Intro

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Mmind is in a perpetual state of rapid spinning lately. Many projects to tend to, classes to teach, children getting older, dishes to be done, and as always, changes for the family. I guess that is life – the constant striving for balance and struggle to stay afloat in the midst of the continual ebb and flow, but it feels as if lately everything is dotted with an exclamation point.
It doesn’t help, and let me be real honest with you all, that I feel as if my I am an open wound, susceptible to the slightest nudging or faintest prick. I go through seasons of self-doubt – oh believe me, those doubts are always there but there are days when they sit on a cozy little couch in the front of my mind whispering, or more likely, screaming at me. “You can’t say that!” “What are you doing?!” “Do you really think people want to read that? eat that? see that?” Even now as I try to write the things this internal editor screams. She (I don’t know why but she feels like a she) warns me not to be so raw, not to allow the uglies to be seen – the side of me that is riled with insecurity and desperately longs for approval.
In this state I find myself staring at a blank screen wanting so badly for the passion that is burning inside of me and the surge of creativity that is coinciding with this season of doubt to somehow form itself onto the screen into a perfect narrative tied up nicely with a satin bow. But instead I spend what brief time I have flitting about in Internet-land while I wait for the inner voice to quiet enough for me to actually get something accomplished.
My point in exposing this part of me is not that you would throw shouts of approval my way – although, I appreciate it and you people have been so incredibly encouraging in many dark times – but, more so as a bit of therapy for myself in which I invite all of you to sit on the chaise along side of me and also, to open up the discussion as to how you deal with these seasons in your own lives.
Now I realize that this isn’t the normal 300 word sugary sweet intro one might expect when discussing cake – did I mention there will be cake? But in my world food, emotions, community, and life are completely interwoven and as they say – you can’t have one without the other.
As I’ve had to navigate these seasons in the past I’ve learned a few simple changes can almost immediately set me straight once again. One might think then that I’ve got it figured out and we could simply move on to the cake but the reality is while I often know what I should be doing I don’t do it. Call me a toddler.
I have learned that there are times when I need to pull away from Twitter and Facebook. Social media is a wonderful, yet strange creature. I am so grateful for friendships that have developed and opportunities that have been born out of a regular dialogue through these sites but they do, often, paint an unrealistic picture of life. It’s far too easy for me to watch my Twitter stream and dream of the citron grass on the other side with it’s lush softness and lack of weeds. I’m sure one may look at my Twitter page and sometimes think, “Man, that Ashley. All she ever does is eat ice cream and eat great food.” While the ice cream part is true there are definitely frozen burrito days and take-out nights.
Looking to others thinking thoughts of “why isn’t that me?” “How come they get have all the fun?!” It’s ugly, it’s gross and it’s not reality. Really, I wouldn’t change my life for one moment and I feel exactly where I am meant to be but the temptation to be envious and long for something that is not meant for me is a complete distraction from what I should be doing and makes me sound like the child whom I am trying to instruct to stop whining, be grateful for what you have and focus on what you CAN do and what you are meant to do.
This weekend, in an effort to halt this season and become productive once again, I stayed off Twitter (except to post the occasional photo of my children coated in chocolate gelato), didn’t check my Facebook feed and I let the blog sit quiet. I read a book (a very good one in fact), I ate cake made by a friend, we went for a walk. We sat in the grass, watched movies, and friends – I took. a. nap. I literally just sighed as I typed that.
I’m not healed, nor will I ever be. This sensitivity and proclivity to doubt is part of what makes me, me. The flip side of this ugly coin is a person who is keenly aware of the emotions of those around her, who tries to encourage those close in my life in a way that I hope they will never have to experience these painful thoughts and self-doubt.
I am, now, feeling much better and I’m ready for more cake.
While we enjoy our cake together I’d really love to hear your thoughts. Have you felt this way too? If so, what are your ways of pulling yourself out? It’s quite an exercise in strength to allow yourself to be vulnerable but the rewards are so great and I really do want to foster a community of honesty so that we can learn and grow from one another.
Poppy Seed Cake
created using Rhulman’s Ratio
4 eggs + 1 yolk
1 cup sugar (8 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ¾ cup (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup poppy seeds
2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, melted and cool
Pre-heat your oven to 350*. Spray and line with parchment paper three 8” rounds (or 2 9”).
In the bowl of a stand mixer add the eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and vinegar. Gentle warm over a large pot of simmering water whisking the eggs while resting the bowl over the pot. (If you are very brave and have a gas burner, do as I do and place the bowl right of the stove set to low. Continually move the bowl to avoid hot spots and whisk constantly. But please do be so careful). This step isn’t necessary but if you do skip it, at the very least use room temperature eggs as warm eggs invite more air in while whisking, creating a lighter cake in the end.
Whip the  warm eggs on medium high until tripled in volume, about 3 – 5 minutes. The final whipped eggs should be a faint yellow, like butter.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, poppy seeds, and baking powder. Whisk to combine.
With the mixer on low, carefully add the dry ingredients. While there are still little pockets of flour, start adding the melted and cooled butter. Turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing by hand. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is incorporated. You are more likely to over-mix by using a machine which is why I prefer to finish off the cake by hand.
Divide the batter into your three prepared cake pans and bake until just golden around the edges and when you gently press the cake it will spring back. This will take about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack to let them cool completely.
Mascarpone Frosting
½ cup Mascarpone
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream the Mascarpone and butter together until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the salt and powdered sugar. Stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and vanilla.
1 pint strawberries
Wash the berries and reserve a few of the prettiest ones to sit atop the cake. With the rest of the berries remove the green and quarter them. If yours are like mine and need a little nudge of sweetness sprinkle with sugar – my preference is brown sugar.
Assembling the cake
On a cake stand place your first layer. On top of that add about ¼ of the frosting. It will be a very thin layer of frosting. Scatter half of the strawberries on top of that. Take your second cake layer and place the top onto the strawberries. Repeat the process of frosting and berries. Finish with the third layer, again with the top of the cake resting against the berries. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and finish with the reserved small, pretty strawberries.

