in the company of boys

When I really stop to think about it, I don't yearn for my children's baby days.

Maybe it's because they weren't that long ago. Or maybe I'm just not that kind of mother.

But if you ask me, their babyselves, as sweet and squishy and wonderful as they were, don't really hold a candle to their kidselves, when you come right down to it. Because now they're kids with real personalities, who make up their own jokes and assign you ever-changing roles in their fantasy play and love helping with the vacuuming and gardening and get obsessed over squiggly straws and are often too busy to talk because they're doing Very Important Work and who honk my nose and get excited about bugs and worms and ballet and sing wherever they go. Kids who say I love you with more sincerity than most adults can muster. Being around these two people, watching them amaze and confound me every day, is the reason I had babies, after all.

But it takes a certain amount of awareness, a presentness, to remember this fact on a regular basis. When the boys are fighting constantly and it feels like everything I say is the wrong thing and the noise level is driving me batty, it can be tempting to (among other things) wax nostalgic about the times when all they did was lay around and babble and require regular feedings. Doing this, I have found, does nothing to solve the problems at hand, and leaves me feeling more frustrated and more at a loss, incredibly, than I was before.

This is where Josh comes in.

He rarely tells stories about the boys when they were babies. This is not, I think, because he doesn't clearly and fondly remember those times, but because he is so fully immersed in the now of these boys' lives. He is so good at watching them, at really seeing them and who they are and who they are trying to become, that most of his fatherly energy is spent reveling in their current selves.

He pays attention to little changes in vocabulary or inflection, changes that hint at leaps and bounds of growth about to appear. He knows how to draw out and enhance hilarious aspects of their personalities that I have no access to. He knows them intimately, surprising even me with his insights into what they truly need. For a mama who has a tendency to get too caught up in what I think should be happening, what I had planned on happening, watching Josh's unabashed joy at simply being in the company of his boys can be just the parenting lesson I need.

It's a little late, but it's just as true as ever: Happy Father's Day, Josh. You do an amazing job.

Devil's Food Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields one 9-inch round layer cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz

Josh hinted in a not-so-subtle way recently that he'd really like a big, rich chocolate cake. Father's Day seemed like the perfect occasion to comply, and the boys had a blast frosting and decorating it for him. But this cake is so easy to whip up that any occasion, or no occasion at all, will do nicely. 

1½ cups Tara's gf pastry flour mix
9 Tbsp extra dark Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp baking powder
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ fluid cup strong brewed coffee
½ fluid cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the pastry flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully combined, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed.

Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing on low speed until combined. Scrape down the bowl. Combine the coffee and milk, and mix it into the batter. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix thoroughly.

Divide batter between prepared pans and bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean, and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Cool cakes in their pans for 10 minutes, then turn out cakes from pans and finish cooling completely on wire racks. At this point, cakes may be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature for up to three days before frosting.

Assemble cake and frost with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows). Cake keeps, at room temperature, for up to 4 days.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz confectioner's sugar, sifted
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 Tbsp whole milk
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of fine sea salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer), cream together the cream cheese and butter until light and smooth. Add remaining ingredients and beat until thoroughly combined. The quantity of milk and/or confectioner's sugar can be adjusted to achieve a thicker or thinner consistency.

If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated for up to three days. Bring to room temperature before using.


  1. Tara,
    I absolutely love this post! What a sweet tribute! You guys are great parents and the boys are pretty amazing. I know you really delight in them almost all the time ('cause no mom can 100% of the time!) I remember Josh's kidself and he was quite the fun little guy himself. Please tell him I want his chimichurri recipe. I will be calling for that very soon :) Love you guys.

  2. Lisa - Thank you! I see a lot of impishness and curiosity in the boys that I think comes directly from Josh; sometimes I almost feel like I can experience what he was like as a kid. And I told him you want the chimichurri recipe, so hopefully he'll be prepared when you call! We love you, too!

  3. Hi, your cake recipe looks great! I am wondering, though, what I can use in place of the 1/2 c. coffee that's called for in the recipe. We don't drink coffee. Any thoughts? I appreciate your feedback! Thanks!


  4. Lindsay - Thank you! In place of the coffee, I'd recommend using additional milk, or you could just use 1/2 cup water. I hope you like the cake!

  5. Sorry, I forgot to ask another quick question I had... can you use an 8-inch round in place of the 9-inch round without causing any problems?

  6. Lindsay - Well, the only problem you'll have is there will be too much batter for your pans. (You shouldn't fill the pans more than 2/3 to 3/4 of the way.) You won't want the cakes to overflow the pans, so you'll have to use the extra batter for cupcakes. Poor you. ;)

  7. Where do you get extra dark dutch process cocoa powder? Can you substitute natural cocoa powder without any adverse effects? I am planning to make it with a sliced strawberry filling and a whipped cream frosting.

    1. Hershey makes a Special Dark cocoa powder that is part black cocoa, which makes it extra dark. It's available in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. You can also order black cocoa on the Internet, and blend it with regular Dutch-process cocoa (I'd go with a 50/50 ratio for this recipe). But using just straight Dutch-process cocoa will be fine, it will simply yield a slightly lighter colored cake with not quite as intense flavor. But it will still be delicious.

  8. Any advice on using this recipe for cupcakes?


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