sweet potato bundt cake, or why logging is a good thing

24 Feb

There is this one sweet potato that I have lugged back and forth from my home to weekday cabin, to my home, to my cabin, to my home, to my cabin, and back to my home. Last week, my track record with said sweet potato being somewhat poor, I gave up, and left it at home. It was still kickin’ when I checked it out yesterday morning, and so off it went into to the glorified (yet lengthily-named) bundt cake that you see here.

sweet potato bundt

If I have sweet treats during the week, they are ones that I make over the weekend, to portion out betwixt myself and my boyfriend. I don’t yet have any baking supplies at my enchanted forestland abode, as I’ve affectionately taken to calling it. But what I lack in material goods I more than make up for in fresh air, ability to break showshoes (two separate pairs, down!), and wildlife sightings.

After a 7″ snowfall this week, I followed a fisher‘s tracks down a mile or two of untraveled road, only to find the fisher itself gnawing on something nasty along the edge of the woods. Hearing my vehicle, he glided away in a whimsical sliding shimmy.

Aside from checking off animals on my life list, I do quite a bit of real ‘work,’ I promise you. I also promised to tell you more about what that work is, and judging from recent comments, ideas on what it is that foresters do vary a great deal.

When people hear that I am in forestry, they often think that I do one of three things: 1) I sit in a fire tower and watch for fires, 2) I am a logger and I cut down trees, or 3) I am a park ranger and I lead nature walks, check on campers, etc. Not to get too specific, but a) I have been in several fire towers, and they are all suffering from disabuse as I don’t think anyone has regularly sat in them on fire patrol for decades, b) if I were a logger, I would call myself a Logger, and c) if I were a park ranger, I would call myself a Park Ranger.

woodswoods woodswoods

I was sincerely hoping that some of you would assume these tasks to be part of my daily routine, so that I could help to debunk this myth. Forestry is, I believe, a forgotten and much-maligned profession by the public, which is something that I strive to change as I move forward with my career.

So what is it that I do? I manage areas of forestland. I forest the forest, if you will. I walk these lands, focusing primarily on the trees, and check to see how they are growing, if they are healthy, and think about ways I can increase their productivity. How can we increase the growth of these trees? is something I get to ask myself every day. This is where loggers come into play. While I myself am not a logger, I work with loggers on a regular basis to manage the landscape around me. I prepare prescriptions, just like a doctor would, to treat areas of forestland that are sick, or that are in need of assistance, or that are mature and ready for ‘treatment,’ if you will.

I am incredibly lucky because in my corner of the globe, whenever we cut trees, other trees quickly grow back to take their place. This is not the case in many parts of the world. Those places require extra thought and assistance, and trees often have to be planted. But where I live, planting is not a necessity.

My sole hope is to convince those of you with environmental inclinations that logging is not evil. It has become very hip, very conscientious, to be an ‘environmentalist,’ whatever your definition of that may be. All the companies you make regular payments to have probably pleaded you to go paperless, in order to save the trees. What they really mean is to save them the money of sending you a paper copy.

deeryard deeryard deeryard

These pictures are from the first harvest that I have been looking after over the past six weeks. The harvest is in a managed deer yard, meaning that there are special stipulations in place with the state to make the harvest more conducive to increased deer populations – which are relatively low in our area.

As a forester, I consider myself to be at the forefront of environmentalism. If there were no foresters in the world, it might be a good idea to save those trees. But we are here to make sure that trees don’t just disappear from our landscape when they are cut down. We are here to make sure that there are strong and healthy trees long into the future. And we are here to say, please keep using paper, especially if it is made in your country, in your region, perhaps even in your state. In this digital age, paper demand has weaned significantly. And the forest industry has suffered. I am okay with this – – I think we need to find ways of adapting, we need to find new technologies and new uses for our products.

You use paper every day. You are surrounded by wood and wooden products. Perhaps you already embrace the idea of sustainable timber harvesting. I really hope that you do, to see the benefits that it brings to humanity, to the economy, and to the forest. But if you don’t, if you have qualms of any kind, I would love to hear about them, and I would love to assuage them if possible… with science.

