Householders and Cake

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As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I’ve been trying to make the best use of all the food I canned, froze and stored last winter. I’ve found new inspiration recently from reading A Householder’s Guide to the Universe by Harriet Fasenfest. I had been intrigued by the book for a while but it wasn’t until I came across a copy at the library I decided to check it out. It is always interesting to read about people’s approaches to living a more sustainable, homemade life and it pushes me to do more now and keep things in mind for the future. 

A Householder’s Guide to the Universe inspired me both ideologically and practically. Harriet Fasenfest writes about the year in her Portland, Oregon backyard as she grows, gathers, and preserves nearly all the food her family eats. Her book reminded me that I’m not be the only one choosing to live a small, homemade life because that is the best way that I know how to make the world a better place. Of course everyone has their own idea of what would make the world better, but Harriet Fasenfest points out that householding is a way of moving away from our industrial economy and food system and toward our homes, neighborhoods and communities. She writes, “Householding attacks and reenvisions the systems that have betrayed us and replaces them with something that is reasoned and in scale with the world.”

I often think about the small choices that add up to make a difference in the world. Mostly I think about how we voice our choices with the money we spend but reading this book reminded me that the way you spend your time also manifests the things you care about. I like knowing that making and preserving food myself might actually matter to the world. It may be small but I’ve long believed in being the change I want to see, rather than just fighting what I don’t like. Along the lines of Radical Homemakers, by Shannon Hayes, Harriet Fasenfest suggests that we can choose to live rich and beautiful lives centered around the tangible needs of our household. She is honest and candid about the work it takes: the time, energy, motivation and muscles that are needed to grow and preserve the food that you will eat for the year.

In reading this book, I was also inspired by the ways that Harriet Fasenfest makes use of all the food she has stored. I hadn’t thought of making cobblers from frozen fruit or using canned fruit for an upside down cake or buying beans and grains in greater bulk directly from farmers. I aim to center our eating around the food I’ve put up and was glad to get some new ideas for using preserves. Until yesterday I hadn’t used any of the three jars of plum jam I made in September. I decided to use one jar for partially successful plum jam upside down cake. If I had remembered that the jam might leak out the bottom of my tart pan and used a different pan instead, it would have been a complete success. The cake was so good, though, that I still want to share the recipe.


Olive Oil Cake (Jam Optional)
Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
This cake has an amazing texture which reminds me of the perfect, fluffy birthday cake. The olive oil flavor pairs nicely with jam, you could use almost any kind. If you are not using jam, you could stir in chopped rosemary and dark chocolate, as the original recipe called for. Fruit or citrus zest would also be wonderful.

1 cup whole spelt flour
1 1/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup olive oil, plus a little for the pan
3/4 cup milk
3 eggs

Optional: 1 pint of jam (I used plum jam and sprinkled in some finely chopped crystallized ginger)

Preheat the oven to 350′. Brush a 9-inch round pan with olive oil. If using jam, make sure it is a pan that won’t leak! Spread the jam on the bottom of the oiled pan.

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a two cup measuring cup, measure the olive oil and milk. Add the eggs and beat to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix gently until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown and a skewer or fork inserted comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes and then flip the cake out of the pan so that the jam side is up. Serve when cooled.

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1 Comment

  1. Erica/Northwest Edible Life

    March 28, 2012 at 1:07 am

    Lovely tribute to a lovely way of life. Sharing and tagging both Harriet and Shannon so they make sure to read as well. Cheers, Erica.

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