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Family recipe for white layer cake 🎂

Context

This recipe was in the cookbook that my Grandma Piper customized for me. This is apparently the cake that the Piper family always made for weddings (so my great-grandma’s recipe on my Grandpa’s side, I think), and my Grandma made it for birthday parties. I made this for the first time last week for B’s birthday party on the weekend.

It results in an exceptionally smooth batter, it almost feels a bit too fancy for a kid’s party. But it’s a lovely cake! It also stored well double-wrapped in the fridge for a few days before I iced it. I haven’t tried freezing this cake, but I think it would probably work nicely.

Grandma would have always used her KitchenAid, but it was no problem making this with handheld electric beaters. Her recipe didn’t specify salted or unsalted butter. I used salted and quite liked it. Likewise it didn’t specify the sugar. I’m almost certain she would have used granulated, but I used caster which worked fabulously. If you use caster, just make sure to go with the weight measurement, not cups.

Apparently this recipe makes 3 dozen cupcakes and you have to bake those for 25 minutes. But I’ve never tried it, and there is no more instruction from her on that.


Goes well with this classic white frosting recipe.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F (165C).
  2. In a KitchenAid, or in a large bowl using electric hand beaters, cream together ⅔ c (150 g) butter and 2 c (400 g) granulated sugar until very smooth. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and beat until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together 3 c (360 g) cake flour and 1 tbsp baking powder.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in to the butter mixture alternating with 1½ c milk, blending after each addition. Do not overbeat.
  5. Butter and flour two eight-inch cake pans.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat together 4 egg whites until stiff but moist. Make sure that the beaters and bowl are very clean, any fat will prevent the egg whites from frothing up nicely.
  7. Fold the beaten egg whites in to the rest of the batter using a large metal spoon.
  8. Pour in equal parts in to your two prepared layer pans. Then bake at 325F (165C) for 10 minutes, and 25 minutes at 350F (175C).
  9. When done*, remove from the oven and let cool in their tins for about 10 minutes. Turn the layers out on to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before icing the layers or double-wrapping in cling film to refrigerate or freeze them. If storing, try to store them side-by-side to preserve height.

* This cake is sort of hard to tell when it’s done. When done, it will have picked up a little bit of color on top and should pull away from the sides of the pan slightly. If you listen to it you shouldn’t hear much crackling, and if you very lightly press the top, it shouldn’t feel like you pop too many bubbles.

Published

How to make around 40 applesauce and oatmeal mini-muffins with a 1½-year-old

Ingredients
  • 1¼ c (112 g) rolled oats
  • 1¼ c (250 g) unsweetened apple sauce
  • ¼ c (50 g) sugar
  • ½ c (118 mL) milk (oat milk works too)
  • 4 T coconut oil (melted butter works too)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 c (130 g) whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ¾ t baking soda
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ t salt
  • ½ c (80 g) raisins or sultanas
Equipment
  • Cooking spray or room-temp butter for greasing the muffin trays
  • Two 24-count non-stick mini-muffin trays
  • Scales or a measuring cup set
  • Measuring spoon set
  • Liquid measurement jug
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Fork
  • Spoon
  • Spatula
  • Learning tower or a sturdy step-stool for the kid to stand on
  • Aprons, ideally

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).

While the 1½-year-old is playing with their toddler-sized soccer ball at your feet, take all of the ingredients and equipment out of the cupboards and grease the mini-muffin trays. To get started, pour the oats in to a medium sized bowl and pour the “dry” ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt) in a bigger bowl.

Let the kid climb up on to the learning tower platform, and immediately recognize that starting with the oats was a mistake because they love oats. Try to prevent them from shoveling dry oats in to their mouth by giving them a spoon to stir with, and then realize that just compounds that mistake since they’ve recently learned how to use a spoon at dinnertime.

Switch the spoon out for your grandma’s 100% flat spatula to confuse and confound them (“…what on earth is this?”) while you measure out and pour the applesauce in to the oats. Let them lick the applesauce spoon, making them doubly excited about the mixture in the medium bowl. Remember almost too late that their Nana recently gave them a very cute apron, and manage to pull that over their head right before a glob of oats and applesauce dribbles off their chin.

Measure out and add the sugar to the oats-applesauce bowl. (That bowl is only becoming more and more exciting to the kid.). Then measure out the milk in to the jug and pour that in. Mix it up a bit to distribute the chill of the milk — because you learned last time that if you throw melted coconut oil directly on top of cold milk, it congeals in to one big lump — and then measure and add the coconut oil.

You could add the vanilla now, or you could forget it entirely because you hid the little bottle behind the fruit bowl away from cute grabby hands.

Add the egg last (adding it last means less likelihood of raw egg making its way into their mouth), then stir the oat mixture together thoroughly. Put the bowl aside, well out of reach.

Open up the raisins and put a handful on the counter to distract the kid. Fluff the dry ingredients in the big bowl together with a fork, and then pour in a half cup of raisins.

Pour the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients while the kid absolutely houses the rest of the raisins, and then mix it all together with the spatula until combined.

