carrot cake rock buns // beauty in imperfection


We don’t always feel creatively inspired and it’s not until very recently, two days ago in fact, that I’ve discovered that this is ok. I’ve been stuck in this rut where I’ve been cooking, baking and taking photos and then trying to force words out of myself and onto my keyboard. As I start to read these words back, their lack of natural-ness becomes apparent to me and everything seems far from the perfection that I am constantly striving for in my writing.


I realise our definitions of perfection, in writing, might be entirely different. One person’s may be grammatical perfection, whilst another’s might be the satisfaction in finding the perfect simile or metaphor. My idea of perfection in my own writing is defined by a few characteristics: capturing the essence of emotions/experiences/relationships authentically, honestly and beautifully. In a tone so true that readers who know me can hear my voice and recall our memories and happy moments together and those who don’t, feel like they are in the kitchen with me, getting to know me and cooking along with me. Also, showing people my passion for cookery, photography and writing and the warmth it brings to me. Spreading that warmth and encouraging others to spread it too, in the way of creating (successfully or unsuccessfully) honest, heartwarming, homemade food that is purely for comfort not to impress. I want to capture love, comfort, memories, emotion, beauty in every post but sometimes this just isn’t going to happen in the most ‘perfect’ way possible, the ‘perfect,’ that I want.


That’s the thing about creativity: we have total freedom. This can be both incredibly liberating but also incredibly overwhelming and pressurising. I can make simple choices. Let’s use an analogy. I can choose to paint my (metaphorical) canvases with a palette of black and white or with one of technicolour. I can use thicker strokes or finer strokes. I can paint with realism or abstraction. But how do I go beyond the simple art of brush in paint, brush on canvas, paint on canvas? How do I paint outside the lines? How do I do something… extraordinary? Simple answer, I’ve found, is I can’t. But what I can do however is do something better than the extraordinary, I can do… me. I can write how I write, I can sing how I sing, I can bake how I bake and, even if I tried, my ‘strokes’ will never be the same as somebody else’s. They may not be ‘perfect.’  That’s what makes me extraordinary. I am me! …I am the extraordinary?


And today, I found comfort and reassurance in these little carrot cake rock cakes. They are the perfect example of beauty in imperfections. On the outside, they may not look like perfection: irregular, a little bit bumpy, a raisin jutting out here and the skin of a date peeking out there, an odd patch of unmixed cinnamon rippling through the centre. Full of ‘imperfections.’ But oh on the inside, boy are they beautiful. An interior as soft as you like: a crumb tender enough to be deliciously moist but just light and spongey enough to be wonderfully moreish and quickly gobbled up from the plate in instants, leaving everyone sadly gazing at the empty, white plate on the coffee table – “is there no more?” They’re laced with warming spices of cinnamon and ginger bringing us cosy moments in the autumn and beckoning to Winter and calling for Her gingerbread-scented candles and Christmas time.


But wait one moment, I am in no way saying that the interior has to compromise for these ‘imperfections’ because that would be horrendously incorrect and misunderstood. Those imperfections are perfection! Those irregular, odd, little bumps and humps are what catch and brown to give us those comfortingly familiar, toasty-sweet flavours that we find in lightly-toasted bread, gold-rimmed biscuits and perfectly, bronzed sponge cakes. A smooth surface would never be able to give you those delicious crispy bits that I enjoy cheekily picking off in secret, when no one’s looking. (My cakes, my rules!) Those raisins and dates, that awkwardly jut out, are what give you those dreamily intense hits of deep, rich, caramelised molasses flavours due to their accidental exposure to the heat of the oven. That big, ‘ugly’ patch of unmixed cinnamon is that little dash extra I added in the mix, for the sake of my dad who is a self-confessed cinnamon addict. The one with the patch is dad’s rock bun, to put a great, big smile on his face as he takes a bite and the fiery cinnamon bites him back.


Maybe, by constantly hunting for this perfection and extraordinary-ness I’m losing my own voice and heading more towards something that truly is ‘imperfect,’ to meinauthenticity. Like if I were to try and perfect the rock cakes. Put them in tins and smooth their tops taking away their knobbly bumps that tell us these are something grandma used to make, before the time of fancy miniature gateau cake tins, embracing the greatness in simple ingredients and simple equipment. Tuck in the little gems of dried fruit that poke out of the cakes and take away the beautiful, wonderful flavours they have to offer. Mix in the ‘correct’ amount of cinnamon, evenly throughout the batter and take away that personal touch for my dad. With writing, it goes the same way. My in-eloquence, awkward phrasing, ill-fitting adjectives and long, clumsy, difficult-to follow sentences are me and if we take those away then, what’s special? These imperfections are charm and character and personality and stories! Now, you see? The imperfections are the perfections!

