Yeasted Cardamom and Fig Cake + A Two-Year Blog Birthday
Yesterday marked this blog’s two year anniversary, counting from the very first post I wrote back in 2016. While two years is not that long in the grand scheme of things, I have to say I am quite proud of myself for sticking with this. It is pretty wonderful to be able to see the amount of change and growth that has happened in a relatively short time period.
You may or may not know already that my blogging journey actually started way back in 2011, when I was a vegan college student, experimenting with baking and recipes in my dorm’s tiny and under-equipped kitchen. That’s So Vegan was born out of my new-found love for reading food blogs and wanting to start my own as a sort of productive procrastination of actual school work. Once I started traveling, I switched over to a site that I named Half Full, partially because of my general sunny outlook on life and also because of my ravenous appetite- for food, travel, stories, and adventure. I was far from consistent in writing and posting, but the blog world kept pulling me back into its web.
After settling in Tangier, I realized I wanted to have a space where I could not only return to my slightly random interest in food and photography, but also really practice my writing since it has been a life-long love of mine. Plus, I was curious about building a platform where I could begin to gain more confidence in publicly sharing my dance work and the behind the scenes process of my creative career. And so my self-titled archive was born.
As with any creative work, I have had moments of doubt about blogging. I have taken long breaks, stepped back to reassess, and wondered about the true purpose of putting so much effort into an online presence. There can be a lot of superficiality in this world and it definitely gets under my skin from time to time. However, there is also a lot of real beauty and integrity- it is just more subtle and often you have to seek it out. Despite the pauses and ups and downs of this whole process, there are some major positives that keep drawing me back to this online world.
These, I think, are the primary reasons I am still here after a total of 7 years of blogging:
1. The community.
I am constantly stunned by the fact that blogging has lead to so many real connections and friendships over the years. There is such a beautiful abundance of incredible women with strong online presences, sharing what they love and believe. I am always finding new inspiration and mentors in the blogging world, along with following those originals who pushed me to keep going when I was first starting out. Among those are Amanda from Heartbeet Kitchen, Renee from Will Frolic for Food, Agnes from Cashew Kitchen, Sara from Cake Over Steak, and the infamous Joy of Joy the Baker.
2. The practice.
Writing has always been a huge part of my life, taking on different forms from poetry, journaling, to elaborate fantasy stories and structured school essays. Whatever the format, organizing and carefully choosing words comes naturally to me. However, in order to grow beyond a natural inclination, steady practice is necessary. Part of my goal in blogging for these past two years has been to force myself to write regularly and push my personal progress. Sometimes I will self-impose word counts or assignments such as testing out a particular style or reflecting on a certain subject. It also helps me to keep noticing details in the real-life stories around me, for as Susan Sontag said, “writing is a way of paying as much attention as possible.” Writing keeps me curious and curiosity keeps me writing.
3. Cultivation of the public self.
With the growing duality of our “real-life” and online selves, deciding how much to share and how to share it are important decisions to make as an individual and as an artist. There are personal lines to be drawn between being authentic and feeling over-exposed. Blogging has been a way for me to test and discover my own boundaries, often finding comfort and support in unexpected places.
4. Food Photography.
Quite simply, I just love taking food photos. Of course I also enjoy developing recipes and eating my own creations (when they turn out), but the detailed process of finding the light, arranging props, and getting the perfect shot is incredibly satisfying to my aesthetic-loving self. It’s an interest I keep coming back to, even after I lapse from actual cooking and baking.
Because I’m honoring and celebrating this whole process of blogging, I decided to make a cake that may look a bit humble and rustic, but holds a special place in my heart. This vegan yeasted cake was one of the first recipes I ever shared on That’s So Vegan back in 2011, although I originally made it with plums on top and without any spices (see above). It made me realize that I get immense satisfaction from working with yeasted dough, from cathartic kneading to the smell that wafts out of the kitchen as it bakes. While still keeping the general simplicity of this cake, I decided to jazz up the flavors just a little bit by using fresh + juicy seasonal Moroccan figs, a sprinkling of cardamom, and a hint of lemon zest for brightness. The result? Perfection.
As far as yeasted things go, I would say that this cake is not overly intensive. It requires about 10 minutes of hand-kneading (which is an activity I happen to love) and just one hour-long rise. Fairly simple to do on a lazy summer afternoon. The final product is not a particularly sweet cake, but it has a lovely crisp golden exterior with that crumbly cardamom-laced streusel on top and is soft and pillowy on the inside. It is perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack break with a cup of coffee or tea on the side.
- Since it is not super sweet, this cake is great served with coconut cream, whipped cream, or even a dollop of ice cream on top. You could also add a swipe of fig jam for extra fruity goodness.
- If you are not vegan, you can easily use dairy milk and butter for the same delicious results.
- This cake lasts for only about 2 days before starting to dry out, so I would recommend freezing any leftover slices.
- 2 cups (300g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 4 tbsp cane sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 2/3 cup (160ml) almond milk (or other milk substitute)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 4-5 medium fresh figs
- 1/3 cup (50g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp vegan butter/margarine (or solid coconut oil, but I prefer the buttery flavor here)
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp almond milk (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, salt + cardamom. Add the milk, olive oil, vanilla and lemon zest. Mix to combine, then turn out the dough onto a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth- not sticky. Clean out your mixing bowl, grease the sides with a bit of oil, then form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, covering with a napkin or cloth to rise in a warm place for 1-1 1/2 hours. The dough should just about double in size.
In the meantime, prepare the streusel by mixing all of the ingredients except the almond milk in a small bowl with your fingers until a crumbly mixture forms. If it is too dry and doesn't come together, add the tbsp of milk. Cut the fresh figs in half and leave them on a paper towel to dry up some of the moisture. Grease a 9-10" springform pan and preheat the oven to 400ºF (205ºC).
Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and form an even disk, the same width as the prepared pan. Place the dough in the pan, evenly crumbling the streusel on top. Press the fresh fig slices lightly into the dough in your desired pattern, then place the cake in the oven to bake for about 35-45 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before removing from the pan and serving.