And if I can’t assuage you with science, let me do so… with cake!

sweet potato bundt

Sweet Potato + Orange Pineapple Bundt Cake with Hazelnuts and Pecans

{original recipe, inspiration from here}

++Ingredients:++

5 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for bundt pan
1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 jumbo eggs (3 small)
1 sweet potato, diced and cooked well
1 tbsp (homemade) almond extract, or 1 tsp store-bought
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
2/3 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. orange pineapple juice
1/4 c. hazelnuts, chopped
1/4 c. pecans, chopped

1/3 c. powdered sugar
A few dashes of orange pineapple juice

++Directions:++

Generously butter a 10-cup or 12-cup bundt pan. Set aside. Preheat oven to 330 F.

Beat butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (with the paddle attachment), or by hand. Add eggs, sweet potato, and almond extract, and beat until well-mixed. Add flour, salt, baking powder, and beat; then add buttermilk and orange pineapple juice, and mix well.

Pour 1/3rd of the mixture into the prepared bundt pan. Evenly sprinkle nuts into the pan. Pour in the remaining batter. Bake for 55-70 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. De-tin the cake.

Make a glaze out of the powdered sugar and a small amount of orange pineapple juice. Drizzle over the top of the cake. Serve!

sweet potato bundt

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42 Responses to “sweet potato bundt cake, or why logging is a good thing”

  1. Brianne 2013/02/24 at 16:15 #

    You are living the dream, girl! I love everything about this post. You are officially my favorite forester ever. I love your philosophy on your profession; it’s so admirable. Mad props. Also, mad props for that cake! I long for the Cathedral Bundt pan.

    Did you do a post on homemade almond extract? I’ve never heard of making that yourself. What’s your secret?

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 06:03 #

      Thank you Brianne, what a compliment!! Your favorite forester! Aw, shucks:)

      Hehe, no, I haven’t posted my almond extract yet. I’ll do it next. Just added that in there since it was so much liquid (aka vodka)!

  2. cheezyk 2013/02/24 at 18:44 #

    First things first, that cake looks and sounds absolutely divine! Good to hear that you’re able to take care of yourself with baked goods and home comforts, even when your work-home/cabin comes with so little extra comfort.

    Secondly, well said. You are clearly passionate about what you do and enjoy it immensely. I for one appreciate that there are people like you out there striving for a balance … too many people underestimate the importance of giving our natural environment a helping hand.

    I look forward to being able to see some of these forests for myself soon (less than two years counts as soon, doesn’t it?).

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 06:06 #

      My cabin has little comforts now, but I’ll work to improve it in the coming months. When it’s actually light out late enough to enjoy, that is! And for now, it has the most wonderful comfort of all – – heat!

      I am so very passionate about what I do. If you only knew the countless hours I have sat in rooms with other foresters, all of them trying to grapple with why people don’t understand our profession, or recognize it, or appreciate it. I’m trying to do my small part to remedy that. If everyone who reads this post at least gives some thought to it, or perhaps even starts up a discussion with someone else about forestry & logging, I will feel like I have succeeded!

      Yeah! Come see our treeeees!!!

  3. Brita 2013/02/24 at 22:37 #

    I love reading about your new job. Makes me miss the woods. I hope that you will post more about it. Also I’ll have to try the recipe out one day. It looks like it is yummy.

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 06:09 #

      BRITA!! I am so happy that you left a comment:)

      Sure thing I’ll post more about my woods and my work. I would love to, you know it!

      Hopefully you still get out into the forest every now and then, perhaps with family? Take care, xo

      • Brita 2013/04/25 at 18:56 #

        I am hoping to get Adeline out in the woods with me some this summer. Hopefully a 2-year-old is a little more manageable in the woods.

        My Dad actually just asked for advice on their land, now I have to remember everything I learned. I love that you are loving your job!

        • emma 2013/04/25 at 19:30 #

          Yeah, lady! I say it’s never too early – you must have heard all about the MN couple that hiked with their toddler on the PCT out west? I thought that was pretty cool.

          I love that I am loving my job too. I bet you’ll have great ideas for your parents’ land as soon as you spend some quality time thinking about it. Let me know how it goes!

