Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happiness Project w/ Pumpkin Cake

Despite my bouts of intermittent constant stress, I have been doing better emotionally the past few weeks.  My happiness project has been working.  With the help of my supervisors, classmates, and friends and family, I have finally found ways to make time for me.  Even if the idea of taking time out of my schedule to focus on me freaks and stresses me out to no end, I have been forcing myself to do it.  On Columbus Day, I went for a hike with my boyfriend.  Tonight, I went for a run at sunset around Jamaica Pond.  And last week, a bunch of us went out to celebrate our classmate and friend, Lauren's birthday.

Naonet Woodlands in Dover, MA
All the first year PsyD students are pretty maxed out right now.  October seems to be the month when all of our major projects and papers and exams and other assignments are due.  For those of us in statistics, the anxiety is through the roof because we have our midterm tomorrow.  Why am I blogging if I have a midterm tomorrow you might ask?  Good question.  Maybe it's because my brain is fried and I need a break.  Or maybe it's because I feel fairly confident in the material (this probability is highly unlikely...).  Or maybe it's because I'm still working on my happiness project and need to use this blog as it was intended- as my therapy outlet.

Even though we still don't know each other super well, many of us first years in the PsyD program have bonded and share an incredible sense of love and respect for one another.  The people in my cohort have become my family, and I am so grateful to have such giving and compassionate individuals as my peers.  One of these amazing people is my friend, Lauren P.  We met on the first day of orientation, but sadly have no classes together.  We try our best to stay in touch despite having different schedules, and even though we don't see each other often, she is never more than a text away when I need an extra smile.  Eight of us went out to dinner at Bertucci's last Friday night to celebrate the birth of this wonderful girl.  And of course I, in typical Hannah fashion, called the restaurant ahead of time to make sure I could bring in my own cake.  They said yes, and the baking began...

Pumpkin Cake w/ Brown Butter Icing, topped with Pumpkin Seeds and Dried Cranberries
Recipes from Martha Stewart (I know, I NEVER use her recipes because she annoys me, but I have to give her some credit on this one, it's a pretty awesome f***ing recipe)
Yield: 1 8" double layer cake

Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup warm milk (I used almond milk, as usual)

I followed her instructions for the cake pretty exactly, but I'll reproduce the steps here for your convenience.  (And because I have pretty pictures).

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and set aside
Add in eggs and beat until incorporated
Add pumpkin, milk, and vanilla.  Mix until incorporated
Slowly mix in dry ingredients until smooth
Place parchment paper in the bottom of 2 8" cake pans.  Grease and flour the sides.
Pour batter evenly between pans.  Drop each pan on counter a few times to get out the air bubbles.  Bake at 350°F for 50-55 minutes.  Cool for 20 minutes in pans on wire racks, then remove from pans to finish cooling completely.

Then make the brown butter icing from here, except double it.  Allow it to cool for five minutes, and then ice and decorate the cake as desired.  I wanted some color contrast, so I used dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds, (it is a pumpkin cake, after all, right?)  I thought the cake was a little too sweet with the icing, so I threw a tiny bit of kosher salt on the top of it when I was all done decorating, and it added that perfect touch.  You will want to refrigerate the cake immediately after decorating, because the brown butter icing will begin to separate and look oily and weird, as well as slide down the sides of your cake.

 All in all, we couldn't have asked for a better way to celebrate Lauren's birthday.  We had amazing meals, went out and saw other people on a Friday night for the first time in a long while, and she was completely surprised when all the servers came out singing and brought her a homemade cake with a candle in it.  Oh yeah, and the cake was DELICIOUS!!!  It was really great to help Lauren celebrate her birthday, but it was even better to all get out and feel like normal people again.  Like, right, we do actually have lives...

Happy Birthday, Lauren!  Thank you for giving us a reason to celebrate and share in your happiness!

Love and cookies,

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