So it turns out having four kids five and under is busy. It doesn’t really “feel” busier than three, but it must be. See, I notice it more in the things that don’t get done because I have more priorities to sift through and more goes by the wayside. So while I’ve been managing to get home-cooked meals on the table most nights, taking photos of them, writing down recipes, even trying new recipes has mostly not happened. Evenings are chaotic. It all is. But it’s also fun. And hard to believe how much the kids have grown up in a few short years. They are able to offer more and more help in the kitchen and everywhere. I’ve also noticed a gradual change in their eating habits. Isla eats a lot these days and Eve has been surprising us by eating all kinds of stuff she never did before, broccoli, mushrooms, celery, etc. Noelle likes everything and Emmett, always a good eater, gets a little better each week. I’m looking forward to the day when they all eat less like toddlers and I’m hopeful that it might be somewhat soon.
One food we all like is this cake. Well, in the end at least. Emmett swore he wasn’t going to like it before he even tried it because it wasn’t chocolate (he made me promise that he could have candy for dessert instead - ever the negotiator). Of course, he ended up being obsessed and claiming all of the leftovers for himself. I wonder what his kindergarten teacher thought of me sending him to school with a slice of cake in his backpack. “Mother of the year?” “She must be French?” Hopefully the latter. Either way, I’m so glad I remembered my little trick of making an extra to stash in the freezer.
I made this simple Almond and Pear Cake for Paddy’s birthday this year. It’s really an almond cake with some sliced pears on the bottom - the top when flipped over. It doesn’t taste strongly of pear but is definitely almondy if you like that sort of thing. I’m a sucker for anything with almond paste. It’s also one of those cakes that gets even better if you let it sit for a day. Which is great if you are having a dinner party and have other dishes to focus on. We also had rack of lamb, green beans with almonds and brown butter and potatoes, though by the time we sat down to eat, food was the last thing on our minds.
That’s because Paddy had gone to church that evening for some kind of event and was supposed to get to our house around 5pm, according to Paul. When 6pm rolled around and he was nowhere in sight, Paul got worried and started to drive around looking for him. Meanwhile, I was grilling my brother-in-law John about where he could be, whether or not he had a cell phone with him, where the church was, when the meeting was - all questions he couldn’t answer. Paul did know what church it was and had already called. They told him that the meeting ended an hour earlier which only worried him more, so he set off for the church.
A little while later, Paddy waltzed through the door without a care in the world, talking about how the meeting had run quite long. Classic! Relieved, we all felt silly for being so worried, after all, Paddy has been navigating the world for several decades, most of them before cell phones and gps. The funny thing is, this kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME with the Barry boys. I’m so glad Paul’s sister CeCe has moved back to Chicago to commiserate with me and help keep everyone in line.
The benefit of this little scare was that I think it made us all a little more grateful for another year of happiness and good health with Paddy. We love him so much! Even more than cake.
Almond Pear Cake
2 ripe pears
1 cup cake flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups caster or superfine sugar
7 ounces almond paste
1 cup butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-tablespoon cubes
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line two six-inch (or one 8 or 9 -inch) cake pans with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
Peel and slice the pears. Arrange them in the bottom of the cake pan.
Whisk together 3/4 cup of cake flour, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
In a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of the cake flour until the almond paste has mixed with the sugar and forms a sandy texture.
With the food processor running, add the cubes of butter one at a time, followed by the almond extract. Process until the batter is smooth and light.
Add the eggs one at a time, processing after each addition.
Add half of the dry ingredients and pulse until incorporated. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients pulsing a few times again until just incorporated.
Pour the batter over the pears, then bake the cake in the center of the oven. Check it after 40 minutes rotating in the oven.
Watch it closely, mine took 55 minutes but it can take as long as 70 minutes depending on the pans you use, your oven etc.
When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen it from the sides. Let the cake cool completely, then invert it.
Wrap in plastic and keep at room temperature until you are ready to serve.