My mind is in a perpetual state of rapid spinning lately. Many projects to tend to, classes to teach, children getting older, dishes to be done, and as always, changes for the family. I guess that is life – the constant striving for balance and struggle to stay afloat in the midst of the continual ebb and flow, but it feels as if lately everything is dotted with an exclamation point.

It doesn’t help, and let me be real honest with you all, that I feel as if my I am an open wound, susceptible to the slightest nudging or faintest prick. I go through seasons of self-doubt – oh believe me, those doubts are always there but there are days when they sit on a cozy little couch in the front of my mind whispering, or more likely, screaming at me. “You can’t say that!” “What are you doing?!” “Do you really think people want to read that? eat that? see that?” Even now as I try to write the things this internal editor screams. She (I don’t know why but she feels like a she) warns me not to be so raw, not to allow the uglies to be seen – the side of me that is riled with insecurity and desperately longs for approval.

In this state I find myself staring at a blank screen wanting so badly for the passion that is burning inside of me and the surge of creativity that is coinciding with this season of doubt to somehow form itself onto the screen into a perfect narrative tied up nicely with a satin bow. But instead I spend what brief time I have flitting about in Internet-land while I wait for the inner voice to quiet enough for me to actually get something accomplished.

My point in exposing this part of me is not that you would throw shouts of approval my way – although, I appreciate it and you people have been so incredibly encouraging in many dark times – but, more so as a bit of therapy for myself in which I invite all of you to sit on the chaise along side of me and also, to open up the discussion as to how you deal with these seasons in your own lives.

Now I realize that this isn’t the normal 300 word sugary sweet intro one might expect when discussing cake – did I mention there will be cake? But in my world food, emotions, community, and life are completely interwoven and as they say – you can’t have one without the other.

5759874450_dc8041e5d1_b

As I’ve had to navigate these seasons in the past I’ve learned a few simple changes can almost immediately set me straight once again. One might think then that I’ve got it figured out and we could simply move on to the cake but the reality is while I often know what I should be doing I don’t do it. Call me a toddler.

I have learned that there are times when I need to pull away from Twitter and Facebook. Social media is a wonderful, yet strange creature. I am so grateful for friendships that have developed and opportunities that have been born out of a regular dialogue through these sites but they do, often, paint an unrealistic picture of life. It’s far too easy for me to watch my Twitter stream and dream of the citron grass on the other side with it’s lush softness and lack of weeds. I’m sure one may look at my Twitter page and sometimes think, “Man, that Ashley. All she ever does is eat ice cream and eat great food.” While the ice cream part is true there are definitely frozen burrito days and take-out nights.

5759333859_59876a35c6_b

Looking to others thinking thoughts of “why isn’t that me?” “How come they get have all the fun?!” It’s ugly, it’s gross and it’s not reality. Really, I wouldn’t change my life for one moment and I feel exactly where I am meant to be but the temptation to be envious and long for something that is not meant for me is a complete distraction from what I should be doing and makes me sound like the child whom I am trying to instruct to stop whining, be grateful for what you have and focus on what you CAN do and what you are meant to do.

This weekend, in an effort to halt this season and become productive once again, I stayed off Twitter (except to post the occasional photo of my children coated in chocolate gelato), didn’t check my Facebook feed and I let the blog sit quiet. I read a book (a very good one in fact), I ate cake made by a friend, we went for a walk. We sat in the grass, watched movies, and friends – I took. a. nap. I literally just sighed as I typed that.

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I’m not healed, nor will I ever be. This sensitivity and proclivity to doubt is part of what makes me, me. The flip side of this ugly coin is a person who is keenly aware of the emotions of those around her, who tries to encourage those close in my life in a way that I hope they will never have to experience these painful thoughts and self-doubt.

I am, now, feeling much better and I’m ready for more cake.

While we enjoy our cake together I’d really love to hear your thoughts. Have you felt this way too? If so, what are your ways of pulling yourself out? It’s quite an exercise in strength to allow yourself to be vulnerable but the rewards are so great and I really do want to foster a community of honesty so that we can learn and grow from one another.

5759874230_9fd81ce54a_b (1)

Poppy Seed Cake

created using Ruhlman’s Ratio

4 eggs + 1 yolk

1 cup sugar (8 ounces)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 ¾ cup (8 ounces) all-purpose flour

¼ cup poppy seeds

2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, melted and cool

Pre-heat your oven to 350*. Spray and line with parchment paper three 8” rounds (or 2 9”).

In the bowl of a stand mixer add the eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and vinegar. Gentle warm over a large pot of simmering water whisking the eggs while resting the bowl over the pot. (If you are very brave and have a gas burner, do as I do and place the bowl right of the stove set to low. Continually move the bowl to avoid hot spots and whisk constantly. But please do be so careful). This step isn’t necessary but if you do skip it, at the very least use room temperature eggs as warm eggs invite more air in while whisking, creating a lighter cake in the end.

