For a couple years, including when I was pregnant with my son, I provided child care for my sister’s two children during the day, and it was one of the happiest times of my life.
I loved getting to have such an active role in their young lives, and my sister was relieved to be leaving them with the only other person who would raise them exactly as she would. We spent our days in a comfortable routine of meals and walks with the dog and trips to the park. I watched them grow from toddlers to preschoolers while I sang and read and talked to them all day long.
After my nephew started a preschool program, my niece and I got to have a few special hours together every day. We spent a lot of that time drawing and painting. At 2 years old she was already an artist, just like her mother and grandmother. We would sit at her little easel and she would lean back and rest her arm on her head (just like my sister does) to assess her works in progress.
We would have lengthy discussions about how we should dress her and do her hair and paint her nails (matched with Auntie, of course.) But my favorite activity was the cooking and baking lessons she enjoyed so much. I would teach her about measuring and methods while we made zucchini bread or baguettes or blueberry muffins, and she would sometimes even get to lick the spoon at the end.
My now 6-year-old sweet Dagny, along with the rest of her family, came down to visit us this past weekend. We had planned to take them to our favorite playground that day to get the bounces out, but the kids arrived with a cold, so we found ourselves needing an at-home indoor activity instead.
I scrounged in the pantry and freezer for ingredients to put on another baking lesson for my little sous chef. This white chocolate cranberry cake is easy to make and hard to ruin — perfect for my students aged 3, 6, 7 and 7.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup frozen wild cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips
Allow the butter to come to room temperature before starting.
Prep a 9×9 baking dish with butter and flour or nonstick spray.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the butter and brown sugar for at least 5 minutes. You want the mixture to be light in color and fluffy in texture.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Add the egg to your butter and sugar and continue to beat to combine.
I like to combine the vanilla extract and milk before adding to the batter.
With the mixer on low speed, add your wet and dry ingredients, alternating in stages, until smooth. Try not to overmix — just beat until there are no more lumps.
Add in your white chocolate and cranberries and mix just until they are distributed. If you mix too hard, the cranberries will burst, and you will have a pink soggy cake instead of a light cake with intact berries.
Transfer to the baking dish and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a butter knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
No frosting is necessary for this very sweet cake, but if you want to dress it up a little, a dusting of powdered sugar would do well.