I think that we as humans simply crave art. We just long for it, in whatever form it holds. Perhaps it's poetry or photography, or trekking through the forest. It's the thing that connects us to the deeper parts of our souls, and to the Lord. The thing that brings us joy, rejuvenates us, calms our anxieties, and brings us to a place of peace and creativity.
I tend to think that it will always be the same thing for me- food, being in the kitchen, serving people. But that is not always true. Sometimes my artist needs to go beyond its traditional boundaries and step foot into other avenues. It all depends on what has been lacking lately, or the longings welling up inside me, or the situation I'm in. And sadly, it often comes to a breaking point before I actually remove myself from the fluff around me and engage in the art that my heart needs. But whenever I do, it is so beautiful, so calming, so worth not doing whatever the other demands were.
This chapter of my life has been the heaviest and most taxing of any, I can say with confidence. I'm trying to find comfort and normalcy amidst almost complete newness. Sounds pretty normal if you've read anything I've ever written- my life always seems to be in this rotation. But for some reason, this is worse than ever. There are sweet friends, good things, and abundant love all around me, but I can't seem to connect. I feel absent and stuck in my head, and it's harder than ever to fight for joy and truth. I think it's just so much change, so much transition, so much emotion… But is it? Is there more than that?
One night recently I was laying in bed and thinking about all of this, and found myself praying fervently, asking the Lord to just take it all away and make it stop. I was in the middle of a mental and emotional frenzy when He made it clear to me and I had a moment of peace. The only thing that made me calm was the knowledge that He wouldn't take it all away from my life. Rather, that He would allow it all to happen because He's got a use for it, good things planned for it, a bigger purpose in mind. And so though it's going to absolutely stink working through all this, and I don't feel like doing it at all, it will be for beauty. He will remain with me, walk with me, not abandon me. And it will be good.
So in this time, the pauses for art are crucial. My best friend got me a book of poetry, which I've always had a hard time understanding. But I'm going to read it as I need it, relish it, enjoy the beautiful words formed by someone's creative mind, and challenge myself. I'm going to compose new outfits and wear bright lipstick. I'm going to rest when I need to rest, and engage when I need to engage. And I'm going to create, in the best ways I know possible.
And that is what I've done. For a while now, I've been on a quest for the perfect carrot cake recipe, and I haven't found it. So the other night, I got fed up and created one- first time I've really dared to formulate my own recipe. I bounced ideas from some other recipes to get the proportions right, and then the next day I baked it, completely unaware of how the whole experiment would go. But it worked! The cake tastes rich, mapley, and delicious; and the consistency is exactly what I always dream of when someone mentions this treat. I just made it a second time and switched the order of mixing certain things, and I think it's a bit better that way.
So make this. Tweak what you like. Use it as inspiration for something completely your own. And create, as you need to create.
Hopper Carrot Cake
Makes a two-layer (or four) 6-inch cake.
1 cup oil
3/4 cup each white and brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups carrots (about 3 carrots), grated
Cream Cheese Icing:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line two 6-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, beat together oil, both sugars, and vanilla until well combined. At eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and mix again slightly. With mixer speed on low, add the dry ingredients and beat until combined. Once more, scrape down and mix. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the carrots, until just distributed.
Pour batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.
Note: the top of the cake will be very crispy, due to the brown sugar. Just keep rolling with it.
To make the icing, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, and then add vanilla. Beat until desired consistency.
Assemble the cakes only once they have cooled. I cut the top off each, to remove the crispiness. It was a little messy, but it's cake. It still tastes good. Cut each cake in half, creating four layers. Spread icing thickly between each layer, then spread a thin layer on the outside just to coat. Refrigerate the cake for as much time as you have/like (I did about 12 hours and it was fine). The goal here is your crumb coat- hardening the first layer of icing to seal in all the crumbs so that the outer layer is clean and lovely. After refrigeration, spread a thick second layer of icing. Sprinkle with pecans or walnuts for a finishing touch, and there you go. Your sweet, carroty creation.