"Just say yes and you'll figure it out afterwards." ~ Tina Fey
Cusp. I like that word. It's defined as the point of a crescent, like the moon, and a point that marks the beginning of a change. Like, Renée is on the cusp of a new era. Holy shit. The past couple of weeks, well, the past month really, have been really terrifying and exciting. I did something either totally brave or bonkers, though I'm leaning towards the former: I left my job without another full time job to replace it. Bold, ballsy, bad ass. I did it. Not a decision that came easily or quickly - impulsiveness isn't quite my style - but one I brewed over the past few months especially. I won't bemoan the reasons for leaving, though I know we've all been in situations that aren't working, be they professional or personal, and the time comes when a departure is required, if for nothing else than our happiness.
Living alone, I have no one other than myself to rely on when it comes to financial support. The cats provide emotional support, but lazy beasts, they refuse to throw anything into the coffers. I admit that I craved having someone say to me "Babe. Take some time off. I've got you." Those would have been the sweetest words to my ears, especially on the really bad days. Alas, there isn't a Mr. Sweetsugarbean in the house, and given my complete and utter rotten luck with men, I don't believe there will be one in the near future either. No, this is my one woman only rodeo show, and I had to be certain I could ride it out.
But then something pretty neat happened. It's as if the Universe heard my clamoring and decided to help a sister out. Freelance recipe writing contracts starting landing in my lap at the beginning of the year - thanks to work that I do right here on this blog. I was building a wee nest egg. I was building a little perch for myself to rest and regroup. When it seemed financially feasible, and believe you me, I have crunched those numbers hard, I gave my two weeks notice not really knowing what I was going to do next, but I knew I was going to be okay. Sometimes we need to take that leap and the net will follow. My kind editor at the StarPhoenix said those words of encouragement to me, and he's a smart dude. So I've taken a great leap forward, and while I still feel like I'm in mid-air for the moment, the net beneath me is building. There are possibilities growing and I'll feel a bit more secure when I know they are a sure thing, but right now I'm just damn proud of myself for leaving a situation that was not conducive to me living my best life. I know that's a little Oprah talk, but bear with me. I think we owe it to ourselves to not settle for anything in life - be it romantically or professionally. I know I can do better. That's one thing I know for sure.
Okay, let's take a break from all of that honesty and vulnerability and talk about cake. My favourite topic! Having heaps of time on my hands is a combination of shock and awe. I can sleep in past 5:00 am! I can camp out on the couch with a blanket and a book and a cat or two. I can clean and tidy all of the forgotten nooks and crannies of my house, much to my mother's relief. I can write real letters on real paper with a real pen and post them to those I love. I can go for a long walk in the mid-morning sunshine and meet friends for tea. But at some point in the day I find myself in the kitchen, thinking, what can I bake today. Always and forever, baking will be my therapy. The soothing motions of buttering a cake pan, creaming butter and sugar together, stirring, whisking, folding help me ground and centre myself. Even the simple task of washing dishes (no dishwasher here!) helps soothe a mind that can wander into territories of fear and uncertainty and bring it back to reality, which today happens to be all about the pound cake.
Cleaning out the fridge, I came across two rogue Ruby Red grapefruits. While I want to like grapefruit, I really do, I prefer to gorge on blood oranges instead. These big guys were juiced and zested and turned into cake, as you do. Pound cake traditionally uses a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of flour...you get the idea. But this version, thanks to the brilliant Deb Perleman of Smitten Kitchen fame, uses olive oil instead of butter and the addition of buttermilk helps lighten the crumb. The bittersweet assertiveness of the grapefruit is tempered with the fruity oil, and when I licked the beaters, I knew this cake was going to be a gooder. I was right. A hot simple syrup of grapefruit juice and cane sugar is poured over the warm cake, and it runs into the holes you poke into it, just like when I did it to the lemon polenta cake. The result is a tremendously moist pound cake, not terribly sweet, even with the pretty glaze drizzled on top. Perfectly acceptable for breakfast or afternoon tea or a midnight snack or anytime you find yourself on the cusp of something new.
And so it begins. Wish me luck.
Grapefruit & Olive Oil Pound Cake
butter for greasing pan
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 tbsp freshly grated grapefruit zest (from 1-2 large grapefruits)
1 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp fresh grapefruit juice
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp cane sugar
1/3 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp fresh grapefruit juice
pinch sea salt
Preheat oven to 350*F. Butter and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a the bowl of a stand mixer, rub the sugar and grapefruit zest together with your fingers. This will help bruise it and release as much essence as possible. Pour in the oil and with the paddle attachment, beat on low until incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a smaller bowl, combine the grapefruit juice and buttermilk. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures, alternating between them, to the oil and sugar mixture in the bowl, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, scraping down bowl after each addition. Pour the batter into prepared loaf pan and baking for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
When cake is finished, let cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently remove and place on wire rack set inside a tray or baking sheet (this will catch the drips). Meanwhile, to make the syrup, combine the sugar and grapefruit juice in a small saucepan over medium low heat and cook until sugar is dissolved. Gently poke small holes with a skewer all over pound cake. Using a pastry brush, slowly and carefully pour and brush syrup all over cake, being sure to brush the sides as well. Let cool completely before glazing.
To make glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, grapefruit juice and salt until smooth. Gently pour over cake, allowing it to drizzle down sides. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing.
Make 10-12 servings. Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perleman