  4. leaf (the indolent cook) 2013/02/24 at 23:35 #

    A pretty cake that looks like it has loads of flavour too.

    And since you asked, I have a question! Is logging a fine thing mainly in areas like yours where trees grow quickly, or can that apply to other places, too?

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 06:12 #

      If good forest management is practiced, I believe logging can be accomplished most anywhere. And I should specify, where I live, trees actually grow really slowly – we live pretty far north, so we have a much shorter growing season and therefore lesser productivity than in other regions. I do believe that in the past, too much tree cutting without rhyme, reason, or sound practices has occurred where I live, and in many other places as well.

      Hence why foresters are so important!

  5. Silvia 2013/02/25 at 00:42 #

    That’s a superb looking cake!

    I knew what a forester was doing more or less, but more because we used to watch a series when I was a kid that centered around a forester and his family than from personal contact to a forester.

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 06:13 #

      Oh, that’s lovely! What a cool series…. I want to do that for the United States:)

  6. hungryandfrozen 2013/02/25 at 04:31 #

    Oh wow Oh wow this cake. Initially I actually thought it was like…a gratin? Made in a bundt tin? Which I think I would actually be into. But this is truly even better.

    Also, thanks for being open and cool about your work – it’s interesting, and it’s fun learning more about your life.

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 06:15 #

      Oooh, a gratin would be delicious too. Love the way your savory/sweet hybrid mind works, I tend only to think of sweet things!

      I’m so glad that you find this interesting – that’s all I could hope for, and more:)

  7. Amy (Savory Moments) 2013/02/25 at 06:36 #

    This cake looks super fabulous – delicious, creative, and very pretty from the pan shape. I also love reading your posts and enjoy another food blog from someone who works in the environmental worker!

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 06:18 #

      Thank you so much, Amy. I love this pan shape so much, I’m glad others like it too;)

      Love having food/environmental acquaintances! Perfect combo, I say!

  8. Antonia Nelson 2013/02/25 at 08:56 #

    I LOVE that you are a forester! Do you mind telling me what kind of degree went into this?

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 06:21 #

      Sure! I received a Bachelors of Science in Forest Resources. I also finished a Masters in the same field (but that would be unnecessary for the position I have now).

      There are accredited degrees in Forestry at most land-grant institutions across the US – – not sure how/if accreditation works elsewhere in the world.

      I love that I am a forester too!

  9. sarah 2013/02/25 at 10:03 #

    MMMMM. This looks amazing. Fancy bundt pan too.

    Do you stay in your enchanted forestland abode during the week? Forestry sounds like there’s always something new. Now I know, forester does not equal park ranger!
    Are there desert equivalents of foresters?

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 06:26 #

      I do stay in my enchanted forestland abode during the week! It’s a lovely little cabin that is actually surrounded by a few other cabins, in a sort of odd non-town compound. We used to have a post office here, but that closed a few years ago.

      I’m not sure about pure desert-ers, but out your way, I would expect to find many more Rangeland Scientists and Technicians than foresters. These are people who manage large areas where ‘range’ species are found, i.e., where animals graze, etc.

      Forester does not equal park ranger, although the course curriculum does see some overlap!

  10. Alayna @ Thyme Bombe 2013/02/25 at 11:20 #

    What an awesome job! You are the Lorax, you speak for the trees!

    That is a beautiful bundt cake. The color is so warm I could take a nap in it. Sounds like the perfect little cake to have a slice of for breakfast with a mug of hot tea.

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 18:39 #

      I am the Lorax of the new generation! Although hopefully with less awkward facial hair.

      Mmm, mug of tea and slice of this for breakfast? Sounds like something I can accomplish tomorrow morning! Good idea;)

  11. Mum 2013/02/25 at 13:22 #

    Wonderful post!! And how marvelous that you got to see an elusive fisher–I imagine that that is somewhat rare. I like and admire how you speak about your chosen field, and I’ve never been a fan of “…going paperless”…you’ve nailed that one. Actually, making paper out of trees is an amazing invention. I have no doubt that there will be even more amazing uses for trees in the future. Of course, there’s almost nothing better than a nice little walk in the woods…

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 18:43 #

      Yeah, I don’t imagine fishers are an everyday sighting. But I seem to be having marvelous luck with spotting ‘elusive’ creatures as of late! It is perhaps the best part of my job.

