Cream Cheese Frosting

Cinnamon Rolls With Cream Cheese Frosting

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I’ve been brewing for weeks, with nothing to say, only much to feel.  Melancholy has always been good for my creative soul, and yet it seems in this season it paralyzes, rather than moves me.  Each day I am lead on a melodramatic voyage, by which I see everything through the impossible lense of the present.  I am left right back where I started, but with nothing tangible to hold, write, or at the very least, eat.  It’s exhausting really, and I am left feeling robbed of the beautiful mundane that I was once so good at savoring, and celebrating.

Somehow, remembering that it’s November magically takes me out of this less than desirable state of mind, if only for the brief moments I reminisce about family tradition.  Every November I bake my first batch of cinnamon rolls in preparation for the big bake on Christmas Eve.  Maybe I like the excuse to eat them twice a year, or maybe my body and mind need to be reminded of this domestic rhythm that helps connect me to the women I never knew, but the blood that is always running through me.  It’s as if these cinnamon rolls are my access to wisdom from my grandmothers.  It’s as if this process of mixing, kneading, rising, baking, cooling, and frosting, whispers truth back into the gray.  This morning I needed to be shaken abruptly, and held fiercely.  I need to walk myself to tears, borrow brown sugar from a neighbor, and bake my way back into bliss.  I needed to smother Octave in kisses, and eat three cinnamon rolls with her.  Sometimes the little things can solve big things.

Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 18 rolls

Dough

1 cup whole milk

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 1/2 tsp. yeast

2 eggs

3 1/2-3/4 cup flour, divided

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. sea salt

Filling

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 tbsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. cloves

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

A few squeezes of fresh orange juice, or until you reach your preferred consistency

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add milk and heat until it is slightly hot to the touch.  Transfer butter and milk to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.  Add egg and beat on low until combined.  Add 1 1/2 cup flour, salt, yeast, and sugar.   Beat on medium speed until combined well, scrapping sides of bowl if necessary.  Add the rest of the flour and mix for 3-4 minutes until a ball of dough forms.  It should be soft a pliable but not stick to the bottom or sides of the bowl.  Add flour a tablespoon at a time if it seems necessary.  Place dough in a large oiled bowl and let rise for 2-3 hours or doubled in size.

Rolls dough out into a rectangle the size of a large baking sheet.  Using a knife spread softened butter on top of dough and sprinkle mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves evenly on top.  Using the longer side of the dough, start rolling dough into the sugar and cinnamon and pinch dough as necessary.  Leaving the seam side down, and with a serrated knife, cut dough into 3/4 inch rolls.

Place rolls in a buttered pan, leaving room for them to rise.  Cover with seran wrap and place in the fridge to rise overnight.  My mom always let her rolls rise overnight and I used to think a few hours would do the trick but letting them have a long rise is absolutely key to a perfect fluffy dough.

The morning you are ready to bake preheat oven to 375.  Bake cinnamon rolls for 20-24 minutes.  Make your frosting while the rolls cool for 10-15 minutes.  Frost to your hearts content.

An Unbirthday, Birthday Cake For Octave!

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Your blueberry stained hands pressed firmly into the oven door.  Your curious eyes, my expanding heart, our baking cake rested sweetly in time.  It was neither too fast, or too slow, it was just honest.  You learned a new word that you passionately repeated until you had me giggling, in awe, in wonder, in love…

Cake!! My little lady; today I baked you a cake!  No birthday, no party, no reason.  Sometimes special things don’t feel as special on traditionally special days.  So, today on a Wednesday, I celebrated you in a way I have always longed to.

From the moment I knew you were in my belly, I dreamed of baking you a cake as I labored and welcomed you into this world.  To say your birth did not go as planned would be an understatement.  I didn’t get the chance to labor with you on my own and at home.  I didn’t get the chance to bake your cake between contractions while your Dad captured those special moments.  I had daydreams of moments that never happened.  I had daydreams of the liberating story I would tell you year after year on your Birthday.  I had daydreams of this special cake that would start with your labor and continue through your adult life.  As silly as it sounds, I mourned not getting the chance to bake you a cake.  I tried again when you were days old, only failing miserably from exhaustion and an unscrewed jar of sprinkles.  As your first Birthday grew closer, I searched the perfect recipe for months.  I was finally going to bake you that Birthday cake.  I learned the hard way that sugar and flour are in cakes for a reason.  My ambition for a “healthy,” cake got the best of me.  I even tried twice.  I cried unnecessary tears as if the fate of your birthday cake symbolized the course of your life.

Today your Birthday cake mishaps were redeemed.  With no expectations, no pressure and no reason, I baked you a cake.  Not a Birthday cake, just a cake.  A cake that says, I am so madly in love with you, I think my heart is going to explode.  A cake that erases  all the past disappointments because it was all worth that moment when your blueberry stained hands, five dimples and repetitive kisses left me to fall in love with you all over again.  We waited and watched your cake bake.  All 45 minutes, we sat and watched and read books before the oven.  You have learned to wait patiently in front of our oven because you know what comes next.

Today I learned that cake just tastes better when you eat it for no reason at all.  Baking the cake becomes the special occasion, and through that, reasons to celebrate soon follow.  Today I baked a cake and I celebrated you.  On the 24th of April you had your very first Unbirthday, Birthday cake.  A lemon basil cake with cream cheese frosting, because I adore lemons and I love basil but most of all I love and adore you.  I now realize, it really can be this simple.

Lemon Basil Cake

Slightly adapted from Ally’s Kitchen

 1 1/2 cup rice flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 sticks + 1 tbsp. salted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1 cup basil leaves

Zest from 1 lemon

4 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. lemon extract

Cream Cheese Frosting

6 ounces cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tbsp. butter

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325.  Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well.  Add lemon juice, zest and extracts and beat for a few more minutes.  Add flour and baking powder and beat until combined.  Lastly add in yogurt with chopped basil leaves and fold together.  In 2 well oiled, 4 inch cast iron pans evenly pour batter between the two. (You can also use a 9 inch pan if you don’t want a layer cake. Or, make cupcakes! You will just have to adjust the baking time.) Bake for 45-55 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely.  Beat together cream cheese, and butter, adding in powdered sugar and vanilla last.  Store in fridge while cakes cool.  Frost, garnish, eat and love!