Okay, my neck is stiff just writing this. But, here it goes.
Today marks the second year since I’ve created The Baking Spoon. I am sincerely proud of all the efforts I have made in bringing my dream a step closer to reality, with featured recipes, personal interviews, and an abundance of cake orders my little hands just couldn’t handle. “So this is what it feels like to be a baker…” Wait, you mean a happy-go-lucky kind of one awaiting no serious future? Let’s be honest. I was never able to successfully convince myself that anything major would come out of this hard work. Professional pastry chef? Popular food blogger? Respected writer? Psssh, yeah right. Only in my baking dreams.
And that’s when I reached my confidence-shattering breaking point. Apparently they call it the impostor syndrome and I’m suffering from it in a major way. I’m not the only one, which makes it marginally better (I guess). One dictionary defines this as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true.” Another source even says that impostor syndrome affects over 70% of all people at some point in their lives. 70%. That’s equivalent to the percentage of people using smartphones in the whole world… and who doesn’t own a smartphone these days? Can you even imagine how many people are battling with themselves right now?
But in all seriousness, it’s not that I don’t want to succeed. It’s simply that, despite my experience and built-up knowledge in baking and blogging, I have so-called “internalized messages” about my lack of qualification and competency. Mentally, my baker self is telling me to give up. It’s telling me that I’m just not good enough. Just not cut out for any of this.
They say that impostor syndrome and perfectionism go hand-in-hand. If you know me at all, you would know about my SERIOUS case with perfectionism. In grade school, I remember the importance of getting straight A’s, being on the teacher’s list, and always getting the gold star. In high school, being popular, being smart, being talented — whichever lane we chose to fit into to, there was always the hierarchy of being the best. Later came college and the career ladder — of course, always needing to excel. I’ve kind of known this about myself for a while. I used to assume if I could just do my work “right,” then I would finally be able to feel good about my accomplishments. Of course, something always goes wrong, which ends up increasing feelings of fraudulence.
But to be honest, I was afraid. Afraid to acknowledge any successes I have had (I chalk them up to being the right place at the right time). Afraid to compare myself with those who are doing better (I know other people are more successful, which I believe discounts any of my actual success). This kind of thinking made it impossible for me to feel like I’ve ever achieved anything… and that’s when I decided to stop. To give it a break and focus on the other “priorities” of my life. But throughout the past few months, I have learned that without self-confidence, we have a tendency to make poor decisions. We make choices based on fear instead of what is best for us. If you lack confidence, you might fill your life with self-destructive behavior. You might work at a job you hate. You may allow yourself to get deep in debt. You may find yourself moving from one bad relationship to another. In my case, I may leave my baking blog in the gutter and just call it a wrap. Without confidence, you don’t allow yourself to chase after your dreams and really be who you are.
People too often act like sponges and less like creators. A sponge is passive, it can only absorb information whereas a creator is active; they are responsible for their own actions and thoughts. So own what you do, own how you do it, and respect yourself for trying.
Instead of finding the fun of pursuing something I like to do, I have used it as a scale of my own value. So each time one of these activities falls short of my personal benchmark, in my mind it is actually me falling short of being perfect, or at least pretty darn good. But, being overly self-critical because I couldn’t obtain perfection with my results was a recipe for disaster both mentally and physically. Trust me. It’s not a recipe you’d want to try. But as I now face it full on, words on a page, I see how I have shut myself off from such a wealth of joy, of fun, of pure pleasure. This time, there are no first place ribbons attached. It’s almost a new year, a fresh slate and I have a new manifesto. I am okay, perfect in my imperfection. In my life, it is okay to be average. Sometimes even below average. To just be. Today, I am going to look for the end result: the joy. The path that gets me to that place is merely irrelevant.
No more apologies for a cake with slipping layers. I mean, hello! It’s cake after all. Yummy in any form.
