Since she was born, W has spent some time almost every day hanging in the kitchen with me while I cook. When she was a tiny bub she would be in the sling carrier, or lying on her rug on the floor. Since about the age of six months, she would either sit in her high chair in the middle of the floor or, her favourite spot, up on the bench where she can watch the chopping and stirring and cutting right up close.
These days she likes to get in on the action. When I’m mixing together a salad or whisking eggs she always wants a turn with the spoon. She steals veges off the cutting board for a taste, and likes to grab handfuls of oats to put in the pot when I’m making porridge. Her favourite refrain in the kitchen, said with a questioning sing-song lilt, is ‘Waratah helping.”
Lately W is just as happy to play on the floor, in the kitchen cupboards. She pulls all of the plates and bowls and pots and pans out and lines them up on the floor. She grabs spoons out of the draw and proceeds to ‘make cake’. Sometimes it’s strawberry cake, sometimes Sarah cake, sometime banana cake, sometimes steak cake. She stirs and mixes imaginary batter and then gives us all a taste, running through the house to make sure that S in the other room get some as well.
These days, little bub T is generally also in the kitchen with us. Now that he can sit up all on his own (where did those last six months go!), he’s usually perched on the floor chewing on a spatula or a plastic spoon while I cook and W plays. And if he is feeling a little grizzly and wants a cuddle, I sling him on my hip and he can watch the action up close – whether it’s throwing together a Sunday arvo batch of granola or prepping vegetables and spices for dinner.
I love that cooking and testing and baking will always be a part of our kid’s family memories. I hope that by including them in the whole process they will grow to appreciate good whole food, to know how to nourish themselves simply, to enjoy the rituals that accompany the preparation (as well as the eating) of a meal, to not take what they put into their bodies for granted. Young children absorb everything that is going on around them, and so I hope that W and T absorb all of our kitchen goings-on, from baking cakes to chopping veges to grinding coffee to stealing early morning kisses over the stove top.
All of that said, I baked this cake while the kids were sleeping. Because while W is the world’s cutest kitchen helper, trying to bake a cake while preventing a small child from putting their hands in bowls and upturning the flour is the quickest way to fuck ups like forgetting the baking powder (done that twice now), or adding the sugar to the dry ingredients instead of the wet, or totally forgetting the eggs.
Plus, this Pink Grapefruit, Olive Oil & Poppyseed Cake is kind of a grown up cake. It isn’t overly sweet or particularly showy, and the combination of slightly bitter grapefruit, tang of yoghurt, and lightness of olive oil give this cake a subtle yet nuanced flavour. I baked this cake on Sunday and it sat on our bench top where it made the rest of an otherwise exhausting week that much more pleasurable, a thick slice eaten each afternoon with a cup of tea.
This is the kind of cake you wrap in brown paper for a weekend park picnic with friends, the kind that you take to a casual dinner party along with a bag of locally-roasted coffee beans, the kind that you give your lover for breakfast in bed.
Pink Grapefruit, Olive Oil & Poppyseed Cake
This cake is pretty easy to adapt. Personally, I love the slightly bitter edge that the grapefruit gives the cake but if that isn’t quite your thing you could replace it with either lemon or orange rind. You could also replace part or all of the plain flour with spelt flour.
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 cup plain yoghurt
Rind of 2 pink grapefruits
1/4 cup poppyseeds
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp pink grapefruit juice
1 tsp poppyseeds
Preheat oven to 180°c/350°f. Grease and flour a small loaf pan, and set aside.
In a small bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Finely grate the rind of the two grapefruits and set aside.
In a larger bowl thoroughly whisk together the eggs together with the brown sugar. Add the olive oil, vanilla essence, and grapefruit rind, and keep whisking to combine. Stir through the yoghurt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to until just combined. Add the poppyseeds and mix through, taking care not to overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until the top is golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 10 – 15 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.
While the cake is cooling prepare the icing by whisking together the icing sugar and grapefruit juice. Once the cake is completely cooled pour the icing over the top and sprinkle with the tablespoon of poppyseeds.
Notes: this will last a good 4 – 5 days on the kitchen bench or in the fridge, in a sealed container.