Almond Cake with Rhubarb Strawberry Preserves

THE FARMHOUSE

Our oldest kiddo, Wilder, turned 4 this week, which has me feeling all the feelings.  On the one hand, I can barely remember a life without our wild child in it, but on the other hand, wasn’t he just born like last year?  Ugh, these years are short.  One thing that’s for sure though, I really love the person that Wilder has grown into.  He’s gregarious, active, considerate, and always, always loves to have a good time.  So naturally, we had to celebrate!

Birthdays are a special occasion around our house and they always include a homemade cake.  I spend weeks planning out the perfect pairing of cake and frosting and spend way too long decorating the concoction.  It’s a tradition that started when Wilder was born (he was born at home so I asked my sis to whip up the Poshusta family apple cake recipe in our oven on the day he was born) and has continued for every birthday for everyone in the family.  I’m a bit of a baking addict so channeling the sugar highs into one decadent, celebratory cake (for every holiday, of course) has not only been fun for me but also better for our health than the weekly cookies and cupcakes I used to make.

This year, Wilder requested a chocolate, rainbow dinosaur cake, which had me really scratching my head.  Thankfully, at the last minute, he changed his mind.  I pitched two cakes: a simple chocolate cake (I used the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s coco box) with vanilla buttercream and an almond rhubarb cake stacked with whipped cream.  He was happy with those.  Originally I planned to make mini cakes for everyone, but with the birthday party guest list at 40, I decided to make one mini cake for Wilder to blow out his candle, and larger cakes to serve to the masses.  Today, I wanted to share our almond cake recipe with you guys.

This almond cake is sooo good.  It’s dense and nutty, but still sweet and moist.  My mom, who has had her share of birthday cakes in her day (my whole family is a little obsessed with baking), told me it was the best she’d ever had.  And guys, I might just have to agree.  The cake recipe originally came from the Macrina’s cookbook, which I’ve been baking out of since my sister-in-law gave us their cookbook 10 years ago, and has evolved into a recipe all it’s own.  The rhubarb, strawberry jam was inspired by Molly Yeh’s recipe.

Almond Cake with Rhubarb Strawberry Preserves

*this recipe makes one 9″ layer cake or 4 3-layer (or 6 2-layer) mini cakes

 

for the cake

3 large eggs

¾ cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt

2 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

8 ounces butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 ½ cup granulated sugar

¾ tsp baking soda

¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp ground sea salt

1 ½ cups almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

Grease two 9” round cake pans with butter and line bottom with parchment paper. Combine eggs, yogurt, almond extract, and vanilla extract in a small bowl and whisk by hand until combined. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat butter on high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the dry ingredients into butter and mix slowly until combined. Increase mixer speed to medium and mix for an additional minute. Scrape bowl down, add half of the egg mixture, and mix until combined. Scrape down bowl and repeat with the remaining egg mixture. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake in 325-degree oven. Start checking for doneness at 25 minutes (toothpick should come out clean). Let cool on a wire rack.

for the rhubarb jam

2 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb

1/2 cup strawberries

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp sea salt

juice of 1 small lemon

In a medium saucepan, combine the fruit, vanilla, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture gets thick, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, add in lemon, and let cool. Jam should be stored in the fridge.

for the whipped cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tbsp powder sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

In a small bowl, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla with a hand-held mixer until stiff peaks form (or use your stand mixer).  If you don’t use right away, store in fridge.

assembly

9″ layer cake: After cakes cool, remove one layer from pan and place on a cardboard circle atop a cake stand or plate.  Cut the top of the cake flat with a large knife (and share the top with your kiddos to make their day!).  Spread a generous layer of rhubarb strawberry jam on top of cake and then spread 1/2 of the whipped cream over that.  Place second layer on top of cake and spread the remaining whipped cream on top.  Decorate with slivered almonds and sliced strawberries.

Mini cakes: Place cake rounds on a cutting board.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out rounds from each layer.  Follow assembly instructions above.  You can stack cakes 2 or 3 layers high, but 2 layers are more stable, especially if serving to kids.

Do yourself a favor and make this cake for whatever event you have coming up (or can dream up).  Just be sure to let me know how you like it!

xoxo

-Cathy

p.s. Brooks’ birthday cake from last year, and my nephew George’s first birthday cake.

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Farmhouse Celebrations // A Thanksgiving Table Scape

THE FARMHOUSE

Our first Fall at the Farmhouse has been beautiful.  The skies are blue, the leaves are yellow (and red and orange), and the air is crisp.  This beautiful season has made me fall even deeper in love with our little slice of earth!