So in honor of my newly found confidence, I would like to share my honey-infused, matcha green tea cake with black sesame seed swiss meringue buttercream… naked style! This is my first time making a matcha cake OR a naked cake, so this was going to be a sweet challenge. Speaking of sweet, whoever created the dynamic duo consisting of matcha and black sesame seed, a power clap for you. Paired with a honey, just overwhelmingly delicious. Also, another power clap for another special couple: our district’s circuit overseer and his wife were moving to the mid-west for a new assignment and this week was their last visit. Our congregation had a farewell party for them, and of course there is no such thing as a celebration without cake! We convinced them to do a cute “cake cutting” sesh (i mean, hopefully their wedding anniversary was near?), and it was absolutely precious. A very special party for a very special couple, featuring a very special cake. Hehe.
Also, a little announcement! I have decided to take my blog a bit more seriously from this point forward! The Baking Spoon will be undergoing some website changes and also more blog posts with recipes! Thank you to ALL for the continued support. I don’t know where I’d be without you guys. <3
- 1¾ c sugar
- 2½ c all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp cooking grade matcha powder
- 1½ tsp baking soda
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 c buttermilk
- ½ c canola oil
- 1½ tbsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp almond extract
- ¾ c boiling water
- 8-10 sturdy straws
- ¼ c sugar
- ½ c water
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp honey
- 5 large egg whites
- 11/2 cup sugar
- 4 sticks unsalted butter, sliced and softened
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 6 tbsp sesame seeds, finely grounded
- Extra matcha powder
- Red silk roses (can get at your local craft store or online)
- White silk baby's breath flowers
- 10 straws
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease your two cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.
- In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients except for the boiling water.
- Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then stir in the boiling water. It will be a very thin batter.
- Pour into cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes. Remember that larger cake pans will take longer to bake. Check every two-three minutes until done.
- While the cake is baking in the oven, prepare the syrup: Add sugar to a small saucepan, fitted with a lid. Pour in water and stir. With the heat on medium, bring the sugar and water to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. The sugar will dissolve while the water boils. Turn off the heat and cover immediately and let cool. When it has cooled, stir in vanilla extract and honey.
- When the cake is done baking, take out of the oven and IMMEDIATELY brush the syrup on top of the cakes. This will lock in the cake's peak flavors at this point and will keep it moist.
- Make all other cake layers accordingly. Remember the multiple batches!
- Combine egg whites and sugar in a stand mixer bowl and place it over (not on) simmering water. Heat mixture to 160 degrees F while whisking constantly.
- Transfer mixer bowl to stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium high speed (speed 8 on a KitchenAid stand mixer) until mixture cools, doubles in volume and forms stiff peaks; about 10-12 minutes.
- Add butter in one piece at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. The mixture may appear clumpy and almost curdled looking at first—this is normal. Keep mixing and it will become even and smooth again.
- Stir in the vanilla extract, almond extract, salt, and sesame seeds until combined.
- Once all the cakes have cooled, split each layer in half (that's going to be a lot of layers!). You should have a total of four 10-inch cakes, four (or more) 8 inch cakes, and three or four 4 inch cakes (I used only three because it looked proportionally better).
- Attach the first bottom layer cake onto a cake board with buttercream. Continue to layer all the 10 inch layers with a HEAVY layer of buttercream (do not use sparingly!). NOTE: Make sure to have a gap between all layers. After layering, you can use a pastry bag filled with buttercream and pipe across the orders to create a full effect. Use the end of a knife to smooth out the edges.
- Add straws for support (watch this youtube video by Laura to see the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bawdeAmPbr4)
- Repeat #2 and 3 with the rest of the layers.
- After the tiers are stacked, take your sifter and extra match powder and sift all across your cake to create a "powdered" effect. Do not overdo this step!
- Now, take your red silk roses and make sure the stems are cut short. Take a straw and put through each stem. Attach to the top of the 4 inch cake. The straws will act as a barrier between the metal stem and the cake. Use your creativity to design the cake!
** If you are making this cake exactly as I have, make sure to make two batches of the buttercream. If using a standard size KitchenAid stand mixer, make one batch at a time.