Survived Writing My First Funding Proposal ft. Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

You’ve probably been wondering where I’ve been hiding for the past month. Well, the answer is easy. Certainly not in the kitchen, but certainly in my office. May was an eventful, fast-paced, sleep-depriving, and busy month.

To sum up, my To-Do list sort of looked like this:

  • Finish my semester course work: in-class presentation, project report, take final exam.
  • Finish my Teaching Assistant duties: last office hours, last assignment grading, last pile of emails, proctor final exam, grade final exam.
  • Prepare and ship my samples for my experiments at Berkeley National Lab.
  • Go to Berkeley National Lab during Memorial Day Weekend to conduct experiments.
  • Draft and write the funding proposal due on June 13.

In retrospect, it was quite overwhelming, but I was determined to power through it and tackle it while making the most of it. I did manage to enjoy my trip to Berkeley even though I was nervous about running the experiments on my own for the first time and I did spend most of the days in the lab. Regardless, I don’t really feel entitled to complain because a) it comes with the territory (these kinds of experiments are pretty much a right of passage in my research group), b) I did come back with useful data, c) I started and ended my days with a breathtaking view (see below), d) I treated myself to a two-day trip to Lake Tahoe (it might take a while until my bank account recovers, but oh well…so worth it!).

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View from the Berkeley National Lab. You can spot the Sather Tower, Berkeley campus, and that San Francisco fog.
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Sunsets over the Pacific ocean are just too perfect. Well, this is the bay, but I’m still convinced this is the Pacific ocean’s doing.

Without further ado, onto the cooking! This past week I’ve been writing, writing, writing (and occasionally eating and sleeping), so I wanted to celebrate finishing the proposal by baking something special. I stumbled upon Sally’s Grapefruit Yogurt Cake recipe. It was exactly what I was craving: something simple yet flavorful, soft and light, citrusy and summery. Honestly, it sounds fancier than its actual execution. The recipe includes the standard cake ingredients plus grapefruit juice, grapefruit zest, and greek yogurt. My only real difficulty I encountered was that the grocery store was almost out of grapefruit. I managed to grab the last two. It would have been heart breaking to have to settle for an orange cake. I was ready to compromise for a peach yogurt cake, but all the peaches were underripe. There will be a peach yogurt cake experiment in the near future because I’ve had the vision and now that it’s ingrained in my brain, I must try it.

Sally also suggested replacing the vegetable oil by coconut oil if we wanted to. I had some coconut oil I needed to finish, so I decided to be brave and went for it. I say brave because I am not very skilled when it comes to coconut oil. The first time I tried substituting vegetable oil or butter for coconut oil, I essentially improvised and it was a disaster. I had no idea that I was supposed to melt the coconut oil to 1) get the proportions right and measure it in liquid form and 2) make it blend better with the mixture (cake, cookie dough, etc). Coconut oil looked like and felt like butter, so I improvised and assumed I could just use it like butter. Again, the proportions were wrong and I had huge chunks of coconut all over my loaf cake. Not a pleasant texture nor taste. After reading a few blogs (thank you internet and Google), I have come a long way! I used the same amount of coconut oil as specified for vegetable oil, successfully melted the coconut oil in the microwave without burning it (1 min and 30 sec), and measured it in a liquid measuring cup.

Since it was my first time trying this recipe (although Sally has never failed me), I didn’t make any changes to it. Well, technically, I skipped the glaze because I decided I wanted to eat the leftover grapefruit instead. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of grapefruit juice, which in my case, corresponded to juicing a half large grapefruit. The amount and type of sugar used in this recipe is on point. The brown sugar pairs really well with the grapefruit and provides a ‘caramelized grapefruit’ type sensation to the cake. 1 cup of brown sugar might seem like a lot, but it’s enough to balance the grapefruit’s tartness and not give you a sugar coma at the same time. Next time I make this cake, I am tempted to add a bit more greek yogurt and reduce the amount of coconut oil just to play around with the cake’s texture. I think the main difference between using vegetable oil and coconut oil is that the latter makes a denser cake while the former would allow the cake batter to rise a bit more. I will stick with coconut oil for now because I still have some left in the fridge and I like the taste and texture of the cake with coconut oil (it’s not overpowering at all). My engineering-self is curious to see what happens if I change the yogurt to oil ratio haha 🙂

The bottom line is Sally has a wonderful blog featuring wonderful recipes and you definitely go read it. I am really happy with this cake: it’s refreshing yet rich, flavorful, and satisfying. It has been the softest and most energizing breakfast I’ve had in a while.

grapefruit cake June 2016

Now, if I had squeezed in time for Yoga after this breakfast, my morning would have been splendid. Instead, I added the finishing touches to the proposal, which meant that I could relax this evening and write this post.

grapefruit yogurt cake June 2016

 

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