With these carrot cake rock buns, my friends, together, we have found… the extraordinary! 

Recipe (by Ruby Tandoh, from her new book ‘Flavour: Eat What You Love’) (first recipe in article)


22:53 Creations – “Little Mush” Edition


It is now 10:53 and I can’t sleep. My final thoughts before bed usually consist of the pages of the book I’ve just been reading, the lyrics of the songs I’ve just been listening to, people I care about and overnight oats. What combo can I come up with to make tomorrow’s morning brighter?

Tonight I’m thinking about Bircher Muesli but I don’t think it would be fair to contemplate on Mr Bircher-Benner (is his name)’s recipe without knowing the full story so as I tumble out these words on the keyboard, I’m going to load up some info on the history of Bircher Muesli.

Story time. Apparently, Mr Bircher-Benner was a nutritionist who is now credited with the discovery of the nutritional value of fruit and veg after curing his illness, with the consumption of raw apples. This then prompted him to create, and then popularise muesli, a combination of raw fruit, nuts and oats, which he used to improve the health of his patients  – good man, Mr Bircher!

So, to make the perfect bowl of the original Bircher Muesli recipe, often called “little mush” by his patients (adorable), you must include:

  • Oats
  • Nuts
  • Yoghurt, cream or (condensed) milk
  • Apples and apple juice (apparently “non-negotiable” ingredients)
  • Lemon juice
  • Honey/Liquid Sweetener to sweeten (if not using condensed milk)

So let’s run through that list.

  • Oats ✔ (going well)
  • Nuts ✔
  • Yoghurt, cream or (condensed) milk  (…I can do almond milk??)
  • Apple ✗ (Uh oh.. Watch this recipe go downhill..)
  • Lemon juice ✔
  • Honey/Liquid Sweetener ✔ (Agave!)

Ok, so, let’s face it. It isn’t entirely ideal for me to make this recipe right now, with the ingredients in my fridge as I’m only missing the most essential ingredient. Mr Non-Negotiable Apple. So we could either give up here… Or… We could call in the unripe nectarine. This could go one of two ways. Blasphemy and potential disaster… or innovation and potential (dare I say it) genius? Worst case scenario, if the former: it’s disgusting and I have to live with the consequences tomorrow morning. But nobody will ever know! It’s 11:30 now and shockingly no one in the house seems to be that preoccupied by my overnight oat deliberations.

I can stir up this wanna-be Bircher Muesli concoction and, come tomorrow morning, I could love it and be celebrated as Mr Bircher’s successor/chosen one/modern-day muesli genius or I could hate it and paint on a mmmm-delicious face tomorrow morning so as not to taint my kitchen-cred. I’ve got a rep to protect.

Update: the nectarine is grated and kind of resembles apple. I feel success coming on.

Update: I’ve added in half a cup of oats and 3/4 cups of almond milk. I’m strutting around the kitchen like I own the place. I’m feeling confident. (setting myself up for a fall, here?)

Update: I’m contemplating flavour combinations. I’m thinking cardamom.

Update: We don’t have cardamom but we have mastic. (<exotic – info here). I’m running with the mastic idea. What could go wrong? I love it in Grandma’s puddings.

Update: Mum has entered and is looking from the pouch of mastic, back to my milky, oats, grated/pulverized nectarine creation. She looks concerned as she tries to follow my train of thought. (train of thought seems to be heading for a dead-end)

Update: I’ve heard you grind mastic with sugar so it doesn’t stick to the pestle and mortar so that’s what I’m doing. I’ve added one droplet but don’t taste much mastic, so I add another. Mum warns me not to over-mastic as my oats will turn bitter. Over mastic shmover-mastic. A little mastic can’t hurt nobody. I’m nervously shuffling the extra ground mastic into my bowl and stirring.

Update: Taste test………Damn it. We have over-mastic-ed. Quick! Emergency save-overnight-oats procedure! Over-sweeten with agave! Dump in some/too-much cinnamon to destroy all offensive flavour (now looks unappetising brown colour)! Throw in some almonds and chia seeds – nice texture and healthy kick to compensate for foul, bitter+sickly sweet taste?! Cling film bowl! Swiftly close fridge door! Sigh..

The oats are tomorrow morning’s problem. For now, all I can do is shove a chunk of dark chocolate in a dried date, call that enough creativity for one night and head on back to bed.

Update (1:11am): Just remembered I forgot to add the lemon juice too but I don’t think adding that will bring us any closer to poor Mr Bircher’s recipe.