Here we are, friends. It’s been a year (plus 2 days) since I launched Pepper Lynn, and what a year it has been! Life looks very different than it did 12 months ago; my heart is both fuller and heavier, with the joy that I once knew slowly returning. I’d like to share my thoughts on the journey and what the future holds for me, but first, let’s talk cake!

A modified version of Oh She Glows’ Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Spiced Buttercream Frosting is how I’m celebrating my blog’s 1st birthday. The cake itself reminds me of a less-dense sweet bread, moist and full of autumny goodness, yet it’s the frosting that takes this treat fully into dessert territory. Butter, cream, sugar, vanilla, and a generous portion of pumpkin pie spice combine to create a topping that is rich, velvety, and indulgent. Toasted walnuts act as sprinkles, providing an extra bit of flavor and crunch, and though I chose to keep the decorations simple, feel free to fancy it up if you like. Either way, I’m sure you’ll find it to be just as delightful as we did.

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So, this year of blogging… Where do I begin? The easy thing would be for me to hide behind the food and to say how fabulous things have been, how I love my life so much, and how I just can’t wait for more, but that just wouldn’t be honest. Things are messy right now, and while I think it’s important to not wallow in the crazy, there’s value in acknowledging its presence and seeking joy where it may be found.

With that, let’s take a little journey back to 2003. I’ve always been intense about my work, and during my high school years, I made myself miserable with the amount of time I spent on school assignments and working a part-time job. Burnout set in toward the end of my senior year, and when I made the transition to college, I decided I didn’t want to work myself so hard anymore. Sure, education was why I was enrolled at Kettering University, but I felt it wasn’t so important that my desire for achievement should own me. I wanted to develop solid friendships, live a little, and not stress so much.

Life was awesome that first semester, and I remember that for the first time in a long time, things were balanced. I fulfilled my school commitments, but I also stayed up late, chatting with my new friends and having fun in in the dorms. Mistakes were made (mostly involving boys and alcohol, though not at the same time), yet I didn’t have a care in the world. Things were going great when a few weeks following that first term, I was surprised to see that my grades had qualified me for inclusion on the Dean’s List. I didn’t make any specific decisions at the moment, but I recall that my ego was boosted, and like getting a hit of a drug, I wanted more.

Subsequent semesters were enjoyable, but things changed. I started stressing about my work again and feared not being the best in my class. Joy receded as my performance began to rule me once more. Ironically, I didn’t finish my degree. Things weren’t working out for me at this particular school due to its narrow focus on technical career fields (I was originally a mechanical engineering major), so I moved back home to Texas, then again to Washington state to be with my now husband. A few years later, I completed an Associate’s degree in business, but there’s always been part of me that’s felt like I missed the mark.

Why do I share this story with you? Because it’s the story of my life. Mention a scenario, and I can tell you how I’ve twisted it to be stressful and overwhelming. Perfection is often the standard in my mind, and since that isn’t achievable, I’m often found feeling simultaneously guilty, insufficient, and exhausted. I’ve done that with this blog. It started as a hobby, a way to stimulate my brain in the often mundane world of motherhood, but after seeing a bit of success with my overnight oats post, I became very interested in growing my platform. We were paying for childcare a day or two a week for me to work on the blog, so I put pressure on myself to produce the best content, promote my work perfectly, and make an income (at least enough to cover the cost of childcare).

As you might imagine, this silliness has not led to good things. I’ve allowed myself to become a slave to it, at times blogging when I should have been snuggling my babes or caring for my husband. I’ve worked myself hard, neglecting sleep and good eating habits, to the point of experiencing daily physical pain as I did this summer. Sure, I’ve made a few dollars, but in the end, I’ve decided this is not how I want to live. It’s joyless, and I have spent a disgustingly large amount of time focusing on myself instead of others.

You might be wondering what this means for Pepper Lynn. Thankfully, it means all good things. Ads will remain here in an effort to help pay for my monthly hosting costs, but mentally and emotionally, this space is all hobby and no business. I want my words to be genuine, encouraging, and joyful, which is a near impossibility when I am drowning in my own expectations. I want to be free to post as I choose, and for whatever reason, when I was in “business” mode, I felt this pressure of professionalism that censored my speech.

Going forward, I plan to keep posting delicious recipes and photos, so things may wind up looking quite similar from the outside. Less of my time will be spent promoting myself and more time getting to know some of the other amazing bloggers in Seattle (insert shout-out to Erina, Karista, and Rose!). Sleep should be easier to come by, too.

To end this longer-than-normal post, I want to say thank you. Whether you are a new reader or you’ve been here since the beginning, I appreciate you. Thank you for your encouraging words to me along the way. I’m looking forward to many more years of blogging, sharing, and growing.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with spiced buttercream frosting 02

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Spiced Buttercream Frosting

Makes: 1 13x9 cake

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Spiced Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

    For the cake:
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 5 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cream or milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup walnut halves, toasted and coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 13x9 baking dish with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment and any exposed portions of the pan with butter or oil.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, sugar, canola oil, molasses, and maple syrup until blended. In a separate, larger bowl, add the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cloves, stirring to combine. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir gently until no dry spots remain.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, smooth the surface with a rubber spatula, and bake for 28 to 32 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then carefully remove it onto a wire rack to cool completely. (You may need to do a couple inversions to transfer the cake to the cooling rack; do this gently to avoid splits and breaks.)
  4. Once the cake has cooled to room temperature, carefully peel off the parchment paper. Prepare the frosting by whipping the butter in a medium bowl until fluffy. Add the pumpkin pie spice and the powdered sugar, a little bit at a time, beating after each addition. Lastly, add the cream and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  5. Use a rubber or offset spatula to frost the cake as desired. Decorate only the top as I did, or spread the frosting a little more thinly and cover the sides as well. Sprinkle the chopped, toasted walnuts over the top, slice, and serve.
http://www.pepperlynn.com/2012/11/pumpkin-gingerbread-cake-with-spiced-buttercream-frosting/

Adapted from Oh She Glows.

ENJOY!

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