wild limb studios, pt 4: strawberry & cava cake with fresh mint icing

This is the last hurrah for the Wild Limb shoot. So sad.

This baby is a standard-sized (nine-inch), two-layer vanilla cake made with Cava and dotted with chopped, fresh strawberries. Like the others, it has an Italian meringue buttercream- dotted with chopped, fresh mint from my parents' garden. I'd like to say the strawberries were also from their garden, but... Maybe next year, Mom. 

This shoot was so fun. As a creative, it's immeasurably necessary to have people in your life who support you, believe in you, want to help you. Without each other, we get nowhere; we accomplish nothing. And the thing is, we can all help each other. We all have talents to lend each other, as ways of encouragement and as unspoken whispers that say, "You're doing great. Keep going. I believe in you." We all need it.

It's not about the networking, or the climbing on top of each other to reach more bars of success, or the competitive conversation, or the approval from those who seem so inhumanly lofty. Yes, those frantic boasting moments will sometimes be hard to pass up. But, as you mature, you will indeed let them go. And you'll watch them meander on, knowing that they are not the point. The leg-ups are not the focus or the goal. Total immersion is the goal. And from my experience, you cannot get there without the help of those who believe in you.

At some time or another, each of us reaches a point of total disheartenment. It's a lowly and hopeless place, full of grim futures that reflect even grimmer souls. It's quiet and desolate down there. And that's when we need you, whoever the "you" happens to be that day (and let me just say: you better not hold back; we need your brave, bold words). We need someone to shake us, wake us from our sad delusion, and remind us that a) it's all going to be okay; and b) even if it doesn't feel okay, it's all still worth it. Every bit. Doesn't matter how much "success" you visibly witness or experience. Keep hoping. Keep dreaming. Keep creating. We're all here for each other. Because, inevitably, and soon enough, the camps will be switched. And you'll be generally content, whether that looks like gliding through your creations or working bullishly with your head down. And your friend, your sister, your mom, your fellow creative, the stranger next to you- they will be hanging by a thread. And they're going to need the same power-up that you received only last week, and it is your responsibility to slingshot them forward again. And that's how this cycle works, friends. We are here to believe in each other. We are here to create, to spur creativity in each other, to actively highlight the uniqueness in the craft of the souls beside us and say, "Yes, that's it! Keep digging, pressing, focusing, challenging. Don't quit now. In fact, let me help you. Let me carry this burden with you. We'll figure this out. We'll get through this drought."

And to me, it's that- that relentless scooping up of each other- that is so remarkable. It's even more jarring and beautiful than these creations themselves. We are here to bolster, to believe that something bigger and badder and better can take place through the distilling of our craft. Ours alone. Mine, yours. And without all this substance, what is the point? This is where the gold flecks flicker.

So, thank you, to all, but notably to Abby & Brendan, and Suz & Brian, and Noey & Barry-- for your belief in me and your most recent tangible help and your actions and words and gifts that say, "We've got your back. Keep moving forward." I've got yours, too.

Mega thank-yous to Abby & Brendan of Wild Limb Studios. See their personal work on Instagram: @wildlimb & @idlehourbaltimore.

wild limb studios, pt 3: black forest cake

You guys. There's a good chance that I've never been more excited about debuting a cake.

Let me just let you into a little secret: the prep day for this shoot was a glorious shit show. Everything that could have gone wrong, did. I forgot my cooking spray and my parchment paper. Every single one of my cake layers broke. My smith island fudge icing separated and never came back together. My thermometer screen blacked out from excess heat while making my buttercream. I sliced my finger good and clean and deep halfway through icing cakes (don't worry, that's all just food dye, I swear). And then I hauled these babies back and forth across Baltimore probably seventeen times.

But then, somehow, everything just smoothed over. The chaos ended. The shoot was fun and successful and no cakes were harmed until we cut into them and started devouring. And, while I expected to be royally pissed off the whole day because none of my cake kids cooperated, I was actually pleased with how they turned out. And even excited, when it came to this cake. Like, really excited. 

I've been eyeing this style of icing for months, never quite confident enough to try it. But holy freaking cow, I love it. Seriously, if you dig this at all, next time you need a cake from me, just tell me your preferred color(s) and let me run with it. Promise you'll be happy. And the cake- I've wanted to make this for ages, but haven't for the same above reason. I'll alter a few things for the next go, but it was real good start. Traditionally, it's a chocolate cake filled with cherries that have been soaked in cherry liquor, and iced with whipped cream. I used a vanilla buttercream instead- I mean butter or no butter, is that even a question? And brandy was my choice of liquor because does any liquor store in the entire United States even sell Kirsch anymore?! Help a friend out if you see it. 

So, here she is: the black forest cake, Ellyn-style. Sometimes things suck, and sometimes they get turned around, and sometimes you can be happy when you didn't think it was possible. Thanks for the analogy, little cake.

Mega thank-yous to Abby & Brendan of Wild Limb Studios. See their personal work on Instagram: @wildlimb & @idlehourbaltimore.