So, the other day we put in a gate at either end of the coop area along the side of the house so that the chickens could free range there during the day. The only area that wasn’t completely secure was underneath the coop itself, since the coop is resting on cement blocks and is elevated about 5 inches above the ground. Most of the chickens are too big to fit under there, and Lillith liked staying with the rest of the birds so I thought it would be fine. But, when I was trying to herd them (and by herd I mean walk slowly towards them, not flailing or anything) back into the contained chicken run area so I could go to a doctor’s appointment, Lillith promptly freaked out and scooted underneath the coop, coming out the other side and into the backyard. She then managed to get herself trapped under the deck of the house, which is full of spiders and is more of a crawlspace type area. It was near the run so she kept trying to fly up against the coop wire to get to the flock but obviously couldn’t get through wire, so it was just really frustrating to watch. I finally lured her out from under the house after about 10 minutes, and then she flew up onto the fence. From there she hopped onto the roof of the coop, and from there to the roof of the first story of our house, and then to the roof of the second story. So there she was, the world’s tiniest chicken perched on the highest point of our home.I had to go to the doctor and was really late by this point, so I let the chickens back into their open run area hoping that she would see them and fly down to join them. I went to the lab to get my blood drawn, but nobody was even checking the list I put my name on and I was stressing out about the chickens so much that I just left after 20 minutes, got my prescription filled, and came home to find that Lillith wasn’t on the roof anymore. If fact, she was nowhere to be found. Night fell and we went out with flashlights, peering up into the old growth douglas fir trees around our house that are hundreds of feet tall. Nothing. We live near several nature preserves and forests, so I assumed she wouldn’t make it through the night without being eaten by a hawk or a raccoon or one of the many other predators around.
The next morning, I was getting ready in my sleep deprived state due to Roz (the rooster) and his ever-earlier crowing predilections (still trying to rehome this guy), when Jeremy ran inside and said “she’s in the backyard!” It appears that Roz’s incessant crowing had drawn her back, but of course when I just came to the gate of the yard, waaaay far away from her, that freaked her out enough to fly into our neighbor’s yard. F***. At that point, I had had it with stressing about her, and the more I tried to help her the further away she went, so I went inside to work until my neighbor came by because her chihuahua had gone out and was barking at her, terrified of this strange large (in comparison to the chihuahua) bird. So I went with a cardboard box, hoping to corner her, but again, she freaked out and flew back into the cherry tree in our yard.
So. At this point I knew that I couldn’t get close to her AT ALL. But I also knew that she loved Roz (she always follows him around and sleeps next to him when they’re roosting at night). So I opened the gate where the chickens were free ranging and put up a baby gate I had, hoping that none of my girls would hop over it. They didn’t, thank goodness, and instead crowded around it so Lillith could clearly see them from the tree. I went inside to give her some time to feel safe enough to hop over to them, and when I came out 15 minutes later she was right next to the gate, foraging with them. So, I quietly approached and pulled away the baby gate, and thank god she ran in with them instead of freaking out and running past me. And that was how I got her back in the coop, after over 24 hours of increasing anxiety.
So, to celebrate getting her back home, and also as a coping function, I made a cake. When I’m stressed, sometimes the best way to let the anxiety leech out of me is through baking. It just helps me focus only on what I am doing right then, and not on all the other crap going on inside my head and all the stuff going on in the day to day. I made this as a type of genoise, which is a cake that gets its volume not from baking soda or powder, but from rapidly beating eggs with sugar until they get super fluffy and airy (think 4 minutes at high speed type of airy). I used gluten-free oat flour, almond meal, pumpkin, and dried chopped figs from my uncle’s fig tree for the flavor, and did a simple vanilla glaze with sliced almonds and powdered sugar on top. The oat flour becomes wonderfully nutty and rich when baked in the oven, and the almond meal does the exact same thing, giving it the most comforting fall flavor ever. And to combat the graininess and dryness that gluten-free cakes can get, I used pumpkin puree to add more moisture back into the cake, which gave it such a wonderfully soft and moist texture. And then the little spots of chopped dried figs give it small bursts of flavor in each bite. I also put creamed butter and brown sugar on the bottom of each cake pan before adding the batter, so that each layer has a slightly crunchy and buttery caramelized top to it. YUM.
It is seriously one of the tastiest cakes I’ve ever made, and to celebrate how incredibly well this stress-baking session turned out, I’m hosting a giveaway along with the amazing folks over at Polder’s Old World Market. If you’re unfamiliar with them, they’re one of my favorite sources for carved wooden props. They make almost anything you would need measuring, baking, or serving-wise in the kitchen, but just a beautifully carved wooden versions of it. Their spurtle is one of my favorite tools for loosening cakes from cake pans, and their kitchen wedge is *amazing* for getting rolled-out pie crusts gently unstuck from the working surface. Also, the cake server is the epitome of what every cake serve should be. I could go on, but instead I’ll get to the giveaway for a $500 gift certificate to their online shop. Nope, I didn’t accidentally type an extra zero, it’s just that Loran from Polder’s is an incredibly kind and generous person. To enter, use the rafflecopter widget below. The contest ends at 11:59 pm PST November 18th. Best of luck everyone!!
Autumn Oat, Pumpkin and Almond Cake
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1 1/4 cups finely ground almond meal
- 1 cup gluten-free oat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 eggs
- 3/4 cup cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
- 1/2 cup butter melted
- 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- Vanilla Glaze
- 4 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup softened butter with 1/2 cup of the light brown sugar until smooth. Line the bottoms of two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and evenly dot the parchment paper with pea-sized pieces of the butter-brown sugar mixture. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of sliced almonds over the bottoms of the pans. Set the pans aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, stir together the almond meal, oat flour, and salt until combined. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and remaining 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon of light brown sugar at medium high speed until the mixture doubles in volume, the color turns a very pale yellow, and when you lift the whisk above the mixture a steady silky ribbon of egg mixture falls from it, about 4 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the stand mixture and sift a small amount of the almond oat mixture over the bowl (about 3 tablespoons), then fold it into the batter until combined. It is very important you fold it in and not stir it in, otherwise the cake will loose all of its volume. Repeat until all of the almond oat mixture is incorporated, leaving any big chunks of almonds left in the bottom of the sifter. Add the pumpkin, folding it into the batter until combined, then add the melted butter, and fold that in as well. Sprinkle the chopped dried figs into the batter, then evenly distribute the batter between the two cake pans.
- Bake in the oven until the cakes turn deep gold and spring away from the pan slightly, about 35 to 40 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the oven door sad jar about 6 inches and allow them to cool in the oven for 30 minutes before running a spatula around the edge of the pan and removing them from the pan, allowing them to cool completely on a wire rack, with the sliced almond side facing up.
- To prepare the glaze, whisk together the milk and sour cream until smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk until combined. Add the powdered sugar and continue to whisk until a smooth glaze forms.
- Once the cake has cooled completely, drizzle about 1/2 cup of the glaze over one of the cakes. Place the other cake on top, and drizzle more glaze over it. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sliced almonds over the top of the cake and top with dusted powdered sugar. Serve immediately.