Whip the  warm eggs on medium high until tripled in volume, about 3 – 5 minutes. The final whipped eggs should be a faint yellow, like butter.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, poppy seeds, and baking powder. Whisk to combine.

With the mixer on low, carefully add the dry ingredients. While there are still little pockets of flour, start adding the melted and cooled butter. Turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing by hand. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is incorporated. You are more likely to over-mix by using a machine which is why I prefer to finish off the cake by hand.

Divide the batter into your three prepared cake pans and bake until just golden around the edges and when you gently press the cake it will spring back. This will take about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack to let them cool completely.

Mascarpone Frosting

½ cup Mascarpone

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the Mascarpone and butter together until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the salt and powdered sugar. Stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and vanilla.

1 pint strawberries

Wash the berries and reserve a few of the prettiest ones to sit atop the cake. With the rest of the berries remove the green and quarter them. If yours are like mine and need a little nudge of sweetness sprinkle with sugar – my preference is brown sugar.

Assembling the cake

On a cake stand place your first layer. On top of that add about ¼ of the frosting. It will be a very thin layer of frosting. Scatter half of the strawberries on top of that. Take your second cake layer and place the top onto the strawberries. Repeat the process of frosting and berries. Finish with the third layer, again with the top of the cake resting against the berries. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and finish with the reserved small, pretty strawberries.

 

Poppy seed cake, mascarpone frosting, strawberries

 

Poppy Seed Cake

created using Ruhlman’s Ratio

4 eggs + 1 yolk

1 cup sugar (8 ounces)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 ¾ cup (8 ounces) all-purpose flour

¼ cup poppy seeds

2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, melted and cool

Pre-heat your oven to 350*. Spray and line with parchment paper three 8” rounds (or 2 9”).

In the bowl of a stand mixer add the eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and vinegar. Gentle warm over a large pot of simmering water whisking the eggs while resting the bowl over the pot. (If you are very brave and have a gas burner, do as I do and place the bowl right of the stove set to low. Continually move the bowl to avoid hot spots and whisk constantly. But please do be so careful). This step isn’t necessary but if you do skip it, at the very least use room temperature eggs as warm eggs invite more air in while whisking, creating a lighter cake in the end.

Whip the  warm eggs on medium high until tripled in volume, about 3 – 5 minutes. The final whipped eggs should be a faint yellow, like butter.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, poppy seeds, and baking powder. Whisk to combine.

With the mixer on low, carefully add the dry ingredients. While there are still little pockets of flour, start adding the melted and cooled butter. Turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing by hand. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is incorporated. You are more likely to over-mix by using a machine which is why I prefer to finish off the cake by hand.

Divide the batter into your three prepared cake pans and bake until just golden around the edges and when you gently press the cake it will spring back. This will take about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack to let them cool completely.

Mascarpone Frosting

½ cup Mascarpone

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the Mascarpone and butter together until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the salt and powdered sugar. Stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and vanilla.

1 pint strawberries

Wash the berries and reserve a few of the prettiest ones to sit atop the cake. With the rest of the berries remove the green and quarter them. If yours are like mine and need a little nudge of sweetness sprinkle with sugar – my preference is brown sugar.

Assembling the cake

On a cake stand place your first layer. On top of that add about ¼ of the frosting. It will be a very thin layer of frosting. Scatter half of the strawberries on top of that. Take your second cake layer and place the top onto the strawberries. Repeat the process of frosting and berries. Finish with the third layer, again with the top of the cake resting against the berries. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and finish with the reserved small, pretty strawberries.

91 Responses to “Poppy seed cake, mascarpone frosting, strawberries”

  1. Ashley C.

    This cake sounds amazing!! But somedays, even the most delicious cake wont shake me from my “funk”. I have in fact found something that does. Im not a smoker not will I ever be but I call it my “smoke”. What is this I am referring too you might ask?? Well, my friend, its ZUMBA! I love Zumba, Im a broke Zumba Junkie, so I dont get to go as often as I like. I am quite insecure about things and have never really been outgoing, so trying Zumba was intimidating. But I fell in love fast. Havent stopped since. Even if you dont need the workout its a blast. Maybe its the instructor, I dunno, but if you havent tried it, you should. The way I feel afterwards is like nothing Ive ever felt after exercising. I have more energy after class than I had all day. Good luck on getting outta your “funk”!
    -Ashley
    p.s. I really stepped outside my comfort zone to post a comment on a blog I religiously follow, but I just had to! :)

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Ashley – Thanks so much for the comment! I HAVE tried Zumba and I loved it. Such great advice. I would love to do it more and really there are no excuses, except that there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

      Reply
  2. Thea

    Yes, ma’am, I do have those moments! I think you said something to the effect of “be grateful for what you do have and what you can do,” and, in those moments, that’s absolutely essential for me. When doubt kicks in, I know that I’m listening to the expectations of others too often, rather than settling into God, and trusting that he made me the way he did – and gave me the life he did – with good reason.

    I hope you’re well, and I’m glad that you took the time to share this! Also, the cake looks stunning. So many of your photos make me want to eat them, never mind the cakes. I know, that’s weird. And lazy.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Thanks Thea. Let me assure you the photos are NOT as delicious as the cake itself. I’ll make it for you sometime. :)
      I think you hit a really good point – the expectations of others. For me it’s mostly the expectations I put on myself rather than really prayerfully considering exactly where it is God needs me.

