped strawberry-thyme cream underneath cake circle. Place strawberry-thyme whipped cream in the fridge again.
Place first cake over cake circle and cut it in half with large serrated knife, using a back and forth motion while rotating cake until knife passes entirely through and and cuts cake in half. Set cake halves aside and repeat cutting procedure with second cake to end up with a total of four even cake layers.
Remove strawberry-thyme whipped cream from fridge and rewhip with a whisk just until it becomes full and stiff again. Place first cake layer over cake circle, securing it with a dab of strawberry-thyme whipped cream underneath cake layer. Using an icing spatula, spread and cover first layer with about 3/4 cup of strawberry-thyme whipped cream.
Place the second cake layer on top of the strawberry-thyme whipped cream, pressing gently to make it level. Spread the cake layer with with more strawberry-thyme whipped cream. Repeat stacking and frosting cake layers until all layers are nicely and evenly stacked on top of each other. Spread any oozing cream out of the cake around the layers. Cover top and sides of cake with the remaining strawberry-thyme whipped cream until cake is has a thin coating of whipped cream on the sides and top. Dollop more whipped cream on the top and spread it evenly. Sides of cake will be revealed through the thin coating.
Using a paring knife, thinly slice strawberries and arrange slices on the cake as desired.