Once upon a time, I was placed in charge of the internship program at the publishing house where I worked. Our interns did a lot: they read through piles of manuscripts, giving us early feedback on the work and whether it might fit onto our list of titles. They pitched in with the process of transmitting paper manuscripts to production, which at the time was somewhat painstaking (I wonder if it’s all done electronically now?). They handled correspondence and made phone calls and were eager to help out in any way they could.
In spite of how capable and energetic our interns were, I remember that hosting them was a lot of work. By the time I’d trained them to do what they needed to do, we were often a good many weeks into the semester. It was my first experience of being in a teacher/mentor role. And it showed me how demanding that role can be.
In the last 15 weeks, I have been mentored and taught—precepted, it’s called in the world of dietetics—by 6 incredible RDNs. They answered my many questions, only some of which, I know, were intelligent. They humored me when it took me a while to catch onto procedures. They worked with me to formulate and edit countless PES statements (that’s problem, etiology, and signs/symptoms), carefully showing me the difference between etiology and evidence. They checked my math on tube feeding calculations and pushed me to keep practicing.
Each one of these dietitians went above and beyond overseeing my work. They all took the time not only to delegate tasks, but also to teach me, sharing knowledge and insight into clinical practice that will stick with me always. And they did so uniquely, each according to his or her own style and clinical interests.
I haven’t had a chance to do any holiday baking until the last few days, the DI being what it is. But I did make a pretty delicious snack cake on Saturday, and if I could, I’d bring a slice to each of my preceptors as a way of showing my appreciation for the time they’ve given me.
To be honest, I made this cake because it’s something I’ve wanted to make for a while now and for the following reasons:
- Cake is my favorite dessert, and snack cake—which is just what I call it when I bake it in a large, rectangular pan and turn to slices as a late afternoon treat—might be my favorite kind.
- I love peanut butter.
- I also love jelly/jam.
But there are some reasons why it feels appropriate as a virtual token of appreciation for my preceptors, too. It’s just sweet and rich enough to be very much a dessert, but there are some nutrient bonuses, including whole wheat pastry flour and healthful fats from the nut butter. So far, my impression of clinical dietitians is that they understand the importance of snacks (they spend lots of hours on their feet, rounding and seeing patients) and snack often. And, while I’m sure they’re out there, I have yet to meet an RDN who doesn’t love peanut butter.
The whole “swirl” thing sounds complex, but the cake is actually really easy. The base batter is dense, and once you pop it into a baking dish, you cover it with some raspberry jam (or any flavor you like) and simply use a spatula to swirl the jam around. That’s all there is to it.
Once the cake bakes, it has a rich texture, an amber color, and a beautiful top that’s covered in deep red swirls. The slices, which also resemble snack bars, taste like the sweetest and most indulgent PB & J ever, and eating it all weekend has convinced me that there is no cake frosting better than some tasty fruit jam. The cake is a treat to look at and a treat to eat—especially with a cup of afternoon tea. Here’s the recipe.
- 2 1/2 cups (300 g) whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup peanut butter (substitute sunflower seed butter)
- 1 cup applesauce
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 T melted vegan butter or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup non-dairy milk of choice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup raspberry or strawberry jam
Preheat your oven to 350. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish or jelly roll pan (you can also use 12 x 8 dish/pan).
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the applesauce, peanut butter, brown sugar, vegan butter or oil, non-dairy milk, and vanilla. Add these wet ingredients to the dry and mix until they’re evenly incorporated. The batter will be on the thick side. Pour it into the prepared baking dish and use a spatula or inverted spatula to spread it around evenly. Dot the jam in big spoonfuls on top, then use your spatula to swirl everything around. It doesn’t have to be neat! Have fun.
Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm and the edges are lightly golden. Allow the cake to cool for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
Among other things I’m feeling grateful for on this quiet Christmas, I’m so lucky to have had wonderful teachers this semester: empathic, intelligent, insightful, food- and body-positive teachers. My future work will be so much stronger for their guidance and training, and I can’t thank them enough. If they were reading, though, I’d try:
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
And thank you, everyone who’s tuning in on this Christmas Eve of 2018. I wish you all peace, joy, and cake.