Rise and/or Shine

You know how a mother bird returns to her nest with a worm and is met by an angry mob of competing open beaks, straining, chirping, jostling for feathery position to get at the worm, and then all but shoving the mother from the nest so she can go do it again? So that’s morning at my house.

diyIt’s true, I only have two children, and my husband never actually asks for anything. But he is there, all the same, a silent, food-wanting presence. Over it all, the cat yowls with what can only be utter anguish of body and mind. Oh no! Was he lacerated by a vicious raccoon? No, he just wants me to fill his food dish. I realize that I am breaking one of two rules I set out for my blog, (never mention pets, never mention feet) but the over-arching principle of all blogs is this: never miss an opportunity to complain about your life.

Everybody knows I live for morning baked goods. The kitchen is the center of my world, but why is it always so crowded? My youngest is not a morning glory; daybreak is, in fact, an affront to her. She would be happiest with breakfast brought to her on a tray, so she could moodily stir honey into her tea and extend her repose, possibly falling back asleep. I do some crazy stuff, but catering to this might set the bar a bit high for her future college roommates. As she said to me once, “I can rise, but I can’t shine.”

I am not comparing, because I have read parenting manuals, (okay, just one) but I have to commend my oldest (to be fair, her natural rhythm makes her a morning person). She used to sit by in weepy victimhood as she sunk into a hypoglycemic state, despite a bounty of food – a veritable Dutch master’s still life’s worth – within arm’s reach. She is now adept at recognizing the signs of hunger and impending sassmouth, and fixes much of her own food, or at least the pre-breakfast that precedes the warm baked goods. This morning she was packing her lunch, and I reminded her to take a snack for play practice. “Um, mom, this isn’t my first rodeo.” Self-sufficiency and a quick retort? Clearly, my work here is done!

But you don’t choose your children and the unique biological rhythms that make them heaven, hell or purgatory in the morning. And it’s a good thing, too. I could never have dreamt up the particular mixtures of sweetness and quirkiness that are my daughters. My husband, I did get to choose, and besides the new upholstery fabric on the sofa I inherited from my parents, he’s the best choice I’ve made (like the fabric, he’s proved surprisingly durable).

So, since I have to see them every morning – I mean since I get to see them every morning – sometimes, I make them cake. This one comes from a pretty little book, D.I.Y. Delicious. I met the author, Vanessa Barrington, at a San Francisco farmer’s market where she was selling her book, along with some of her homemade preserves. She features her recipe for Plum Verbena Jam in her book. Have I told you I adore plums? I was particularly excited to make her stone fruit yogurt cake, since my freezer is bursting with plums. But I made it with blackberries and coconut because – get this – they don’t like plums in cake.

Because I love to court danger, I made it with all the wheat flour replaced with almond flour. It was crumbly, which I like, and quite good. The next time I made it with the walnuts and used blueberries and cranberries. I preferred the blackberry one, (and would have preferred plum, as I mentioned) because the cranberries were too sour for my impromptu sugar reduction. But my oldest daughter pronounced it the best rendition, and she would know: this isn’t her first rodeo.

Stone Fruit Yogurt Cake with Cornmeal and Walnut Streusel

1 1/2 cups flour (I like whole wheat pastry or almond flour)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (finer grinds are better here to avoid that pebbly sensation
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
8 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup lightly packed granulated sugar (I reduced this by 40%)
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar (I reduced this by 40%)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
3 cups sliced fresh or thawed frozen plums or other fruit
1 cup pecan or walnut halves, lightly toasted and roughly chopped

Is it just me or does this recipe have a lot of ingredients? It’s good though.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly butter and flour a 9 inch round cake pan. You can use a springform pan if you want to unmold it and serve it on a platter.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat together the butter, granulated sugar and half the brown sugar until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix to combine.

Add the dry ingredients and the yogurt to the sugar mixture in two additions, starting with the dries and ending with the yogurt. Fold in the fruit.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Mix together the nuts and the remaining brown sugar and sprinkle over the top of the cake.

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven, until the cake rises in the center and browns, and a toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving, says Vanessa Barrington. But I say, who can wait? Not these gals.







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