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Ever since I gave birth, it’s like my creativity is on hyperdrive.  I didn’t just give birth to Ruby, but also, 12 million ideas that keep me from sleeping at night.  Has anyone else experienced this after birth?

I’m not sure if it’s that my body was too busy creating its’ own project for the past nine months or if having Ruby has inspired me in ways I didn’t realize.  Was it that the prior fatigue and anxiety of pregnancy and childbirth were creatively stifling or maybe it’s just an inner need to create to maintain a sense of self?  Hell, maybe a mixture of all of them!  Needless to say, it’s a ‘thing’ to the point where if I’m not able to work on something a few times a week during the rare down time I do have, I get crazy restless.  

All that to say… Strawberries were on sale at Aldi’s for 89 cents and like the bargain hoarder that I am, I bought $26 worth.  I had seen videos recently on Facebook about the new ‘brushstroke cake’ craze, so I’ve been dying to try it.  

It’s easier and harder than it looks.  I’m guessing that if you use candy melt coating, it’d be extremely easy.  I think candy coating tastes like poodely oodley (but sets like a dream), so I tried to find a good quality white and dark chocolate instead.  The dark chocolate worked swimmingly.  The white chocolate on the other hand, not so good.

I watched a tutorial that taught you to add color to white chocolate.  You have to mix the color into coconut oil first so that the water in the food coloring won’t seize up the chocolate on contact.  I had grand ideas to make a Memorial Day Cake so I needed lots of vibrant red and blue.  The chocolate just wasn’t turning red enough so I kept adding more color, more color…and more coconut oil, more coconut oil.

When I put my brush strokes in the fridge, the white chocolate ones never set.  Too much coconut oil.  UGH!!  Did I mention I didn’t sleep at all the night before because I was too excited to make the darned thing? Yup, pretty much pulled an all nighter… So I had that going for me- ha! 

So I tried again.  This time sticking to white and dark chocolate, and some light pink hues.  I also made my brush strokes a little thicker.  (Also important as most of my dark chocolate shards broke to pieces). I have to say I’m grateful for so many failures over the years because one of my strengths I’ve gotten out of those experiences as a baker, is that I can always making something out of mistakes!  According to plan, this was all wrong… But I think it came out crazy funky cool.  *cue TLC*

And umm… Happy Memorial Day?  😉

I topped the cake with red colored white chocolate, dipped some strawberries in chocolate, splattered on a little luster dust and edible glitter (though I don’t trust glitter ever being edible- ha!)  I’m also not a huge fan of white chocolate either.

However, the strawberry cake with cream cheese icing and dark chocolate shards?  Totally a winner.  🙂

The cake is only colored with the redness of the strawberry jam, so you want to use the ripest of red berries, if you can.  Otherwise, you can add a couple drops of food color like I did. 

 

If you get the chance, you should definitely try to make this! It’s super moist and flavorful.  You don’t have do any crazy decorating.  Some big rustic swipes in the frosting and a couple of berries on top, would be lovely and inviting! And who doesn’t love strawberries when the weather starts warming up?  Also, be sure to let me know if post-pregnancy creativity was prevalent for you, too!  Super curious about what my muse has been up to…  Happy Monday!  

 