      Making paper is one of those things that, were the world populated entirely out of Emmas, would never happen. That and modern medicine and computers and probably ice cream too.

      The only thing nicer than a walk in the woods is a walk along the ocean! You knew I’d say that, though:)

  12. Mary at n00bcakes 2013/02/25 at 15:13 #

    Wow, that’s actually really interesting; I had no idea how little impact not using paper products makes. I’d actually love to hear more about that in future posts, specifically some numbers and/or general statistics regarding the amount of paper we actually use versus what we *think* we actually use, and if we don’t need to “saving the trees” by not using paper products, what we *should* be doing to save said trees.

    …Or do we not care about saving the trees anymore? I’m all confused now.

    Oh, beautiful bundt cake pan, by the way – I’m totally jealous. :D

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 18:51 #

      Mary, I think I’d lose all my readers if I started posting numbers and general statistics regarding paper consumption. BUT, I feel invigorated by this challenge! I don’t currently have any numbers on me, per se, but I can do a little sleuthing and then talk more in the future.

      I think that “saving the trees” is a poorly-chosen slogan, and is perhaps at the root of why society is anti-forestry. It is a negative perspective, and it assumes that there are no qualified intelligent people out there managing said trees. Instead I would say “save the foresters!” Or I would focus on growing the trees, rather than saving them. It’s all about regeneration, baby.

      And I’m all for paper consumption, if you know where your paper is coming from. If it’s coming from Brazil? Maybe not the smartest choice. If it’s coming from Brazil and it’s got some fancy certification on the package? Still not so smart. If it’s coming from down the road? A great option!

      • Jenna Williams 2013/04/25 at 22:47 #

        Love this, Emma! I’m currently making an ad that will run a the Grand Marais, MN paper and I’m always trying to 1) recruit new students and 2) bust through those misconceptions. I tend to write a lot of ads that hopefully make people do a double take, so maybe I’ll write one that says “Save the trees! Become a forester!”

        (oh, and we are celebrating Forester’s Day tomorrow on campus! I’ll put some extra buck in my double thinking of you!)

        • emma 2013/04/26 at 05:30 #

          Hey Jenna! I appreciate hearing from you, and learning about your recent pro-forestry efforts:) I love what you get to do for a job, and only hope that somehow, someday, I can make a similar positive contribution. Given that I live in the middle of nowhere right now, I’m trying to make my case via the internet, but I can’t wait to get to a point in my life where I’m back amongst society so I can start contributing to youth educational programs again.

          Back when I was at the U, I made a flyer to get freshmen interested in either Forestry Club or SAF… I believe it said something like “Can’t decide whether you want to hug trees or cut them down? Join Forestry!” I think that phrase could easily be re-used somehow – – it’s so attention grabbing! I’ll see if I still have a copy of that floating around somewhere.

          HAPPY FORESTER’S DAY! Make me a pancake:D And enjoy!
          xo

  13. Linnea 2013/02/26 at 13:45 #

    So essentially your job is to be Tom Bombadil. I like it.

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 18:54 #

      Oh my gosh, do I get to look like this???!?

      PS I’m so happy because I just discovered several non-timber forest products, aka apples, mushrooms, and some sort of strange but beautiful flower.

  14. Hannah 2013/02/26 at 18:09 #

    I think this is one of my favourite posts of yours that you’ve ever written (as opposed to the posts of yours that Psychic Cat wrote. P.S. How is Psychic Cat? You must be missing each other during the week! P.P.S. Probably you miss your boyfriend too. End brackets). I say this not only because the bundt in the first photo reminds me of something out of Battlestar Gallactica (I think I’m spelling that incorrectly but I’m too lazy to look it up right now), but because you Made Me Laugh While Teaching Me Things, which is kind of one of the best things ever.

    I really really really NEED you to wear a superhero cape at your job, everyday. This is a serious need.

    I like you.

    • emma 2013/02/26 at 18:59 #

      I wear a parka and a bright orange vest, and frequently an orange hard hat. Do those things count?

