How to Celebrate a Life: TEDx Talk & Buttermilk Spice Cake

There is no better way to step outside one’s comfort zone than to give a TED talk. This is public speaking, “ideas worth spreading”, on steroids as there is no podium, a time constraint and using notes is not recommended. It takes courage and a village of support to get it done. As thankful and as proud as I can possibly be for successfully completing a TEDx talk at Furman University, I’m still going to lament the fact that I failed to convey one critical thought even though no one knew what I forgot to say. It’s about that CHOPPED competition. I really want you all to know this:

“What’s most remarkable about my CHOPPED experience is not that I won $10,000.00, but that the victory is the result of the pure love energy of my son.”

Happy birthday William. It’s your day tomorrow. I can’t think of a better gift to give you than this video. I am ever so proud to be your mom. 

If you watch the video I suggest enlarging the screen, so you can get a better look at the power point photos. I think seeing the photos as you listen is critical to better understanding the story.

A grateful shout-out to all those who read my blog, but especially today to Patrice, Betty, Krista and Marcie who inspire me to remain positive. And to the student team of Furman University led by Jacob Lollis there are no words, but love for all your hard work in coordinating such an extraordinary event. Thank you for your gracious hospitality and celebrating William’s life with me.

It would not be a celebration without cake. This Buttermilk Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream comes from Jana Roerick’s book, The Little Island Bake Shop. The warm spices only get more intense as the cake sits, so make it a day or two in advance. I baked mine in 2 8-inch round pans and then deliberately sliced them horizontally in an uneven fashion because I was feeling off kilter. Imperfect is not considered professional, but I think it is so much more interesting. I also added 4 ounces of softened cream cheese at the end of the mixing of the buttercream. The tang of the cream cheese balances out the sweetness of the frosting. I also prefer my cakes naked around the sides. And here is a neat trick. Enjoy a slice or two before your guests arrive and then embellish the inside. No one will know! It gives a whole new meaning to have your cake and eat it, too.

Joy To Daughters, Carrot Cake Pancakes & Buttermilk Syrup

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Last weekend I enjoyed the pleasure of my daughter’s company. Selfishly, I love having her all to myself as we roam around Chester County (fabulous mani-pedis at Polished) and search for treasures at some of the local antique shops. The girl has an impressive decorator’s eye which most likely came from her Grandma Keys. Back home, in my kitchen, we cook a fabulous crab cake salad with a buttermilk ranch dressing using recipes from the latest edition of Cooking Light. She likes cooking healthy and has creative mad skills in the kitchen, too. It brings me back to younger days when the two of us would enter our art and baking projects at the Bethlehem Fair. It’s actually how we were first introduced to King Arthur Flour who sponsored the state level competitions.What I love about these fairs is NOT everybody gets a ribbon. The win actually means something. It signifies learning and hard work pays off. It’s a joyful and proud moment to see the blue on your kid’s entry.

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1992 we each take a grand state blue rosette me for sewing and Caitlin for muffins

As we discuss the merits of buttermilk and value of USA wild-caught seafood, Caitlin mentions that lately she has been craving pancakes, but not enjoying them as she has cut back on carbs. Hmmmm,  I tuck that thought into the back of my brain only to pull it out this week with the caveat…life’s too short not to enjoy a delicious pancake.

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Easter Sunday brunch is on its way and I thought I could come up with a holiday inspired menu that included healthy pancakes. I won’t lie…I was looking for a way to use up the rest of the buttermilk, too. I love you, dear daughter, thanks for ever inspiring me and very proud of the woman you have become. Joy to you always.

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So, I never order pancakes unless the restaurant is offering real maple syrup to go on top. I am a syrup snob and refuse to eat the maple “flavored” stuff. However, this brown butter buttermilk syrup is a fabulous something different to pour over pancakes and French toast as well as ice cream or a cake. It’s like a luscious buttery light caramel.

Brown Butter Buttermilk Syrup

½ stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup sugar

1-tablespoon corn syrup

1/8-teaspoon fine sea salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook butter, swirling pan occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until it begins to brown. Whisk in buttermilk, sugar, corn syrup and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 to 9 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until mixture is a golden brown. Whisk in vanilla and baking soda (it will foam up). Remove from heat and keep warm while making pancakes. Can be made ahead and re-warmed. Also delicious over pound cake and ice cream.

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Lightly spiced whole grain pancakes are a great way to get your little bunnies to eat and enjoy their carrots.

Whole Grain Silver Dollar Carrot Cake Pancakes

¾ cups white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur)

1-tablespoon ground flax seed meal (Bob’s Red Mill)

½ tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ cup grated carrots (use medium hole on box grater)

¾ cups buttermilk

1 egg

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In medium bowl, whisk flour, flax, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; set aside. Spread carrots over a paper towel. Top with a second towel and gently press together. Microwave carrots on HIGH for 2 minutes to remove moisture and soften. In another bowl, combine carrots, buttermilk, egg, butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry; mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix. Spoon batter (about a heaping tablespoonful for silver dollar style pancakes) onto a lightly greased non-stick skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Cook about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Makes 12 to 14 pancakes. Serve with buttermilk syrup.

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