Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I will bake wif you

Life around the Cannone house has been rather challenging lately.  Of course, when is it not?  More specifically, I'm having issues with Gillian.  I've mentioned before that she's definitely making sure we all know that she's two (and a half).  But it seems like lately she's going through a particularly infuriating stage.

I know Brianna's pretty fed up, too.  Gillian keeps taking her stuff.  She has also taken to hitting, pinching, and kicking all of us when she thinks she can get away with it.  Trying to discipline her is hard, because she's at an age where she doesn't entirely understand consequences.  I can take toys away, but she doesn't always care.  It used to be that I could just dump her in the crib or playpen, which she didn't like, but that went out the window once she learned to climb out.  The most annoying part is that her response to pretty much anything anyone says is "No!" as she's running away, laughing the whole time.

I know that this is normal.  I remember Brianna going through the same thing.  Unfortunately, I don't really remember how long it lasted.  Not much longer, I hope.  Brianna tries to retreat to their room and play on her own so she doesn't have to deal with Gillian.  That usually works for a while, until Gillian decides to go looking for her.  The most successful tactic seems to be to find something to distract Gillian that she really likes to do.

This Sunday morning was a good example.  Brianna was playing quite happily in her room (Barbies or something with little pieces that she doesn't want Gillian around), while Gillian played downstairs.  When I wasn't looking, Gillian headed upstairs.  Next thing I knew, I was hearing yelling and crying from upstairs as Gillian got into something she shouldn't have.  So I headed upstairs to break it up.  I picked Gillian up, kicking and screaming, and carried her back downstairs.  As we went, I whispered to her that if she wanted, she could help me make cake.  The tears immediately stopped.  As we got to the bottom of the steps, I sent her to the bathroom to go potty and wash her hands.  She responded with, "When I'm done washing my hands you have to take the big stepstool and put it by the island and then I will bake wif you!"

So we got everything set up to make this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Cinnamon Squares.  This week's pick was made by Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures.  It's a snackcake with cinnamon added to the batter, as well as a cinnamon and chocolate swirl in the middle and some chocolate glaze on top.  It seemed like a good candidate for dessert at a potluck that we were going to Sunday evening.  I decided to double the recipe and bake the cake in a 13"x9" pan, since I expected there to be quite a few people.

I first put Gillian to work on mixing up the ingredients for the swirl--cinnamon, sugar and espresso powder.  About that time, Brianna showed up to see what we were doing.  She wanted to help too, of course, so I put her to work on the wet ingredients.  She likes to crack eggs, though I have to remind her to rap the sides on the counter, not the ends. =)  She whisked them together with some milk and vanilla.  After reading through the recipe, I decided to follow Nancy's lead and substitute yogurt for some of the melted butter.  Otherwise I would have used 20 tablespoons for my doubled recipe!  I used 4 ounces of plain whole milk yogurt, which Brianna mixed in with the other wet ingredients.

Meanwhile, I had Gillian work on the dry ingredients for the cake batter.  I got out a really big bowl and had her mix the flour, sugar, salt (I used 1 teaspoon for my big cake), leavening, and cinnamon.  I've found that adding spices or different flours is great when working with kids--you can see how well they've mixed everything by seeing how evenly the colored ingredients are dispersed. =)  

I did the final mixing (stir wet ingredients into dry, then fold in my 6 ounces of melted butter), since we were dealing with a really large quantity of batter.  I put half in the pan (actually it was probably more like two-thirds) and sprinkled it with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Brianna helped add the mini chocolate chips.  About that time, I realized that I forgot to line the bottom of the pan with parchment, but there wasn't much we could do, so I kept going.  I carefully spread the rest of the batter on top, then into the oven it went.  I kind of guessed at the baking time, and ended up baking it for 45 minutes, at which point it tested done.  It was hard to do a toothpick test because of the chocolate inside, but it was starting to pull away from the sides slightly and looked done in the middle.  

I debated whether or not to try to take the cake out of the pan, since I'd forgotten the parchment.  I decided not to risk it, and figured it would make it easier to transport the cake to the potluck anyway.  I mixed up the chocolate glaze--I went with one and a half times the original amount--and spread it on top.  I put the cake in the fridge for a few minutes to set the glaze, and then we headed out.

The verdict?  The cake seemed to be well-received.  It turned out that another person also brought a cake, so they didn't eat as much of mine as I expected.  So some of what was left went to the daycare, where it was apparently enjoyed a lot.  Brianna and Gillian both seemed to enjoy it, and were proud of the fact that they helped make it.  I really enjoyed the flavor of the cake itself.  And I liked the combination of cinnamon and espresso in the swirl.  Much as I like chocolate, I think I'll skip the chocolate inside and on top next time.  I think pecans would be a good addition, possibly as part of a streusel on top (more thanks to Nancy for the idea).  The texture of the cake was good, and seemed fine with the yogurt substitution.  
I think with the changes, this would make a very good brunch item.

Head on over to Tracey's blog for the recipe.  And check out the blogroll at Tuesdays with Dorie for lots of other yummy takes on this week's recipe.  


  1. You have so many distractions there, and yet YOU managed to get that chocolate ribbon going straight through the middle like it was supposed to...HOW did you do that? I had no distractions and mine sunk to the bottom fourth. Your cake looks great and that swirly, draping frosting is amazing...how did you do THAT?

  2. Thanks for baking with me this week! I loved reading your post about your challenges with your daughter and having the kids help with the cake. I'm impressed with your gorgeous result :)

  3. I love the 'bake wif you' comment by Gillian! I think it's great that baking brought the 3 of you together and the troubles were forgotten!

    Your Cinnamon Square cake looks perfect! It's the most evenly spread cinnamon/chocolate ribbon I've seen yet! And the frosting looks sooo shiny and glossy!

  4. I was laughing (sympathetically) as I read about Gillian. It's like reading about Julia - and Julia still gets into her older brother's toys, so I can't offer you much hope there. :)

    Your cake looks great - and I agree with you about the chocolate - I don't think it needed it. Pecans sound like a great addition, though!

    Great job!!

  5. Ooh...I hope the terrible twos don't last much longer. I think it's cool that baking is a great way for you all to get along.

    Your cake looks great. I'll have to remember the yogurt sub.

  6. That's how I kept my two occupied last summer - cooking and baking. Otherwise, there would be bloodshed.

  7. Your cake is very impressive, Di. I can't believe how gorgeous it is and the ribbon is perfect. Hope things get easier with Gillian very soon! Keep smiling!

  8. Great cake, and even better that you got to bake it wif Gillian (and Brianna!) Many battles have been diffused around here by the coming into the kitchen and baking with me. Glad you enjoyed this. I made this both ways and have to say that I really preferred the streusel version. I think I'm just not a chocolate/cinnamon person. But they were both really good - I think the base cake recipe here is a keeper. Love how you used some yogurt in place of some of the butter - I will definitely try that next time!

  9. Transfer all that to a boy version, and oh, I am so with on how things have been going at our house. Thankfully it was a good recipe to make with your kids. Yours look great!

  10. Great looking cake...your mixture is perfectly in the center. I'm not a Mom, but I hear your kids will be best friends later in life! :)

  11. Looks like your girls did a great job!!! Glad you were able to calm things down a bit with that gorgeous cake!

  12. The chocolate frosting makes me really starve :)