The Child comes home a few days before Christmas, and we settle into a quiet routine. Throughout January, I ask about homework she needs to do or assignments she needs to make up after her lengthy school absence, and I am offered assurances that feel hollow: I’m all caught up! Everything is done.
Eventually, the teachers start entering grades, and she cannot hide from the truth, reported online. She is overwhelmed. She is lost.
On a Friday evening, I begin emailing other schools, asking if they will accept a transfer, and discover there are new schools in the area that are looking for students. I give her the options, and an offer to help her organize her work, and for the first time since she started elementary school, she accepts my offer. She writes a list of things that are due, and I tell her to do the shortest ones. She does several, and I push her a bit. Do the other ones, and I’ll take you to McDonalds when they’re done.
When we pass through the drive-thru, she seems as pleased with her McNuggets as with her work.
I wake her early the next morning, and her worried look has returned, in spite of the incentive I offer: bacon and eggs for breakfast. She’s remembered more assignments, added them to her list, which is now longer than the night before. I notice that all the assignments are still there, and ask, why didn’t you cross off the ones you did?
I put x’s next to the ones that are turned in.
Do me a favor, I ask. Could you draw lines through the ones you’ve done? It’s hard for me to tell otherwise.
She draws lines through the ones she’s finished, and the list looks manageable once again. She brightens: maybe I should do it that way, then I can see how much I really have left. She dives in to her work, sitting on the sofa, laptop on her knees. I try to supervise, but not hover, so I make myself busy in the kitchen, checking in periodically to make sure her breaks don’t extend into hours, or to offer food and encouragement.
I make batches of marmalade, with varying results: Some too sweet and runny, another too bitter, but nicely firm.
The runny batch was the first attempt: it was pleasantly sweet, but slid off my morning toast and covered my fingers with sticky mess. I looked for ideas to fix the problem, but then, recognizing a losing battle, give up and simply look for recipes that use marmalade. Somewhere in my pinterest pins, I found this simple recipe for yogurt cake with a marmalade glaze, which makes the jam’s pourable quality into a virtue. As an added incentive, the recipe involves only ingredients I happen to have handy.
I ended up making this cake twice: The first time with the grated zest of half an orange, and the second time, with the grated zest of a small lemon. Even though the original recipe calls for lemon, and numerous other recipes for similar cakes call for lemon, The Child and I both preferred the first version with the orange, which allowed more of the almond flavor to shine through. That said, both cakes were consumed in the same amount of time.
In the end, we liked the cake so much that it was half gone before I remembered I had meant to glaze it, so I never got around to it. Certainly, some marmalade glaze would be nice on it, as would some fresh berries and whipped cream, or almost anything, really. Or, just set it on a plate next to your laptop, and nibble on it while you do your homework.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup ground almonds
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup sugar
- Grated zest of ½ orange
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ tsp vanilla
- ½ cup canola oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8½-x-4½-inch loaf pan and set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.
- Put the sugar and zest in another bowl and work the zest into the sugar with your fingertips. The sugar with become moist and aromatic. Put the sugar into the work bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and at a medium speed, whisk the yogurt, eggs, and vanilla into the sugar until thoroughly incorporated. Continue whisking and add the flour mixture, then turn off the mixer and fold in the oil using a spatula or wooden spoon.
- Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.
- Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until the cake begins to come away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for about five minutes, then use a knife to loosen the cake and remove it from the pan to cool completely.