      And this is one of my favorite comments you’ve ever written! You are such a sweetheart! I am indeed alone, missing my Psychic Cat and my fella. It’s quiet here without the kitty. So your comment is perfectly timed at alleviating loneliness!

      Last weekend, we watched a Doctor Who episode featuring the lawyer guy from Battlestar Galactica (your spelling was close!). To quote the BSG theme music, DUHN DUHN DUHN DUHN DUHN DUHNDUHNDUHN!

  15. hjortehjerte 2013/02/27 at 01:50 #

    you have the best job ever. How hard is it to get a job in that field`?

    Love the cake to, and youre blogg. :)

    • emma 2013/02/27 at 05:45 #

      Thank you! I do have the best job:) The ease of getting a job in forestry depends on your willingness to move to where the job is. I spent over a year trying to get a job in my area, because I wasn’t willing to move. But I think like with a lot of careers, jobs in general are tough to get right now….. a lot of people may be retiring, but those positions aren’t always being replaced right away.

      So not only do I have the best job, but I feel very very lucky!

      • hjortehjerte 2013/02/27 at 07:14 #

        Yes thats true, you have to be willing to move to get things rolling. I live in an other country than you, and are looking at a study program like this. If I could make it work it would be incredible. :)

        • emma 2013/02/27 at 07:40 #

          I considered trying to go to Europe for my M.Sc. through Erasmus Mundus. That would have been the neatest program of study anywhere, period. It looks like they’ve changed it a bit since when I was looking at it, but it still looks wildly cool!

          Where are you looking to study?

          • hjortehjerte 2013/02/27 at 07:55 #

            I live in Norway so I am looking at options around my city. It’s either this http://www.umb.no/ They have some epic programs in Forrestery and the like. Also it’s located around a area which is great for this. Or it’s the Uni in Ås http://www.umb.no/study-options which didn’t really have the mixture of classe which I would want. Also Evenstad is located in a area which I really like :)
            I think they have some good options for exchange students also.
            Oh wow that Erasmus program looks really interessting!

            • emma 2013/02/27 at 08:30 #

              Doesn’t it? It would be such a treat to see how things are done in so many different regions.

              Good luck with finding a program – hopefully whichever one you choose, you will love it. Forestry seems to have that effect on people! :)

  16. movita beaucoup 2013/03/01 at 12:44 #

    1. That link to the photo of the fisher makes it look pretty badass. Like, lurch back from the computer screen badass.
    2. I would like to see a photo tribute to your enchanted forestland abode.
    3. That bundt cake looks glorious.
    4. I learned a lot about the outdoors reading this post, which is way cool as I generally don’t like the outdoors to touch me.

    • emma 2013/04/25 at 19:30 #

      Fishers are so badass.

  17. shannon @ a periodic table 2013/03/04 at 15:02 #

    dude, who’s famous? you are…there’s like a bazillion comments every time i finally have a chance to say something.
    what sort of bundt pan is that? i LOVE IT: it looks like old timey churches in a circle. or maybe that’s my imagination.
    betwixt = word of the day.
    man, are you so right or what: when i actually worked at an honest-to-god corporation, i was in charge of, among other things, communications. When we decided to go “paperless,” i was in charge of communicating this. I made all sorts of materials (also ironic, as these were largely out of paper) informing customers they could go paperless to help the environment and save the trees. Did we really care about that? I mean, i did, but no; the company actually did tons of math (scribblescribble) and found out how much we could save in paper and postage costs. SO.
    save the trees, emma. sounds like you’re doing a WAY better job than most people (and i would totally trust you with my trees, were in in posession of trees). :)
    oh jeez also: i love this bundt cake in general, churchy cake pan or not. FLAVORS! yum.

    • emma 2013/04/25 at 19:36 #

      Ummm…. you’re famous? Cause it sure as heck ain’t me. Although on days when I make it onto TasteSpotting, I almost feel a little bit that way.

      That bundt pan is my favoritest thing in the world! I call it the Gothic Cathedral model, but I’m not sure what it’s official name is. Nordic Ware, Minneapolis, represent!

      Is it cool to respond to this comment two months late? You’ll never see it anyway, but hey. Scribblescribble.

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

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