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This year, we are celebrating Thanksgiving with my family in Arizona, and while I’m excited to enjoy some sunshine, to say I’m a little disappointed not to set our Thanksgiving table at the Farmhouse is a bit of an understatement.  So, I decided to host a little pre-Thanksgiving celebration of our own.  On a random Wednesday, I set the backyard table, rounded up my family, and made a meal.  We didn’t have turkey or pumpkin pie, but we did have plenty of local inspiration.  I covered the table with late harvest grapes and crsip apples from our property, plus a couple of my favorite Pendleton blankets.

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We ended up eating homemade tacos and drinking beer while we enjoyed our Thanksgiving tablescape.  Even when we had to move our gathering indoors after the sun went down (goodness do the nights get cold around here) it could not have been a more lovely evening.   Our random Wednesday celebration was the perfect way to highlight the season and remind ourselves that we have much to be thankful for!

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Now on to Arizona and a traditional Thanksgiving feast!

What are your plans for the holiday?  Any fun table decor you’re planning on?

xoxo

-Cathy

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Dexter Backyard: a space for summer

THE DEXTER HOUSE

With summer officially kicked off, it seems appropriate that todays post is about the Dexter House backyard.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Enter 2

We’ve been working on this 700sf-ish space sporadically through the Spring, and luckily it’s coming together in time for Summer.  If you’ve ever been to Seattle in the summer, you know how magical it is.  The weather is 80s or so and the city comes alive with pale, friendly faces, float planes and ferry boats.  Plus all that rain in the winter means green everywhere.  Yeah, so this family of pale faces is pretty happy to spend time in our little Seattle backyard.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Large 1The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard CouchThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Metal PanelThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Large 2
You may have noticed that the Dexter house is really urban (at least by Seattle standards). There are houses and apartments and balconies looking into our little property from every angle. That’s just how it goes in the city. But because of that, I really wanted this outdoor space to feel private, like a reprieve from the hustle and bustle, a space to escape and relax. So we built the fence 8′ tall (the maximum allowed) and topped the back section with an arbor, which will have wild, purple wisteria blooms weaving around it in a year or two.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard fence

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard HouseThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard DoorThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Couch close 1The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard planter detail

Once we realized that the old fountain was broken beyond reasonable repair, we converted it into a planter.  And I really dig the mix of flowers and green in the center of the yard. You may have noticed that we left a “hole” in the fence for our peek-a-boo of the lake. You can see a teensy tiny boat waaaayyyy down there.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard View

Did you see it?

We call it our view. Yeah. That’s just how we roll.

We found some furniture from Craigslist for this backyard.  First came the small table with four chairs a couple months ago.  I may still pick up an umbrella for a little shade to help on those few days above 90.  But either way, this is a great spot for alfresco dinning.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Table

As I mentioned last week, I also found the wicker couch on Craigslist.  And although it will not likely stay in this spot for long (I have a much better spot for this one, just wait…!!!) it’s been nice to have a cozy spot to hang out back here for now.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Couch detailThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Couch close 2

Up next we’re going to build a narrow shed on the side of the house.  Plus we have a few more plants to put in.  And then there’s the small matter of that fresh growler of beer, those golden string lights, and that cozy new couch.  I’m looking at you Garrett!

Happy Summer to you all!

Previous posts on the backyard project here and here and here.

xoxo

-Cathy

p.s. There are just so many amazing backyards.  Seriously! So I’ve pinned a bunch of them and compiled them here.

p.p.s. This brownstone renovation is stunning.  Add in the fact that that house was built in 1804 and I have big heart eyes all over it!

p.p.p.s. one thing that I’m loving in kitchens right now is shelf rail like in this kitchen. How lovely is that?!   You’re with me, right?!

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An Arbor, a Kegerator, and a Wedding

THE WASHINGTON COUNTRYSIDE

This post is a long time coming.  Like loooooonnnnnng time!  It has nothing to do with the Dexter House, the Ravenna House, or any other house for that matter, but I’m pretty excited about it.  Last summer I told you about the arbor we built for my sister-in-law’s wedding.  Well here it is in action…

The Grit and Polish - Wedding Arbor

The arbor turned out beautiful, right?  It’s almost as lovely as the bride and groom!  The sun-aged cedar, which we collected from my in-law’s wood scrap pile, added a rustic feel to the ceremony.  I love how it compliments the green lawn and never-ending rural views.  Of course, any arbor would look beautiful with Dayne and Adam underneath it 🙂

Months before the wedding, we built the arbor and moved it into one of my mother-in-law’s gardens and trained a hop plant up the side.  Hops grow like weeds, so it is no surprise that it took less than 2 months to grow the lush vine you see around the arbor.  To be fair, everything grows like weeds under my mother-in-laws enviable green thumb!  On the morning of the wedding, we cut the hops at their base, hauled the arbor (with vines attached) to the venue, stuck a couple flowers in, and voila! the perfect wedding day backdrop!  Okay, so I didn’t actually have to move the massive thing – I was much too busy getting a mani/pedi with the bride – but I understand calling it heavy is an understatement.

