The second child thing is funny.  In some ways, they have it better - you’ve learned something from the first go-round, and now, you have two, so you have less time to hover anxiously and disinfect pacifiers.

The second one gets to watch Broad City while nursing, suck on tortilla chips before they have teeth and be held by any number of kind strangers offering to help as you try to help your toddler-aged first child in a public bathroom while dripping an Ergo baby carrier off your aching shoulders (not sure this last one is an upside for the kid, but it helped me out tremendously). 

Plus, you’ve done this before – now you’re an old hand at it – so Second Kid gets the way-less-stressed-much-cooler version of the parent you were with the first (case in point: Harvey ate shit the other day.  Like, literally put some dog shit in his mouth.  The kids were playing outside and I was sort of spacing out - something I never did when overseeing June as a toddler.  At first, I thought it was a rock so I just casually sauntered over to him and told him to spit it out.  When he did, and I realized what it was, I scooped him up frantically hollering at June to bring in the sidewalk chalk ‘cause I was going to have to cart him inside to bleach out his mouth.  Did I call Poison Control?  Maybe…).

On the flipside, however, they also get kinda eff’d.

From your divided attention, to hand-me-downs, to being dragged around during nap time to their older sibling’s activities, the second kid, though loved no less, just doesn’t get what the first does. While June’s baby book is sparse, at best, Harvey never even got one.

Knowing this, one would think I would feel inspired to make the extra effort - to fill in the gaps I willingly admit to.  But then, Harvey is a boy.  And in total sexist honesty, I am praying he won’t give a damn about half the things I am knowingly not making equal.

This haphazard approach to our second recently worked to my advantage when Tygh and I decided to cancel his 2nd birthday get-together ("party" would be a very generous description - read below) after nearly 2 weeks of Harvey battling an onslaught of illnesses (you might be wondering if this is related to dog shit eating but my doc assured me it wasn't).  As luck (laziness?) would have it, I had done next to nothing in preparation.  Like, nothing - no theme, no decorations, no party bags, not even a present - indeed our invites came in the form of a "Hey, guys..." email.  In fact, the only thing I had done was make the cake.

I know I've said this before, but it's so true: Cook’s Illustrated is one of the ultimate sources for The Best Fill-in-the-Blank.  They devote themselves entirely to trying one recipe 100 different ways, documenting their attempts and final results. They discuss what worked, what didn't, and why, making the magazine a great learning tool for anyone interested in a little of the hows and whys of cooking. Which is where I found this recipe. 

It may not be the most relaxed cake you'll ever make – there will be some egg separating and lots of whipping – but it’s unequivocally one of the best. 

There’s a good chance that Harvey, baby no more, may start to care a bit about some of the discrepancies.  And maybe someday he’ll ask me where his baby book is.  But until then, in the interest of holding on to what’s left of my sanity, I am all too willing to take my chances.

Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting

They original Cook's recipe called for 1 cup of buttermilk but I use whole milk curdled with lemon juice (see below) instead.  I think it makes the cake a little less tangy in flavor while still creating a fabulous crumb.

2 ½ Cups (10 oz) cake flour

1 ¾ C (12 ¼ oz) sugar (I use superfine), divided

1 ¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¾ tsp salt

2 Tlbsp lemon juice, with enough whole milk to make 1 C, letting sit for 5 minutes to allow for curdling

10 Tblsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 large eggs, separated, plus 3 large yolks room temp

3 Tlbsp veggetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch cream of tartar


1.     Oven at 350.  Rack in middle. Grease two 9 x 2 inch cake pans, line with parchment, then grease and flour.

2.     Whisk flour, 1 ½ C sugar, baking powder, soda and salt in large bowl. 

3.     In medium bowl, whisk together milkm, butter, egg yolks, oil and vanilla

4.     Using standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy – about one minute.  Increase speed to medium-high, whipping to soft billowy mounds, about another minute.  Gradually add reserved ¼ cup sugar and whip until glossy, stiff peaks form, about another 2-3 minutes.  Transfer to bowl and set aside.

5.     Add flour mixture to now empty mixer bowl.  With mixer on low speed, gradually pour in milk mixture and whip until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain).  Scrape down bowl, then whip on medium-low speed until smooth and fully incorporated.

6.     Using a rubber spatula, stir one third of the egg whites into batter, then add remaining two-thirds of the whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain.  Divide batter evenly between prepared pans (I use my kitchen scale for this), smooth tops with rubber spatula and then gently tap pans on counter to release any air bubbles.

7.     Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes ou clean – about 25-30 minutes.  Let cakes cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out on to wire rack, removing parchment and let cooling completely before frosting. (Cooled cakes can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and kept at room temp for up to 1 day.  Wrapped tightly in plastic, then aluminum foil, then Ziploc bags, cakes can be frozen for up to 1 month.  Defrost at room temp before unwrapping and frosting.)



Fullproof (and Amazing) Chocolate Frosting

They use milk chocolate, but I like 60% dark or a combination of milk and dark.

20 Tblsp (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 C (4 oz) confectioners’ sugar

¾ cup (2 ¼ ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa

Pinch of salt

¾ C light corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

8 oz chocolate, melted and cooled

In food processer fitted with steel blade, process butter, sugar, cocao and salt until smooth.  Scrape down sides of bowl and add corn syrup and vanilla nad process gain, until just combined.  Scrape sides of bowl again, then add chocolate an dpulse until smooth and creamy. (Frosting can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 hours before frosting cake or refrigerated for up to 3 days.  If cooled, ket stand at room temp about an hour before using).

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated