Y’all- today is the day. The day I turn 30. The day to celebrate all things fun, sparkly, sugary, and swirled with peanut butter. I have a precious German friend with the best accent ever staying with us for the next three days while she is in the States; I get to spend the day tomorrow with another beautiful friend in Nashville. I mean, these are the rock-stars of long-distance friendships- so creative, inspiring, and lovely. I can’t wait. Life just seems to be humming, humming, humming by…
Yet, I woke up at 2:00 this morning in a panic. My husband spent the night, whooping-cough style, planted in the center of our bed, his lungs echoing reverberations to the top of our ceiling. I couldn’t sleep, so I moved to the sofa, only to be waken by throat pain that felt like the inside of a burlap bag. And, to be honest- the tiredness, and throat pangs, have gotten worse as they day has progressed.
So here we are, the day of all days, the golden birthday, and I feel like I got hit by a small moped then lightly tethered to a rusty Ford pick up and hung out to dry.
But- you know what? I couldn’t stop thinking about this blog post. How the last thing I want to do right now is type; how I want to lay in my bed and lament and have a pity party until I have to pick my friend up in a bit.
But, here is the deal- Luv Cooks means a lot to me. You, my readers, mean a lot to me. Yesterday as I drove home from a shoot I was thanking God for you, for your love of food and fun and for watching these videos and being a part of life with me. I was grateful for my husband, and my friendships, and all of the inspiring people that I encounter every day. For 30 years of laughter, tears, dancing (see below, what!), dreaming, and the moments that stir up such joy a knot forms in your throat. For every bit of thirty years lived in awe of the power of love and life and hope. For joy in the morning and dancing in the evening. For life, and breath, and food. Glorious food.
If there ever were consistent loves in my life- outside of the obvious- coffee is one of them. And this latte, this pumpkin spice latte, is the ultimate birthday indulgence. I adore espresso, but my budget, and time, don’t allow for the daily routine of a fancy green lady version you can purchase with an iPhone app.
This latte reminds me of bullet proof coffee- coffee blended with butter- but much tastier. The whole thing can be made dairy-free (just omit the whipped cream and substitute coconut oil for butter), and low sugar (substitute stevia for the maple syrup). The entire coconut milk mixture can be blended together on its own and used as coffee creamer. It’s healthy, has real pumpkin, coconut milk and cinnamon. Deliciousness.
So, ladies and gentleman, as I leave to pursue the rest of my 30th day on this planet, I once again want to say thank you. Thank you for being you, for making Luv Cooks happen, and even cooking a recipe or two. Thank you for making my birthday, and the years moving forward, so special.
I invite you to join me, pumpkin spice latte in hand, to a toast- to life, to luv, to food. Glorious food.
There are few things that bring me greater happiness than icing, cake, and sprinkles (in that order).
And even better than the cake, are the friendships that surround them. In my mind, cake=girlfriends. And, y’all, the hilarity that goes along with those moments! Cue the flashbacks….***
I think of the huge slices of cookie cake my best friend Anna Kat and I sought out in 2002 at the Bama Mall, buzzing around department stores high on sugar and Dr. Pepper. I think about Peggy’s DIVINE chocolate peanut butter cake in Montgomery, about the moment I officially knew I was in love with my mother-in-law, when she ordered me AN ENTIRE, ganache-laden one for my birthday. It’s the way my grandmother’s kitchen smelled like warm butter and cocoa as she cooked hot chocolate frosting on the stove, slowly poured over velvety, freshly baked chocolate cake. (And YES I consider grandmothers as girlfriends!)
Cake is my happy place, and it was the perfect ending to a sweet, four post series with my great friend Mattye of The Loving Kind. For those of you who have kept up with our posts, you know that she and I have been guest posting on each others’ blogs for the past year, sharing our must-have tools for the kitchen (me) and tips for connecting over the dinner table (Mattye). Mattye is my relational inspiration- she is such a great connector of people, but remembers logistics (like meeting times, birthdays, Setting goals!). Her friendship has been one of the sweetest I’ve had in Alabama- not only for the love she shows, but for the sweet treats we have experienced together (#krispykreme). She is, in so many ways, the friend I hope to be. And she is also the wonderful woman who realized what our final “kitchen tool” to highlight would be in this post: a celebratory heart.
And speaking of celebration, this year is also the one where Mattye and I both turn 30. I know. I thought the day would never come, but hoped it always would. Mattye has already passed that threshold (with flying colors might I add- and one of the most FABULOUS birthday parties I’ve ever attended). I am about a month away. So, we thought it would be kind of awesome to post a Top 10 list about the JOYS of turning 30- of all we are looking forward to, want to happen, and think is pretty darn awesome.
Everybody, everybody get your JOY on with our Top 10 Reasons Why Turning 30 Is Awesome:
See if you can guess which ones are Mattye’s and which ones are mine!
