The Baby Urge: Pear Coffee Cake

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

-Cake accompanied by coffee and the sound of your biological clock running down.-

As it stands now, and much to the never ending dissappointment of my parents, neither BF nor I have any desire to have children.

My parents still see me as the most likely of their three children - all boys - to provide them with grandbabies. They have made this extremely clear to me. The last time my mother came up to visit she was polite enough not to bring it up around BF, but the moment he left to take out the trash?

"So, have you two considered having kids?"

"What!? No. Not yet. I don't know. We still want to finish our educations. Get our careers started. Buy a house. Travel..." I replied.

"I bought my first house when I was twenty-three, and I had your older brother by then. Plus, I was going to grad school," she explains matter of factly as she sips her iced tea.

My Mom: high school track star, debutante, honor roll, and general perfectionist. Currently, in her mid-sixties, she's now retired, traveling the world at least twice a year, and a marathon bicylcist. Incredibly admirable, but she's one of those excrutiating perfect examples that is nigh-impossible to live up to if you're in any way related to her as my siblings and cousins have lamented about her and her brother with his three Ph D's.

-It's the main problem with having successful parents.-

"Traveling with a kid is hard, mom. You know that. You took children to Spain and we were little nightmares."

"No you weren't!" she lies to herself, or maybe she really doesn't remember it that way. "It's hard, but if anything I proved you can do it," she firmly asserts.

"Well, that was you. Plus, I'd probably rather adopt."

"But sweetie," she pleads, "you have such good genes!" It's an semi-narcissistic compliment and argument both my parents make whenever I bring up the adoption idea.

"We're gay. Doing the turkey baster thing is expensive and the mother has rights so it doesn't always work out. Plus, there are plenty of older kids in foster care who need a home. If we adopt it'll be a kid around six to ten. Plus, YOU adopted! Remember?"

"That's true, but you don't get to name the child!" mom wails.

"So?" I say. I've named a few cats and they never come when you call them. From what I hear children are the same once they go past the age of seven.

(Given, if I could, I do have baby names picked out just in case. Aaron or Noel for a boy. Claire or Viola for a girl. Family names for middle names, of course, those being Michael, Brandon, or Suzanne. Else the family string me up for neglecting tradition.)

"Doesn't BF have a sister who could provide an egg?"

"MOM! No! Lord, dad, asked the same thing last week. It's not like asking for a cup of sugar."

"But, honey, you'll miss the best part. The baby stage," she sighs and I can tell she's remembering the days when she was a new mom three times. I think she's mentally blocked the parts where my older and younger brothers were tiny terrors. (By her admittance I was the perfect child.)

-There was that year in college of mine she knows nothing about though. I plan to keep it that way.-

Still, she has a point. I have a weakness for babies since I work in adoption services during the day. I'm surrounded by them constantly so it was only natural they wear me down a bit. I flushed with joy the first time I held a newborn only three days old. I cheered watching another take his first steps. A few months ago I was horrified when a kid I was watching seemed to instantaneously learn how to imitate the words "Oh shit!" from me after I gave myself a paper cut. The parents were only somewhat amused since this brought her vocabulary up to now five whole words.

The other day was one of those days I did waver on my desire for a baby. A couple and the baby they were fostering were in the office. The baby in question is not just adorable, but fucking holy crap oh my god adorable. Adorable enough to make grown men squeal like a tween girl attending a Bieber concert. A tuft of blonde hair, blue eyes, and a poofy purple dress with a matching bow on her head. It was impossible not to squeal with delight at the sight of her.

She was as perky as debutante's side step and smiled as if she had just caught Santa sneaking into her living room. She giggled generously and flung her arms around with joyrful intensity that made the room glow in an emotional phospheresence that was practically hypnotic. She drooled profusely as she was teething, and as she determinately crawled around the room on a personal mission known only to her she would periodically attempt to suck in the drool flowing from her smile. The attempts to do so did little good and she giggled obliviously at this, which made her only all the more endearing.

She seemed to have fixated on me and was determined to follow me through the office. I hid behind a door and afterwards she plowed across the room to find me. When she did I would jump out, "Oh my god! You found me!" She would scream with glee and crawl away as fast as her chubby limbs could take her, her cheeks jiggling with every movement. After going a few feet she would turn around, my cue to hide again, and she would come searching for me again, laughing the entire way.

Repeat for the next half hour.

-Commence cooing in envy.-

I wager that my mother could psychically hear my testicles screaming for a baby that day. Indeed, given half a chance I would have kidnapped that baby and taken her home.

The only instance I have been more succeptible to the desire to procreate as soon as possible was when a child I had gotten to know was about to meet his new foster parents. When he met them he immediately grabbed my leg, began to cry, and begged, "But I want YOU to adopt me!"

After encouraging him that we would always be friends and he could contact me whenever I locked myself inside a room and cried for a good hour.