Strawberry Cake From Scratch
Serves 12
Flavorful and moist 9 inch triple layer strawberry cake from scratch! Full of fresh fruit and iced with a yummy cream cheese frosting.
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PUREE
  1. 4 1/2 c. ripe red strawberries
  2. 3/4 c. sugar
BATTER
  1. 1 1/8 c. unsalted butter
  2. 1 3/4 c. sugar
  3. 2 1/4 tsp vanilla
  4. 5 eggs
  5. 2 2/3 c. all purpose flour
  6. 1 1/2 c. wheat pastry flour or cake flour
  7. 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  8. 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  9. 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  10. 1 3/4 c. heavy cream
  11. 1 1/8 c. strawberry puree
  12. Food coloring (optional)
FILLING
  1. 2 c. strawberries sliced
SIMPLE SYRUP
  1. 1 c. water
  2. 1/4 c. sugar
  3. 3 T. gin
FROSTING
  1. 16 oz. cream cheese
  2. 1 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  3. 2 T. vanilla
  4. 1 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar
  5. 2-3 T. milk (if needed)
To make the puree
  1. Combine 4 1/2 c. strawberries and sugar in a large saucepan or pot. Simmer on low until the moisture is removed and berries resemble a jam. (Should be reduced by about half of what you started with). Cool completely.
To make the simple syrup
  1. In a saucepan or microwave, boil the water, sugar and gin until sugar is dissolved. Let cool.
For the batter
  1. Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a another bowl, combine the heavy cream and 1 1/8 c. puree jam. Set aside.
  3. With a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed in your mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and a couple drops of food coloring (if desired).
  4. One at a time, beat in the eggs.
  5. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and beat until barely combined.
  6. Add 1/2 of heavy cream mixture.
  7. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients followed by the remaining cream mixture.
  8. Beat in the last of the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
  9. Distribute evenly into three different 9 inch cake pans.
  10. Bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes, turning the cake pans in the oven halfway.
To make the frosting
  1. Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add vanilla.
  2. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.
  3. (If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon of milk at a time to thin out).
For assembly
  1. Shave off the round domes on each cake until they are level.
  2. Put one cake on a plate and generously dab with simple syrup. Add a decent amount of cream cheese icing.** Layer sliced strawberries over the cake.
  3. Stack another cake on top and repeat.
  4. Stack the last cake bottom side up (to get a smooth top surface).
  5. Frost with remaining icing and decorate as you'd like!
Notes
  1. ** Be careful when icing. The cake is fairly fragile. The frosting needs to be thin enough to spread easily or you will pull crumbs from the cake. If needed, put in the freezer for five minutes before frosting.
Adapted from Rock Recipes
Adapted from Rock Recipes
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/

Yesterday, I got to teach three workshops of kids at our local elementary school’s Young Writer’s Conference.  While I was terrified at the start, I left feeling exhilarated! 

To teach the kids that everyone has their own unique voice and it’s good to think outside the box, I had the younger kids draw ‘abstract apples.’  They were a hoot.  🙂

 

I decided to talk about Living Creatively:

“Living Creatively’ is a workshop that helps provide a solid foundation for a lifetime of  creating.  In this workshop, you’ll learn some myths about what it means to be an artist and come up with your own goals and intentions that will last a lifetime.”

I asked all of my artist friends what they wished they knew in 5th and 6th grade.  With their amazing help, I came up with a ‘Top Ten List’ of how these kids could live a creative, artistic life and do so in a healthy way.  Reading the students feedback I was grateful to know that maybe– to a choice few, we really made a difference. 

While some of them were completing the task at hand because that is what proper students do and some were providing feedback in the way of winning Teacher’s Pet, I was grateful to find a few that were more thoughtful and sincere.

 

I could tell the class meant something to this one. She left with a big smile and walked with a bit more confidence. Gutted me.  

 The day kinda broke me in the best way.  It was amazing to watch these kids. Can you imagine being able to redo the start of your life to know that rejection is something to be excited about?  Or that if it looks like fun, you should try it?  Or that art is worth creating not for cultural success but because our voices are unique and important????

As adults, we learn these things too late.  We wonder why our goals haven’t worked out and one of those reasons, I believe, is because we never created art in our lives in a healthy way.  Watching some of these kids take it all in, was a balm that healed a bit of me in the process.  

This girl is totally an artist. She drank everything in.  I could see the determination in her eyes by the end of class that read, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do this and no one’s gonna stop me.”  Bring beauty to the world, sweet girl!

 

Getting to teach these Top Ten Tips reminded me of how I want to create as an artist so I thought I would share them below.  Thank you to all of my friends for your brilliant suggestions.  So much that resonates in life is so painfully simple and yet we miss it.  It feels good to be reminded. 🙂

 

I got to read part of my children’s story at the start of each workshop.  I was so nervous but totally psyched to see them into it and paying attention.  Lots of them raised their hands and asked if it would be published.  Bless their little hearts… Makes me want to keep writing!