      Reply
  3. Maria White

    How is it that your brain and heart are connected to mine? I have been feeling the same way. But I have a couple ways to help keep it at bay. Yrs ago, I put a hair elastic on my wrist. Whenever those nasty self-doubting thoughts entered my head, I’d snap that elastic. Kinda a real “snap outta it” Cher in my head moment. Now, I just say it out loud. This week, I have been walking outside. Feel the breeze on my face. Look up at the sky and marvel that I am but a speck in this great big world. Hope that can help you.

    I am currently just up the road from you in Edmonds. I’m in town for 1 more week. I simply love being home in the NW. Cheers to you and your teaching/baking/cooking. I’d love to take a class on my next visit home. And I will make that cake.

    Reply
  4. Kathryn

    I think the only way to get through that kind of funk is to do something familiar to remind yourself of what your life is all about. Whether it’s baking your favourite cookie, giving the kitchen a good clean or just taking a walk round the block, it all helps.

    The cake, by the way, is gorgeous as expected.

    Reply
  5. Cristina

    I feel the same way too much of the time. One way I cope is to tell myself that no one is as harsh a critic of me as I am. Some CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) techniques might be of use to you, CBT kind of help you to talk to yourself differently to break negative thought patterns. A podcast that helps me, and that I love anyway is CogKnitive, a knitting and psychology podcast–the podcaster, Dr. Gemma, is a prison psychologist and there is a life strategy in every episode, one of them is self-talk. She’s really helpful!

    Thank you for your lovely blog.

    Reply
  6. Shakila @ thirdculturekitchen

    Oh, i love this post. and self-doubt is an ugly little monster. comparisons with others. i think the paradox is that to keep the internet fresh, we all need to withdraw from it once in a while and go to the source of inspiration within ourselves. it’s hard to do. there is so much information, so many wonderful people doing wonderful things. but i find it takes me away from myself, and when that happens, i lose my center, i lose my voice and i start comparing. then it’s no fun.

    so i stay focused on what i love – baking, cooking, writing, reading, the thrill of coming up with a post that ties everything up nicely, learning to take photos, even rejoicing in my goof-ups. the key for me is that i’ve just got to stop caring what other people think. i don’t mean that in a rude way – it’s just that approval-seeking is addictive and if that becomes my reason for doing what i do, it’s a slippery slope. when the approval doesn’t come, i crash. the constant has to be joy in the activity itself.

    somewhere, blogging has become so much about popularity and competition rather than creative expression. i can’t compete and i don’t want to. i’ve learned to be okay with where i am. so i no longer check site stats obsessively, i focus on cookbooks and learning, always learning and just being happy within my own world. i don’t think that means you become anti-social or something, you just become more authentic, and then you can offer something that is true.

    like you did in this post!

    Reply
  7. Jenn B.

    “But it feels as if lately everything is dotted with an exclamation point.”

    I can’t tell you how accurately this quote from your post describes my past week. You see I just moved and started a new job and my perception of what I think other people are thinking of me was getting in the way. The insecurity and doubts were running rampant and its been an uncontrollable downward spiral in which every time I try to reach out for help, I feel like I’m literally throwing up ugliness on the other person. I fear that they won’t be able to handle me or that they won’t care, and I’ll be misunderstood and alone. But your post and especially this quote, really showed me that I’m not alone.

    This time there have been a few things that have restored my soul, alone time, sleep!, cooking, and spending time with God. I just needed to create a place to escape from all the perceived/mis-perceived expectations. Thank you for sharing so I know I’m not alone.

    Reply
  8. Charlotte doolittle

    Ashley, once again you have exposed yourself to your readers – the people who have never met you but follow your blog, those who know you superficially, and those who know you intimately. And that exposure shows us all what a beautiful brave compassionate person you truly are. Thank you for touching our hearts. YOU are amazing!

    Reply
  9. Anna

    First of all, the cake looks unbelievable gorgeous. I love layer cakes filled with strawberries and I can’t wait until we have some berries we can pick around here. It seems like so many of us are trying to put our best thoughts, ideas, images forward on blogs and social media. I know that I am always inspired by the beautiful images/thoughts/experiences that I see, but it can be overwhelming when it seems like everyone else is doing amazing things and I feel quite mediocre. With so much going on in cyberspace (or whatever) it is hard to remember to connect with everything that is real and surrounding me. The hardest part for me is to remember to appreciate all the good things that I have and not always long for something else, as you mentioned. Being connected to so many people and things via the internet is definitely a double edged sword of good and difficult. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Reply
  10. Darlynne

    Ashley, we’ve all been sitting on that chaise or something like it, by ourselves, together and now with you, for a very long time. When the doubts and ugliness turn and look in my direction, these days, I open my hands and say, “I forgive you, Darlynne.” Sometimes I have to say it more than once over the course of my day, but I say it, I accept it, and I’m free.

    Pax. Strawberries. And thanks.

    Reply
  11. Melissa @ thefauxmartha

    This post was so refreshing. I often times sit infront of my twitter feed and gawk, and wish, and covet. You’re right—it is ugly. Thank you for this reminder—for being raw.

    PS—now I’m wiping the drool off my mouth after gawking over your cake. It’s absolutely beautiful! Trying real hard not to wish I had a piece of that ;)

    Reply
  12. Joana Gomes

    I’ve been going through this type of phase on and off since I was a pre-teen. I’ve always had the tendency for depression and I have terrible self-esteem, so I truly know what it feels like to always doubt yourself and have trouble realizing you can do something (anything!). I don’t know if I’m the right person to give tips but forcing myself to go out sometimes is useful in these situations. To be honest, I still have a hard time figuring out how to handle this. But I hope you find a way soon!

