Black Rum Spiced Pumpkin Cake

I like to think this recipe is a good stepping stone between people who like to bake, but haven’t yet stepped out of their comfort zone and away from the box desserts.

Sometimes, you are just craving a warm brownie, or are responsible for making a birthday cake for a friend, so you turn down the baking aisle at the store and stare down all the options that are out there. Do you want a chocolate cake, a dark chocolate cake, a german chocolate cake, a devil’s food cake, or vanilla? Do you want cookies, muffins, cake, or bread?

With so many options, it’s hard not to cut corners and pick up a premade mix that typically just requires a few eggs, oil, and some water. Sometimes you can fix them up, make them fancy, and no one knows the difference. Other times, it tastes like a box cake.

I want to say that’s okay, but sometimes it’s nice impressing your friends, and not letting them know you didn’t spend hours whipping up the batter.

So, this is a recipe that adds a little flavor to your typical, boxed vanilla cake mix. And it’s perfect for this time of the year! As far as cakes go, this an easy, and fun way to disguise the fact that part of it came from a box, and spicing up those pumpkin spice, boxed cakes vibes.

IMG_4872
IMG_8306

Recipe:

Cake:

1/2 cup chopped pecans

15 ounces can pumpkin

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

1/4 cup water

1 package yellow cake mix

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

GLAZE:

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup butter, cubed

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup rum

IMG_6059.JPG

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a bundt pan; roughly 10 inches. Sprinkle pecans onto the bottom of the pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat pumpkin, sugar, oil, eggs, and water until well blended. In another bowl, whisk cake mix and spices; gradually beat into pumpkin mixture until well combined. Transfer to the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and onto a wire rack.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, butter, cinnamon, and cloves; cook and stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Stir in rum; cook and stir 2-3 minutes longer or until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Gradually brush glaze onto warm cake, about 1/4 cup at a time, allowing the glaze to soak into the cake before adding more. Cool completely. This takes a long time, and there seems to be a lot, but it is worth it!
  6. Serve with some homemade vanilla icecream and enjoy.

IMG_4234

Dairy-Free Carrot Cake

I am always on the lookout for alternative ingredients for baking. For a little bit of my life, I was fully committed to a vegan lifestyle when dairy products had my stomach doing somersaults until the aching pain began. After moving to New York City and dining on delicious Italian food and dollar pizza weekly, my stomach began to tolerate the dairy I slowly reintroduced it back into my diet. Since then, I would not consider myself vegan or vegetarian, but I do try my best to eat at least one meal a day that is either vegan or vegetarian; even if that meal is dessert!

With autumn in my sights, I am ready to celebrate with rich, spicy treats. This carrot cake is something I came across in my search for delicious desserts that I would love, and my vegan friends could enjoy with me. Below you will find the recipe, steps, and gifs that will guide you on experience this milk, butter, and egg-free cake yourself!

Also, stay tuned for the coming months as I use this recipe to make some autumn-themed treats as I finally pull out my flannels, put out my fall decor, begin binge-watching Hocus Pocus, and pinpoint all the orchards I want to visit over the next three months.

Full Disclosure, the frosting is not dairy-free, hence its absence from the post. I will include my cream cheese frosting for this final product at the end of the post, but I am currently experimenting with other dairy-free icing recipes! 

IMG_4178.jpeg
Snapshot of the ingredients

Recipe

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar 1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon 
1 1/3 tsp. nutmeg 
2/3 tsp. salt
2 cups of almond milk 
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted or liquid state
1/2 cup maple syrup 
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 cups finely grated carrots 
1/3 cup raisin 
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts for decorating

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and prep two 8-inch rough baking pans with spray oil, parchment paper, and flour. Spray the pan a bit, so the paper you cut to size sticks, and dust the pan with flour.
IMG_4206.jpeg
Prepping the tins with spray oil, parchment paper, and a dusting of flour
2. Gather your ingredients. I have measured out all of my ingredients below to save some time trying to sort for what I need (although it makes extra dishes, it looks a bit more organized).
IMG_4181.jpeg
The ingredients measured out and ready for mixing
3. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
IMB_4xXJe6.GIF
Adding together the dry ingredients

4. Mix together the dry ingredients until they look well combined.

IMB_fD5Ncl.GIF
Whisk, Baby, Whisk

5. Combine almond milk, applesauce, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar in another mixing bowl.

IMB_BpiW4u.GIF
Whisk, Baby, Whisk

6. Whisk together the wet ingredients, so they are no longer separated and form a rich caramel color.

IMB_H4DsFU.GIF
The holy combined wet ingredients
7. Gradually add the liquid to the dry ingredients, mind you, I am using a 4-quart Pyrex mixing bowl for this recipe, a 2.5 quart is a tiny bit too small for the next whisking step.
IMB_UZAPWZ.GIF
I wish I left the slopping noise on the gif
8. Thoroughly combine the ingredients together until you are sure there are no clumps of dry ingredients left. The batter should be slightly thick but on the runny side.
IMB_uLjiUB.GIF
Whisk, Baby, Whisk

9. Add in those finely shredded carrots. I left this process out because of how messy it can be. I used a tapered shredder that has a fine side and used about 2 VERY large carrots. Your hands will be orange, and you will be finding carrots for days after, but it’s worth it.

IMB_mzbWqC.GIF
Not Pictured: my orange fingertips
10. Raisin time! Add those babies in and stir it all up, at the end it will appear that everything has sunk to the bottom, but it’s there, don’t worry.
IMB_Uzy1Jt.GIF
Who knew vegetables and fruits belonged in a cake? 
11. Evenly pour the batter in your two pans, the batter should go about 2/3 of the way up the pan, and be mindful you don’t for all the raisins into one, we want those evenly distributed too!
IMB_jeLm5P.GIF
Looks a little lumpy, dealing with the oils can be hard, but I promise if it looks combined, it’s combined
12. Tap those babies down to loosen any air bubbles and put the pans in the oven for 35 minutes.
IMG_4215.jpeg
Ready for the oven!
13. After the 30 minutes are up, take a fork and test to see if the middles are done by puncturing the middle and pulling it out; a clean fork is a happy cake!

14. Let the cakes rest in their cake tins for 10 minutes on a cooling rack, and then after ten minutes, they should just fall right out when you tip them over. I peeled off the parchment paper to help the steam release for an optimal cooling period.
15. Let the cakes completely cool before frosting with your favorite dairy-free or dairy-full cream cheese frosting; no one wants a melted frosting regardless if it has dairy or not. (See my recipe below!)
16. You can decorate with walnuts like I have, or not, the choice is yours! But you better cut & enjoy 😊
IMG_3836.jpeg

Bonus Recipe

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
8 oz of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract 
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  1. With an electric beater, cream together butter and cream cheese until well combined.
  2. Add in vanilla, mix. 
  3. Sift in powdered sugar slowly, possibly a cup at a time at low speed with an electric beater, until the final cup is combined. If you want a richer vanilla flavor, and a touch more. 
  4. Frost away! 

Creamy Tortellini Soup

I’ve been missing the warmer weather, but this soup is perfect for a rainy summer evening when you don’t want to spend a lot of time prepping dinner (also it’s great for lunch and leftovers the following days). I definitely recommend letting the flavor simmer for some time, but otherwise, this dish will only take 45 minutes from pot to bowl.

