Ah, Portland. What lovely souls reside here. What fantastic characters grace your coffee shops, your streets, your bars, your grassy parks, who stay for a while and then leave swiftly, guided by a curiosity and thirst for life nurtured only by such a wondrous town.
Those on the go, those willing to pack a bag at a moment’s notice and leave for adventures unknown, those dripping with uncertainty in their seemingly settled lives. These are the people I want to know. People who aren’t scared to take their own path, to squirm at the thought of chaining themselves to one life, to one idea, to one opinion, to one place, to one person. Whose travels and teachings have only led them to know that they actually know next to nothing except who they are with great clarity. Those who involve themselves in what brings them passion, excitement, livelihood and don’t bother with that which doesn’t. Those who, just by being in their presence, you can feel something deeper. Something wild, something untamed, something fierce that just might, someday, arrive unpredictably in full force.
And when I met Liz, it was for this reason that we connected.
A glance around Liz’s bedroom gives a good indication of who she is, covered with posters of the sea, of surfers, of naked girls on bikes, a map of New Zealand, eclectic clothes and jewelry strewn around the room, some textbooks and a beta fish.
She’s a surfer chick who’s studying towards a nursing degree so that she can travel the world while healing people, and she drives an old beater van with a backseat converted into a disheveled bed to sleep on while out on her surfing adventures.
We first bonded over a Halloween zombie bar crawl a few months ago. Then we climbed together, then jogged across the river together, then drank beer and, all the while chatting about how strange and funny life can be sometimes.
The other night she took a chocolate making class at People’s Co-Op, and the next day invited me over to attempt to make our own.
We rode our bikes to the market and back with Gunner by our side, and proceeded to make delicious (and healthy) chocolate from scratch. It was probably the cutest Valentine’s Day date ever.
Lesson learned, making chocolate from scratch really isn’t all too difficult! You just need chocolate powder, a fat (such as butter), and a sweetener. You can choose the quality of ingredients to use in making your own batch, but we opted for a nutritious and energy packed recipe.
After mixing the ingredients together in a double boiler, we poured the chocolate mix into molds and put them in the freezer to solidify. We made a few different batches, including Meyer lemon and fresh ginger, dried rosemary and sea salt, chili powder and cinnamon, and chopped walnuts and sea salt. Um…wow, they were AMAZING.
It’s obvious to anyone that meets her that she’s a rad chick, but not everyone who’s rad will wholeheartedly bring you into her little Portland world so openly as Liz has for me.
Also, not everyone who’s rad will bake you a cake from scratch for your birthday.
But Liz did. And just like the chocolates, it was also AMAZING.
It was a chai cake with cream cheese frosting, a recipe borrowed from the journal of her great friend Vicki.
And because my first birthday in Portland was such a sweet sweet memory for me, this is the recipe I want to share with you.
Chai Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 1/3 cups milk
- 6 chai tea bags (without added sugar)
- 4 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 Tsp vanilla
- 2 3/4 cup cake flour
- 2 cup sugar
- 4 1/2 Tsp baking powder
- 3/4 Tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 Tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 Tsp salt
- 8 oz. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 8 oz butter for frosting at room temperature
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 Tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer over low-medium heat. Add tea bags. Remove from heat and let steep for five minutes. Let chai milk cool completely.
In a medium bowl, mix eggs, yolks, vanilla and 1/3 cup of the chai milk. Whisk together.
In separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Add butter and remaining chai milk on medium speed with mixer. Raise speed and beat until fluffy. Add egg mix in three additions. Add to a greased cake pan and bake for 26-28 minutes.
For the frosting, combine cream cheese and butter on medium speed in a mixer until consistent texture. Add the vanilla extract, then slowly add sugar. Once the cake has cooled, spread frosting on evenly.
Special thanks to both Liz and Vicki for introducing me to my new favorite cake and for lending me the recipe. You two make me smile.