    Reply
  13. Allison

    Thank you for being so open and honest. What you’ve written about is so applicable in my own life. It’s so easy for me to forget the ways I have been blessed and look only to the places where other people are doing things that I am not. You’re so right that social media often serves only to perpetuate the discontent.

    I’ll admit that sometimes in those moods, I just ride it out. I’m not sure if this is giving in or realistically acknowledging that this too will pass and I just have to push through. A healthy dose of perspective often helps too – when I’m feeling most discontent (which in my case is almost always accompanied with a whomping sense of self-entitlement), I am inclined to wallow and not want to do anything. But when I make myself go to my church or participate in some event or do something genuine and thoughtful for a friend…I usually end up thinking less about myself and getting outside of my head – always a good thing for me! :)

    I’m glad you had the opportunity to step back this weekend and let the clouds clear a bit. (Now for the clouds over Seattle to clear. Sigh) And that cake looks magnificent.

    Reply
  14. Annalisa

    Thanks for sharing this reality so simply and helpfully–I completely relate. I would agree with the exercise suggestion. Regular exercise has been one of the best helps for me and I can feel it emotionally when I’m off for a week even. And just getting out of my own head, which I think you understand since you talked about getting out with friends, simply not sitting with your thoughts in front of the screen, etc =). And lastly, just practicing the art of faith. Allowing myself to understand and live the reality that goodness does not come from me, but from my Savior’s work on my behalf. I don’t think a book alone is the answer, but the Spirit did use Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book Because He Loves Me tremendously in some of these areas of the mind and heart for me. I think the idea of God’s love was something I thought I was “past” needing to revisit or dwell upon, but she proved me happily wrong. But endurance is a wonderful gift–just think, every time you go through another of these phases, you’ve can be one bit less ashamed and one bit more hopeful. Ro 5. It is so hard each time (I know… ugh), but each time you manage to find grace resilient and the Spirit’s provision sufficient, you prove our hope to be as incorruptible and indefilable as it is(and offer it to those reading your beautiful words here as well)!

    Reply
  15. bianca

    Oh Ashley, thank you for your candor. I find myself becoming envious reading peoples twitter or facebook- friends are marrying, buying homes, settling into well paying careers, as I remain single and try to make a career out of something some would call silly- writing. It really is refreshing to hear from someone I look up to -you- that we all have these pangs of self doubt. But when those nasty voices quiet and do what I do, I feel right. I guess that is part of this crazy ass journey called life.

    On a lighter and tastier note, lovely cake and photos!

    Reply
  16. Kocinera

    First of all, I say major kudos to you for voicing your opinion and just being real. Sometimes that’s a tough thing to do, especially when you’re feeling doubtful of how it may be received.

    Secondly, I can relate to the social media bug very well. While I love to hear what’s going on in my friends’ lives on Facebook, or get to know someone new from their blog, I find myself getting caught in the envy trap plenty of times. Due to financial concerns, I’m living at home for college and we’re all dealing with my dad having been unemployed for almost a year now. At times, I see my friends going on vacations and studying abroad, or buying cute clothes at Anthropologie and, as I like to say it, I start sipping my “Hater-ade”. Envy is a slippery slope that can lead us downhill very quickly and completely ruin a good mood for nothing. So I, like you, do try to stop the process and remember that I am blessed. At the end of the day, there are more important things than luxury vacations or brand new cars. There’s family, health, creativity, and much more, including cake. Cake always helps. :D

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Kocinera – oh my word. “Hater-ade” I love it. Such a great reminder to focus on what we do have. It’s so hard, especially in our culture, to feel entitled to have more. Thank you for the comment.

      Reply
  17. Kelsi

    Hi Ashley,
    I’ve followed your blog off-and-on when I’m looking for something yummy to make, and this post (read while sick in bed, home from work) struck a chord with me.
    Here’s a little (sort of long) story as to why:
    I’m 28 and anticipating my wedding next month. My beau is finishing his degree in photography, of the “edgy” contemporary art variety. At one point I was convinced we could shoot wedding photography as a couple, but it’s just not his thing…it took awhile for me to get it into my thick skull that our destiny was NOT, in fact, going to involve getting paid to travel all over to shoot people’s special days and getting to chill with Whitney and Jesse from Our Labor of Love (haha). This wasn’t his path. So I accepted it and moved on. Fast forward to a few (hormonal) days ago: I was doing the daily blog routine, poking around to take a peek at the photo-shoot-worthy weddings that are plastered everywhere, and then I popped onto your blog and saw some pictures of your kids. And the envy struck me again….why don’t we have kids and a nice house yet? It’s not that we won’t have kids, but because my beau wants to be a bit more settled in a career before a baby, wisely, we’re waiting a couple of years. I didn’t want to be approaching my mid-thirties before we had a child, but sometimes life goes in directions that you can’t quite control, and you have to accept it.
    Beyond the child issue, with the wedding planning, I have at least mastered the mantra of “my wedding is not a photo shoot.” I am happy that with my wedding, I am completely satisfied with everything and no longer feel a need to keep up with the Joneses. It is a trap to see beautiful, select photos everywhere that bloggers deem appropriate to put up for the world to see, but not everyone is a perfectly gorgeous couple, or has a massive budget, or has a kick-ass photographer that costs $10K. And that’s all right with me.
    The dilemma for many of us, is, I think, the sheer amount of information that’s out there, and how easy it is for our brains to start thinking that this is what everyone else must have. Perfectly composed breakfasts, a dashing husband who plans surprise weekend trips, zero diaper blowouts, cake every day on the cutest vintage cake stand, 976 pictures of oneself, always smiling, on Facebook (ok, no one really likes that much narcissism). We all eat it up but it’s not our day-to-day reality.
    Keep being real, vulnerability can be a powerful tool for your own growth as a human being. And it’s always nice to see gorgeous photos WITH a health dose of a written reality check. :)

    Reply
  18. TheFromagette

    Ya know what Ash? We just need some summer here in the Northwet:)
    It’s been a late year and we’ve been urged along by glimpses of summer and seasonal tastes from our Farmer’s markets… and just as we leap for freedom from the gray days… they’re back. Argh… summer’s coming – hang in there!

