{Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free} Muscadine Tea Cake

grape cake

“Ach. They’re blurry.” 

I plugged in the camera to upload these photos and was instantly frustrated. I thought there would be some good shots, but no. Poor exposure, insufficient light, hands anxious. Editing suddenly became a lot easier: delete, delete, delete, maybe, no, no, delete, finally! a good one, delete, delete…

“You should take a photography class,” J suggested unhelpfully as he watched me metaphorically bang my head against the table. “With what time?” I snapped, incredulous. “Well, yeah. Maybe eventually,” he admitted.

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In general, creative output seems like a fairly accurate barometer for everything else going on in my life. (That, and how long it’s been since the bathroom was cleaned.) It turns out I’ve gotten too good at reflexively saying “yes.” Formal events, work obligations, social outings, a half-marathon training plan, mentoring, being a supportive and engaged daughter and wife…yes, on paper I am doing it all. 

Individually, all of these things are good and I usually enjoy them. But together? Surprising no one but me, I am completely worn out. The last month has been rushed and haphazard, blurry in more than just photos.



Getting a nasty cold last week was a necessary wake-up call to the combined weight of these “just once a week” and “it should only take a minute” obligations. I fought it and stayed at work all week.  (Leaving a bit early on Friday should do it.) I fought it on Saturday. (I can still do that outing and then rest in the evening.) I fought it on Sunday. (Feeling a teensy bit better. Maybe we should go to church.) In the end, we made pancakes and stayed in. J helped me style the cake I knocked together on Saturday in a semi-delirious state. I felt enormously guilty for being a recluse on a normally packed day, but also relieved.


Perhaps not incidentally, we just passed the 150-day mark in our countdown to J’s graduation. Five more months, and it’s time to move on. For the next five months I’ll be fighting to balance the ongoing, desperate need for rest with the urge to cram everything in while we still can.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. With any luck, in five months my husband will have his first ever real professional job. If there were ever a time for me to lean back, this spring will be it. There will be soul-searching and solitude, books read and journeys taken. If you see me frantically searching for jobs right away, you have permission to smack me. 

Until then, I’m trying to say “no” just a little bit more often. Today, “no” means cake. Now that’s something I can get behind.


{Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free} Muscadine Tea Cake
Serves 10
Grape cake sounds weird, but when you think of them like berries, it starts making sense. The flavor here is jelly-like, suspended in a soft, lemon-almond cake. Use whatever thick-skinned grapes grow near you--muscadines, scuppernogs, concords, etc. Taking an extra minute to remove the seeds is worth it for the final texture.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr
  1. 2 large eggs
  2. 135g (2/3 cup) sugar
  3. 100g (1/2 cup) mild olive oil
  4. 1/3 cup almond milk
  5. zest and juice of 1 lemon
  6. 75g almond meal
  7. 75g tapioca starch
  8. 50g millet or sorghum flour
  9. 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  10. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  11. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  12. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  13. 9 ounces grapes, halved and seeded
  14. powdered sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line the base of a 10" springform pan with parchment. Set aside.
  2. Beat eggs and sugar with the whisk attachment until eggs form a pale, thick ribbon when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. This takes 5 whole minutes--set a timer. With the mixer on low speed, pour in olive oil, almond milk, lemon zest and juice. Whisk together remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl, add to mixer, and beat until just combined.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan. If you're fussy about presentation, sprinkle half the grapes on top and pull out of the oven after 10 minutes to arrange the rest. If you don't mind them sinking in, arrange all on top and pop the cake in the oven immediately.
  4. Bake 40-45 minutes until cake is golden. Remove and cool 10 minutes, then use a knife to loosen and remove ring. Cool completely on a wire rack and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Adapted from from Patricia Wells' Winemaker's Grape Cake
Wooden Spoon Baking http://www.woodenspoonbaking.com/