Our son started kindergarten today. If you knew what a mama’s boy he is, you might expect me to do a little victory dance in the living room. Don’t get me wrong. It’s mighty flattering to be his earth, moon, and stars. But it’s a lot of pressure, too. It leads me to say unkind things like “For the love of God, must you be touching me, or talking to me (or both) EVERY waking minute of your day?” To which he replies in his guileless way: “I just like to be near you.”
Behind his back, I’ve been known to refer to my child as a barnacle. I know. That’s not nice. And he is nice. Incredibly, almost unbelievably nice. It’s quite a dance we do. He wants me closer all the time, and he’s so damn sweet about it. He lights up every time he sees me. I covet some breathing room. But still, I”d do anything to fill the needy spaces in that sensitive little heart.
So anyway, off he went, like kids do. And in my mind”s eye, I started fast-forwarding through the long string of inevitable goodbyes. Trust me when I tell you this is not a good idea. I caught a little weak-kneed glimpse of the loss he seems to wrestle every time I walk out the door. I didn’t wail and grab his legs and howl through a river of snot, like he did when he was one or two. I didn”t bravely blink back the tears, like he did at three or four. I gave a little wave and a resigned smile. Like a kindergartner. But I must admit, goodbye took my breath away today. It was a visceral longing. I take back all that barnacle talk. I do. All I wanted today was to take him home, so he could follow me in and out of every room, talking and touching incessantly, like he does. I just like to be near him.
As luck would have it, his adoration of me didn’t wane on his first day of kindergarten. But someday it will. That day, you may just find me howling through a river of snot. I”ll be the one with the gale force wind blowing through the needy spaces in my sensitive little heart. So there you have it. I’m a big old walking, talking, sniffling cliché of motherhood on this, my child’s first day of school.
It seemed like a good idea to cook something sweet. Very sweet. Like this nectarine upside-down cake. For the cake, I borrowed Molly Wizenberg’s French Style Yogurt Cake recipe. You can buy her wonderful cookbook here. I’m sure she never intended this cake to be turned upside-down, but it worked like a charm. The cake is moist and light. The texture is perfection. Better yet, it requires nothing but a measuring cup, a big bowl, and a wooden spoon. Her recipe is for a lovely lemon cake with lemon glazes. I made mine vanilla. Oh, and I added the brown sugar and butter and nectarines and that whole upside-down business. That part was just a shameless ploy to score points with my son before he grows up and leaves me.
This cake is FAST! It”s not exaggerating to say that when I got home from work at 1:30, cake was the farthest thing from my mind. And when I left home at 2:30 to pick up my son from school, the cake was cooling on the counter. In between I had to dream up the upside-down part, and raid the fruit bowl, and rustle through cookbooks for a simple, delicious cake recipe. A more balanced person than I could have this cake in the oven in under fifteen minutes. It”s pretty, with that fruit design. Even better, it”s sinfully tasty. The brown sugar and fruit form a sticky, decadent layer that gives way to the old-fashioned white cake beneath, soft and not-too-sweet. With a cold glass of milk, it makes for a memorable after-school snack. At least I won”t forget it anytime soon.
NECTARINE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar
3 nectarines, sliced into 1/4 inch slices.
½ cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not lowfat)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup canola oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter in a nonstick, oven-proof 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat.
Add brown sugar and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about three minutes. Remove pan from heat. (If you don”t have an oven-proof skillet, pour the melted butter and brown sugar mixture into a cake pan and follow the recipe from here…)
Arrange nectarine slices on top of the brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the skillet (or cake pan).
In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir until well blended.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing to just combine.
Add the oil and stir until you have a smooth, consistent batter.
Pour batter slowly on top of the nectarines, taking care not to move the fruit. I couldn”t quite fit all the batter into the skillet, but I got all but about a half cup in there.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool cake in pan for about 15 minutes. Place a plate upside down over the pan, then flip them simultaneously, while holding the plate onto the pan, so that you invert the cake onto the plate. Lift pan off cake. Replace any fruit that moved around during the flipping process.