Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How quickly things can change...

We're fast approaching the end of November. In the midst of fall. Cooler temperatures. Breezy breaths of wind. Trees scattering their leaves. Squirrels scrounging. Birds gathering at the feeders. Winter creeping ever closer. A first flurry of snow. Changes all around.

But wasn't it just summer? Where did the time go? 

Change is in the air. 
All things are in a constant state of change. 
Change is inevitable.

How quickly things - living and non-living - can, and do, change, transform, evolve. 
Seasons, weather, water, minds, emotions... 

And babies - especially babies during their first year of life. It's a year of many firsts - for both parent and child.

YOU ARE One, written by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Karen Klassen and published by Owlkids Books is a book celebrating all this and more. It's a lovely, lively little book about the highlights of becoming one - what you once were, what you're becoming, what you are now - so many changes over twelve months. And grasping, with all your senses, and with these changes, love given to you freely and unconditionally.

I adore Sara O'Leary's books - the Henry ones, This is Sadie,  A Family is a Family is a Family. Her writing is rather hard to resist. The words are always whimsical and charming, and, so too, in this book, of perfectly captured moments of babies - learning, growing, changing.

Karen Klassen's illustrations are bright, fresh and playful. I love the graphic geometrics, the varied textures, the colour palette. And the ring-true, authentic expressions of the babies - sometimes glad, other times just a little bit sad - showing that diversity and range of human emotions at this age. I love, love, love that one page illustrating the child gesturing 'NO' to the hat! Those babies...adorable, sweet, perfect in every way. And those parents (legs, feet, outstretched hands) are shown more or less from the child's perspective so that the focus is on the little beings. 

This is an ideal book for preschool and kindergarten classrooms to begin a discussion about change, growing bodies, before and after, the diversity of individuals and families. There are two other books in this series - YOU are two launched this past September and YOU are three will be available in the spring. It's also a delightful book for those families who have a wee babe turning one. (My copy of YOU are one is soon off to a birthday boy celebrating a first year just this week.)

When our family is in need of something special, sweet, celebratory - acknowledging all the good in our lives, things for which to be grateful - health, well-being, important moments, first years, many years - this is the cake we bake and share.

So here's a nod to the passage of time. Of changing seasons. A memory of peaches - their taste, scent, rich golden colour and sweetness. A cake made when the peaches were at their peak. 

Peaches in a row - Illustration by amstasiuk

Just about any fruit that's in season works well and this cake is as delicious every time. In place of summer peaches:  try a sweep of pumpkin jam and a sprinkle of cinnamon in the fall; cranberry confiture or sliced persimmons and a dusting of finely grated orange peel or toasted sliced almonds in winter; lemon or lime curd with zest in springtime. And you know what I really love about this recipe? It makes not just one, but two cakes. Use one right away and tightly wrap the other to store in the freezer - a cake party at the ready.

Celebration Cake
Makes 2 cakes
Inspiration:  Ina Garten's Strawberry Country Cake

3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (340 grams) sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (180 grams) sour cream
1 tsp lemon zest, grated
1 tsp orange zest, grated
1/2  vanilla bean, split and scraped OR 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract 
2 cups (480 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (28 grams) cornstarch
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 tsp baking soda

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans.

2.  Cream the butter and sugar at high speed until fluffy and light. On medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add sour cream, zests and vanilla. Mix well.

3.  Sift together flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture on low speed and mix until just combined and smooth.

4.  Scoop and spread the batter evenly into the pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 40 - 45 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. 

5.  Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Then remove to wire racks until cooled to room temperature.

Filling (for one cake)

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) 35% whipping cream, chilled
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

6 peaches, firm but ripe, pitted and sliced

1.  Whip the cream with a mixer or by hand with a whisk until firm. 
2.  Add sugar and vanilla. Fold in gently.


1.  Slice (horizontally) one of the cakes in half with a long, sharp knife (a bread knife works well). Place the bottom half of the cake on a serving dish, spread with half of the whipped cream, and carefully spoon peach slices onto cream.

2.  Cover with the top half of the cake and spread with the remaining cream. Garnish with peach slices.

3.  And add a candle to mark the occasion.

...there's always room for cake.


  1. Looks like a perfect gift for my sister's granddaughter's upcoming birthday. And a cake to go with it! I will be sure to pass this along.

  2. Thanks so much, Kathy. It's a lovely book!