Using the spoon you abandoned earlier, fill as many of the mini-muffin cups as you can. You want them each to be almost full, maybe seven-eighths of the way there. If you have any empty cups, use the kettle that’s always sitting on the stove to pour a little bit of water in them. You do this because someone once told you it protects the tray, but you have no idea if that’s actually true.

Part way through filling the cups, get the kid down from the learning tower because they’re bored and have spotted their ball again. Try to avoid having them step in the spilled oats and flour because it will stick to their feet and track throughout the apartment. Finish up the filling, then put the trays in the oven and bake at 375F for 15 minutes. Remember as soon as you’ve put the trays in that you always mean to put them on a baking sheet since it’s easier to take them out that way, and make a mental note (again) to do it next time.

When they’re done, let them cool momentarily in the tins to “loosen up” and then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. Accidentally forget that the kid really loves muffins (why else would you be making them in the first place?) and belatedly realize that you’ve left an actual mountain of one of their favorite things out in plain sight. Blow on one frantically while the kid shouts “MUH-IN!” until it’s cool enough to eat.

Let the rest cool completely before storing them in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag in the freezer. I can’t say how long they keep, since we never keep them all that long.

Published

Moody tree

A moody, leafless tree on Ilkley Moor with many small branches

We made it up to the northernmost stanza stone with B. He wasn’t thrilled about the whole walk, but he did love squishing his boots in the mud and chowing down on a vegan Greggs sausage roll.

During lunch one day, we heard an insane screeching in front of my sister-in-law’s house. A sparrowhawk had caught a bird not much smaller than itself and was squeezing its talons around it, with its wings fanned out on guard and its head darting around to spot competitors. We wanted to intervene, but it would have been pointless. The sparrowhawk needed to eat (and well done for catching such big prey!), and the other bird seemed likely too injured to survive. It took a long time though.

Photo taken by Sam on his dad’s RICOH GR1v.

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Norovirus postmortem

We all caught norovirus. About 24 hrs of it was probably the worst time we’ve had since B was born, and the rest of the time wasn’t much better.

I won’t go in to the gory details, but here’s a few tips for future me who will inevitably catch it again (because daycare). Apparently noro rips through you so fast that your body doesn’t even have time to build any meaningful immunity. Fun.

  • Have the necessary meds on hand at all times. Once you are sick, there is zero chance you will want to or be able to go get supplies. Even if you could, you should avoid it for the sake of not spreading it any further. A friend or family member could pick stuff up for you, but this is so contagious that I’d be nervous to ask someone. We found that the most useful stuff was Pedialyte for rehydration and acetaminophen (paracetamol) for when the fever and aches kick in. Ibuprofen is way too hard on the stomach when you’re already feeling delicate. If you’re in a tough spot and don’t have the supplies, there are a lot of homemade rehydration fluid recipes online. Here are a few from the UVA Health System, and one from the NHS. Note that nausea suppressants are to be avoided apparently, the whole point is to get whatever is in there out or you’ll keep feeling bad.
  • This thing hits fast. We were first exposed to B’s symptoms in the morning, and we started our bouts in a spectacular fashion almost exactly one and a half days later. It can hit sooner or later, I would imagine that depends on the exact strain, but it’s usually 1-2 days. If you suspect that one of you has norovirus and you don’t have it yet, maybe avoid being far from home. I was at dinner with a friend 45 minutes away. I made it home just barely, but I went from feeling 100% fine and ready for some poke to “oh… OH no…” in about a split second. (Side note: I thought B had just eaten something weird. Would never have gone out if I had any inkling otherwise, both for my and my friend’s sake! Thankfully she seems to be fine, so I’m assuming (hoping) I wasn’t just blindly spreading noro that evening.)
  • Norovirus moves fast. The “active” stage (ew) was basically over after 12 hours. We both felt really bad, like bedridden-bad, for 2 days in total and then had a bit of weakness and rough appetites for maybe two days after that. It doesn’t make the worst of it any better, but at least it doesn’t last that long. They don’t really know concretely how long you can be contagious for, but the advice I’ve seen on the CDC and NHS sites seems to be that you should self-quarantine until you have been symptom-free for 2 days.
  • Totally anecdotal, but it seemed a lot worse for us than it was for B… Which I’m thankful for, but it’s not what I would expect. I asked friends about it and they had similar experiences. Make of that what you will.

Published

How I thoroughly clean Jellycat stuffed animals

Yesterday was… eventful.

Anyways, I now have a decent technique for thoroughly cleaning Jellycat stuffed animals! Note that the Jellycat cleaning tag specifically says to spot clean only. But that doesn’t cut it if, for example, one happens to get covered in vomit.

I’d probably use this approach for any small-to-medium sized Jellycat-like stuffed animal (no posable arms, no large plastic bits or outfits, relatively straight and short “fur”, very squishy, etc.). If you try it, do so with caution. YMMV.

