I've heard this advice about tackling hard things: pick the thing on your to-do list that you want to do least and just do it! Once you've scratched it off, the rest of the list feels easier, like coasting downhill slowly, as you tick down the items. You feel empowered by having accomplished that first unpleasant bit.
Fun fact: Sometimes you can't do the thing you want to do least for the obvious reason that you DON'T WANT TO DO IT. But that's okay. You try again the next day. Like those wretchedly long papers you had to write in college, somehow it gets accomplished!
That used to give me the oddest sense of comfort in school. I'd have a huge paper due (of which I'd likely written nothing). Nine PM would roll around and I'd be sitting on the third floor of the student campus center, a giant fountain Diet Coke beside me on one side, a cellophane bag of mixed gummy candies and yogurt-covered pretzels on the other. I'd watch people typing, headphones in, snack bags crumpled around them, highlighters and pens strewn next to notebooks and textbooks. The soft glow of the track lighting would illuminate the long, open room and gray carpeting. Printers would whir, spitting out stacks of photocopied lectures and problem set responses.
And though I had so much to do, I knew that somehow (SOMEHOW) it would happen. It might be awful and poorly written but I'd write it somehow before sunrise. It just always worked out.
So, that is all to say, that we can do it. Whatever it is. (We might need a little cake: more on that down below.) Oh, and some life advice from 20-year-old me to you, yogurt-covered pretzels always sound and look better than they actually taste. And by "yogurt" I think they mean fake white chocolate.
Also, I like to focus (this applies to all days, not just hard ones) on little moments and tiny things that unexpectedly ground me, or comfort me, or make me feel a brief and deep sense of calm.
- The smell of a really good face wash (Alba Botanica algae enzyme facial scrub, I'm looking at you here)
- Putting on slippers when your feet are quite cold
- The scent of garlic cooking in olive oil
- Pulling warm laundry out of the dryer
- Crisp, clean sheets on your bed
- How wooden knitting needles sound as they click together
- The aforementioned cake. Oh wait. That's not a tiny thing, at all, that's a huge and important thing!
And since cake is so important, here is a recipe I made this week and absolutely loved. I used my Nordicware Bundt cake pan but you could also divide the cake batter between two 8" round pans.
My cake domed quite a bit so I sliced off the bottom to level it, and froze the cake scraps (delicacy!) and I will say that since this cake is so moist, it freezes beautifully! It would also be good cut up, toasted, and served over ice cream. Just saying.
Note: You may find yourself questioning the amount of rum as you mix the batter. If you're thinking—"good god, what is this, a Club Med tiki bar?"—just carry on. The coconut milk offsets the rum nicely and it's such a large cake that the rum isn't overpowering.
Second note: The cornstarch and dry milk powder are crucial to achieving a dense yet tender crumb; although not as standard to have in your pantry, it's worth picking up dry milk powder as it's a great baking ingredient to have on hand.
Coconut Rum Bundt Cake
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup rum
1/2 cup whole milk (or 2% will work)
1/4 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
1 3/4 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup dry milk powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 325° F. Grease a 10-cup Bundt cake pan (make sure you get into every nook and cranny!) or two 8" round cake pans.
Cream together the butter and sugar until very pale in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one and stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
In a small bowl, whisk together the rum, milk, and coconut milk.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, dry milk powder, baking powder and salt.
Add the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients to your creamed butter/sugar mixture in three additions, alternating between both and beating well after each addition.
Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan (or pans) and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for about 1 hour for a Bundt pan, or 35 minutes for 8" round pans. The cake is ready when it begins to pull away from the edges and a cake tester/knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan before flipping it over onto a wire rack to finish cooling.