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Unfortunately, it was a little breezy on the day of the wedding and the orange ratchit straps used to transport the arbor ended up in the ceremony, securing the arbor to the ground.  I wish we had used a different color than orange for the straps (really, any other color would have been better than bright orange), but so it goes.

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My super-awesome PhD-student-turned-woodworker-on-the-weekends husband also wanted to make a kegerator for the reception so we all pitched in to help.  This is central Washington after all, and no wedding would be complete without fresh local beer on tap!  It was a huge hit – the beer and the kegerator – and the best part is we get to use the kegerator again and again at parties!

To build the kegerator, we used weathered wood from the same scrap pile at my in-laws farm and tied the piece together with rusty bolts from Papa’s garage.  Garrett built a draft system to connect the tap handles to the kegs hidden behind the structure.  I won’t begin to pretend to explain the actual beer-pouring system – it was complicated arrangement of hose, metal coil, and fittings – but it poured perfectly-chilled beers and looked awesome doing it!

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True to our nature, Dayne and Adam’s wedding was a DIY family affair.  We crafted a ‘Jane Austen country’ vibe, taking inspiration from hours and hours on Pinterest and the natural surroundings of our hometown.  The ceremony and reception were hosted at a reconstructed grange hall in central Washington over Labor Day weekend.  To get that slightly-romantic, country vibe we collected 200+ pieces of mismatched china for the dinner, built flower arrangements around white and pale pink, incorporated lace runners, and found the bride the perfect vintage-inspired gown (J.Crew in case you’re interested).  DIY efforts besides the arbor and kegerator included growing flowers, making the bouquets, crafting invitations, and doing the bride’s hair.  In addition, my in-laws raised three pigs to be be served at the welcome bbq for guests – a delicious hit with the out-of-town city guests.

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The bride and groom hired the most amazing caterer and had them serve everything family style.  Guests passed large bowls of food around with their neighbors, and it added such a familiar/intimate touch to the dinner. Oh and how have I not talked about the wedding cakes?!  We went with a dozen small cakes instead of one large, so a cake could be placed on each long table and served family style too.  The cakes were another DIY effort, baked and frosted by us, using a Poshusta-family recipe that I have to share some day because it really can’t be beat!

The whole wedding was truly a lovely, intimate affair full of the best things in the county!

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And here’s a picture of Garrett, Wilder, and I. Wilder was pretty pumped to get to wear his cowboy boots, but I was pretty smitten with his whole outfit!  Dayne let me pick out my own bridesmaid dress so as far as I’m concerned, she’s the best. bride. ever!

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Those two…gotta love ’em!

All pictures by Andy Whitaker, a talented family friend who’s put up with the Poshusta family for 12+ years now.  He’s an amazing photographer, right?!

So what do you think of the wedding?  How do our wedding-decor-DIY skills stack up to our renovation skills?  I’d love to hear what you think!

xoxo

-Cathy

p.s. One of my favorite pictures from Dayne and Adam’s big day.

p.p.s. I’m secretly obsessed with weddings, engagements, elopements – the whole deal!  This is my favorite engagement shot ever and it’s right here in Oregon.

p.p.p.s. Love this backyard cottage.

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Our Previous Patio (Introducing the Wallingford House)

THE WALLINGFORD HOUSE

Last week I showed you guys our patio project at the Ravenna House.  It doesn’t look like much yet – the backyard still needs plants, fencing, grass, a little pizzaz – but we’re making progress.  This week I thought it would be fun to look back and show you the last patio we built, which was at our Wallingford House.

The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio at night 2

I haven’t told you guys much about our Wallingford home other than it was our first, so a quick introduction…

The Wallingford House

Wallingford House Historic Photo

Garrett and I bought the Wallingford House in 2008 with every last penny we could scrape together.  The house, built in 1916, was a small craftsman with 2 beds/1bath, 9.5′ ceilings, an unfinished basement, lots of natural light, and a unique detached cottage/workspace in the backyard.  And I was in love.  Like head-over-heels in love.