    Reply
  19. Charlotte au Chocolat

    this cake looks absolutely delicious, and the pictures are simply stunning- I especially loved the first one. Facebook and twitter definitely contribute to a distorted sense of reality and what other people’s lives are like… I do hope you come out of your “funk” quickly… I can only agree with previous commenters that getting out of your own head (and screen) helps- exercise, meeting friends, even just taking a walk….

    Reply
  20. Michelle

    Amen – the funny thing we all go there. We all do. I do. I have wanted to turn off my blog, walk away and never ever even think that I started down this road. I often feel like the unpopular kid at school, there are a bunch of bullies all around me and no one wants to listen or give me the time of day. Then one stranger stops by and writes a sweet comment, someone says thank you and I feel a bit better. I feel goo when I know that all this is for me. I want to produce what I am doing. I want to be doing this. I am not doing this to be cool, I don’t live in a hip city like Seattle, LA our NYC. I don’t live on a ranch. I am Michelle and that is pretty damn cool.
    Chin up chica. chin up. There is so much love around you. You are wonderful!

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Michelle – Such a sad but true analogy of the bullies. It’s hard to relive those junior high emotions of just wanting to be accepted and praised. Thank you so much for the encouragement. You are such a faithful commenter. You always brighten my day.

      Reply
  21. Sis

    After years of covering up the effects of an abusive husband and a divorce with big laughs and lots of jokes, blogging was my therapy. Still is, in many ways. :) Just like cooking, and photography. And my family. And knowing I’m a child of God. What could be better than that? :)

    Keep writing, pour it out, let it heal, get ready for the next one, and enjoy your beautiful life. xoxo

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Sis – I can’t thank you enough for this bit of encouragement. So important to remember who our Father is and that His love is all that matters.

      Reply
  22. Tracy

    I am feeling this way right now too!!! I stayed away from twitter for two days and it did some good. There’s this constant need for me to know what I’m doing is ok or working and when I don’t get it, I tailspin into a place of feeling unworthy….and then I wonder why things aren’t happening for me. I think the more honest you can be-the better. Not only is it liberating, but you can truly connect to people (like this!) and get deep, heartfelt responses. I wish we could hang out and eat cake together!!

    Reply
  23. Karin

    I think we all recognize that little voice. And it’s a woman in my head too. I guess they will be mostly women, because I think especially women are this self-aware and are our own worst critics.

    For what it’s worth: I (and lots of other people) follow your blog because I love your writing, your passion, your ideas and your photographs.

    I’d say: Let that little voice ramble all she wants, listen now and then, nod and then move on being in the now. You can do what you can do, you can be who you can be and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

    Hug.

    PS. The cake looks delicious.

    Reply
  24. Jen @ keepitsimplefoods

    Gorgeous cake and beautifully written post. Keep pushing through those moments of self doubt. We all face the unproductive, restrictive and oppressive inner monster. I know I’m often my own worst critic and rarely give myself the praise and positive feedback that I long for and deserve. This leads me into a downward spiral of self loathing. Not productive. So, sometimes, in spite of it all, I grab those imaginary pom poms and start cheering myself on. After all, if I don’t do it, who will?

    Reply
  25. Mikaela Cowles

    If you didn’t have some sort of envious, the grass is greener tendencies, I’d be hard pressed to think you’re human. “If it was easy, everyone would do it,” is what I chant to myself when I’m feeling depressed about all I have yet to accomplish. This is particularly true when I am looking at all the things I feel like everyone else has done. Social Media seems to have opened up other’s worlds to us, but it really is the “unrealistic” world you talk about. It’s the highest of the highs (or in some really embarrassing tagging cases, the lowest of the lows). It is not the day to day living which takes place in/on social media. At least not normally. I’m so glad you continued baking, eating, and occasionally napping. Napping is good. I think it’s as important as coffee and sometimes as important as laughter. But, cake like this. Cake like this is like taking your best friend by the hand and forgetting about all of the doubt. Even if it’s only for a second, it’s worth it. I’m glad you were ready for more cake.

    Reply
  26. Crystal Malek

    I love your honesty, and totally agree. I’ve been away from twitter and facebook for a few weeks now and I don’t miss it as much as I first did. I also found myself kinda getting wrapped up in it, when you’re right, it’s not really reality. For me, I’m working on strengthening a few actual friendships instead of keeping up with hundreds of people I call “friends.” I just can’t do it anymore. But I’ll continue reading blogs, like yours, where I find both inspiration for all things yummy, and encouragement for all those hard mommy/wife times.

    You’re a blessing, Ashley. Focus on the truths that you know. That helps me not lose my mind during the trying seasons.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Crystal – Thank you. It’s so true. I always think “what would I do without Twitter” and then I step away for a few days and rarely miss it.

