Here and Now. Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Praline Topping.

This weekend I am focusing hard on the here and now, not on the what I wish and what should have been. Because in reality what should have been is right where I am here and now.

Here is a snoring pup and a snoozing cat. A gin, tonic, and mango juice beverage. One pound of bacon vs. one girl. The Rhythm Center with one of my favorite almost-four-year-olds. March Madness. And cake, because as Julia Child said,

I have a cake recipe for you to, you know, help you avoid meetings. It comes to you from the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I’ve passed the recipe over many a time, probably because it looks so simple. I’ve passed it up for the fancier carrot cakes, avocado cupcakes, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chocolate muffins … uh, maybe I just passed it up for chocolate.

You should probably bring this cake to your next meeting at work, because every office could use a midday party. And it is the perfect cake for a spontaneous meeting-gone-party. So simple and unassuming in its cast-iron skillet (though you can make it in a cake pan, too). It most importantly is easier to make than going to the grocery to buy a cake. If you bake or want to start baking, the ingredients in this recipe are ones you either always have in your kitchen or ones you should buy, because you will use them in any other recipe you’ll make. It smells just like a simple, perfect cake should—buttery, warm, vanilla-y. Buttermilk is key here, making the cake lovely and tender.

And the praline topping? It looks like caramel, but it’s so much easier. Trust me. Caramel and me do not have a good relationship.

But as this topping boils on the stove, your kitchen starts to smell like a candy store. I may have stood over the pot just breathing in the sweet scent.

Sweet and simple cake like this is perfect with a cup of coffee after family dinner on Sunday night. I guess that makes family dinner a party.

Here and now is pretty good.

Recipe after the jump!

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On Turning 29 and Peanut Butter Pie

So far 29 has taught me…

that cinnamon sticks do not light on fire and therefore cannot double as birthday candles, and also smell not like cinnamon when burning.

sometimes taking care of a sick person can be a blessing in disguise. It’ll lead to lots of cuddle and couch time.

a good birthday present to yourself upon turning 29 is disinfecting the entire house.

birthday parties at this age include some little people who may not even be able to join in on the conversation. This does not make parties any less enjoyable. We may be growing up, but everyone is still game to adjust their grown up schedules so we can all still hang out and be friends like normal.

time goes by so. fast. In the blink of an eye I’m a year away from 30. I remember when 30 sounded so old. Now it feel like NBD, just the next thing that’ll happen in this life.

Perfection is not something that comes on the first time. Well, rarely anyway. Who among us can say their first time having sex was awesome? Bad first date that turned into many more amazing dates? Who doesn’t feel there was some room for improvement in the first real job they took, the way they handled themselves in their first job? Perfection, let’s be honest, 29 years have taught me that it doesn’t exist, thank God. But ecstatically amazing, drool-worthy, break out the happy dance? That does exist. Twenty-nine says it exists if you admit to your mistakes, learn from them, don’t kick yourself, and give it another go.

Perfection did not exist in the first peanut butter pie I made for Michael, and at the tender age of 27 I did not know how to admit that. For the last two years I have heard endlessly about the perfect peanut butter pie from Smokey Bones.

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Birthdays. Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream.

Let’s be honest for a second. Is that OK? I’ve sat in front of my computer about fifteen times in the last week and a half staring at the big, blank “Edit Post” screen. I’ve typed a bit. I’ve brainstormed a bit. Mostly I’ve just felt anxious as more time passes and my planned birthday cake post goes unpublished. Unwritten, really. Nothing is coming.

I want all this inspiration in the start of the new year. I’m really thankful that my friend Sam got me this really cool journal, 642 Things to Write About, because I want to be inspired, but in small and not overwhelming doses. I want to plan big for 2013, but big plans give rise to anxiety. I did make one successful plan: I signed up for a marathon in November. A mother fucking marathon. Oh shit.

This is the year I turn 29. One more til 30. Instead of resolutions I’m making a 30 before 30 list. Thirty things I’ll do this year. Number 26: Run 26(.2) miles by completing a marathon. Number four: Send flowers to four friends. Number 12: Go to shabbat services 12 times. Number 20: Take pictures of 20 of my favorite things. Do you have any things to add? I need helping filling in the numbers. I’ll post my whole list next week, after the birthday happens.

Birthdays come with cake. Always cake. My favorite part of birthdays. I love making cake for other people.

Happy birthday Marnie

I hate asking other people to make me cake. I always lust after these complicated layered things, covered in frostings, drenched in flavored syrups. And it’s not that I don’t trust my friends to come through, I just feel bad asking for something complicated.

After all, a birthday cake should be filled with a good, joyful energy that you bake into it. Not a stressed out, this will never live up to expectations energy. In reality, I’m a fan of a simple cake, a cake with good flavors, one that I can even make on a weekday, because sometimes that’s when birthday celebrations happen, but that looks and tastes dang fabulous.

One that I am proud to put on my pretty silver cake stand, but that didn’t take hours for me to make, because, after all, we are busy. It’s a fact of life. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to shower cake on our loved ones on their birthdays. So, simple and lovely cakes for busy people who are looking in every corner for simple inspirations and have birthdays to celebrate!

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