Can I get a little deep with you for a brief moment? Because I feel like I need to talk about a fear I’ve been having. My fear is that we’ve forgotten about the beauty of simplicity when it comes to dessert. I feel like we’re getting taken over by the new, the now, the Pin-worthy. A world where a baked good is deemed a bore unless it’s a Frankenstein hybrid of three other desserts, or has, like, four candy bars shoved into it (ahem, I’ve totally done it), or has a racy name that should probably come with a Parental Warning.
When it comes to writing cookbooks, one thing I’ve learned from those who have come before me is NEVER READ THE ONLINE REVIEWS. Nine times out of ten, I resist the urge to peek. Nine-and-a-half times out of ten, when I do peek, the reviews are relatively positive and thoughtful and an affirmation that at least I sort of know what I’m doing and throwing my creative self out to the wolves isn’t all bad. Nine times out of ten, naturally I will obsess about that half a time in which a review is less than glowing. And within about half of those, I can find the constructive criticism that might actually improve my work. I feel like this is a pretty good record overall, considering that readers and reviewers are humans with all kinds of expectations and thoughts and feelings and so am I.
September didn’t quite go as planned around here. Take, for instance, this recipe. I started this post nearly two weeks ago, when Italian prune plums were readily available for their fleeting season (I hope you can still find some where you are?), and summer was just showing signs of letting go. Now, moving into the first days of October, I’m finally getting to tell you about this cake, and feeling quite a bit different about life in general than I did just a couple weeks ago.
…And just like that, Labor Day is behind us. Unreal, right? It’s been a busy summer here–lots of coming and going, more book work (final edits, tweaks, design decisions, last-minute recipe makeovers because I can’t leave well enough alone, etc.), feeling out new projects, starting those first weeks of a new school year. It’s all very exciting and a little bit crazymaking. Something I love about this time of year, though, is celebrating Little C’s birthday at the end of August.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, she’s turned into the type of child who talks about the approach of her “birthday month” during the entire last week of July, so the weeks leading up to the big day can be somewhat excruciating. Both because she likes to remind us roughly every hour how many days are left until her birthday, and because the reminders give me pause and make me think about how fast she’s growing up. I mean, six! SIX. Any trace of baby girl has been left in the dust, blazing a trail of pink and purple glitter and waters-testing sass. It’s a little sad, and fantastic, all at the same time.
Something else that’s fantastic about six is the certainty with which I was given her request for this year’s birthday treats. There was to be no cake at Miss Six’s weekend birthday party (we opted for loads of sprinkle-fied Rice Krispie treats instead, which received raves from the crowd–such a nice change for those of us who attend about 50 caked-up kids’ birthday parties per year). But on her actual birthday, after dinner at home, she wanted “a very tall strawberry cake with cream”. And so we did exactly that. Who can argue with Miss Six?
SUMMAH! It’s hard to believe that this season is already upon us. Seems like just yesterday I was trapped in a nursing chair with a newborn, pitching an idea for a new cookbook in a hormonal haze, with my first baby heading off to kindergarten. Now, as of this week, that newborn is careening into toddlerhood (and careening into everything else in the process), a cookbook manuscript has been officially completed and delivered, and my little girl has just graduated kindergarten the same week that she lost two (!) teeth. The past few seasons have meant serious business.
But just in time for summer, things are shifting, and with that comes a slightly slower pace, and a little more time that can be spent doing whatever the heck we want–more time inhaling my kids’ necks, more time to write in this space, and–hooray!–more time to finally pour over the stack of new cookbooks that I’ve been collecting on my desk since last fall and have barely gotten to flip through.
Having just finished many months of dealing in the currencies of sugars (albeit less-refined ones), butter, and flours, and coming into some glorious weeks of sunshine and gleaming summer fruits, I’ve been in the market for simpler, lighter fare to satiate the sweet teeth around these parts. And during one recent, delicious, totally free moment to flip through all those aforementioned cookbooks, I found my answer in the pages of Donna Hay’s latest, completely gorgeous book Fresh and Light. (Seriously, is there anything that woman can’t make look painfully beautiful? I am constantly in awe of her vision. I call her “Donna Haaayyy Gurl Haaayyy”.)
I feel like I owe you an apology, friends. I made this Boston Cream Pie weeks (months?) ago, with the intention of telling you all about it the very next day. It was an event, this Boston Cream Pie. A day of assembling the elements–baking cake layers, whisking pastry cream, melting chocolate. Doing my Food Blogger Due Diligence, taking photos of the creation of said elements, in between baby feedings and kid snack distribution and making shopping lists and errands and all those other crazy things you do on Sundays. When the resulting cake was served, we all marveled at its glory. And in fact, it was so good (and enormous) that I promptly lopped off hunks of the remainder and drove around the neighborhood after dark, delivering them to friends after a furiously sent text–HAVE BOSTON CREAM PIE. TOO GOOD. MUST GET IT OUT MY HOUSE. WILL DELIVER.
And then I totally forgot to tell you all about it.
So let’s make up for lost time, yes?
Hey! So basically last week I was all, “You must try dark muscovado sugar! I am totally giving you a fabulous recipe to do just that!” and then BOOM. Ball dropped hard. I’m so sorry. Let’s just say that ever since my girl started kindergarten, she’s turned our entire household into a veritable petri dish. Yeah. Lotta Kleenex around here, not a lotta sleep. Good thing she’s adorable and does hysterical things like making her father play all four judges simulateneously while she pretends to audition for The Voice. Otherwise she’d be wearing a hazmat suit to school and/or possibly living in her own apartment.
Okay! So, cake. This cake. This seemingly innocent, plain-looking, how-great-can-it-be-REALLY? cake. You know what I love about this? It’s dead simple, it’s packed with flavor, and it’s the kind of thing that’s such a nice surprise when you take a bite. Because of its deep color and complex fragrance, you start out thinking it’s going to taste like a spice cake, but really, there’s no spices involved. What comes up instead is a huge amount of rich, dreamy molasses flavor from the muscovado sugar, and a soft sweetness. You should know about it.
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