We moved-in in September with full hearts and an eight-week-old-puppy named Bubba.  The puppy was cute and energetic but the house was in various states of disrepair.  Originally we planned to live in the house forever and fix it up as we went but I got laid off and our plans changed.  With Garrett in graduate school and me without a job, we were no longer able to afford the mortgage, so I suggested we finish-out the basement, rent the house, and move into the backyard cottage.  And that’s just what we did (more on all of that here).  But let’s get back to the patio.  Here’s what it looks like now:

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The backyard at the Wallingford House is dominated by a detached, 2-story cottage with a 200sf footprint (I’ll show you that structure another day).  There’s also a cute, small shed for storage, which Garrett built me.  The rest of the yard is really private, due in large part to the green-wall of laurel hedges on our south property line.

The Grit and Polish - Wallinford Patio Collage 1    The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio Table 2The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio fence arbor

We spent a lot of time building this backyard.  We did all the work ourselves and on a tight budget.  When we first bought the property, there was a giant kiln and overgrown-everything in the backyard.  Over a few summers (both while we lived in the house and then the cottage) we removed the kiln with a jackhammer and some family muscle, tidied up the landscaping, fenced the lot with wood from Papa’s scrap pile, planted wisteria and lavender and blueberries, and then laid the patio.  I loved this project.  I loved dreaming up the space.  I loved construction.

Here’s an iPhone picture of Garrett and I rebuilding the back deck, which connects the house’s back door to the patio.  Like all things, the deck ended up being a lot more work than we expected after finding mold in much of the structure.

The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio Deck construction

The deck was the last major project in the backyard and we were thrilled when it was finished.

The Grit and Polish - Wallingford Patio back deck

We had a lot of fun in this backyard – during construction and especially after.  We hosted large parities and intimate dinners around the farm table Garrett and I built.  We enjoyed sunny afternoons and snowy mornings (well at least one) with friends and family and people from the neighborhood.  But mostly it was just Garrett and I, before kids, spending quiet evenings under twinkling lights, with a cribbage board and some beers.  Ahhhhh I really miss this backyard!

BUT, if we get busy, the Ravenna House will have a backyard to play cribbage in too…

xoxo

-Cathy

p.s. Are you ready for Thanksgiving?!  Here are some really spectacular recipes from around the country.  I’m excited about trying Nevada’s turkey French Dips with leftovers.  And are you kidding me with Persimmon pudding, Indiana?!  Sounds delicious!

p.p.s. You and I are going to spend a lot of time cooking this week, right?  Well here are a few modern-meets-vintage kitchens I wouldn’t mind baking some sweet potatoes in!

p.p.p.s. Wilder is really getting this renovation thing down.  Now if we could just get him to wear pants…

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Wilder’s First Birthday Party

THE RAVENNA HOUSE

Somehow Wilder is one.  I asked him to stay a baby forever, but he didn’t listen to his mama. The little stinker!

We celebrated with a party at the Ravenna House.  Since Wilder loves animals – the wilder the better (hehe, get it?) – I stuck with an animal/circus theme for the event.  I sent out these amazing Rifle Co invites and everyone came: grandmas and grandpas, aunties and uncles, cousins and friends, godfathers and godmothers.

The house was decorated with balloons, fresh flowers, pendent flags, and raisin-carrying-wild-animal figurines.  For dinner, we served the closest thing to non-fried circus food we could think of: brautwursts (from our favorite sausage company).  We paired them with gramma’s baked beans, gourmet popcorn, broccoli salad and beer-on-tap.  And sometime towards the end of the party, Wilder “blew-out” a candle on a homemade apple-spice cake, the very same cake we made one year ago to celebrate his birth.

Wilder's First Birthday Party Collage 2 6-22-14

Most of the party was spent playing in the basement.  Luckily, it was ready.  Carpet came on Wednesday, we moved the couch down on Thursday, and Wilder littered it with toys on Friday.  By Saturday afternoon, the stairwell was filled with balloons and guests.

Due to a camera snafu, I didn’t end up with any photos of the actual event nor any of Wilder on his big day (that’s my niece Winnie helping with the cake).  But that’s okay, I plan to recreate the cake-all-over-the-face moment as soon as Wilder recovers from a little cold he’s picked up.  In the meantime, you can expect photos of our freshly painted and carpeted basement on Friday…serious, this time.

Happy birthday kiddo!  You may not be a baby anymore, but you’ll always be my sweet baby boy (sniffle, sniffle).

Wilder and Dada on Day 2 6-15-14

xoxo

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