Life’s funny sometimes. You plan and you plan and you plan, and then you realize your plans melt into your other plans and you try to figure out a way to make it all work, and somehow it does, but in the end all that working and planning and thinking and fretting just makes you oh so unbelievably tired. Does that make sense? I don’t know. Lately I’ve felt like my mind’s a giant black hole, just sucking everything in so fast that I can’t even decipher what it all was in the first place. I answer questions while my mind is thinking about something entirely different, completely unaware of the words tumbling out of my mouth. I have a wonderful husband who is very kind and patient, and I can’t help but feel awful about the number of times over the past month he’s been talking to me about something and I’ve completely spaced out in the middle of the conversation. Or I’ll be so deep into writing that I don’t even hear that someone’s spoken to me until a good 30 seconds goes by, and by that time they kinda hate me (I’ve done this to an unfortunate number of baristas in the Portland metro area, and I feel terrible). But I guess that’s part of writing a book, you just give yourself over to it at a certain point, and it becomes your whole life.
As of right now, my book is due in less than a week and I am so, so beyond excited to turn it in. I know it is going to be incredible and full of delicious food and beautiful images, but I’m also just excited to have my life back again. I was traveling a lot this spring, and between my freelance photography work, the cookbook, and the home remodeling, there hasn’t been much time to do fun life things, like go on a hike with my husband, or take my mom out for lunch, or spend an entire glorious weekend out in the garden with a beer in one hand and a trowel in the other. Soon. Wonderfully, fantastically soon. But until that time, I’m breaking up my bouts of writing with little sweet things, and because of the increased lengths of my writing bouts, I decided to increase the little sweet things to big sweet things, and I made this decadent cake as my own beautiful band aid.
To start, I stirred fresh thyme, peaches, and strawberries into the buttermilk batter. The smell while it baked away in the oven was comforting enough, but then I layered fresh peaches and strawberries with a homemade mascarpone whipped cream between each layer, and tasted it. It was probably the closest to heaven I’ll ever get, and every bite made my troubles feel a little less terrifying and a little more approachable. And now that I have only a few days left, I’m feeling really good about it. I do think I’m genuinely getting better at managing my own anxieties, so I’ll credit this new sense of calm to my own will power…and maybe a little bit to the cheesecake I made after this. To cake, and all its wondrous healing powers.
For the strawberry, thyme & peach buttermilk cake, mix together the flour, baking soda, ginger and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease 2 (8-inch) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper, set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Lower the speed and add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, mixing until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until a batter forms, then stir in the strawberries, peaches, and thyme until just incorporated.
Evenly distribute the batter between the 2 (8-inch) cake pans and bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake coms out relatively clean (unless you poked through fruit bit), about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 15 minutes before running a spatula around the edge of the pan and flipping the pan over onto a wire rack, removing the pan and allowing the cakes to cool completely on the racks.
For the mascarpone whipped cream, beat together the mascarpone, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment at medium high speed until fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Cut each of the cake layers in half horizontally using a sharp bread knife, you should now have 4 layers. Divide the mascarpone whipped cream into 4 parts and spread out 3 parts between the layers of cake along with the fresh strawberry and peach slices. Place the remaining fourth of the mascarpone whipped cream on top of the cake in a dollop and arrange fresh fruit or flowers around it, serve immediately. (Note, if you are using inedible flowers as a decoration, leave them at that and make sure everyone knows not to eat them).