Viciously cold outside today. Winter is clinging to the city with a fierce grip. “Let go!” I want to shout at it. “My skin is cold! My hands are cold! Let go,” I silently plead to the sky above. On my walk home last night, I optimistically waltzed into the little ice cream shop on 81 and Amsterdam. I sampled the newest flavor (cherry heartbeet!) before realizing that I was in too wintry a mood even for ice cream. (I know! Who says that?)
Instead, I made a warm and comforting dinner of sweet potato noodles and buttery sautéed shrimp with an herby green sauce. I curled under a blanket after dinner to finish writing a few emails. I briefly allowed myself to imagine hot weather things: sunburned cheeks. Putting on shorts. Iced coffee. “Stop, stop, stop!” I quickly thought. Getting ahead of yourself—seasonally-speaking—is never a good idea.
Instead I’ll try and embrace the best parts of cold weather while it lasts. I’ll keep my twinkly white string lights up for a bit longer. Oh, what’s that? You think it’s ridiculously too far past the holidays to do that? Take your judgment elsewhere my friend, the lights make me happy and SO THERE. I’ll wear my favorite Fair Isle sweater. I’ll make hot cocoa in the morning (but see, I add mushrooms now, more on that another time). And I’ll relish the moment every night when I get to slide under the thick white down comforter on my bed, pulling it to my chin and snuggling deeper under the covers.
I’ll spend a little extra time at night in that warm cocoon just before sleep, reading poetry and turning over the day in my mind as I slowly drift off. It’s during that time that I find some of my favorite poetry—new to me but not at all new. Like these lines from James Logenbach:
“No one can predict the size, the shape, or even the location
Of the room where you will live a long time,
But every time you pack
You’re thinking about that room.
You’re imagining the color of the draperies,
You’re deciding the desk should face the window in summer//
One of life’s greatest pleasures,
If I’m allowed the phrase,
Is packing a suitcase.
It’s not like building a fire,
When you want to leave space for air.”
Or these from Jenifer Nostrand:
“We were talking about magic
as we drove along a crowded
when the whirl of wings
made me turn
and a flock of geese
flew over our car
so low I could see
their feet tucked under them.
For a moment the rustle
of their presence over our heads
obscured everything and as they disappeared
’I see what you mean.’”
And while poetry in bed is all well and good, of course, the very wisest way to stay warm and cozy in winter weather is to bake.
So if it does happen to be a balmy 27 degrees where you are tomorrow, like it is for me here today, try these mini cakes, which is what happens if you feel like cereal but also, you kind of really just want cake. I know you feel me.
Vanilla Crème Fraîche Cakes with Chex Streusel
Makes 12 mini cakes
For the streusel:
1 cup corn Chex cereal
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons raw sugar or brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
For the cake:
8 ounces crème fraîche
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (I know this seems like A LOT and you can use less, but trust me!)
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for streusel (Chex, butter, sugar, and salt). It's easiest to use your hands here! You want the butter to be thoroughly incorporated, and the cereal should be crushed lightly but not pulverized. I like to leave some larger pieces of cereal both for aesthetics and also texture.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Grease a 12-cup muffin pan (I used a square one!) and line with papers. Beat the crème fraîche and eggs together until pale and creamy.
Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and vanilla bean paste and mix until combined.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cups and top with the streusel. It seems like a lot of streusel but go for it!
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until streusel is golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.