Laura Bush was recently asked on a Sunday morning news channel to dispel the myth that she was a woman who stayed home to bake cookies.
The “baking cookies” question wasn’t literal, but was a question that could have went like this. “Laura, how do you answer the question, “people say you have no value, no career, that being a school teacher, a librarian, a mother and a first lady never passed the test of worth, and you are seen as someone only worthy enough to stand in the kitchen and bake?”
Where am I taking you with this? Isn’t this supposed to be a love cake?
Yes, but, while I began to write this, I was watching that Sunday morning news show and it struck me deeply. I was put off by this post-modern point of view that has taken one of the classic attributes in humanity and reduced it to mean “not worthy.” Somewhere in our culture, a woman who bakes isn’t afforded the full citizenship of “modern womanhood/personhood.”
I ask you, dear reader, to think about the person in your life who slips into the kitchen and comes back with warm baked good and takes your heart. Is she or he a mere second class citizen? Or are they someone who has brought exceeding value to your life? And, is it fair or true that people who know how to bake and give, have no other dimension to their personhood?
Retro Rose (my mom) didn’t go near flour until I was in college, although I had longed for her to bake for us. I had an easy bake oven at age 7, and baked in the grown up oven at 12 with no supervision. I yearned to smell the goodness from the oven just as much as I yearned to learn and was placed in gifted classes. But, I’ll admit to my intellectual friends that the class in high school that stood out for me was a cooking semester in old fashioned home economics, where a larger than life nun taught me how to measure out my ingredients. To this day when I top off my cup of flour, I think of her.
I ask you, Is not baking a marvelous part of the human story? Just when was the last time your dog made a cake for you?
Oh, I could pull out all my “modern” woman credentials and impress you with achievements. And, they are the result of hard work that resulted in great self-satisfaction. Notice that word “self.” But baking is something altogether different. It’s almost always for someone else. It’s almost always an act of love. And, I think this is why the baking cookies comment irked me so much. I still think an act of love is a jewel in the human story, and I’m sick and tired of the nurturing personality being confused with brainless or meaningless.
Who’s to say that Hillary Clinton couldn’t bake cookies and be Secretary of State? Maybe Hillary does, but all it really takes is a desire to take a little time to give a little love and sweetness to another person. And, since this cake only takes five minutes to prepare, I supposed even Hillary could do this if she wanted to break out of her own stereotype.
Perhaps I’m being unfair, but I’ll stick with my story the day intelligent men and women anchors and interviewers stop asking super intelligent woman about baking cookies and setting for them a trap that forces them to apologize and throw other women (and a lot of stay at home moms) under the bus.
And you thought this was about cake and there I go, being so Spinach Tiger-like.
I first saw this adorable cake on Food Loves Writing last summer. It reminded me of stained glass. I made it the minute I saw it just because it looked unusual as the batter rises up to wrap the fruit, making for an easy cake that still says “special.” I followed the blog links to see how each person made the cake and I was amazed at it’s evolution in appearance, using the exact same ingredients.
This cake travels well to hospitals, coffee meetings, and mother in laws. I’ve never seen a person that didn’t love it and offer back a big smile. It’s light, mildly sweet, and delivers much more than the work that goes into it.
I hope you take this recipe and think about all the home bakers who made it their own, opened their ovens to slip in this cake, and excitedly took it out and offered it in an act of love.
Post Note: On May 20th I discovered at BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine, a fellow blogger Rosie of Baking Cakes Galore passed away. After spending some time on her blog today, and reading her daughter’s praises for her baking, I am touched and happy that I took the blog post in this direction and I dedicate this to Jules aka Rosie who baked cakes galore.
The Process It was referred to as “easiest cake ever” but I prefer to call it the “love cake.” One bowl, no electric mixer and whatever fresh fruit you have on hand. The first time I made it, I used peaches. The fun thing about this cake is that it comes out a little bit differently, depending on the fruit you are using. The peaches brought a lot of moisture to the batter and made a delicious breakfast cake. When I used the strawberries, I cooked it a little crisper and it reminds me of a stained glass mosaic. I look forward to trying it upside down (by putting fruit on bottom) in a spring form pan as the original cook did and using each season’s freshest berries or plums.
This is how it looked before it went into the oven.
And this is how gorgeous it is when you take it out.
- zest of one lemon
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup strawberries (or any soft fruit, sliced to look pretty)
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Zest lemon into sugar, using hands to mix well together. Set aside. Mix into one bowl, flour, baking powder. Mix together. Add sugar. Mix. Add eggs, oil and vanilla. Mix. Batter will be quite thick. Put in a 9” cake pan or 10” tart pan. Smooth out and place strawberries on top, gently pushing in a little bit.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes. You can bake up to 50 minutes for a crunchier cake. The original recipe calls for 50 minutes to one hour, which was too much for my oven.