Saturday, January 9, 2010

Very Vanilla Cake

The first week back from any vacation always seems to feel extra long and draining. My first week back from this holiday vacation got off to a particularly rocky start after I thought school resumed this Tuesday when it actually began on Monday.
Nothing beats sleeping in only to wake up to a phone call from work asking why you aren’t there.
“There’s no school today,” I said as the horrible realization began to sink in.
“No, there is school today,” the calm voice on the other end of the phone informed me.
I’ve had anxiety dreams like this before, dreams where I would show up to teach with nothing prepared, or with no clothes on, or to the wrong place. But luckily it was always just a dream, and I would wake up, breathe a huge sigh of relief, and welcome reality back with open, loving arms.
Monday however I was not so fortunate, and the fact that I had made a mistake (for good reasons I assure you) was mortifying. What sort of flake doesn’t know what day school starts? Excuse me, let me clarify, what sort of teacher? Because I am the teacher, not some lackadaisical college student who shows up a week into classes only to say “oh, I didn’t think school started until this week.”
“Please,” I would think and roll my eyes. “Let’s get with the program- look at a calendar.”
Tuesday morning I returned to school feeling very vulnerable to my embarrassing foible. Luckily the other teachers I work with are a jovial bunch, and while I don’t think I will ever live it down, no one was angry with me.
“It happens to the best of us,” one teacher said during lunch. “Once my roommate told me it was a snow day when it wasn’t, and the principal had to call my house in the morning.”
Despite my mistake I’ve made it to the weekend and I am glad. My book club met last night and this month we all read Ruth Reichl’s Comfort Me with Apples. I read all of her books in quick succession last spring and think her writing is beautiful and funny, but I’ll warn you that they are impossible to read on an empty stomach.
I wanted to make something from her book to bring to the meeting, but yesterday afternoon I had limited time and energy. The apricot pie looked good, but it is out of season. I found this recipe for vanilla cake in her third book, Garlic and Sapphires, and decided to make it based largely on the fact that I already had everything I would need. I love recipes like this because the ingredients are so simple. The batter for this cake was so thick and dense; I was amazed at how light the cake turned out being. And the two tablespoons of vanilla makes it extremely fragrant and flavorful. Ruth’s recipe doesn’t include any directions for frosting, and I agree that this cake doesn’t need it. But I’m sure it would be delicious with a scoop of ice cream, or some sort of syrupy, fruity thing over it. I was also thinking it might be nice to try making it with almond extract next time instead of vanilla.
Ruth Reichl’s Vanilla Cake (from Garlic and Sapphires)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbs. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 and butter and flour a bundt cake pan.
Cream sugar and butter together, and then add in eggs one at a time.
Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and then add this to the butter mixture, mixing well. Add sour cream and mix well; then mix in the vanilla.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden. Let cool 5 minutes before turning out of the pan.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Trust me, showing up to teach in the wrong place, without a lesson plan, AND with nothing on is WAY more mortifying than mistaking the return date. And I'm sure that if you were to bake one of these cakes for your colleagues, all would be forgiven (if we hadn't instantly forgiven you already).

    Your blog is a charmer, by the way. Keep it up.