A Baby Sister for Frances, after Frances the badger has run away from her family (to a spot under the dining room table) in protest of all the changes that having a baby sister has brought about? She soon comes to realize that being without her family is in fact no good, and after she returns and has been lovingly reunited with her parents, Mother is so happy that she jumps up to make a chocolate cake. Frances says it's too bad that the new baby can't have any, but when she's bigger she'll be able to. Over the big bowl of batter, with a small furry smile on her face, Mother replies, Oh yes, you may be sure that there will always be plenty of chocolate cake around here.
She's telling her big badger girl as directly as possible that there will always be an easy outflow of love, generosity, acceptance and good humor around here, no matter how this family grows and changes. And really, what in the world could communicate that better than chocolate cake?
I have surely been influenced more by Russell Hoban's flexible, funny, and confident badger parents than by any other prescriptive book on parenting. I aspire to their excellence. Yet it is a bit beyond my capabilities to spontaneously throw together a chocolate cake long after dinner on a weeknight. Plus, I must confess, I often wonder if Frances will really be allowed to stay up late enough to eat a slice. Do the badgers delay bedtime for such indulgences? Is it a rather fast bake? It must be a kind of magic that only applies in Badgerland.
Or so I thought, until I found this cake. Now you too can be like Mother, and whip up a chocolate cake to celebrate life's smaller triumphs, or give expression to those times you want to say YES to everything and everyone because you love them so darn much, even if it is a Tuesday afternoon and you have to leave the house in 45 minutes. I found this recipe, which had been quietly sitting in the back of the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, unnoticed for years, and it is really, really good.
Six-Minute Chocolate Cake
1.5 cups white flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold water or coffee
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp vinegar
Bake 25 - 30 minutes. Let your helper lick the whisk and gaze into lit oven while baking.