  1. Prepare: Place stuffed animal in appropriately-sized zippered mesh laundry bag. Before that though, if there are any “chunks” of debris (that is a horrible description, but here we are), brush and rinse them off as reasonably as you can in your sink. If you don’t do this, they will get stuck in your laundry bag and/or the fur of the stuffed animal. 🤢
  2. Wash: Wash on “normal” in cold water. You want to use a setting with a good spin cycle. I would use fragrance-free detergent since scents can be off-putting or actually dangerous for some kids.
  3. Dry: Let the Jellycat air dry, do not use a dryer. Before you let it air dry, go through its “fur” with a wide-toothed comb, and then follow with a fine-toothed comb to break up any mats. This will keep it fluffier for much longer. Don’t be so rough with it that you pull the fur out, just a gentle, thorough once-over will do. If you have a hair dryer, use that on a medium setting while you brush through the fur for more fluffiness.

I used to skip that last brushing step since I just hadn’t thought of it, and one of B’s favorite toys got pretty matted. Happily, brushing it out even now after it has gone through maybe 4-5 washes already has helped revive it a bit. I think it would have been even better if I had done this from the start, though.

Published

New Kobo, more illness, intentions

  • I am LOVING my new Kobo Clara 2E. Just wild that all of Brooklyn Public Library’s e-books are at my fingertips at the click of a button. I just need to figure out how to get my old Walthamstow Library card set up too…
  • B seems to have become a whole new little person over the course of the week and a half we were visiting family. He has very particular ideas about which lights should be on, which drapes should be open, and whether or not fans are running. Cuddly stuff is, as ever, a favorite. He may or may not think his name is Stu? Two new teeth!
  • Grandpa came down with something in the wee hours of Christmas morning and we had to take him to the ER. He had to have surgery (first time ever, at 99yrs old!) which was scary, but his recuperation has been great. We got to see him before we left which was a relief, I wasn’t sure we would.
  • Never been much of a resolutions person, though I do constantly think about self and improvement. But two basic intentions for 2023 are to cook and read a bit more. Both are things I have always loved, but somehow felt very difficult or fell by the wayside. Reading was a long slow fall (getting a Kindle way back when was a MISTAKE), cooking’s decline was precipitous and very tied to B being born. Will enjoy doing more of both, have already read more books in the past week or so than I had in months.
  • Related to resolutions, see Virginia Woolf’s new year’s resolutions for 1931 shared by Gem. “To have none. Not to be tied.”
  • To read: The Performance Inequality Gap, 2023: When digital is society’s default, slow is exclusionary
  • Been watching a lot of In The Night Garden with B because of travel and since he hasn’t been feeling great. Maka Paka is the best character.
  • “I think we humans can feel we don’t exist if we live unwitnessed.” That phrase really resonated, from this article in Philippa Perry’s “agony aunt” Guardian column. Sharing photos online, gathering followers, collecting likes.
  • I have a cold, yet again. This one has lasted over two weeks, yet again. I think that in addition to all the normal baby stuff that people put on registries, they should add things like economy-sized jars of ibuprofen, NeilMed Sinus Rinse bottles (one for each parent) and a subscription to those saline packets, and roughly 10,000 hankies.

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Thanksgiving 2022 notes

Thanksgiving this year was verrrrry small. We had a few options to celebrate with friends / family, but ended up just sticking to the three of us at home. I’ve been sick for almost two weeks now and was not about to give this to someone else. 💀 Plus that meant we could move it to Friday, which was helpful since I was at least feeling a little better at that point.

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An important memory, gone

A friend of mine is having a baby imminently and asked about my experience having an induction, so I opened up Apple Notes. I spent much of my extremely limited and precious “me” time in those early post-birth days writing a long note about my experience, knowing I would want to be able to refer back to it both for myself and friends. I began writing it early in the induction, late at night on Misoprostol when I couldn’t sleep. I continued it as B was asleep on my chest in the wee hours of the morning after he was born and finished it in the days after when we had caught up with our doula about a few missing details.

Over half of it is gone.

I have no idea what could have happened to it. It ends mid-sentence, with “Eventually things got too intense, so we made”, and then nothing.

Maybe I never finished it? Maybe I just thought I did. A lot is very muddled in my head from those early days after his birth, but this feels so clear. Besides making sure that B was happy and healthy, there is very little that I made an effort to “get done” in late July 2021. Except for this note.

It feels pretty devastating. I tried checking old versions by restoring from a Time Machine backup (Sam found an extremely helpful article), but the closest backup from mid-August 2021 looks the same as my current stunted version.

Then again, when I look at the “last edited” date at the top of the note, it reads 11:23pm two days after B’s birth. I would still have been in the hospital then, I couldn’t have finished it by that time.

Maybe I did imagine it. I’m so sure it existed.

It doesn’t matter though, it feels like a loss all the same.

Published

Like a cat

B is like a cat. He wants up, then immediately wants down. Hands me something, like my clog, and then immediately wants it back. Then he’ll run around with two sets of tongs for a while. (To be fair, I don’t think cats can do that.)

He’s started learning animal noises.

“What does a snake say?”

How does a mouse sigh?

“What does a horse say?”

And he’s finding his voice. I shouldn’t laugh. I think I’m supposed to stay serious when he gets so loud (we have lovely neighbors we would like to keep), but I can’t help it. Extended vocal techniques. Meredith Monk has nothing on him.