Is it wrong that sometimes, when terrible things happen in the world, I can't quite summon the energy to feel rage or even sadness?
I just feel numb.
It is winter now, and I am methodically eating my way through a box of clementines and wishing that someone would cuddle me, while we both drank wine and got silly.
This is not happening.
To comfort myself, I baked a cake for the first time in months and months and months.
I forgot about the calming power of baking: You measure everything, neatly arrange your ingredients on the countertop. The mixer hums, and the measuring spoons clink, and for a while, your mind can just rest from thinking about everyone and everything. The world dissolves in favor of blueberries and brown sugar. This is what I like about making things. This is why I like kitchens and washing dishes. It's real. Tactile. You can feel it. Hear it. Smell it. Taste it.
There is a line from the T.S. Eliot poem "The Wasteland" that I will never forget, it goes:
|“What shall I do now? What shall I do?|
|I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street|
|With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?|
|What shall we ever do?”|
What shall we ever do when babies cry or your parents cry or people get sick or death happens or people forget your name or the grocery store is unbearable? As my dear friend Zoe said, "And I want to save everyone and I don't know where to even begin to fix so very many broken things." How do you fix the broken things?
I don't know.
I don't know if walking the streets with your hair down is the answer.
I think you should bake this cake. Not only because it's called Blueberry Boy Bait, (the idea being that it's so delicious you'll have to beat your suitors away with a stick) and the alliterative possibilities are endless.
You should bake this cake because it is simple. You should bake this, because in a world where nothing is certain, to know that you can measure things and combine them in such a way, that when you are finished there will be cake to eat, that's special. That's something.
Now is the time for staring out of windows at gray skies, or lying on your bed and looking at the ceiling.
But is also the time to hold the ones you love close, despite all our imperfections and collective weirdness.
All I feel is love.
via SmittenKitchen.com who adapted from Cook’s Country, which adapted it from the original
Serves 12, generously
2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (though buttermilk, which was all I had on hand, worked just great)
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter)
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.
For the topping:
Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)