Ascension and Getting over the Fear of Baking

getting over the fear of baking coffee cake
This is one of a series of essays dealing with my totally unrational fear of baking

Ever since Easter and Passover weekend I’ve been thinking a lot about the world ascension. The word has been looping dramatic arcs through my psyche ever since I took one of those deep, restorative, midday naps last weekend. For over an hour I took in the sleep of the dead. It was the kind of rest that soothes, calms, and heals the wounds of hard work.

When I awoke from my unconscious state, I found my refreshed mind chewing on a single word: Ascension. “Ascension,” my internal voice said to me. “Look it up.”

Though I was happy to go about my day and avoid the quiet nudge, the word wasn’t giving up on me. My mind looped: ascension, ascension, ascension. What was it about this word that needed so much attention? Ascension, ascension, ascension. The sound of the word grew louder and louder until I couldn’t resist its call any longer.

Finally, I surrendered. I gave over to a word.

Well, I mostly surrendered. Rather than commit to a full-fledged literary investigation that included the involvement of a certain large and weighted Webster’s Dictionary that lives on my bookshelf, I instead turned to my computer’s succinct internal dictionary. According to Encarta’s World English dictionary, ascension is not a word that’s included in the basic software. So, as an alternative, I turned to ascend for clues.

I was reminded that ascend means to climb up something, to succeed, and also means to rise up to a higher level.  A mountain, a career, a situation, the physical life, or anything else that offers a good challenge can be ascended. A man named Jesus is said to have ascended from death on Easter day. Perhaps this is why the word came to me with such a force. It was just Easter weekend, after all.

But ascension isn’t a word that’s limited to mountain climbers and people of faith. Ascension can be used by all sorts of English speaking people who may or may not believe in the existence of God.  So what does ascension have to do with me right now?

Easy coffee cake recipe
Buttermilk Coffee Cake from Carrie Vitt's cookbook, Deliciously Organic

Awakening from that nap the other day was a kind of ascension. Those hearty minutes of sleep healed my heart, mind and body in a way that I felt as if I had slept the sleep of the dead and came back to tell the tale. I felt the gift of being given one more day to rise up from sleep, get up and out of my bed, walk to the kitchen with my own two feet, and step up to the stove and create something good and healthy.

Stepping up to the stove to bake is—without a doubt—an ascent from a valley of flour and yeast-based fears. Every sweet bread and coffee cake I pour into a pan is a rising test of faith. Every cookie and granola recipe shows me the limits of my ability to follow directions, my capacity for humility, and my willingness to accept failure.  Every successful slice of cake shows me the sweet benefits of ascension.

Climbing seemingly insurmountable tasks teach you something.  You emerge on the other side with a deeper understanding and the feeling that perhaps the trail was not as hard as you imagined it to be.

When I made my dear friend Carrie’s Buttermilk Coffee Cake the other day, I basked in the flavors of my early morning accomplishment. Soft, cake crumbs and crumbles of flour, sugar and walnut showed me that perhaps someday—a day in the near future–I will ascend this mountain of doubt and fear for baking.

Until all of the fears are abated, I will continue the journey ahead of me, appreciate the growth, and look forward to the day of ascension.

easy breakfast tea cake recipe


Buttermilk Coffee Cake

This is one of many great recipes from Carrie Vitt, cookbook author and food writer at Deliciously Organic. If you don’t have her cookbook, I strongly advise you to run out and get it!

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temp)

1 ¼ cups organic cane sugar

2 large eggs (room temp)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup sour cream

2 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold)

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ cup whole walnuts (or pecans)

Preheat your oven to 375˚ with the rack adjusted to the medium position. Butter an 8×8-inch baking dish.

Cream 8 tablespoons of butter and ¾ cup of the organic cane sugar in the bowl of a mixer for 3 minutes on medium high. With the mixer on low, add the eggs and vanilla. Blend well. Add sour cream and blend until completely mixed in. Remove bowl from mixer.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a small bowl. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until everything is combined. Pour batter into the baking dish.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together 3 tablespoons of cold butter and the remaining sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon. Pulse until combined. Add nuts and pulse briefly until the nuts are roughly chopped. Crumble the topping onto the batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. I love this cake and so do my kids – i bake it often. Your’s is gorgeous, i love the loaf thing you’ve got going on here! Photos and of course, your writing are once again, stellar! I think you are about ready to tackle a pie.

    • Food Woolf
      April 30

      I think you’re right! Pie, it is!

  2. The cake looks beautiful! I’m honored that you chose one of my recipes to help you overcome your fear. You are such a dear. xoxo

  3. April 29

    The cake looks perfect! You are a pro!

  4. Brooke, my friend, that’s a beautiful cake. And it’s funny about following directions. I’m a terrible directions-follower when it comes to just about everything (that’s why I can’t hold a proper job), but when it comes to baking I just give over and do what I’m told.

    The fact that you have a fear of baking really means that you’re accustomed to making your own decisions and relying on your own judgment. I wish all my character flaws were so admirable.

    • Food Woolf
      April 30

      Thanks Tamar! I appreciate the kind words. Glad you find some good in this control problem I have. 🙂

  5. This cake has gotta be as fabulous as it looks! Way to go with learning new things and sharing the journey with us 🙂

  6. It looks divine — if you need any help finishing it off, well, that’s what neighbors are for! 😉

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