Ingredients

1 tbsp. Trader Joe’s Garlic and Herb butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp. minced garlic
3 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. Red pepper flakes (will add a kick to the soup)
3 tbsp. flour
3 c. chicken broth
2 (14.5 oz) cans of Trader Joe’s Diced and Fire-roasted Tomatoes
3 tbsp. Tomato paste
1 pkg. of Trader Joe’s Cheese Tortellini
1/3 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan
3 c. spinach, roughly 3 large handfuls
Kosher salt to season
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Basil, sliced for garnish

Steps

  • In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter.
  • Add onion and cook until translucent, roughly 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook until you call smell the flavors.
  • In a small bowl, mix the Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and flour and whisk to combine, then add seasoning to the pot and mix with the butter. Cook 1 more minute.
  • Add broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, and bring to a boil,
  • Add the tortellini and cook until the tortellini is floating, around five minutes.
  • Reduce to a simmer and stir.
  • Add the cream and Parmesan and stir to combine, the soup will thicken
  • Add spinach and let wilt. Stirring to make sure all is combined
  • Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with basil and serve in warmed bowls

Enjoy!

Let me know if you would like more TJ’s recipes I am definitely getting into more vegetarian and vegan recipes!

Learning to Live Purposefully

After writing my post on Monday, I started to really reflect on the time I spent on my phone. I wanted to know how much time I was spending on social media and how that was impacting my daily life or productivity. To do this, I notice Instagram has a new function that monitors your time spent on the app and will set a reminder notification for when you reach a particular time. I set it to 30 minutes because at the time I had averaged around 40 minutes –– 30 minutes goes by very quickly. 

And that makes me sad. Because I know there is so much more I could be doing with my time, so I am just trying to figure out how I make time and kick the habit.  I still tend to pick up my phone in the morning and scroll through social media, but there is a new voice in the back of my head telling me to be more purposeful with my time.

I feed into the idea and stigma that social media has its pitfalls and lacks its benefits, but at the same time, I worked at a start-up who employed over thirty people with generous salaries that were funded entirely by social media. I understand the power that comes with it because so many of us thrive off of it. I am following influencers who are trying to show positive, real stories. I see how they will post photos of them breaking down, unedited, and raw. They understand so many people look up to them and believe their lives are perfect based on what they put on social media, so they are more open.

I appreciate that. I try and do the same, and be honest while I write my blogs because I believe it’s okay to show weakness as you work to strengthen yourself. I am not someone who assumes everyone’s lives are exactly like their feed, especially since some of my proudest accomplishments are nowhere near my feeds; yet I still can’t get rid of social altogether. In the back of my mind, I eventually want to introduce this blog to the world through my friends and followers. There are a few of you that I have confided in, Hello, and there are some that want to read my account, but I have kept the URL private.

In the future, I know I will open up more. I know I will share this more freely and use social media to reach more and more people, but until then I made a list of things I would love to do daily that could only happen when I start living my life with a purpose.

Mock Day, I want to devote my time to:

Journaling my thoughts

Reading a new book weekly

Learning new skill

Walking and exercising daily

Cooking something yummy 

Blogging as much as I can

Practicing more creative work

 

It isn’t a long list, but ideally, between the time I wake up and the time I go to sleep, I would have done everything on this list. Sometimes it may not be realistic, but I am going to try my best to reintroduce each item to my daily activities because I know that they are habits I need to form. When I lived in London, I was able to journal every day for three months, get out of the flat and explore the city, cook food for myself and my roommate, learned how to use a film camera, and blogged daily –– and I was always with friends and excelling at my studies. I know it is possible.  

At times I have done a combination of all these tasks in a day, but never all together. I partially wonder if my time scrolling inhibits all of them being done. Could my thirty minutes in the morning when I wake up go to reading a chapter or journaling? Yes. Could I wake up at 6:00am instead of 7:00am and get out and walk a loop in Central Park? I should. Are there classes online that I have signed up for, paid for even, that are news skills I would love to have? You better believe it. It will take practice, and I know that, but I don’t need to watch Netflix all night, or I could write posts, exercise, and cook while I watch the latest episode of Big Little Lies. There are little changes to be made to make a tremendous impact on my mental health, liveliness, and happiness.

There is so much I want to do, but I want to know what some activities you would do daily if time weren’t an issue? Leave a comment and let’s try and hold each other accountable!