 

 1.  IF IT LOOKS LIKE FUN, TRY IT!

Myth:  “You can only be one thing.”

           “You don’t have the build of a ballerina.”

           “Focus on what you’re good at.”

           “It’s your brother’s thing.  You should try something else.” 

Example:  In my family, I was the dancer.  My older sister was the singer and my other sister was the artist.  I was scared to sing because it was my sister’s thing.  It was my childhood best friend’s thing.  It was my roommate’s thing.  When I finally decided to start singing, it gave me such joy.  I no longer wanted to put myself in a box or limit what I could do.  An accountant can be a writer, a poet can be a mathematician.  There is a little bit of everything in all of us.  These things need nurturing and give us balance.  

Intention:  “I am grateful that I have a mind, body and soul that is interested in so many things!  Trying new things enriches my life and excites me.”

 

2.      YOUR VOICE IS IMPORTANT!

Myth:  “It’s already been done before. Why bother?”

           “I’ll never be J.K. Rowling.”

           “What makes you so special?”

Example:  If I asked everyone in the room to write a story about an apple, every story would be different, wouldn’t it?  One might write a fairy tale about a poison apple, one might write a story about a farmer’s market, and still another might write a crazy abstract poem.  How cool is that?(It turns out, 3rd & 4th graders write about a lot of death and destruction by apples, apple cannibals, etc.)  Our voices are unique and important because there is only one you.  How cool is that!?  

Intention:  “My voice brings something to the world because it is unique.  There is only one me!  Whatever I do creatively, no one will ever do it like me.”

 

I love that she quoted the intention like a mantra.  *swoon*

 

3)  CREATE FOR THE LOVE OF IT/ CREATE CONSTANTLY!

Myth:  “If I’m not making money at it, what’s the point?”

               “I’m only a real artist if I sell something.”

               “People won’t respect what I do unless I’m famous.” 

Example:  Lots of artists in the world create to get somewhere rather than for the joy of it.  Why do you think that is? How many people here play basketball?  Would you consider yourself a basketball player? So clearly you don’t need to be Michael Jordan to be a basketball player, right?  And yet, playing more and more makes us better.  

Intention:  “I am a successful artist because I am always creating constantly.  The process is valuable and brings me joy!  My art brings beauty to the world and gives me balance. I am always creating new things!”

4)  MAKE THINGS YOU LIKE!

Myth:  “This person I admire doesn’t like it.  It must not be very good.”

           “What I do isn’t popular!”

           “People don’t understand my art.”

Example:  I was listening to a podcast recently about a girl that spent her life writing poetry.  When the time came, she applied to 12 graduate programs for poetry.  She was rejected from all twelve!!! She respected those opinions as they were amazing schools.  Can you imagine her disappointment?  Can you imagine what she must have thought about herself as artist?  Eventually she started writing poems again and while I’m not sure what became of her, I know that it brought joy to her life and those around her.  While constructive criticism is important, YOUR opinion is the only one that matters.  Not everyone may understand what you’re doing.  And that’s okay.  They’re not your audience. 

Intention:  “I love what I create and I understand what I do.  I create for me because I think what I make is fun and super cool!”

5)  DO WHAT SCARES YOU!

Myth: “You can’t possibly do that.  That would be insane.”

             “It’s irresponsible to trust your gut.” 

             “I was born this way.  I can’t change how I am.”

Example:  Sometimes in our lives, we pigeonhole ourselves into one thing.  We forget that we’re capable of more than we realize.  Sometimes doing what scares you means swimming with sharks but sometimes it can be a conversation.  It can mean being honest about your feelings and being vulnerable.  Not many of us have gone swimming with sharks and yet we all know what anxiety and fear feels like, right?  Sometimes even being a shy person can make us afraid to step out of our comfort zones. Powering through anxiety, worry and fear, makes us stronger.  It makes us more confident and it’s so rewarding. Whether it’s our families, society or our own inner voice, don’t ever tell yourself you can’t do something.  You have it in you!  Go beyond your fear!  

