Happy Blogiversary...

Somewhere along the line, dear readers, another year has managed to go by here at "The State I Am In." I've managed to thwart serious bouts of writer's block and the impulse to chuck it all and quit blogging all together to arrive at another year of chronicling my life. This time around, I've managed to write 167 posts in 365 days, which is down just a smidge from my first year of blogging, which I attribute mostly to that spate of writer's block I had in January. Overall, I've still managed to write almost every other day, and I feel pretty good about that level of progress.

The past year has been full of big and wonderful changes in my life. I lost twenty pounds, met a wonderful guy, and fell madly in love. If the point of blogging in the first place was to force myself out of the apartment and into life in the great urban metropolis, the addition of an indulgent partner to my life has certainly helped: in the past year I saw fourteen movies, attended six theatrical productions, and went to five museum exhibits. Not bad if I do say so myself!

However, despite everything I've been up to in the second year of "The State I Am In," one thing has remained the same -- the most popular tag is still food. Apparently, 28% of my posts are about the subject, so in that spirit, I've decided to make a tradition of celebrating my blogiversary with a cake. Initially, I had planned to make Grandma Betsy's red velvet cake, due to clamoring from certain friends of mine who fondly remember the one my mom baked for my birthday back in 2008. The family recipe does put all those red velvet cupcakes from trendy bakeries to shame, but I've always been intimidated by the "seven-minute icing" with which our version is topped. Despite my recent realization that my baking skills can handle bigger challenges, I was still unsure.

Then, not unlike last year, I found myself swayed by a new recipe, this time for carrot cake. Since my blogiversary falls on Easter this year (more on that later), a carrot cake seemed somehow more appropriate, given that rabbits eat carrots, and bunnies are linked with Easter for some inexplicable reason.* Knowing that my dad is a big fan of carrot cake and that I was going to be home for Easter weekend, it also seemed like a natural time to try my hand at baking one for the first time.

However, it quickly became apparent that this was the cake that did not want to be baked. When I started gathering the ingredients, I quickly realized that my initial grocery store run had been insufficient, and I had used all my eggs for making Easter eggs last weekend with Justin. Off went my pajamas (requisite baking attire in my household), on went my shoes, and out the door to the grocery store I went. Then, once I was back, I was well into the recipe and was about to combine the wet ingredients when I discovered that my visual inspection of my bottle of vegetable oil had overestimated its contents and I was short by 1/4 cup. Thankfully, by that point, Dad had come to stay for the evening, so he was able to give me a much-appreciated ride back to the store for the missing oil.

Going into the oven, however, did not put an end to the drama, as the cake came out looking slightly over-baked around the edges, but then fell in the middle. Since the edges were too done, I doubt that under-baking was the cause of my fallen cake; I think too much moisture from the extremely fresh carrots I used was the culprit. Not feeling like grating another three cups of carrots to try again, I decided to frost the fallen cakes anyway, but despite my greatest efforts to make sure the sides of the cake were straight, by the time I was finished the now very tall cake had a decidedly Pisa-like lean to one side.

I pronounced myself finished with the frustrations this dessert had brought into my life, but it wasn't through with me yet -- when I went to pull out the pieces of wax paper I'd lain down on the cake plate to keep the frosting off of it, it pulled huge chunks of the cake with it. I mashed them back into place and tried to ice over the flaws, but I couldn't get the sides of the cake as smooth and lovely (if still crooked) as they were before. I piped some decorative dollops of frosting on the cake, which helped some, but it was nowhere close to my vision of carrot cake perfection. Clearly, the cake gods had frowned upon me in this endeavor.

I went to bed seething with cake-related rage, but when I tasted it the next day, I realized that this blogiversary carrot cake had actually been illustrative of my blogging experience, and life in general. I set out with the best of intentions, and persevered when things didn't go the way I anticipated, even when I wanted to give up. It didn't turn out as perfectly as I would have liked, nor did it live up to my expectations of what it would look like, but even with all of its flaws, it still turned out pretty great. You see, after all those small disasters, the cake was still delicious, especially the frosting, and part of the reason why I've never been particularly fond of carrot cake is because I hate cream cheese frosting. The cake, like life, had surprised me and challenged me to look at things in a new way.

Blogging may not always be fun, easy, or convenient, but I'm proud that I've maintained my commitment to it for the past two years of my life, and I feel like it's greatly improved the quality of my life as well. Here's to another 365 days of adventures, love, and random musings!

Carrot Cake
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. vegetable oil
4 large eggs
3 c. finely grated, peeled carrots
1 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray two 8- or 9-inch cake pans with Pam with Flour.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl until combined. Whisk oil and sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots and nuts, if using. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.

Bake 40 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking process, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in their pans on a cooling rack 15 minutes, then remove from the pans to cool completely.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup

In a stand mixer, beat all ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10-20 minutes until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

*Wikipedia says that rabbits are a symbol of fertility, and are therefore linked with spring. Since Easter falls in the spring, the two are therefore associated. That doesn't make sense to me though; doesn't Easter celebrate the resurrection of Jesus? He rose from the dead, but wasn't reborn, so I don't understand the connection to birth and fertility. Then again, I'm probably the wrong person to ask, given that I'm not at all religious.

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