A few years ago, 2013 to be exact, my younger, more fearless self put up an art exhibit at a local art cafe. There was an opening night and everything. A few months after that I was invited to exhibit at a fundraiser called We Are, As We Create. They asked me for my thoughts on ‘Presence’, and today, while baking, styling and photographing this cake, I thought about it. I thought about being present, working in light and shadows, feeling strong and confident about my feelings rather than indecisive or ambiguous. I want to share what my former self wrote because it felt poignant.

The role ‘Presence’ plays in Shilpi Verma’s creative process, in her words:

Presence is always felt more in its absence. Light in particular has a symbolic presence in our lives. Be it dawn of a lazy Sunday, rainy Monday on my commute to work, or dusk at the harbour, light makes its presence known, felt, seen. It changes your mood and shapes your energy, it inspires me, soothes me, works me into a frenzy, makes me feel warm and safe. Behind my armor of glass and sensors, the light curves like a bow with the arrow in my hand and I feel energized with my small strand of photos and infinite possibilities. A bright, sunny day gives me the energy to get moving, to capture time, moments and carpe diem. A crisp, clear night with the sky burnt black has me shooting arrows from night’s grim hand, like tips of smoked steel on bright feathered shafts, always leaving me in the wake of a dewy dawn.

Fortunately, both my workplace and my home are filled with light for the better part of day, and it always perks me up, charges me and inspires me to be a one-woman revolution like my mother. Lisabeth Burton has illuminated the presence of light beautifully through fading time and darkness in her poem Convince Me Eternity:

Six forty-seven a.m. is a bowl of bees on the tongue.
The part still beneath sheets leans into the bit lip of dawn.
The impossible is less possible in the bone-soaked light of a little February.
Though summer will come, someone will slide a tongue down my bleak back, slowly and purely.

For the foreseeable: forest of copy machines, a lack called wallpaper.
Other tired hearts radiate a little heat on the train, through windows of cars.
What’s past is throbbing, and I run past it, though I have not yet learned to calm the muscle of wanting what I never had.
So I grow round-eyed, wine-toothed, and I grow old as the sun shoves off and the air goes black.

Somewhere the serrated surf is slicing sand beneath it. Somewhere there are children.
Obliterate a bit more until I’m among bloodstones in a field in Wyoming.
There is not one dignified thing about this life or that one.

Print Recipe
Chocolate Buttermilk cake
The ultimate chocolate cake recipe - the only one you will ever need to make perfect chocolate cake. No fuss, just a decadent, chocolatey cake that melts in your mouth
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Chocolate cake
Chocolate cream cheese frosting
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Chocolate cake
Chocolate cream cheese frosting
Instructions
Chocolate cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch cake rounds. Wrap each cake pan rim with aluminum foil
  2. Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl
  3. Mix the wet ingredients (eggs, buttermilk, warm water, oil, and vanilla) in a separate bowl. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry until just combined
  4. Divide batter among the three pans (just over 3 cups)
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes our moist and clean
  6. Cool on wire racks for 15 minutes and then turn out the cakes onto the racks and allow them to cool completely
Chocolate cream cheese frosting
  1. In a large bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese until fluffy .Add in cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Beat until combined
  2. Beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add milk as necessary to make a spreadable consistency
Assembly
  1. To make a naked cake, as in the pictures, simply layer the cream cheese icing between the layers of cake. Top with icing and sea salt