Immediately after this game of baby hide-and-seek another baby was brought in to work. No. Not a baby. A shrieking banshee spawn in the shape of a baby whose cries were like sonic icepicks stabbing into my brain for a solid hour before vomiting everywhere in the play room. Yeah. Super fun. I'm pretty sure my tubes tied themselves after that.

So as it stands now I'm still undecided on the baby/child issue. I know I don't want one right now. I've got too many plans; too many things I want to do with my life that do not involve having a tiny person strapped to me forever.

However, I'm always happy to revel in the babies of others. We gay uncles - or guncles - make the best uncles. We're thrilled to babysit for a day and we get to be the cool adult in a child's life. It's like being a grandparent: all the perks, none of the mess.

-And no, I don't do diapers.-

Furthermore, I always have a bit more time to whip up little things for my friends with kids. Things like coffee cake. Yes, it doesn't take much time to make a coffee cake. Barely any at all, in fact. So little, I suppose, that if you had kids you could find time to make this cake.

I enjoy baking one up for friends who come over with their baby or who've hired a sitter. It's a special something with a somewhat familiar flavor made just a bit mysterious with the use of pears and cardamom. Incredibly moist and packed with enough spice to make it a pleasant comfort in a world of day care and immunization shots for preschool it's a cake that has a place at any parent's (and non-parent's) table.

I looked back at mom and saw in her eyes that she wanted only the best for me and that the best meant children. Babies. My own, preferably.

"Mom," I said, handing her a piece of coffee cake, "I'll talk with BF more about it."

"Good. Now you should also," she pauses to take a bite, "-Wow. This is good, honey. What's in it?"

Best of all? It's also good enough to hopefully make your parents forget about babies. At least, for a few minutes.

Pear Coffee Cake
Adapted from New York Times

For the filling:
2 large pears; peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan.

2. For the filling toss together the pears, sugar, cornstarch, cardamom and ginger and set aside.

3. To make the crumbs, whisk together sugars, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. It will look like a solid dough. Press it down and set it aside.

4. To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

5. Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon the pear mixture over the batter and evenly spread out as well as you can. Pour on the rest of the batter and spread out evenly.

5. Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.


  1. You crack me up, as always.
    I'm lucky because my parents were complete fuck ups, got married to young, had kids too young, 1 never finished their education. So, anything that I do is gold. It has it's draw-backs too, though. Like when they don't understand how hard you have to work to accomplish all those things because they haven't been through it. The last 7 months of writing my thesis (while working full time), my parents called me no less than 3 times a week and begged for me to come home at each phone call.
    So, the grass is always greener I guess.
    You're right--traveling with kids sucks. We vacationed with my brother's kids once and I swear my ovaries shriveled up a little.

  2. My parents are doing the same to me and my BF. First it was "when are you two getting married?" We politely explained that we wouldn't be even thinking about such things until D finished his PhD. So they stopped asking about that and started asking about kids! And they already have several grandkids. Given that they're hundreds of miles away, it's hard to distract them with cake. But I'll make it anyway. It looks delicious!

  3. You really are mixed on this issue! As I read about your response to charming baby, I thought "He is so already doomed. A serious baby jonesing he has." But then your response to evil spawn baby was so rational!You don't have a biologic clock. (At least not much of one. Yeah, some increase in some bad things in Dad's over ?40 or ?50, I can't recall cut off. But not total infertility.) Only have kids if you seriously and consistently MUST have kids. It is too much work and expense and risky to leap into it to please anyone but yourself. And the cake looks great!

  4. Speaking as someone whose friends are having babies like mad (6 this summer. What's up with that?) I can say that the devil spawn seems to be outweighing the OMG cute so far. Burnttoast is right. Only if you really, really want to....

    Also, I am totally going to make that coffee cake. Tonight.


  5. Sounds yummy. Just what I need for Thursday's garden club meeting. It seemed like a good idea when I signed up to bring a dish last spring...

    Btw, that mac n cheese was to die for. Couldn't find La Tur cheese (altho I'm now on a mission to seek it out), so I used an Italian taleggio.

    I was born with the baby urge. Couldn't wait to have children. I have 3 almost grown sons and I'd take more if I could get them. I never really wanted grandkids though; isn't that odd? But now I'm getting one anyway. The youngest will be a father in October, even though he's still a baby himself. It's going to take a lot of coffee cake and mac n cheese to get me through this. So keep those recipes coming!

  6. I love that story. I already had two kids when I met my girlfriend. She was skeptical of getting involved with anyone who had kids, but now she calls them her own :) I couldn't imagine growing old with out my children. Whether you adopt or "turkey baste", you wont ever regret it!! Oh, and the cake does look very moist and delishious!! :)

  7. A) of COURSE you were the perfect child. I would expect nothing less.

    B) Harry, the smartest whalecat in North America, DOES know his name and will often come when called. But I'm well aware he's an abnormal cat.

