I'm delighted to have Katherine Scott of @oliveapplemoss on Lit & Pie this week, sharing her journey to becoming a talented illustrator and innovative baker, despite her self-doubt and general life happening around her. At the end of this article, she shares one of her recipes with us (Pumpkin Sage Cake with Brown Butter Sage Frosting). If you, like me, can't get enough of Katherine's delicious recipes and wonderful illustrations, you can sign up to her newsletter in addition to her Instagram feed where she shares her life and work.

I suffer imposter syndrome a lot. I’m a qualified speech therapist and yet I always worried I wasn’t good enough at that because I didn’t know everything there was to know. No one ever does, obviously, and I know I was actually more than capable, but I felt it anyway.

I’ve begun a small business around my art. I draw. I paint. I’ve sold my work. I’m an artist. Yet I find it difficult to say it out loud.

I write. Here and there. Not much. Not yet. But I grew up writing and being good at writing. Still I feel like it would be audacious to proclaim myself a writer. Or even to admit that I might like to be “A Writer”.

I’m a mother. There’s no questioning that. But I question whether I’m doing a good enough job, every single day.

I also seem to have fooled people into thinking I’m a good baker. I’m not really. Or I dare not claim to be, lest everyone expect every last morsel I make to be delicious.

Why the self-doubt?

Is it because we’re taught to not take up space? To not boast? To make ourselves feel small? Whatever it stems from I’m slowly learning to quiet that voice, to sideline it and just do things anyway.

I am a speech therapist. An artist. A writer. A mother. A baker- of sorts.  I learned to bake with my own mother, although she much prefers to cook a casserole over a cake.

I remember she had an old Australian Country Women’s Association cookbook with a recipe for ‘Foundation Cake’.  Foundation Cake was a blank canvas. Three cups of flour, two cups sugar, the other usual ingredients, and ‘flavourings’. Sultanas, lemon zest, nuts- the book encouraged you to experiment as you liked. And so many a time I did.

I learned the rough ingredients of a cake this way and I built upon that. With practice, and tasting of many other cakes. And watching endless hours of food tv. I’ve never once made an actual recipe from a television cooking show, but I have called upon so many techniques and flavour combinations that have somehow tucked themselves away in the back of my brain for future use.

This is how I’ve learned to cook all things. Acquired knowledge combined with a strange internet research method. I think of ingredients I want or need to use and Google them.Traditional combinations. Or odd ones. 'Pumpkin' and ‘fennel’, or 'chocolate' and 'rosemary'. Then I read a good handful of related recipes and make up a hybrid version.

With varying success, I hasten to add.  I won't ever make an exceptional baker, because good baking calls for accuracy.  I'm one for dashes and pinches and cups of ever-varying fullness. I measure 'tablespoons' with any old spoon, tea, table, soup or dessert, or sometimes just poured straight out into the palm of my hand.

There is fun and frustration in this method.  I've unfortunately thrown a good many cakes straight in the bin over the years. I hate wasted food so this hurts. But some just cannot be saved, not even with a forgiving scoop ofvanilla ice cream.  

Sometimes though I accidentally throw together the most delicious of desserts. A maple syrup cake once that was pure sweet perfection. A rhubarb and rosewater yoghurt one another time that had the lightest texture and the optimum hint of rose scent. I love florals in both my art and my food.

I should perhaps approach all my life roles the way I do baking. With a good knowledge of the foundations and ample room to experiment. To carry on celebrating the successes and learning from the failures.

As you can imagine though, I can rarely recreate these baking successes. I did try writing a few down recently, for my newsletter subscribers. I'll leave you with one- pumpkin and sage cake with brown butter sage frosting. My recipe writing accuracy is also questionable. So if this recipe fails you, take the idea, Google some inspiration and invent your own.

The flavour concept, at least, is sound, trust me. I may not be an expert baker. But I’m definitely an expert eater.

image by Katherine Scott

Pumpkin Sage Cake with Brown Butter Sage Frosting

1 1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/4 c olive oil
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
5 fresh sage  leaves
2 c self raising flour
1 tsp baking soda

frosting:
1/3 c butter
2 1/2 c icing sugar
large sprig fresh sage

Prepare a 20cm round cake tin.

Mix pumpkin, oil, vinegar, vanilla, white and brown sugars and finely chopped sage in a large bowl until well combined.

Fold in flour and baking soda.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for approx. 1 hour or until skewer inserted in middle comes out clean.

Frosting:
Heat butter in a small pan with sage leaves until butter is a golden brown, fragrant and sage leaves are just crispy (be careful not to go too far or butter will burn).

Remove sage leaves and return browned butter to fridge to cool. When butter has set solid (soft but not liquid) take out and whip until pale and fluffy. Add icing sugar and whip until smooth.

Frost cake when cooled completely.

NOTES

  • Eat the crispy sage leaves! They’re delicious!
  • The cake itself is vegan but the frosting is not. Top with your favourite vegan/dairy free frosting if preferred.  Cinnamon would work well or try adding some fresh or dried sage to vanilla frosting.
image by Katherine Scott