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Frances’ Lumberjack Cake, The Search for Perfect

There is no perfect time for perfect, it seems. In our modern age, we’re all trying to tackle that elusive concept: perfect timing. We want to quit our crappy jobs just long enough to enjoy a month long jaunt to Europe before starting our ‘perfect’ job. We want to find our perfect mate soon enough to not feel lonely, but not too soon as to not enjoy our ‘youth.’ We want to have a baby just as soon as we’ve found our perfect mate, our perfect job, our perfect house, on the perfect street, with the good school district in mind (for the future). What is this ‘perfection’ that we all think must be achieved before taking the next step?

There is a sound I hear in my head when I start down this rabbit hole of ‘what if?’ It sounds like a bunch of high school kids on an escalator at the mall, talking really fast, interrupting each other. My heart spasms at the thought of it not being…perfect. I see no beauty in the mess, the uncertainty. But what if?

Change was scary, but good.
Everything turned upside down, and I was totally ok.
Cluttered was lovely.
Mistakes were our greatest achievements.
Bigger and more wasn’t better.
New was slower in a good way.
Perfect turned out to be shitty.

A few months ago, I received an email that I thought was going to change my life. Why? Well, because it was perfect, I thought. All of the pieces were falling into place as if I already wrote a book about it! But then, time passed, and my anticipation turned to fear and fear turned to disappointment and finally, as these things go, all of those feelings faded away and became a distant memory of what — at the time — I thought could have been perfect.

Funny thing is, I know now that the only person that can proactively change your life is you. It’s not perfect, but in the long run, perfect isn’t ever what you hope for it to be.

This cake, an adaptation of one of the most memorable, yet humble, desserts I’ve had out, is a celebration of everything that’s beautifully imperfect. It’s not glazed, frosted, or glittered. It’s a deep, bold, espresso-colored cake dotted with baked pieces of pear and prettified by a dusting of powdered sugar and a scoop of my favorite perfect-for-serving-as-a-side-to-cakes-and-crumbles ice cream, ever.

Frances’ Lumberjack Cake
*adapted from this recipe (I intentionally left out the coconut)

1 cup + 2 tablespoons of water (enough to cover the dates in the pot)
1 heaping cup of pitted Medjool dates
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 pear, cored and diced

powdered sugar, to serve
vanilla bean ice cream, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and generously butter a 9 inch round springform pan. Combine the dates and water in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Whisk in the baking soda, then remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
2. While the date mixture cools, sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.
3. Combine the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth and creamy. Beat in the date mixture and then add the flour mixture, blending until just mixed. Add the diced pear to the batter and stir to combine.
4. Pour the batter into your prepared springform pan and bake the cake for approximately 45 minutes. Turn the pan 180 degrees and bake for another ten minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (you may rotate the pan again if the cake needs more time in the oven). Let the cake cool before transferring it to a serving platter and dusting with powdered sugar. Serve with a scoop of ice cream (or whipped cream).

Musical Pairings: White Denim – D + Frances’ Lumberjack Cake

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Posted by Kasey

Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • Hannah Simon

    Perfectly imperfect 🙂

  • Perfect is over rated. I like mistakes and I know that learning and growing takes practice. I will definitely be making this cake (with the coconut and with apples instead of pears). I love dates in a cake!

  • Exactly 🙂

  • Growing totally totally takes practice (do we ever stop practicing??) Do as you may with the coconut…you know how I feel about it 😉

  • Lauren

    Love this post Kase – beautiful writing! Excited to see you this weekend, friend 🙂

  • Renee

    Gorgeous cake – I would totally leave out the coconut too. Ick. Pears and dates and imperfections make me all kinds of happy though 🙂

  • Thanks, Laur! I can’t wait to see you, too!!

  • I’m glad we agree on the coconut, Renee 😉

  • Oh man…this speaks FALL!! And I’m a pear hoarder…currently have 3 pounds that are being turned into pear vanilla jam as we speak. I’m sure there’s another one hiding in the fridge somewhere…just gotta get some dates!

  • Elwyn Williams

    Great recipe — stupid writing. Stick with the food.

  • ndrozhzhin

    I love this cake recipe, Thanks for sharing. I tried many different versions and this turned out great.

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