Intention:  “I do what scares me!  I am capable of more than I realize.  I do not allow myself or others to put me in a box.  Being brave stretches my limits and makes me stronger!”

6)  HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF

Myth:  “I’m going to fail.”

              “I could never call myself an artist.”

              “They probably have somebody else that can do it better.”

Example:  What we tell ourselves on a daily basis can be really negative sometimes.  We see others succeed and we get jealous.  Maybe we think someone has all the luck or more talent than we do.  Having confidence in yourself is everything!  Trust your instincts and trust your gut.  Let your muse lead the way and stay on track to accomplishing your goals.    

Intention:  “I am proud to call myself an artist.  I am passionate about creativity and what I create!  I believe in my ideas and myself with enthusiasm and excite those around me.”

7)  BE EXCITED ABOUT NO’S!

 Myth:  “They didn’t want me. My work is terrible.”

               “It’s a sign.  I should give up.”

               “I just think you need to be more realistic.”

              “It’ll never become anything.”

Example:  My friend Dena is an independent filmmaker.  When she has to get funding for movies, she makes hundreds of calls. To not get down about rejection, she takes a sticky pad of notes and sticks them to her wall.  On every post-it is written the word ‘NO!’ and only on one post-it is the word ‘YES!’  Every time she is rejected, she pulls a ‘NO!’ off of her wall.  She gets so excited because she gets closer and closer to that ‘YES!’  What a great way to think about life, huh? How many of us get down after just being rejected once and she does this all of the time!  You can, too!  

Intention:  “I am grateful for all responses to my work!  I get excited by hearing a ‘no!’  It means I’m one step closer to getting a yes!”

8)  BE CURIOUS AND INSPIRED BY EVERYTHING AROUND YOU!

Myth:  “Get your head out of the clouds.”

                “Stop dilly dally-ing.”

                “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”

  Example:  My husband and I go for walks everyday.  When I’m out for a walk my mind is on a hamster wheel thinking of everything I need to get done.  I just want to get home so I can start checking things off of my list.  He, on the other hand, is incredibly observant and curious.  When I’m thinking about laundry, he will pick up a cool looking stone and say, “Look at this cool purple streak, hon!”  It always reminds me to take time to stop and smell the roses and to be grateful for the world around me.  Not to mention that purple streak could be inspiration for a painting!  You never know… 

Future psychologist, maybe? The next Ernest Hemingway? I never mentioned creating due to poetic things like ‘tragic moments’ but dang, if that doesn’t work as well.  

9)  MAKE TIME TO BE ALONE/ TAKE YOURSELF ON ARTIST DATES

Myth:  “You never hang out with us anymore.”

               “It’s weird to spend time by yourself.” 

                “You went to a gallery alone?”

Example:  As a creative person, you might need more alone time than most and that’s totally okay!  Being alone can help get us out of our heads.  It’s a time to play!  Being alone can help us connect with our muse and let’s our imagination run wild.  It’s also great to read all sorts of books, watch movies, reach poetry, paint, draw– things that you’re not entirely interested in!  It enriches our lives and you never know where you’ll find inspiration! 

Intention:  “I am so grateful for my alone time.  I make this quiet time for myself to get in touch with my muse and create ideas.  It allows me to chill out and be open to inspiration.”  

10)  BE PASSIONATE 

Myth:  “It’s really hard to make a living at that, you know.”

           “You should go to school for that first.”

           “She’s been singing for years. You’re only getting started now?”

Example:   When you’re passionate about something, people want what you have.  Imagine if I came in here today like Eeyore to tell you all about living creatively.  But if I’m excited and passionate because I believe in myself and creativity, it’s way more exciting isn’t it?  When you’re passionate about something people want to support you and get behind you.  Use that passion in life to propel you forward.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make a living creatively or that you have to do your life a certain way.    

Intention:  “I am passionate about creating and open to being a successful artist. I even inspire others to create!”