Logs Consumed. Two Ways.

I welcome Solstice as the beginning of a New Year.

Celebrations = Baking, and holy cow, I made this:

Gingerbread cake with chestnut buttercream, topped with chocolate buttercream and merengue mushrooms. This was my first foray into baking a very traditional holiday dessert in a very traditional way. Apparently, I’d never made REAL buttercream before, as that was the most intensive (and delicious) part of the whole process…

Of course, this Log of Love was made gluten-free:

With some help from my batter-licking sous chef, Miss M:

Actually, I think that’s buttercream, and now she’s a fiend for the stuff.

So, we started with the cake…it wasn’t hard to alter the recipe, as there was only a 1/2 cup of flour and three tbsp. almond flour. As I’m sensitive to both gluten AND almonds, I used a gluten-free pastry mix for the flour and ground up pecans instead of almonds. Perfect.

For cooling, she was rolled up in a towel, so she wouldn’t crack when we rolled her up again later (yes, a cake is a she, just like a boat or a car).

She was happy in the quiet house, basking in the glow of festive tree lights. She knew she had purpose. And while she sat, contentedly reducing in temperature, it was time for us to make the buttercream.

It started with a simple syrup, boiled until it reached the hard-ball stage. We used soft, peach-colored palm sugar for this and worked out wonderfully. Then we drizzled the syrup into the eight egg whites we had whipped up:

Then we added butter, one tablespoon at a time until we’d been through the entire pound and a half. Some was scooped out and blended with chestnut puree and vanilla and the rest received a treatment of melted bittersweet chocolate.

The cake was happily cool to the touch, and so she was carefully unrolled and spread thickly with the chestnut cream…

…and rolled up again.

Then came the chocolate…

…and a dusting of cocoa powder for good measure. She felt very sophisticated then.

Little did she know, there were friends coming to play on her bark…

…mmmmmmmmerengue + a little buttercream glue and voila! Mushies!

And then,…


The real yule log the children had decorated was outfitted with a candle for each. When they were lit, the log was placed atop a burning piece of last year’s log…a continuous line of yule logs in this family for the past sixteen years. It is a treasure to be part of this tradition, and it was joyous to contribute something new. And it almost made me swoon to be celebrating seven years with C. We seem to have lived many lifetimes since then and here we are at another crossroads, ready to set forth on a new leg of our journey together.


Winter is beautiful everywhere…

…but after loving several Vermont winters, I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to be on the west coast this time of year. The parks are all lush and green. The temperatures are cold enough for sweaters, but my eyelashes aren’t freezing to my face.

And so, we have been getting our hike on. Every day that isn’t raining, we at least take a walk to the open space around the corner. Yesterday we followed squirrel roads, bothered a camel cricket and took off in an oak tree airplane. We found mushies that we hoped were Candy Caps, but they turned out to be a lookalike. Boo. If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying a candy cap mushroom, you need to make it happen. I cook four or five of the tiny candy caps in butter (you need to cook them in fat to bring out the flavor) and the whole house smells like maple syrup for days. But, I digress.

A few days ago, we actually piled into the truck and spent a few hours at Briones Regional Park. It was the perfect day to be out in the woods…misty and cool, only a few other souls about…an opportunity to practice being quiet like a fox.

The sun would burn a hole in the clouds for a moment, and then retreat.

Conditions were perfect for mushie-hunting, but no edibles that we knew.

There were slippery, leafy hills to navigate…

…and mellow paths to tromp along.

We came upon a gorgeous, well-tended Medieval-style labyrinth. I have not been successful in finding much information about it, except that it was recently restored. It is artful and serene, surrounded by a branch fence. We walked it in silence…the Boy seemed to understand and only broke in for a few questions, mainly on specifics about construction (of course). We made an offering, and the adults made a secret plan to come back early some morning, alone. I tend not to photograph sacred spaces, so you’ll have to see it for yourself if you’re in the area.

In holiday news, it is the eve of Yule, an important celebration around these parts.

Yesterday, the kids in the house collected herbs, berries and greenery to decorate the Yule log we will burn tomorrow night, and today, M (my li’l sis-in-law) and I are going to attempt the baking of a traditional Buche de Noel to add to the celebratory feast. This will, of course, be gluten-free. I can’t get around the dairy, as it’s absolutely loaded with buttercream, but I seem to be almost okay with pastured butter. I anticipate a few days discomfort after any family event these days, anyway, so whatever. It’s going to be beautiful. I might even be content to just look at it.


Anyway, should be messy…will document!