1. CONFIDENCE- Your thirties bring a new confidence in who you are, what you want, and the comfort to go out and get it.
2. FUN- I don’t know about y’all, but I am so ready to enter into one of the most fun seasons of my life. I am finally at the point where the things that used to stress me in my 20’s (ahem, frizz, breakouts, exams, breakups, setting dish towels on fire while cooking blue box macaroni and cheese) have finally loosened their grip and I am ready to go full-throttle into a life of joy, laughter, and FUN. Taylor Swift albums? Latest YouTube video about an owl and a cat who are BFF? Late night crafting with girlfriends? Listened. Watched. Sewed. You know why? B/c life is amazing and oh so fun.
3. GIVING BACK- At thirty you feel more grounded in your life experiences and like you have more to give back to others.
4. SELF ACCEPTANCE- This point is similar to the FUN one, except a bit deeper. Alright foodies, go with me on this: I think as we grow up, we realize, and own the fact, that how we are made is uniquely wonderful. For years, I’ve struggled with feeling like too much and not enough at the same time. Finally, I am making peace with that feeling. I am who I am, and pray that I grow daily into the woman I am supposed to be. Can I get an amen everybody?!
5. SOPHISTICATION- Thirty is a sophisticated age. Just try saying, “Hello, I’m thirty.” and you’ll understand what we mean.
6. PURPOSE- I am SUCH a believer that everyone has a greater purpose in this life. Whether it’s baking for your neighbors down the street, saving lives, encouraging your friends- everything we do for other people matters. And I’m realizing that my purpose in life is much too important to let fear of failure and fear of other people’s opinions run the show. It’s time to rise on up, put your big girl pants on, and live out the way you were made to bless this earth.
7. CONTENTMENT- You no longer feel like you “should be out doing something fun” instead of what you really want to be doing, which is spending a Friday night in with pizza, ice cream and Netflix.
8. ADVENTURE- Travel has been on my bucket list for years, and it’s about time I start the journey. To be honest, life as a freelancer and blogger is not the most lucrative of careers, BUT this wanderlust has made me rethink how I spend my income. I think that’s part of turning 30 too; clarifying financial needs/wants. Because as much as I want that pumpkin spice latte every morning, is it really worth my eventual trip to Paris? Umm, no. Cafe and croissants here we come, amis!
9. BUILDING- After stepping out of the whirlwind that can often be your twenties, your thirties are a time where you get to really build upon the things that are important to you, whether that is your career, a family, creative outlets, a home, or a new adventure!
10. FRIENDSHIPS- And speaking of amis (French word for friends, I learned that this morning), it took me 29 years to realize just how important friends are. I want my 30th year to be one of renewed commitment to the ones I love; the ones who have stood by me, and the ones I couldn’t imagine my life without. They have become my family, and I want to not only treat them just as fabulously as they have treated me, but figure out small ways to show them I’m grateful for their kindness, prayers, love and bouts of unrestricted belly laughter.
Now, to the recipe!
Pink Swirl Cake
This cake is easy to assemble, can totally be prepared ahead of time, and gives you that awesome wow factor of the pops of pink in the batter. Plus, the King Arthur flour really makes the cake moist and fluffy. Bon appetite!
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8″ x 2″ or 9″ x 2″ round pans; by greasing and flouring; or lining with parchment, then greasing the parchment. Note: Make sure your 8″ round pans are at least 2″ deep.
2) Mix all of the dry ingredients on slow speed to blend. Add the soft butter and mix until evenly crumbly, like fine damp sand. It may form a paste, depending on the temperature of the butter, how much it’s mixed, and granulation of the sugar used.
3) Add the egg whites one at a time, then the whole egg, beating well after each addition to begin building the structure of the cake. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. Make sure and scrape here!
4) In a small bowl, whisk the almond milk with the vanilla and almond extracts. Add this mixture, 1/3 at a time, to the batter. Beat 1 to 2 minutes after each addition, until fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Keep on scraping!
5) Pour the first half of the vanilla batter evenly into each cake pan. With the remaining batter, add a few drops of food coloring, and beat in the mixer until you reach your desired level of pinkness.
6) Now, using a spoon, drop dollops of the pink batter on top of the vanilla batter, in a circular pattern, using the same amount of large dollops (about two tablespoons) in each pan. Then, using a toothpick or wooden skewer, swirl the pink batter into the vanilla batter until it is well distributed (it took me about thirty seconds of swirling). So pretty!
7.) Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes for 8″ or 9″ rounds. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean when done. Remove from the oven, remove from the pan, (careful, the pans are hot!), cool on a rack, and frost.
For the frosting, I adapted this recipe a bit from All Recipes:
What You Will Need:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons almond milk
a few drops neon pink food coloring (depending on your level of pinkness here too)
What you Will Do:
Cream room temperature butter with the the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until fully incorporated.
Pour in almond milk and beat for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add food coloring, and beat for thirty seconds until smooth or until desired color is reached.
And finally, for those of you who made it to the bottom of this post, I reward you with this: