The winter season holds a particularly soft spot in my heart.
When I was a little girl growing up in Michigan, where the winters are bitterly icy-cold and heavy with powdery white snow, and made shimmery with clear, glass-hard icicles that hang off of rooftops and tree branches, my favorite thing to do was to go outside, open up my little mouth, and stick out my tongue to taste the soft snow flurries and allow them to dissolve on my tongue.
Though they had no real flavor, I remember them tasting a bit like what fresh, clean air smelled like, all crisp and light and ethereal.
Life was so much more innocent back then, and it was the “little things” that made my heart and soul happy and content.
The dreams I had for my life were made up of colorful imaginations, fantasies of a simple life doing what I was created to do, where all that mattered was the change of seasons, my family and my friendships, and being as free as a little butterfly to flutter about here and there, and everywhere that I pleased.
All I knew in my young heart was that I longed, dreamed, to be useful to the world; and to be loved and to love.
And it was as simple as that.
I look back at that season of my life, and my eyes very slightly well up with warm tears, the tears that are the good kind, the ones that come when one reminisces about the light and the magic that the world once held in a time that's gone by.
Or, at least it seems that it's gone by.
This time just before the holidays is a magical and reflective time; we're drawn to the lights that shine and sparkle, and our souls become enraptured by the cozy, warm comforts that punctuate our surroundings.
And it's the perfect time to become reacquainted with those precious, innocent and hope-filled dreams of our childhood, reuniting with and rekindling them.
While some of us had joyful childhoods, and others of us, sadly, suffered and were wounded, we all were little ones that began as a beautiful and possibility-filled blank slate, and had soft, moldable hearts that held big, bold dreams.
And I believe that at the very core of each of us, no matter our experiences, all we simply ever wanted was love and acknowledgment, just like we want it now.
We want to see our own unique piece of this grand puzzle that is life fit perfectly into its own unique little space, and to connect with what we were created and shaped to connect with, and be manifested exactly as we were meant to be, in full glory and brilliance.
But it's a dream that as we get older seems to melt away, dissolve, like the little snow flurries on my tongue so quickly did during the winters of my childhood.
Now's the time, the opportunity, to bask in those dreams once again, and to nurture and feed them so that they may become stronger and more vivid.
My hope for each of us is to reconnect with the innocent hearts of our childhoods, those hearts that held all hope for brilliant futures and for finding our special and unique place that only we can fill.
May we each realize what it is that we've been allowing to dissolve away without even knowing it, that we may form a new relationship and bond with it, and consciously strengthen and nurture it that it may be shared with the world and we may be made complete and whole.
May we experience the snow flurries as they melt on our tongues, but may we never forget the way they taste and feel.
Taste what's good and pass it on.
Winter Snow Flurry Cake with Fluffy Eggnog Frosting and Sugar Snow Crystals
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 12
• 2 ¾ cups cake flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• ½ cup organic eggnog (not low fat)
• ½ cup buttermilk
• 1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract (regular is fine, too; however, the cake will not be quite as white)
• 4 jumbo egg whites, room temp
• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp
• 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
• Fluffy Eggnog Frosting (recipe below)
-Preheat oven to 350°, and line three, 8” cake pans with parchment and mist with cooking spray.
-Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into a bowl, and set these dry ingredients aside.
-Whisk together the eggnog, buttermilk and vanilla in a large cup, and set these wet ingredients aside.
-Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes; then, add in 1 ½ cups of the granulated sugar, and continue to cream until the two are fluffy, about another 2 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed.
-With the mixer on low, add about ⅓ of the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture, and once that is incorporated, add in half of the wet ingredients, allowing that to fully incorporate; repeat the process with another ⅓ of the dry, and then the rest of the wet, finishing with the dry ingredients.
-In a medium-size bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy using a hand-held electric mixer; then, while whipping, sprinkle or “rain” in the remaining ¼ cup of the granulated sugar, and continue whipping until the whites form glossy, stiff peaks, about 5-7 minutes.
-Using a spatula, gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter taking care not to deflate them too much—you just want the batter well blended.
-Divide the batter equally into your prepared cake pans, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
-Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then carefully turn them out and allow them to completely cool on wire racks before frosting and decorating.
Fluffy Eggnog Frosting Ingredients:
• 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened at room temp
• 5 ½ – 5 ¾ cups powdered sugar, sifted
• ¼ cup eggnog, room temp
• 1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
• ¼ teaspoon, heaping, ground nutmeg
-Add the butter to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and cream until fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.
-With the mixer on low, begin adding about a cup of the sugar at a time, alternating with a drizzle of eggnog, allowing the mixture to blend until fluffy.
-Finish with the vanilla and the nutmeg, and mix until those are well incorporated; use immediately, or keep covered in fridge, at which point you can then re-mix the frosting (if it's stiff) to make it fluffy once again.