filling the empty nest with food
I am far from the first person to describe baking as a kind of therapy. Most of what I hear, though, has to do with bread-baking as therapy. The therapy seems to be in the kneading, punching, and slapping around of the dough. A type of anger management, perhaps. I actually find washing dishes therapeutic, but that’s another story.
So, let me tell you about my baking therapy. First, I always start with a definition. My trusty dictionary describes therapy as curative and healing. Which means that you start in a state of needing curing or healing, or both. No need for extraordinary trauma to require healing. Daily life has its share, that’s for sure.
So, when I’m in need of healing, I often bake a cake.
It could be any cake. The type depends on my (or your!) particular mental health requirements that day. Perhaps you crave a carrot cake full of color and texture for the day someone important unfriends you. Or a yellow layer cake with a barely chocolate buttercream icing for a day when your boss gets mad at you and you need a pick-me-up that’s light and sweet and reminds you of your childhood birthday parties. Or a midnight fudge cake with dark chocolate ganache for when the serious blues hit.
I was fortunate to have two of my children home for the summer, but now they’ve gone back to their lives and schools far away from home and my kitchen. After they left, the quiet spread out into emptiness and my thoughts turned to a cake that would be substantial and filling–which turned out to be a pound cake.
Traditionally, pound cakes were made with a pound each of butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. But, we’re in America, where tradition doesn’t count for much and we make substutitions and additions and can still claim to be making a pound cake. So, my recipe included a pound of butter, six eggs (two short of a pound), about a pound of sugar and flour each, buttermilk, a little vanilla, lemon juice, baking soda, and salt. That’s it. Simple yet substantial enough to fill up the space and time left by my boys’ departure.
Do you bake when you’re in need of healing?
1 lb butter
2 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp lemon juice
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until each egg is incorporated. Mix in vanilla and lemon juice.
Sift flour with baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to butter/sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.
Grease and flour two (approximately) 9″ x 5″ loaf pans, then line the pan bottoms with parchment paper. Bake at 325° for 1 1/2 hours or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.