  8. Damn it Garrett! Why must you post delicious recipes when I am cooking for one? You are making me fat.
    But seriously, step 4, you take out 1/2 cup of the batter but you never put it back, does it go over the pears I'm guessing?
    And anjou pears instead of red? Discuss...

  9. Annonymous: Yes, pour it back over the pears. Sorry about that. As for the pears almost any variety is fine, but nothing too tipe or it may turn to mush.

  10. I've known I don't want kids since I was a kid. I'm just too selfish to be a good mom. But I would love to have a niece or nephew and I would feel WAY less guilty if my parents had at least one grand-kid to spoil. My brother is getting married this weekend, so here's hoping!

  11. You know, I grew up hearing my mother say "When you have a daughter, you'll understand.../ When you have children, you'll understand..." Bleck...

    It took me until I moved away from home at 19 to really think about it. Do I want kids? REALLY? And the answer is actually, only IF. That's my answer. Only if I'm married, and only if HE wants kids. I wouldn't choose to have them myself, but I'll stay open to it for if/when I meet the right guy for me. He may just not want kids, that will be fine too.

    And if I get beyond where I would want to be physically bearing a child (which will be soon, I'm 31 now) then there's adopting and fostering. I could see myself fostering and being happy about it!

    Don't let anyone pressure you into those kids, cause it's not like you get to give them back. Right now? I'd take your pear coffee cake over a kid :) And I'm going to!

  12. for someone who grew up with the Bisquick box coffee cake, thanks for this REAL version! Cardamom and I have become friends a few years ago. I agree with a few other posts - "Dam you Garrett for publishing such good recipes, I am getting fat"...

    I included the recipe for the Chinese Almond Cookies on my blog and cannot tell you how many compliments you have been given by my family and friends!

    Kids? I agree with burnttoast, please be sure. Heck, with your work tho.. you out of anyone has walked around that horse before possibly getting on it. I always worried about the patience and continuity needed for children, did'nt think I could. My BF and I never did, and now 50's too late. We now say - Lord... we would have been better parents than what the foster care system is (not) doing.
    Best of luck to you and your BF.. Thanks for keeping us in best food!

  13. Brad: I plan to be VERY sure. Trust me. I work in adoption services so I see pletny of kids and know right now is not time for me. Glad you like the blog. And, BTW, at 50 you can still be fost-adopt parents. Plenty of older kids who want families out there. ;)

  14. Husband's old Syrian grandmother, in Arabic: "why haven't you had children yet?"

    Me, in broken Arabic: Teta, I'm in school. I can't, I'm too busy.

    Teta: What do you mean too busy? When your father-in-law was born, I was picking wheat.

    Me, trying to understand: Yes, I know the family were farmers back then.

    Teta: No, I was actually picking wheat. I felt the labor pains and knelt down and called to the girl in the row next to me, then when he came out, I just put him in the wheat basket and took him home. If I can do that, you can have a baby while in school. (all arguments nullified).

  15. tq: Yeah, I don't think I could come up with an argument for that either.

    Also: Best. Comment. Ever.

  16. I didn't know you had adoption in your family too! Seems everyone does, in one way or another. ; )

    You would be a great dad, but you have plenty of time. Just keep Eat Beast away from the child and it will all be fine. People used to do all kinds of things like giving birth while working and then just getting on with life. If you want it, you'll make it happen.

  17. Ann: Yep. My Uncle on my Dad's side and my older brother, Bryan. Oh, Eat Beast. He loves the delicious taste of babies.

  18. You need to write a book. Your blog continues to be one of my favorites. Clearly I've never met you, but reading your blog is like visiting with a good friend on a warm Sunday afternoon. There's another blog I read - someone who's written a book - and I love everything she does, but there's very much a distance, I feel, between her and me. You... You make me smile. And laugh. And you're comfortable and warm and funny.

    Write a book. Just like your blog - a mixture of story and food. I'll be the first to buy it.

  19. Kendall: Thank you so much for your kind words. I would like to write a narrative book someday. I think I'm still looking for that experience I want to write about though. I'm looking for an adventure worth journaling. Stay tuned. ;)

  20. I bet you'll be an amazing parent someday. You have a great head on your shoulders, and the best part that the kids will love is that you know how to cook! Thank you for this beautiful recipe. I can't wait to make it. It's just my type of treat!

  21. There is no way I can top tq's comment, but I just had to stop and say that the children who are lucky to have you in their lives must love you so much, you sound like the best guncle ever. Love how your posts read like a cozy good book, if only I had a real slice of cake and a cup of coffee go with it!

  22. Love it!! Whose adorable baby are you talking about? :-) as soon as this is all finalized you can play, I mean babysit, her whenever you want a baby fix!! :-) Enjoy the eggs.

  23. yeah you've watched modern family, right?

  24. You never fail to make me laugh,and I have a feeling that you'd really make a wonderful parent someday.Having kids isn't easy,but maybe you could give "birth" to that book Kendall was talking that is something I'm really looking forward to.


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