      Reply
  27. Tova

    I think it’s really courageous of you to discuss these feelings. I feel this way a lot of the time. It’s intimidating to try and create a space for yourself on the internet when there are so many other examples of other people who do it SO well. I often keep my work hidden because of this; the toxic belief that what I have to offer is not good enough. BUT I’m learning to get past it, to do things that make me uncomfortable, like commenting here. It has occurred to me that if everyone allowed their fears and insecurities to hold them back so many of my biggest inspirations would never have come into existence. Your blog and your perpetually lovely photos are one of those inspirations so please keep up the good work. I think everyone who posted here is in agreeance that what you do is pretty wonderful.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Tova – Thanks so much for the comment and your honesty. It is hard to put yourself out there but I do believe in the end it is so worth it. If even for the chance to encourage someone else – which to me is of great encouragement.

      Reply
  28. Nishta

    you summed up so much of what’s in my own head & heart at the moment. a kind of ambivalence, edged with promise–desire to craft my life authentically, wanting to scour each part of what I do to make sure it still fits. and who is this “me” that it would fit with, anyway?

    while it can be (is?) a kind of terrifying season, I think it’s fair to hope that the terror is generative…that, taking some time off to care for ourselves and let ourselves be with whatever’s there, results in a more solid “us” at the end of it.

    also, this cake? I love. just bought a new bag of poppyseeds, so…thank you.

    Reply
  29. Jennie

    Oh lordy, do I have these moments too. Lately, they’ve been coming more fast and furious too. I find myself having to remember to breath. My hope is that one day soon the breathing will come naturally and not need so many constant reminders. When all else fails, I remember the balance, the craziness—it’s all my choosing. Hang in Ashley—we’re all in this together. xo

    Reply
  30. Danielle

    Wow, where to start. Everything you’ve written – about self-doubt, social media and cake – resonates with me. I go through different periods of funk often enough and have developed an awareness of the thought patterns that accompany the pessimism and self-doubt. Switching off social media helps a tremendous bunch. I like to take walks to clear my head, spend time in the garden and reading magazines I love to rekindle the creative fire. I’m blessed to have a supportive husband who listens, openly, and my ‘shrink’ is my yoga practice, which has done wonders for calming me down. I’ve come to terms with the fact that sensitivities and doubt are always going to be there – the challenge is in managing my reactions to them, harnessing their energy and redirecting it to something more productive. It’s a full-time job best energized by delicious, beautiful cakes like yours!

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Danielle – Thanks for the encouragement. Rekindle the creative fire – I love that. I often step away from the computer and pick up books until that fire burns so brightly I must return back to creating. It’s a cycle but those periods of creating something you are proud of makes the doubt that much easier to swallow.

      Reply
  31. jaime {sophistimom}

    Ashley, that first picture is so beautiful that MY inner voice started shouting, “Look at what a good photographer she is. And you think you should have a food blog?? Your photos suck compared to Ashley’s. Everything Ashley does is better than what you do. You’ll never be that good.” That all happened in about half a second. Thank you for your post that lets me know that we all have similar set backs.

    You are beautiful. You are talented. You are you, a daughter of God.

    I am glad we both blog so that I can know you.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Jaime – Are you in my head?! That’s exactly what I do. Thanks for such an honest post. If you makes you feel better I’ll post a picture of what my kitchen/laundry pile look like. They are very neglected.

      Reply
  32. nicole

    Ah, this so resonates with me. I’m glad you took a wee break from the internet — I feel like it does help, even if it’s always waiting to be dived into once you return! Sometimes we do need to *stop*, to have that silence, to refill the well at least part-way.

    So I’m commenting mostly to leave that but also to say: THAT CAKE! Holy wow! I am making it this weekend. ’tis gorgeous. Full stop.

    Reply
  33. Carrie

    Lovely post. So honest and real. I just returned recently from BlogHerFood where on one hand I was so inspired by all of the talent surrounding me and on the other hand thinking, how do these women (and men) do all of this? I fear it never ends but it’s good to acknowledge it and find a way to ground yourself again. Thank you…

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Carrie – I feel the same way after going to a conference. But then I just remember, most likely, everyone else feels the same way. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  34. sara

    what a conversation you’ve started little miss. It was nice to read this as I feel like I understand you to an extent, knowing we share the cloud of self doubt that looms frequently. Thinking of you, reminding you (along with these 40 some odd other people, and many more who havent commented) that YOU ARE SO TALENTED. I have a hard enough time running my life plus one, how you manage to do it plus four is miraculous ;)

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Sara – Thank you. Whatever stage in life you are in it is a challenge. But God’s grace covers all sins and believe me they are abundant. :) And may I say YOU are a talent my friend.

      Reply
  35. mindy t

    This post really hit home with me. I have been feeling so defeated and overwhelmed lately. I am pregnant with my third baby and just feel like I’m not going to be a good enough mother to my beautiful kids. I know we will all be great but it helps to think out loud every once in a while! Thank you for continuing to post. My day is always better after visiting here.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Mindy – Blessings to you on your third. I was terrified with the thought of having three but by God’s grace we are all still alive – and thriving! :) Thanks for the honesty and the encouragement.

      Reply
  36. christine [the sugar apothecary]

    Thank you so much for sharing :) Not just the cake, but the vulnerable bits of yourself, too. It’s so hard to remember that Twitter snippets and candy-colored blog photos are compiled of life’s brightest highlights, not the moment to moment “life” of the person involved… Especially when you can be enveloped by them within a few dozen clicks through food-blog-land. I do my best to recognize the small things, the tiny moments that make me giggle and that I remember fondly, and point them out to other people. Those things then become real and recognized, instead of brushed aside as unimportant… It’s these little things that get me through the rough times, because you can stay focused through the uncertainty, searching for the tiny rays of hope (that sometimes come in the form of your sister’s belly laugh, or your dog’s dopey lopsided ear after a long nap).

    Reply
  37. Hanna

    I am also constantly plagued by doubt and sometimes it looms in an overwhelming way. When that happens, I’ve learned to sit down–preferably in a pretty spot–and write my thoughts down on a single piece of paper. I’ll set this aside for a time and do something else, like walk or read or nap, before coming back and reading what I’d written. Aloud.

    This seems to help mollify my doubt monster when she (mine’s a ‘she’, too!) throws a fit.

    Thank you for this post. I find it hard to voice my thoughts, so a little nudge from another truly helps.

    Reply
  38. Tracey Hewitt

    Now this was almost creepy….reading the exact thoughts I’ve been thinking – it’s as if my soul is living in another body in the Northern Hemisphere! Thanks for your honesty and openess…I happened upon your blog from the Etsy “blogs we’re loving” link, and am heartened by knowing someone out there ‘gets it’…in fact, many do, as I discovered reading the comments here. Thanks to you all.

    For me, my journal helps, gratitude helps and yoga helps. Being brave enough to open up to a friend is also good medicine. And sometimes, the storm is just to be weathered and that’s all there is to it.

    Blessings on your courage. And congratulations on that awesome looking cake!

    Reply
  39. Megan Gordon

    Oh Ashley…heck ya, we’ve all had these moments, days, weeks, months (?!) Did you read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/opinion/29franzen.html?_r=1

    I think you’d like it. Says a lot about the way technology just kind of lets us skim/flit about life without actually diving into it. Whether that has to do with your passions or love or … So yes, for me long walks help. Or runs. Even though I don’t feel like going, I just force myself outside and I’m always better for it. And music. And baking. And calling sisters. While I know what you’re saying about people looking in and thinking ‘wow, she’s got it made with lots of ice cream and great meals,” there is one thing I’ve always admired about you: you’re a young mom who is managing to balance SO MANY things. And that’s huge. So hey, xox. Can’t wait to meet up soon (ish)!

    Reply
  40. Hannah W.

    Ashley, I have read your website for some time now and I had to say THANK YOU after I read this post. Thank you for your willingness to share the vulnerable side of your life. So often we think that we have to have the “perfect” life and it just isn’t happening. I am scared to death to open up myself and let people see the “real” me. I appreciate so much your writing. I always come here when I need encouragement. :) See, you are encouraging others!! Oh, and I WANT a piece of that cake. So again, thank you for being yourself. :)

    Reply
  41. mixette

    Yes, absolutely! I’m still trying to heal some hurt feelings when I had to step away during the holidays. And I was going to mention that Jonathan Franzen article from Sunday too; Megan linked it up above. The thing that I took away from that is all this stuff needs *context* for us to be able to process it all. And that context comes from experience and reflection, and sometimes you need quiet time…or just time…to do that.

    Reply
  42. Claire

    I was just wondering about the vanilla and vinegar. I wasn’t sure if it was 1 t. vanilla and 2 t. champagne vinegar. There may have been some little error in the post!

    Reply
  43. e_grace

    Dear Ms. Ashley,
    How lovely you are to share this sensitive matter of the heart over a strawberry dessert with the online community at large. Brave. Heart-warming, I think :) *sniffle* I look forward to the day when I have a friend like you around! And your blog recipes are delicious, I try a lot of them out with my kiddos! Anyway, I wanted to share what I, uh, do, I guess, when I feel inundated with self-doubt. Mostly, I try to tune into what my conscience has been tapping me on the shoulder about any problem areas in my relationships. The last really dark, on-going for a couple years, episode of intense self-doubt was the result of trying to be over-available to a toxic friendship when all I really needed to do was recognize that this person didn’t want to share mutually as much as they wanted to preach! And thus, all the hours on the phone going insane with the tightness in my chest, shallow breathing, and tightness in my head, pin-prickles-type tension on my skin, listening and problem-solving whilst trying to balance w/ kiddos @ home (very badly, I might add), came to mind. This person crossed some boundaries, and the last time was when I finally said “I can’t be in communication with you anymore.” I got rid of an unnecessary burden (of un-appreciation) and validated myself in a big way! The change made my life healthier. I decided I want more of that in my life and I look for it at every turn, in every word, thought, or deed. I always want to be better and I imagine making more defining choices at working hard and honestly for what I truly want will get me exactly that – getting better, with God’s grace. It takes time, I realize. Anything good is worth waiting for, even changes in myself. I believe mothering our children is the most important work on the planet :) No re-do’s or time extensions.
    Yours, humbly.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @e_grace – Thank you so much for this heart felt post. What a great lesson to be learned. I need to read this often to remind myself that there is no re-do’s or time extensions in parenting. Thank you.

      Reply
  44. Angie

    You’re not alone in those dark moments. When I fall into mine, I try to remember that regardless of how I feel, I’m never alone. I know it’s hard with kids running around and all of the responsibilities of life, but I try to take a few moments to sit and just breathe. I try to focus on breathing out the negative stuff. Like I can just bundle it up and force it out. Even if I’ve had to lock myself in the bathroom to do it.

    Reply

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