Like many soon-to-be new moms, I had lots of plans for my maternity leave. Days of snuggling with our little bundle, then while he napped, I would have a chance to organize the linen closet, finish painting our bathroom, put together his fabulous baby book, and most certainly prepare delicious meals and bake oodles of goodies. Yes, these 10-12 weeks would be just like a Lifetime movie. Right? Right…
During the first few weeks, I was thankful and blessed to have meals we’d frozen ahead, and wonderful friends and neighbors who kindly brought over food for us as well. The linen closet remains a disaster. Our bathroom will never be finished (to be fair, it’s been in this state of limbo for about 10 months). Much like showering daily, I didn’t actually begin cooking until the near the end of week two.
Once I had gotten the hang of cooking in stages (starting dinner at 4pm, knowing when Miles would probably be up to eat next, so I could manage to get dinner on the table at a somewhat reasonable time) I decided to attempt baking.
Knowing that my sweet little boy can have a somewhat unpredictable sleeping/feeding schedule when he hits a growth spurt, I thought that cookies would be a fairly safe choice for my first baking attempt post-baby. Seems easy enough; mix a few ingredients, pop them in the oven for 10-15 minutes a batch. Simple. Until I realized that baking four or five batches of cookies (or attempting to) actually belongs on the “ways to wake up your newborn” list. Putting cookies in the oven inevitably calls for a diaper change, feeding, or general fussy time. And so, you’ll spend the next hour or two running around like a crazed woman: checking the oven, checking diapers, burping a baby, yelling at the dog (why does she follow us everywhere?!) And you’ll probably burn your cookies, too. It will not be the relaxing baking experience you had imagined.
The key to baking and parenting a newborn simultaneously (besides waiting until you’re husband is home so you can have a few glasses of wine while baking…) is to choose a baked good that requires a longer baking time; and something you only need to remove from the oven once. Preferably while baby is sleeping. I know this for a fact, after my attempts to remove dinner while hauling Miles around the BabyBjorn ended with a pulled back muscle (but the kid didn’t fall in the oven, so we’ll call that a win).
My two favorite desserts with lengthy bake times and little follow-up needed once popped in the oven are cheesecake and pound cake. I have yet to bake a cheesecake while on leave; those require more prep, so we’ll save that for week eight. But a pound cake is a great choice…pretty simple to throw together, and one of those “no fail” recipes that everyone loves.
Sour Cream Pound Cake
3 cups cake flower, plus a little extra for flouring the pan
2 ½ cups white sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz. sour cream
*You’ll also need a bundt pan.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Butter your bundt pan, then sprinkle with flour and set aside. Sift together all dry ingredients and set aside. On medium speed, cream your butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then add your vanilla extract. Sift half of your dry mixture over your butter and egg mixture, then gently fold with a spatula. Add your sour cream, and continue stirring gently. Add the remaining dry mixture, stirring until the flour is completely incorporated. Pour batter into your bundt pan, then gently tap on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake for one hour, or until the top is golden brown and a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes on a rack before removing.
Tip for removing your cake: once flipped onto your plate or dish, gently tap the bottom of the bundt pan with a spoon or knife handle before lifting.
Marbled Sour Cream Pound Cake: I love a good marbled pound cake, and that’s easy to make with this recipe. Melt four or five semi-sweet chocolate baking squares in a double boiler (or in the microwave; just set your power to medium, and stir every 30 seconds until melted). Take about half the cake batter, and in a separate bowl, combine it with the chocolate. Alternate vanilla and chocolate cake batter in your bundt pan, swirl with a butter knife, bake as usual.
We like to serve our pound cake with fresh berries, and a decent amount of Reddi Whip or sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar.
While I cannot become the Super Suzy Homemaker I’d envisioned while on leave, I have found that enjoying every minute that I can with Miles far trumps testing out a fancy new recipe or organizing towels by size and color (although I have managed to put together an impressive baby book; that was very important to us, as Miles will need to know all about the first time he peed on me, and I’ll need to show all his embarrassing bathtub photos to his future girlfriend).
In reality, just getting a hot meal on the table is accomplishment enough in a hectic day. Maternity leave has given me a newfound respect for stay at home moms…you ladies are forces to be reckoned with, for sure. Happy baking!